Iraqi Kurdistan may be the least violent area in Iraq, but it is fast becoming the least tolerant place for civil society, the most corrupt region in Iraq, and the most dangerous place in Iraq to invest or be a journalists. Indeed, Iraqi Kurdistan is becoming Syria.
The latest report on the harrassment of journalists ahead of elections is disappointing, especially as traditional Kurdish friends of Washington have now allegedly become abusers.
As to the most dangerous place in Iraq to invest, e-mails are flooding in from those who were encouraged to invest by the U.S. government and Defense Department, only to find contract law ignored in Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s written pledges violated, and threats of extra-legal appropriation made.
Corruption in Iraqi Kurdistan has grown to ensnare some prominent former U.S. officials. Many of those who are now singing the Kurds’ praise may find themselves embarrassed by their willingness to look the other direction right now. The situation is becoming analagous to those in denial as they spoke in the 1970s of investment opportunities in Saddam’s Iraq, in the late 1990s of oil-pipeline deals in the Taliban’s Afghanistan, or more recently in Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela.
Meanwhile, U.S. congressmen and generals who agreed to meet Kurdish officials as a favor to Qubad Talabani, the local Washington representative, may be aghast to learn that photos of their handshakes have become campaign posters for politicians with reputations for the most egregious corruption.