March 02, 2007

What Do You Want to Know About Iraq?

I'll be in Iraq soon -- first in the northern Kurdistan region, then in Baghdad.

What do you want to know that you don't already know? What would you like me to write about? What do you most want to see in photographs and video?

Since I'm going to Kurdistan first, let's limit our discussion to that region for now. We'll get to Baghdad in time.

Please leave specific questions and general topics in the comments section. I won't be able to cover everything, but a group brainstorm will still help.

Of course I can think of questions and topics on my own, but I also want to know what the audience wants. I'm working for you here, after all, thanks to your Pay Pal dontations.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at March 2, 2007 03:35 PM

I guess what I would like to know is how dangerous is it really on the street in Baghdad. Every single MSM report says it is impossible to walk down the street anywhere in the Capital. Also, is there really a possible Partition coming? (Sunni-Kurd-Shia). One other thing, is the financial system viable? Is the Country connected to international (Western) financial systems yet?
Thanks Mike; for all you do.

Posted by: stuart at March 2, 2007 03:47 PM

I'd be interested in getting the Kurdish perspective on Turkey and the impact that the large Kurdish population in Turkey is having on the Kurds living in Iraq. Do the Kurds in Iraq support the Kurdish separatists in Turkey? Are they concerned about border raids from the Turkish military? Would the Turks ally themselves (covertly if not openly) with the Iranians or other forces to help deal with the Kurds? What impact could this situation have on the stability of Iraq as a whole?

Posted by: Randall at March 2, 2007 04:10 PM

I'm interested in the following:

1. The influence of Iran on the region.
2. What the US has been doing wrong (aside from going there).
3. More on Sadr.

Posted by: ben at March 2, 2007 04:16 PM

Here's something Michael: I'm interested in the current Iraqi view of the Kurds and what they've accomplished in the Kurdistan region in the past few years. I've read some books written prior to the current conflict - (sorry, no citations; I've spent the last 15 minutes trying to recall them on my local library's website with no success) - and the Iraqi view of the Kurds during those times were poor at best. One book by an American woman married to an Iraqi army officer back before Saddam took power noted the constant, practically taken-for-granted suspicion of the Kurds by members of the pre-Saddam army of that time; looking back, it strikes me that this woman's husband's views of the Kurds then were very much akin to the views we hold of insurgents now. And from reading news publications nowadays, that view has held all throughout Saddam's time up till today, as best as I can tell. At any rate, given the relative success at building up their region of Iraq and keeping it moderately free of violence, what does the average Iraqi think about the Kurds nowadays and what they've accomplished? I'm certain that some suspicion still lingers; ethnic prejudices are the type that just seem to not go away quickly.

In short, how does the average Iraqi view Kurds nowadays, in light of the economic and social progress we've heard of in the US here?

That's my suggestion for material.

Posted by: ElMondoHummus at March 2, 2007 04:53 PM

Will the Kurds be able to survive if the United States leaves in an unceremonious manner?
Is the Kurdish opinion of Israel any different from the rest of the Muslim world? (I don't know why it would be, but it would be interesting if it was.)

Any signs of foreign investment (beside U.S. gov.) in Kurdistan?

Well, you do a great job. I am sure you would have touched on these issues without my input.

Posted by: August at March 2, 2007 04:53 PM

"Since I'm going to Kurdistan first, let's limit our discussion to that region for now. We'll get to Baghdad in time."

Ooops... sorry. Didn't read close enough the first time. Okay... well, here's something: Are the Kurds still fearful of the other ethnic sects in Iraq given the past history? Or is there now a sense that they're no longer being fought/picked on/singled out?

And whenever you get to Bagdad, you already have my suggestion for there. :)

Posted by: ElMondoHummus at March 2, 2007 04:55 PM

There have been US suggestions the Kurds are quietly making some sort of connections with Iran. Is there anything to this? Is it Iraqi Kurds trying to line up a regional ally (which could as easily be an enemy) in order to pre-empt or balance out Turkey? Is it because they expect the US to leave them pants down again? Is it because Iran as a nation seems more interested in modernizing than the Iraqi Sunni or Shia?

Do the Kurds think a tripartite solution is at all feasible? If so, what are their bottom-line terms, so to speak?


Posted by: Pam at March 2, 2007 05:00 PM

What do Kurds do to fulfil their lives? What do they do in the evenings/ nighttime- things like that?

What are their thoughts on and what do they know of British (and presumably American) culture and society?

What are the future generations of Kurds aspiring to and wishing for?

Posted by: James at March 2, 2007 05:07 PM

How safe would it be for me as an American Jew to travel to Iraqi Kurdistan to conduct field research? :-)

Posted by: zellmad at March 2, 2007 05:28 PM

Are the peshmerga preparing for or look ready for a war if Kurdistan declares independence? How likely is such a scenario? Could they win?

Posted by: Selkie at March 2, 2007 05:33 PM

write about the women... how they cope with everything.

Posted by: IranianWoman at March 2, 2007 06:05 PM

What would be some potential business oppurtunities in Kurdistan (i.e. what do they not have and what do they need). What's the education system like? How much of people under 18 get formal education and how high is the illteracy?

Posted by: Won at March 2, 2007 06:18 PM

Ooh, IranianWoman reminded me, i've heard there are women in the peshmerga? It'd be cool if you interviewed some of them.

Posted by: Selkie at March 2, 2007 06:21 PM

I would like to hear about all of the above, LOL, and also....I'd like to know how easily the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan talk with the Kurds in Iran since the Iranian/Iraq situation has gotten so tense. I see that the Iranians are building a wall on their border with Pakistan, and so I'm wondering how the Iraqi Kurds on the border with Iran are doing.

Btw, the Kurdistan's regional government has launched a global Kurdish language satellite TV station, "Newroz". Read more about it HERE.

Posted by: Renée C. at March 2, 2007 07:19 PM

Yes, Kurdish women -- status, influence, independence (really, not the dolled up PR version), education, aspirations, etc. (Are there honor killings in Kurdistan?)

Hmmm...Trying to think of the last time you interviewed a woman....

Posted by: Pam at March 2, 2007 07:27 PM

I'm interested in the political climate in the KRG. Are the most powerful players prepared to work toward establishing a truly democratic government? How are minorities such as the Assyrians doing? And finally, if you end up visiting Kirkuk, I'd like to hear your impression of what's going on there.

Posted by: Amos at March 2, 2007 07:51 PM

I would like to hear about the Kurds view of Jews and Christans. I would also like to know aobut what they do in there free time


Posted by: Craig at March 2, 2007 08:22 PM

Hey Michael,

I was wondering how the Kurds in surrounding countries are responding to the de facto existence of Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. Are they visiting? Are they moving there? Can an independent (in all but name) Kurdistan cause unrest among the wider Kurdish population?

Thanks man, and take care. You rock

Posted by: OchiCHerniye at March 2, 2007 08:44 PM

I'd say, ask some folks on the street what they think of partitioning Iraq.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at March 2, 2007 08:46 PM

I'm almost ready to give up on the middle east, give them the middle finger and stop caring entirely.

So what do I want? Show me that there's anyone there worth supporting, show me there's anyone with a brain who isn't hiding in his basement, because I'm not seeing it.

Outside the Kurds, Iraq looks like a fight between no one worth supporting on any side. If the majority of Shia want nothing better than Sadr (or are too cowardly to oppose his sort), then they deserved Saddam.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at March 2, 2007 08:49 PM

Or better yet, stay home. I don't want to see you die (or get injured) there. They can blow each other up, cleans each other's neighborhoods, and hate each other without you.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at March 2, 2007 08:52 PM

Is there an economy there, apart from oil and spending by U.S. reconstruction forces? For long term stability, I think you really need a middle class, and opportunities other than working for the government.

I have the impression that there's not much "native" economic activity in any of the oil states. Can you clear this up?

Posted by: Michael at March 2, 2007 09:14 PM

A local school report card, for a fourth-grader if possible.
Cousin Lucy's Spoon: Report Cards, Politics, and Citizen Research

Posted by: savtadotty at March 3, 2007 12:23 AM

How do the Kurds see themselves as part of the new Iraq? All we hear about is how the Shia/Sunni split is heading towards Armageddon and how the Kurds are doing just fine. Assuming the country doesn't just literally explode from pent up hatred in the south, what directions will the Kurds be trying to steer the country? What goals do they have long term, and what do those goals mean for us here in the west?

Posted by: J-P at March 3, 2007 12:35 AM

Jokes might be a good topic for something. It appears that the average Arab Iraqi has had to look death in the eye for about thrity years. Humor, and humor that does not translate might be worth a blog post.

I'll hit the paypal when I finish school. Seriously, I'm going to:)

Posted by: mikek at March 3, 2007 12:43 AM

It is springtime in the Middle East.
Please kindly post a few photos of what's flowering there these days. We read a lot about Kurdistan politics, it'd be nice to get a glimpse of the lay of the land too.

Posted by: Abu Noa at March 3, 2007 01:11 AM

what I want to know is that you are safe while you are there! Please be careful!!

Posted by: Yael at March 3, 2007 03:25 AM

What's the use???? This tribal (clan) society is never going to be a democracy. And, Iraq will not forget the fact that they were at war with Iran for a long, long time.
Find out if we just leave how long it will take them to kill each other off??? They been at it for 6000 years.

Posted by: Carl at March 3, 2007 06:01 AM

In April-June 1991, I and a number of close friends were among the early responders to the Kurdish humanitarian crisis following the Gulf War. I was in the U.S. Army Civil Affairs, and we worked closely with the UNHCR to establish a refugee camp in Zakho. I worked closely with the Kurds while there, and the contrast in the treatment received by the refugees in Iraq (handled by the U.S.) and the refugees in Turkey just a few miles away was stark. I would be very interested to hear some first-hand commentary from Kurdish people who were in that camp, and their recollections of those days and how their lives have unfolded since. If you're interested, I can send you a few good pictures from that camp. When we arrived in Zakho, there were huge green fields with supplies, and no refugees. When we left, we had camps which had somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 refugees we had brought down from the mountains.

Posted by: Michael at March 3, 2007 07:53 AM

I would like to know the condition of the Assyrian and Chaldean (Christians) in Kurdistan and Kurdish muslim opinion of them.

Ties with Iran would also be interesting. I know of all of their heinous overlords, the Kurds feel more kindship with the Persians than any of the others. This is understandeable considering the language and ethnic ties and due to the fact that Iranian Kurds were the best off prior to the liberation of Iraqi Kurdistan.

I would be interested in knowing Kurdish thoughts on the Ottoman massacres of Assyrians, Armenians and Christian minorities in the region that were largely committed by Kurdish tribes on the orders of Constantinople.

Also, I always love pictures of the landscapes and cities. You take great landscape shots man, looking forward to them. Are there any national parks in Kurdistan? Any signifigant ruins inside Kurdistan proper?
Since you are going into the rest of Iraq, how about visiting Ninevah, Nimrud and Hatra and taking some pictures of those spectacular ruins. Of course do what is safe and be careful!

Posted by: Rommel at March 3, 2007 09:08 AM

A meta-question derived from the ones above: which of "the Iraqis" believe that the US presence is a good idea long-term? For example, do even the majority of the Shia want us there?

Posted by: Paul Hoffman at March 3, 2007 09:44 AM

I'd like get your observations on mobile phone use in the Kurdish region. Do they use them more for voice or text? Have they created any innovated (aka "cool") SMS based services that solve local needs?

Posted by: Keith Erskine at March 3, 2007 09:48 AM

How does one invest in Kurdish companies? Is there a stock market? Are Kurdish companies on any Canadian stock exchanges?

Posted by: Frank Hilliard at March 3, 2007 09:55 AM

Last time you were in Kurdistan, I recall you quoting someone (sorry, can't find the reference) as saying that they were welcoming Iraqi Christians, and Sunni and Shia Arabs, who wanted to move to Kurdistan -- IF they were willing to leave their tribal/sectarian feuds behind. How is that working out? And is that still the policy?

Posted by: wj at March 3, 2007 11:07 AM

I'd like to see something about schools, markets, tea shops, those bits of day to day living. Is there an emerging merchant or professional class? Then as a contrast to the "normal" stuff, what are the institutions that are powerful. What are the limiting factors of their powers?

Posted by: dloye at March 3, 2007 11:23 AM


Much is written about how children in SA and the Palestinian territories are taught to hate Jews and Christians. Are Iraqi children taught these same hateful things?

The meta-question would be if the school system throughout Iraq is secular or theological and how western oriented are the studies.

I ask this question because the future of democracy and all that it entails will need to be inculcated in the society and that will not happen if the schools are used as recruiting grounds for martyrs.

Any regional differences would be interesting: the freer regions of the north (Kurds) vs. Al Anbar vs. the South.

Best regards and STAY SAFE.

Posted by: CB at March 3, 2007 01:19 PM

As a 21-year old college student I'm very interested in what life is like for people my age in Kurdistan. What has life been like for them growing up? Do they remember any of al-Anfal or the first Gulf War? What are their political views (do they support Talabani's PUK or Barzani's KDP)? What do they think of America and American culture? What about their families, the educations, their futures? Please give us a sense of what the newest generation there is like, and how they have been impacted by the experiences of the last two decades.

Great work Michael, good luck and take care of yourself!

Posted by: Brendan at March 3, 2007 02:22 PM

Carl said:
"What's the use???? This tribal (clan) society is never going to be a democracy. And, Iraq will not forget the fact that they were at war with Iran for a long, long time.
Find out if we just leave how long it will take them to kill each other off??? They been at it for 6000 years."

As close as we can tell, this region of the Middle East is where the first written language came from. It was literally the birthplace of civilization. So forgive me if your commentary seems a bit bigoted and ignorant to me, for these people who captured much of the known world long before the major organized religions came about are certainly capable of establishing a civilization for themselves, so long as they want it badly enough.

Along those lines, I would love to see what the Kurdish and others have done or are planning to do with regard to antiquities research and archeology. Some of the most fascinating ancient ruins and discoveries have been made in this very part of the world.

And thanks Michael, between yourself and Michael Yon, you've done better reporting of current events in the Middle East than any major news organ in the west. I'm looking forward to my tax return so I can help you fund your important and much appreciated work.

Posted by: lunaslide at March 3, 2007 04:38 PM

Food. What they eat at home, at restaurants, and how they get what they need. Are there farmers markets? Are there markets that provide imported food? Are the poor fed by the local government and to what extent? Oh,and can you drink the water? What comprises a typical breakfast, lunch and supper. Can Americans donate foodstuffs and if so where would they receive the donations. Basic, but I'm interested. Are there sheep and cattle ranches? Farm cooperatives or individual farms?

Posted by: pastrybiz at March 3, 2007 05:22 PM

General questions about the economy: how much of the development going on is from money sent back from Kurds in Europe and America and how much comes from internal economic developments.

From my personal experiences in Africa I would say the principal causes of third world poverty were socialism and corruption, in that order. Socialism elimated legal private economic activity (something the London School of Economics applauded) while corruption merely put a heavy damper on it. Kenya in the 1980s was a kleptocracy and no one in their right mind wanted to be seen as "too" profitable if they wanted to keep thier business or land, but the joke was that in neighboring socialist Tanzania you could bribe a goverment bureaucrat for toilet paper--this info came from academics working out of the National Museum, who had to pay bribes of various kinds to various bureaucrats and wanted to be certain they were getting their money's worth.

From what I recall of the Kurdish revolutionary movements back in the 80s ad 90s both were communist. Have they learned better? There was a mention recently of someone sent to jail in Iraqi Kurdestan for denouncing or publicizing government corruption.

So. How easy is it to start a business in Erbil? Do your potential competitors have to grant permission? How long does it take to get permission?

Another question: if you go into a bookstore, what books are available in what languages?

Posted by: John Costello at March 3, 2007 06:21 PM

I want to read reporting about your dashing business partner who showed you where to get a selection of camera tripods almost immediately upon arrival! It would be even better with pictures.

Well, you wouldn't take the bet that I could show you where to get camera equipment!

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at March 3, 2007 07:47 PM

Will you be trying to visit door-to-door like you did with some of the Lebanese forces to get a feel of households' sentiment about people outside their sect?

Posted by: Ryan at March 3, 2007 08:01 PM

1. How common is cousin marriage? (I've seen 45% mentioned for Iraq overall). It's a clue whether family ties (and maybe corruption) outweigh civic identity.
2. How widespread is ownership of house or farm? (See Austin Bay article March 3rd.quoting Schafer. Capital is unavailable for investment without it.)
3. As someone else wrote, tell us some Kurdish jokes.

Posted by: Ken Moore at March 3, 2007 08:53 PM

Break the chain! Why not track down this artist for a follow-up interview?

Posted by: Solomon2 at March 3, 2007 09:54 PM

1-How are the Kurds and the Arabs..(that saddam put up in the north to counter the Kurdish population)getting along and who's keeping the peace?

2-How dangerous or viable to see a war between the Turks and the Kurds?

Posted by: Diaspora at March 4, 2007 03:32 AM

I would like to know the current state of the Iraqi Christians still living in Iraq. For all the talk about Sunnis and Shiites, there's seems to be no talk about Chaldeans(sp?) in the MSM.

A Chaldean friend of my father commented about a mass exodus of Iraqi Christians, or at least those under the jurisdiction of the Holy See, but I have not seen any information about this.

Posted by: rangerlevi at March 4, 2007 04:00 AM

Reading through the comments, I'm pretty sure you'll have your hands full. I look forward to the video documentary or any clips which you will share through this blog (or maybe YouTube?).

I have a small request. Can you please find out the Kurdish word for "security" and what is the literal translation of the local term in English? I think a group's concept of security gives an insight into their values and behavior in a way.

Thank you and I wish you all the success in your upcoming adventure.

Posted by: sesto callende at March 4, 2007 05:15 AM

I second Diaspora's question:

How dangerous or viable to see a war between the Turks and the Kurds?

Especially if Iraq does break into 3 states, and the Kurds declare independence. How will this affect Kurdish minorities in the surrounding countries? How likely is it that war will break out, and how might it develop?

Posted by: Jonathan Levy at March 4, 2007 07:54 AM

"Is the Kurdish opinion of Israel any different from the rest of the Muslim world? (I don't know why it would be, but it would be interesting if it was.)" August

"How safe would it be for me as an American Jew to travel to Iraqi Kurdistan to conduct field research?" zellmad

Sixty-five per cent of Iraqi Kurds think that diplomatic relations between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Israel are "necessary." Of (1,519 people polled in Iraqi Kurdistan,) 22 per cent said it was not necessary for the two states to have relations, while 12 per cent responded that they did not have an opinion. Those Kurds who believed that the Kurdistan Regional Government and Israel should have relations cited the possible strengthening of the Kurds' position in the region, Israel's democracy, trade (between the two states,) the existence of Kurds in Israel and that some Arab countries have relations with Israel. Those who didn't support establishing relations with Israel cited Israel as an occupying state, its instability and the fact that Kurdistan does not share borders with Israel. The Kurdistan Institute for Political Inquiries conducted the poll May 22 and May 27 in the provinces of Erbil, Sulaimaniyah, Duhok and Kurdish inhabited areas of Kirkuk.
(Hawlati is an independent weekly Kurdish newspaper.)



Posted by: xdream at March 4, 2007 12:10 PM

I'd truly like to hear the good things or thing the Americans and coalition forces are doing in Iraq. Is it working at all? Is there any sense of achievement or hope?

Are there opportunities for medical librarians over in Kurdistan?

Many thanks!

Posted by: Susan at March 4, 2007 12:44 PM

Susan, check out the blog "Iraq The Model" for good news regarding Iraq. Here is the URL:

Posted by: Renée C. at March 4, 2007 12:51 PM

1) The price of real estate, almost everywhere you go ($ or local currency/sq. meter)-- house price in years of annual income
2) Inflation rates over the past 3 years
3) Unemployment
4) Jokes! (about the economy & politics & sex & ...)
5) Price of gas (still heavily subsidized?)
6) Immigration / Emmigration rates / feelings.

You keep doing fantastic work, Michael.
Please keep it up.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at March 4, 2007 04:47 PM

7) Are the Kurdish mountains any good for growing pistacios? (in Slovakia, we mostly get them from Iran. In So. Cal, from near Barstow where my sister lives.)
8) Any mixed sex public swimming pools?

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at March 4, 2007 05:05 PM

I think we already know how Iraqi Kurdistan is a kind of wealthy paradise compared to the rest of Iraq.

I'd really like to understand what Sunni and Shia Iraqis think of the Kurdish success; why don't they emulate it, or why don't they migrate to the Kurdish region ? ?

Also, I'd like some sober opinions on whether Iraqis think it was better or worse under Saddam, if they feel that there is more freedom of speech now, if they feel that besides the bombings, their economy is developing ?

Posted by: Jono at March 4, 2007 07:17 PM

Is there a liberal democracy in Kurdistan?

Specifically, is there press freedom?

Are there Islamists there?

Do they want partition? "Greater Kurdistan"?

Show us where the rich live, and the poor.

Posted by: Nick at March 4, 2007 07:30 PM

I recall that you're going to Baghdad.

Perhaps you could talk to some soldiers about

how they feel about


Ideally, they would not be soldiers specifically selected by military higher-ups for you, as they were probably not selected for their averageness.

Also, why not talk to some supporters of Moqtada Al-Sadr in Sadr City, and ask them what about the movement appeals to them?

Posted by: glasnost at March 5, 2007 04:19 AM

What I would like to see in pictures is examples of "progress." Please show, if you can, if it is safe enough for you, examples of what "progress" there is in the country.

Show the real country. Show Iraqis living their "normal"---however "normal" is defined in their war zone---daily lives.

Thank you.

Posted by: Dan at March 5, 2007 04:23 AM

I am very curious about the new US military leadership in Iraq -- Petraeus and his highly-educated group of officers.

Apparently he worked wonders in the north, but some say that's because he did not have to deal with as much Baghdad Sunni-Shia political machination, and could just cut through the nonsense and do the practical, sensible thing.

Would your Kurdish sources have any perspective on this?

And when you get to Baghdad, If you could land an interview with one of his inner circle to get their REAL perspective now that they are there in the thick of it, not just the predetermined MSM-for-primetime view, that would be fascinating.

Posted by: Pam at March 5, 2007 05:39 AM

Questions for your visits to Kurdistan:
Are our objectives realistic (defeat Islamic terrorism and establish democratic governments)?
If so, how can they help us achieve these objectives? If not, what should we be doing? How can they help us? What are their goals for Kurdistan? How can we help them? What are out mutual interests and how can we work together to help each other?

Posted by: dale stoy at March 5, 2007 05:41 AM

I'll expand on a theme others have posted: the Kurdish separatist movement. Specifically, I want to know more about how much the Kurds tolerate or even support terrorist movements (PRK?) in Turkey.

From your articles, the Kurds seem to be building a society more or less compatible with our own here in the West. They seem to be people we can reach out to and with whom we can build bridges. However, recently I am reading disturbing news accounts about how Iraqi Kurds are supporting other violent Kurdish separatist movements in Turkey.

What's the extent of this? Do average Kurds condone this? Should our support of a modern, liberal Iraqi Kurdish society be tempered by such possible, unsavory activities?

Posted by: Jeff at March 5, 2007 06:19 AM

If the US wins, do the Iraqis win too? Can the US win, or is it just the straw that stirs the drink?

Posted by: The Other Alan at March 5, 2007 08:55 AM

Of course All of the Above, but I am interested in what they want...everyone seems to have an opinion from the outside looking in, but what do the Kurds want? How do they live? What do they value? I want to understand a little bit more of who they are....

Above all, be safe!!


Posted by: Chris at March 5, 2007 08:57 AM

Are there any investment opportunities for outsiders [in Kurdistan]? That is, is the system transparent & honest enough that it has some hope of joining the global economy?

Posted by: YankInParis at March 5, 2007 10:32 AM

In my visits to the Former Soviet Union and from reports I get from there, one barrier to fully free markets is the lack of reliable banking systems.

Prior to the fall of communism citizens relied upon their mattresses for banking services. Fortunes were lost when the "official" exchange rate moved from a fixed one ruble = one dollar to a floating exchange rate.

The ruble just wasn't worth that much. The rate per dollar was around 5500 in 1996. An effective inflation rate of 5500 percent. Hyperinflation by anyone's estimate.

What we see as a "normal" banking system really isn't when you travel around the world. The range and security of services we receive free are hard to imagine in most foreign countries.

Transportability is one of the key qualities of a good currency. And it is our banking system that allows for such a high degree of transportability of the dollar. It also allows for a high degree of safety from theft and or loss, such as fire. And because of our central banking system, the value of our currency tends to remain fairly constant.

Extending credit is also a normal function of banks in this country. Whether I want to buy a house, or borrow money to expand my business, my first stop is my local bank. While knowing the loan officer is definately a good thing, my borrowing is more correctly based upon my credit history and the value of my current assets. Also, rights to access to credit are assured under the 1974 Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

Sans open and transparent banking, inefficiencies result. Who you know becomes more important than what you know. The greater the barriers to open and free credit, reliable banking and easy transportability, the greater the likelyhood of cronyism and corruption. I know that a high level of professionalism was in place in Iraq in the person of John Taylor of Stanford. But the difference in theory and practise is "what you've got".

Capital formation is crippled by lack of access to banks and credit. Have the Kurds adopted an independent banking approach? Have the Kurds a role to play in Iraq's Central Bank?

Love your show. Keep it up.

Posted by: OregonGuy at March 5, 2007 10:57 AM

I would like to know how the Kurdish population/businessmen/or goverment view the future of Iraq and what the government should be. Also, as many people suspect, would they ever try to declare independence from Iraq in the future.

Thanks Mike! Best of luck and safe travels!

Posted by: carpentersr at March 5, 2007 11:33 AM

I'd like to know about the religious practice and devotion of the Kurds, particularly as it involves the public arena.

There has been a lot of talk in the media over the past few years about the tension between Islam and democracy. Yet Kurdistan seems to be an example of a florishing democracy. Are the people there not devout? Have they reach some sort of accomidation of Islam with modernity that allows for something similar to the separation of church and state (or rather, mosque and state)? What role do Islamic teaching and Islmamic religious leaders play in shaping the public debate?

Posted by: Josiah at March 5, 2007 01:53 PM

The general perception is that Iraqi society is so corrupt and fractured that any positive outcome from our intervention there is doomed to fail. How accurate is this perception?

Posted by: RobSiv at March 5, 2007 03:49 PM

My husband spent the first six months of 2006 living in Suleymania and we are returning there for at least year next month. He lived and worked with the Kurds there and traveled as well to the surrounding cities like Dohuk, Erbil, Halabja, Kirkuk, and various villages doing humanitarian aid work. The questions which are being asked here are GREAT questions, and definitely have answers. I wish that we could just start rattling off our persective on those questions); I am so excited for Michael to have his own adventure there and meet the wonderful Kurds who live there.

Michael - can't wait to read your perspective and see your pictures! Enjoy spring in Iraq! Be sure to stop and picnic in mountains, check out the waterfalls, and the carnival in Suley!

Posted by: AngieO at March 5, 2007 05:08 PM

I'd like to see something about the status of non-Kurds in "Kurdistan". Assyrians, Arabs and Turkmen; more so the Assyrians and Turkmen. I've heard a lot of reports of Kurdish discrimination towards all of these groups and political disagreements from them from people who have come to the States (mostly Assyrians).

Posted by: Nouri Lumendifi at March 5, 2007 06:10 PM

During Saddam's reign, thre were two competing Kurdish guerilla groups; how are they getting along now? Have their leaders reconciled? Have they merged? Are they now competing political parties? Do they field a common military?

Posted by: Salamantis at March 5, 2007 07:33 PM

What do you most want to see in photographs and video?

Normal, everyday people. Journalists always go to the Middle-East and interview some clueless third-cousin of the guy in charge who will just tell us what we want to hear because we are sending money.

I am interested in the man-on-the-street kind of stuff; bonus points if she is a woman and hot.

Posted by: Keith at March 5, 2007 08:51 PM

It seems to me that persons wishing to have future political influence in Iraq must first create a constituency of people who believe the politician will make a good leader. Part of this would seem to be that the person must demonstrate some element of caring for his/her consituency.

With this in mind, it seems that no hopeful politician or leader would ever do harm to his constituents or he/she could never expect to be followed or elected.

This raises the issue of the bomber who places bombs in places where large groups of random constituents are blown to pieces or maimed for life. For the life of me, I cannot understand the logic of the bomber. How can a person who is a bomber or who controls bombers ever expect any constituency to trust them or follow them a politician and leaders. It seems to me that when things finally calm down, the bombers will be accursed people who will be hunted down and killed.

My question is what purpose does the random bombint accomplish?

Posted by: JW at March 6, 2007 12:50 PM

Hello Michael,
On Feb 15 2007, something happened in Shaikhan, Iraq.
Terror attack against Yezidi in the Iraq

Yezidi are member one of the oldest religions in Mesopotamia, whose
majority (approx. 500,000) live in Iraq in the provinces: Mosul and
Duhok. They live mainly in the areas Sinjar, Bashiqa, Tilkaif and
Shaikhan. The Yezidi as well as all other not Muslim minorities live
under permanent suppression. The radical groupings after fall of the
Iraqi regime are fighting with all methods of terror against
democracy and human rights. The situation of the Yezidi became very
bad. The Yezidis are trying to isolate themselves in their areas, in
order to protect themselves from the terror attacts. Nevertheless
they cannot live in peace. Also in their areas they are pursued.

Assassination attempts of terror against Yeziden in Shaikhan

Hundreds of kurdish radical-muslims attacked the yezidi city Shaikhan
on 15 February, where the yezidi prince and the clergy live. This
happened with the help and support of some radical kurdish-muslim
police officers in the city. The mass of terrorists destroyed and
burned the yezidi temple (Mend), different cultural centers, cars and
shops. They shot aimlessly on the houses and citizens and demanded
the Yezidi people to leave their area and to emigrate. They called to
the holy war (Jihad) against Yezidi. The radical Muslims beheaded on
the next day a yezidi woman. She was mother of four children. The
poor Yezidi in Shaikhan and surrounding villages are locked up in
their houses.
This was from the legal view an attempt of genocide (loud Article 6,
and article 25 paragraph 3F of the international penal law).

We ask for international assistance and solidarity with Yezidi and
other minorities in the Iraq. We ask the European Union countries to
exert more political pressure to change this bad situation of yezidi
in iraq. The non muslim minorities in iraq, specially yezidi, are in
need of the international protection in order to live peacefully in
their country.

Yezidi Community in Germany
19. February 2007

CHECK OUT FOR VIDEO FOOTAGE, click on EIDIA TV, and there are numbered articles (1-10) on your left hand side.



Posted by: DILAN at March 7, 2007 06:02 AM

I haven't read all the comments, so maybe this has been suggested already:

1. What would the Kurds do if all hell breaks loose in the south following an American withdrawal in a year or two?

2. Is there a "brain drain" in the Kurd areas like what is happening in the south?

3. How do Kurds view Iranian support for Shia in the south and Syrian support for Sunni groups? Do Kurds feel that any of this activity is directed against them?

4. Has the situation in Iraq changed Kurdish opinion on "resistance" or "freedom" movements in Turkey, Syria or Iran? Is a de-facto semi-autonomous Kurdistan in Iraq enough, or are there elements that want to expand and fight in those other countries?

5. What are Kurdish terrorist/insurgent groups up to and have any of their goals or actions changed in the last year or two?

Posted by: Andy at March 7, 2007 06:14 AM


I'd like to know what the sunnis want, and why they want it. I'd like to know what they expect to get if Iraq breaks up given the sunni areas have little oil. I'd like to know why everything they seem to be doing will result in Iraq breaking up, leaving them with zilch. I'd like to know why they attack U.S. troops when U.S. troops are the only thing standing between them and the shiaas right now. I'd like to know why they seemingly do everything possible to sabotage their own future and why they have their heads so far up their collective asses. If you could get them to tell us in their OWN WORDS, that would be extremely helpful. Thanks.

Posted by: Carlos at March 7, 2007 06:47 AM


Anything you can tell us about population movement in Kurdistan and Iraq as a whole would be of interest. To what extent are people voting with their feet? Being forced out? Does Kurdistan attract others besides Kurds? I'm remembering how this played out in Cyprus, where we've had total ethnic separation.

Be safe!

Posted by: Sue at March 7, 2007 08:52 AM

Are their agricultural farms? Are people gardening? Do they have good produce in the market?

Posted by: peri at March 9, 2007 07:32 AM

Are their agricultural farms? Are people gardening? Do they have good produce in the market?

Posted by: peri at March 9, 2007 07:33 AM

Hi Michael,

Thank you for all your efforts.

My big concern regards the inability of highly educated Europeans, Americans and Middle Easterners to differentiate between tyranny and hegemony. And to differentiate between imperialism and hegemony.

Obviously tyranny, imperialism and hegemony concern an effort to control others.

US hegemony has been necessary throughout the last half of the 20th century and into the 21st. It has been necessary to at least preserve a bit of liberty on the planet.

It has been necessary because the High Intellectuals all over the planet have lost an ability to differentiate among "good" and "not good" ideas and efforts. High intellectuals have made a tremendous effort to eliminate the concept of "GOD" and replace it with the concept of "EQUALITY."

Robert Fisk, an "honored Englsh journalist" stationed in Beirut for over 30 years says "what the people in the Middle East disire is 'justice.'" He claims to know this because he has put his life in danger many times and talked to many Middle Easterners.

He offers no understandable definition of "justice," but he is absolutely certain the problem is US imperialism and the solution is for the US to pull completely out of Iraq NOW. He claims to know this is the solution because lots of Iraqis have told him so. He gets to fly all over the world - freely - enjoying all the benefits of liberty, while claiming a very nice, well protected home in Beirut - as home. US, European and Middle Eastern intellectuals absolutely adore him and believe every word he spouts is "true."

It appears the Kurds disagree:-)

Can you help the world know an accurate definition of "justice" according to the Iraqi, Middle Eastern, European and intellectual American "mindset?"

Do Iraqis have enough mind-power and will-power to do anything positive with their liberty without US hegemony?

Do Iraquis prefer Iranian tyranny and imperialism to US hegemony?

Do Iraquis prefer a local tyrant in bed with European "equality seekers?"

Would Iraquis prefer "justice" Putin style?

If you can provide these answers you would be tremendously helpful and your quest will be justified and you can die happy - as a real man.


Bruce Pember

Posted by: Bruce at March 11, 2007 09:20 AM

Ask them what they think of Britney Spears. Should K-Fed get the kids? Does she need professional help?

Posted by: Malcolm at March 11, 2007 01:11 PM
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