Never has sovereignty been more undermined than has Iraq's in Kurdistan. Kurdish adults turned out massively to vote for a 105-member Iraqi Kurdish National Assembly and for a national leader. In a carefully orchestrated transport movement, American trucks and planes violated Iraqi sovereignty to fly out some 30 tons of records, from three Iraqi intelligence agencies, that were liberated by three Kurdish insurgency movements that overran the police stations last year.
Yet none of the above denies Iraqi sovereignty in the northern Tigris and Euphrates valleys. The United States recognizes no Kurdistan. Turkey, which allowed its air base to be used for the movement of the secret documents, violently opposes Kurdish aspirations. The three Kurdish parties seeking assembly seats and two rivals contesting for national leadership, Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, seek autonomy for Kurds within Iraq. Mr. Barzani has negotiated for it with Iraq's President Saddam Hussein. Mr. Talabani would rather present Iraq with a fait accompli.
Iraq denied the legitimacy of the election. Turkey and Iran, harboring large Kurdish minorities, opposed it. Never was an election so hard won or enthusiastically conducted. Iraqi troops were poised to invade, deterred by fear of U.S. intervention. Baghdad denied food and fuel to the Kurds. Still, they voted, many walking miles to do so. It is hard not to approve of democracy after its stubborn practice under such arduous circumstances.