Thursday 11/16 - Kenneth R. Rosen - New York Times - Iraq’s Kurds voted for independence. Iraq and Iran troops cast a veto.

Thursday 11/16
Kenneth R. Rosen
New York Times
Iraq’s Kurds voted for independence. Iraq and Iran troops cast a veto.


Is there such a thing as “enough freedom?”  Maybe theoretically, but in the real world, a lot of people find it hard to accept any freedom but absolute freedom.

Wealth is another thing that’s hard for people to keep under limits.

But coming to some agreements that would give the people of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan “enough” freedom and enough oil money may be the only way to sustain economic stability in Iraq and any semblance of political freedom for the Kurds.

As things stand now it will be the Baghdad government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and their – is it masters or is it allies from Iran who will dictate the terms of what the Kurds will have to call enough.

And, as seems to be the rule in this rough neighborhood of the Middle East, the victors’ definition of “enough” is “as much as we can get away with.”

For example, Prime Minister al-Abadi and his Cabinet say they plan to cut Kurdistan’s regional share of the Iraqi budget from 17 to 12.6%, with 2 more poison pills slipped in the Kurd’s jug of juice.  All oil production inside Kurdistan will now be run from Baghdad, and even that reduced share of the budget will no longer go the Regional Government that defied Iraq and all its other neighbors by voting for independence back in September.  Now money will be distributed separately to each of the 3 provinces that make up Kurdistan, venues where the opposition to the central government are stronger than in the capitol city of Erbil.

One expert on the region had a name for this last strategy: “divide and conquer.”

Critics of the Erbil government and its now-resigned chief Massoud Barzani say, they brought this all on themselves, by seizing oil-rich lands around the city of Kirkuk that were not part of the KRG’s territory, and by staging the independence vote despite dire warnings from Iraq, Iran, Turkey and the United States.  In retrospect, the autonomy Kurds had less than 2 months ago and their old deal for 17% of the Iraqi budget look more and more like “enough.”


Kenneth Rosen is an American writer who joined the staff of The New York Times in 2014. He has written for The AtlanticNew York MagazineForeign Affairs, and the Village Voice, among others.

In 2017 he was a Logan Nonfiction Fellow and has since reported from the Middle East and North Africa. He continues to report and write from across North America.

Rosen’s essays and long-form journalism have also appeared in Tin HouseThe RumpusNarratively,Pacific StandardOutside MagazineRoads & KingdomsCreative NonfictionGuernicaUSA Today,VICENowhere Magazine, and The Huffington Post

His essay “Notes From My Suicide” was nominated for a National Magazine Award (2017) and a Pushcart Prize (2017). His essays have also been nominated for inclusion in the Best American Essays, the Best American Travel Writing, and the Best American Science and Nature Writing anthologies. Rosen was part of the Times team awarded a Silurians Medallion Award in 2015 for its reporting on the shooting death of two NYPD officers.



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