President Woodrow Wilson had brought the U.S. into the conflict to make the world "safe for democracy." In his mind, this meant splitting the Ottoman Empire into independent, self-governing democracies. But as Wilson found, it is easier to break things up than to put them back together again. During the war, the U.S. was one of the strongest supporters of independence for small ethnic groups like the Armenians and the Kurds. But words are one thing, deeds another. There were no American troops in the region; the other great powers wanted only to bring theirs home.
[Faisal] had no illusions about the difficulties he faced: "There is not yet in Iraq an Iraqi people," he wrote. In fact, the new state was an amalgam of peoples -- Kurds, Shiite Arabs, Sunni Arabs and others -- and was not nearly as stable as its creators had hoped it would be. The Kurds opposed first the British, then Faisal. Kurdish leaders were exiled, and they, like the other minorities, ultimately bowed to superior force.