Analysis / Kurds Still Fear Iraq Civil Strife

For Dr. Iyad Allawi, a neurologist, yesterday was his first day as prime minister of an officially liberated Iraq.

SULAYMANIYAH, North Iraq - For Dr. Iyad Allawi, a neurologist, yesterday was his first day as prime minister of an officially liberated Iraq. The first gift he received was the news that the American administration had decided to transfer the legal authority for Saddam Hussein to Iraq's justice system.

Physically, Saddam will only be transfered to Iraq when police are able to handle the security of his trial. In the meantime, the Americans will continue to hold him.

Dr. Fareed Asasad, a psychologist who studied in Baghdad and became head of the Strategic Studies Institute in Sulaymaniyah, was not excited by the news of Saddam's indictment.

Asasad is much more concerned by the political future of the new interim government, and especially by the possibility that the Kurds might lose some of their political power. "The Americans have gone and left us alone," he complains. "Now we will have to deal with the Iraqi government without political support."

Asasad does not see the Iraqi government as his, but as a sort of foreign body to be bargained with, or even threatened, to get something out of this war. The feeling that the political moves with both Americans and the Iraqi government have failed is making the Kurds consider their possible political options.

Asasad said: "The most radical thing I can think of is disengaging from the Iraqi government and Iraq, declaring autonomy, or even a Kurdish non-violent civil rebellion," says Asasad.

"The Kurdish public is not ready to take any more humiliation. As long as we thought we could persuade the Americans to support our positions, our leaders were supported by the public," he said. "The Kurdish public is disappointed and angry, it wants results. You in Israel talk of the greater Eretz Yisrael and here we talk of greater Kurdistan. Today our political war begins."

The Kurd's struggle has two main objectives - to regain Kirkuk and its suburbs, and to gain a share of the power in the central Iraqi government. Both are uphill struggles.

There is an absence of American support; there was the Kurds' failure to include the interim Iraqi constitution as binding in the UN resolution - it gives the Kurds a veto on any legislation that could damage their status; there is the fact that the Iraqi prime minister is trying to win the support of the Sunnis against the militant groups. All of this makes it very doubtful that anyone would offer the Kurds Kirkuk.

The Shi'ite Allawi is beholden to the religious and secular Shi'ite leadership and sees the Kurds as a less critical problem. Fridon Abed Alkadar, who was Kurdish interior minister, said: "The situation is now very strange. The U.S. told us they do not want to divide Iraq like Lebanon, for fear that what happened there would happen here. But if they don't accept the idea of a federated Iraq, the situation may be like the one that triggered off the civil war in Lebanon."