The Kurds, a long-suffering ethnic group in the Mideast, have long sought an independent state – and Iraqi Kurdish areas will vote in a referendum that is adding to the region’s tensions, as Joe Lauria reports from Erbil, Iraq.
By Joe Lauria
Fireworks are already exploding here in Erbil as Iraqi Kurds rally in football stadiums and drive down thoroughfares, horns blaring and Kurdish flags flying, as though they are already a sovereign state as they gear up for an independence referendum from Iraq on Monday that is setting off political fireworks in the region.
It is a foregone conclusion that the independence vote will receive at least 90 percent support. It is also certain that the vote will not immediately change the legal status of the Iraqi Kurdish region from the semi-autonomy it already enjoys. But the possible overreaction of Baghdad and its neighbors to the vote has injected fear and uncertainty about what happens after Monday.
Longtime Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani has made it clear that a vote for independence does not mean an automatic declaration of independence,
though many Kurds I’ve spoken to believe that after Monday Kurdistan will become sovereign. Instead Barzani has said he will use the referendum results as leverage in negotiations with the central government in Baghdad in the hope it eventually leads to Kurdish statehood.
“If it needs time, one year or at the latest two years, we can solve all the problems within these two years. And then we can say ‘goodbye’ in a friendly way,” Barzani said on Wednesday.
Nevertheless, Baghdad and the Turkish government in Ankara have issued threats. Military intervention would be an extraordinary step, though, leaving the disputed city of Kirkuk as the most likely place where violence may erupt.
U.S. Opposed to Vote
The United States, which has been a strong ally of the Iraqi Kurds, has publicly opposed the referendum. Along with Europe, Washington says the timing threatens the Baghdad-Erbil alliance against ISIS, which hasn’t been totally crushed in Iraq.
The U.S. is playing hardball with the Kurds to get them to cancel the vote. The State Department on Thursday said, “The United States urges Iraqi Kurdish leaders to accept the alternative, which is a serious and sustained dialogue with the central government, facilitated by the United States and United Nations, and other partners, on all matters of concern, including the future of the Baghdad-Erbil relationship.”
The U.S. pointedly said it would not back talks if the vote took place. “If this referendum is conducted, it is highly unlikely that there will be negotiations with Baghdad, and the above international offer of support for negotiations will be foreclosed,” the State Department said.
After meetings in Baghdad and Erbil two weeks ago, Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, called the referendum “ill-advised,” “ill-timed,” and lacking “international legitimacy.”
Despite those statements and although there is no evidence, many people here in Erbil believe the U.S. is secretly backing the referendum and wants to break up Iraq.
Turkey Threatens Military Action
In his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to close the border with Iraqi Kurdistan, through which the Kurds sell 550,000 barrels of oil a day, illegally according to Baghdad, and depend on more than a billion dollars a years in food and other imports.
“We call on Iraqi Kurdish regional government to abort their referendum,” Erdogan said. “Ignoring Turkey can deprive the KRG [Kurdish Regional Government] of the opportunities they currently enjoy.“ Such a move would anger Turkish businesses dependent on trade with the Iraqi Kurds, however.
On Friday, the Turkish national security council issued a direct threat to Erbil. “The illegitimacy of the referendum announced by the KRG … directly threatens Turkey’s national security … a grave mistake that threatens Iraq’s political unity and territorial integrity as well as peace, security and stability of the region,” it said in a statement.
On Saturday, the Turkish parliament extended a mandate for Turkish troop deployments to Syria and Iraq. The Turkish military has been conducting exercises near the Iraq border.
Erkan Akcay, a Turkish MP, said, “With this motion we say categorically that we’re not joking about suddenly coming at night, or not playing games, and we can afford anything at all for the survival of Turkey.” He added: “The pirate referendum which is illegal and unacceptable should be cancelled before it is too late.”
The Iraqi Supreme Court has declared the referendum unconstitutional. Earlier this month Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned he would send tanks to Erbil, a threat he later withdrew. At the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Eshaiker al-Jaafari said, “We reject the referendum which is trying to force Iraq to make decisions to keep unity.”
The disputes between Erbil and Baghdad are complex, but the two biggest problems are oil and disputed territories. Baghdad has withheld federal money from Erbil because it is independently selling oil at a discount through Turkey rather than through the central government.
The even bigger concerns are territories that both Baghdad and Erbil claim as theirs, especially the disputed city of Kirkuk. Perhaps the most brazen aspect of Barzani’s referendum is that he extended it to the areas under dispute.
Kirkuk has a complicated demographic history, allowing Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs to claim it as their own. The al-Tikriti family was the main Arab family in Kirkuk in the Seventeenth Century. A Kurdish tribe made it their capital in the Eighteenth Century. Turkmen have been present since the Eleventh Century, and became the majority as the Ottomans moved in more Turkmen in the early Twentieth Century.
By the Treaty of Ankara, registered with the League of Nations in 1926, Kirkuk became a part of the Kingdom of Iraq. Until the 1930s, Kirkuk was a largely Turkmen town, but after oil was discovered there was an influx of Arab and Kurdish workers. According to the 1957 census, the last one taken, Kirkuk city was 37,63 percent Iraqi Turkmen; 33.26 percent Kurdish; with Arabs and Assyrians making up less than 23 percent of its population
A short-lived 1970 autonomy agreement with the Kurds was ended in 1974 when a new law excluded Kurdish enclaves from oil-rich areas and the city’s boundaries were redrawn to create an Arab majority. From 1991 – the time of the first Gulf War – to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, about 500,000 Kurds were expelled from Kirkuk and surrounding towns, according to Human Rights Watch. Arab families were settled in their place.
More were expelled after the 1991 Kurdish uprising against Saddam Hussein. After the 2003 invasion, thousands of displaced Kurds moved into Kirkuk. In 2014, when ISIS attacked the city and Iraqi National Army troops fled, the Kurdish peshmerga took control.
There has been no census taken since 1957, creating confusion about the city’s current demography. A planned referendum in 2007 for the people of Kirkuk to decide whether they wanted to belong to Baghdad or Erbil has never been held.
Barzani’s decision to include Kirkuk and other disputed areas in the referendum has incensed Baghdad. Last week, the central government dismissed the Kurdish governor of Kirkuk governorate, but he refused to step down.
Turkmen, who were once the majority, are vehemently opposed to Kurdish independence and are expected to boycott the vote. The leader of a Shia militia warned earlier this month that his group had a green light from its backers in Teheran to attack Kirkuk.
The Imam Ali Division’s spokesman Ayoub Faleh said the city would be attacked if it became part of a Kurdish state. “Kirkuk belongs to Iraq,” Faleh said. “We would by no means give up on Kirkuk even if this were to cause major bloodshed.”
Hadi al-Amiri, secretary-general of the Badr Organization, an Iraqi party close to Iran, said the organization would also fight. “We will resort to arms if we [as Iraqis] establish a federal system on an ethnic or sectarian basis,” Amiri said in a Sept. 4 interview with the Kurdish channel Rudaw.
Ali Shamkhani, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said this month there would be “implications” if the Kurds leave Iraq.
“The republic of Iran has opened its legitimate border gates on the premise of the consent of the federal government of the Iraqi state. If such an event [referendum] happens, these border gates from the perspective of the Islamic Republic of Iran would lose its legitimacy,” Shamkhani told Iranian state news agency IRIB.
At the request of the Baghdad government, Iran on Sunday closed its air space for all flights originating from Iraqi Kurdistan. It remains to be seen if Ankara and Baghdad follow suit, which would cut off land-locked Iraqi Kurdistan from the outside world.
Russia has maintained a low public profile on the Iraqi Kurdish question. Russians officials have said they prefer Iraq to remain united but that independence was a legitimate aspiration. As the Kurds will not declare independence immediately, the attention being focused on it by the U.S., Turkey, Iran and Baghdad has only ratcheted up tensions. But will it lead to military conflict?
Chances of Military Intervention
The foreign ministers of Turkey, Iraq and Iran met last week n New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly and said they would coordinate their response to the referendum.
Turkey and Iran’s greatest concern is the effect the referendum may have on its own Kurdish populations. For more than a year Turkey has been engaged in renewed warfare against Turkish Kurdish rebels. Iran periodically crushes uprisings in its Kurdish areas. Neither country would gain from diverting resources to Iraqi Kurdistan away from their own Kurdish populations.
Barzani said at a press conference on Sunday that Iraqi Kurds “support peaceful solution in those countries but we do not support violence to settle the Kurdish question in those countries.”
Though I’ve heard fear here of Iranian military intervention, such a move would hand a perfect casus belli to the United States and Israel to attack Iran, something Teheran certainly does not want to provoke.
A joint military operation of Turkey, Iran and the Iraqi National Army might gain some victories, though the peshmerga are hardened fighters, who would be motivated by self-defense. Also political will and resources would surely be tested in all three capitals if a long-term occupation were attempted against a Kurdish insurgency.
Turkey this week returned troops to Syria to put down Syrian Kurdish aspirations there. As the irredentist Turkish President Erdogan himself has questioned the post-World I settlement that gave Iraq the Ottoman’s Mosul Vilayet, which included Kurdish areas and Kirkuk, military adventurism on his part cannot be ruled out.
But military intervention is unrealistic. The Prime Minister of the Kurdish region, Nechirvan Barzani, said last week: “I do not see any military attack at all on the Kurdistan Region. It is impossible to happen. Military threats against what? Against the referendum? I do not foresee that at all. Even if they take other measures, as allegedly they are going to do, but military option is impossible.”
“Turkey is free to do whatever it wants to do within its own boundaries. So is Iran,” said Barzani, a nephew of the president. “But if it is expected that they will come and use military means against a referendum being held in Kurdistan – it is impossible. They will not do such things, because it is not in their interest.”
What Makes a State?
Do the Iraqi Kurds have a legal argument for statehood? The Montevideo Convention of 1933 laid out the requirements for statehood in customary international law. “The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.” “The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states,” the Convention says. The Kurds of Iraq qualify on all four points.
But there is another theory of statehood going back to the Fourteenth Century and affirmed by the 1815 Congress of Vienna, namely that a sovereign state depends on recognition by other states. So far only one nation has declared it would recognize Kurdish independence from Iraq: Israel.
“(Israel) supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state,” said Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sept. 13. The motive can be seen in Israel’s longstanding defensive position to weaken Arab states surrounding them. ( I’ve learned from a source close to Barzani that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates privately support the referendum, but neither country has said so publicly.)
The Palestinians meet the same legal requirements of a state and in addition have more than 130 nations recognizing Palestinian statehood. The U.N. in 2012 granted Palestine Observer State status. Like the Kurds, however, the Palestinians face political and not legal obstacles. The opposition of Israel, which occupies its lands, and the United States, has so far made Palestinian statehood politically impossible.
Dream of Long-Suffering Kurds
The borders drawn by the secret 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement, divided Kurds inside the borders of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. In the 1920 Treaty of Sevres between Britain and France and the defeated Ottomans, the Kurds were promised a future state in northern Iraq. Based on that, in 1922 Sheikh Mahmud Barzinji declared a Kurdish Kingdom, but it was crushed by two years of British aerial bombardment.
During those two years, in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne Britain and France withdrew their promise to the Kurds and turned Kurdish areas over to Baghdad. Except for Barzinji’s short-lived Kurdish Kingdom and the Mahabad Republic in northern Iran in 1946, which lasted only a year before the Iranian government executed its leaders, Kurds have never had their own state.
The 1958 Iraqi Constitution declared that “the Arabs and Kurds are associated in this nation.” But that ended five years later when the Baath Party came to power. To weaken the Baath’s links with Moscow, the U.S., Israel and Iran supplied Iraqi Kurds to rebel against Baghdad in 1972. This lasted for three years until Iran and Iraq settled their differences in the Algiers agreement, backed by Henry Kissinger, then Secretary of State. That suddenly cut off Iran’s support for the Iraqi Kurds, and allowed years of repression from Baghdad to culminate in the massacre by Saddam Hussein of as many as 5,000 Kurdish civilians with poison gas in Halabja in 1988.
Kurdish uprisings in the neighboring nations have been likewise crushed over the decades. Turkey has fought a 30-year war against a Kurdish insurgency demanding independence. Iran has periodically cracked down on its Kurdish population.
In 2004, the Syrian government put down Kurdish protests. Syrian Kurds have gained a measure autonomy from Damascus since joining the fight against ISIS, but aspirations for a Syrian autonomous state in a proposed Syrian federation still faces government opposition and will likely be resolved one way or the other once the six-year-old Syrian war ends.
Iraqi Kurdish Autonomy
Since the U.S. attack on Iraq in 1991, the Kurdish population of roughly 8.4 million in the north has enjoyed a large measure of autonomy from Baghdad.
At the end of the first Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush called for the Shia in the south and the Kurds of the north to rebel against Saddam Hussein. They did but Bush did not back up his words with military support, and both were slaughtered. Kurds rushed to the mountains towards Turkey, where they were trapped when Ankara closed the border. The U.S. then led a no-fly zone in the north and south, which protected the Kurds and gave them a measure of autonomy from Baghdad.
The Kurdish Regional Government now has its own flag, its own government ministries, its own army, its own parliament (which met for the first time in two years last week to approve the referendum), and issues its own visas to foreign visitors. But Kurds here still carry Iraqi passports and deal in Iraqi dinars and U.S. dollars. The fight against ISIS and the drop in oil prices hit this region hard, with government workers going months without being paid.
Economic infrastructure for a modern state is lacking. There is no rail service and the first stretch of a highway was opened only this year within the city of Erbil. It does not link with other Kurdish cities. There is no national Kurdish museum in Erbil.
In 2005, the Kurds held a referendum, which passed with 98.8 percent favoring independence from Iraq. Kirkuk also voted 98.8 percent in favor. Nothing came of the referendum however.
In January 2016 Barzani, who was born in 1946 in the short-lived Mahabad Republic, declared that the Sykes-Picot era was over and called for a referendum, which he postponed until ISIS was defeated. Mosul was liberated this summer, opening the way for the vote.
Given the large degree of autonomy this region enjoys and the negative consequences that can come from holding the vote Monday, there appears to be little material benefit that can come from the referendum. The idea of Kurdistan as a U.N. observer state is far-fetched.
But the Kurdish decision is beyond the realm of pragmatism. It may seem a flight of dangerous romanticism to outsiders. But to the long-suffering Kurds, who have been mistreated by their neighbors for decades, if not centuries, there appears to be no choice.
“We are ready to pay any price for our independence,” Barzani told the press conference on Sunday.
Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist. He has written for the Boston Globe, the Sunday Times of London and the Wall Street Journal among other newspapers. He is the author of How I Lost By Hillary Clinton published by OR Books in June 2017. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @unjoe.
Excellent post, thx author!
The Kurdish unilateral referendum in Iraq is one of several “other options” promoted by Western interests eager to realize their long-cherished goal of a “New Middle East” of dismembered states and compliant client regimes.
Operations by Kurdish forces in neighboring Syria are particularly relevant in this context:
“Despite Trump and other western leaders allegedly disclaiming regime change as an objective in Syria, it is clear that this policy has merely been put on hold while other options are exercised.
“A major objective in this context has been the attempt by the US and its allies to take control of the oil fields to the east of Deir ez Zor. This is one of the factors behind the blatant attacks by US led forces on Syrian government troops and their Russian and Iranian allies.
“The Syrian territory east of Deir ez Zor contains the Koniko gas field and the al Azbeh oil field, both of which are vital to Syria’s post-war recovery. They are also vital to any autonomous Kurdish State that is established in the area. This would help achieve a long held Israeli goal of the dismemberment of its enemy neighbours, Iraq and Syria, into non-threatening statelets. It is another reason why American backed Kurdish forces have also been seeking a foothold in the eastern Syrian region.”
US and Terrorist Groups in Desperate Rearguard Actions in Syria
By James ONeill
The Kurds are mercenaries just like the rest of the World’s ” Kontraktniki”. They got into the killing of Armenians, Assyrians and any Christians that got in the way. Their Gov. have their 5%ers and deal with the Israelis, Americans or anyone else that comes along with money. The American media wants the Americans to think of them as lost , screwed out of a country to call their own – while it was EU and America that made it that way. 95% of Kurds are poor peasants and will vote for anything they’re told to. Ya I hear there is a new Nam ” story” on PBS — been there – done that – same old sh.. different sponsor. Spacibo Mr. Parry
Susan,…the link supplied by D5-D is a good indication of the predicament and the opportunities Barzani has with the referendum. My bet is that he will use it as a negotiating point w/Baghdad not only for oil revenues but to define new boundaries for Kurdistan within Iraq and then seize the first opportunity for independence down the line. He has been a pretty cagey negotiator and I seriously doubt he would allow an invasion or airstrike of Iran from his territory. In this game everyone is trying to “use” everyone else and the U.S. and Israel may well not be the smartest players on the board.
The supersaturation of american exceptionalist propaganda is still strongly potent. I can see how “Kurd yearning to breath free” and “deserving of their own state” has been played in our narrative of Iraq for almost 30 years … along with the guilt-tripping about how “we” have repeatedly let them down … While folks talk a good-game about non-interventionism and hating the neocons, the Kurds (and Ukranians) may still “resonate” as freedom-fighters. … and of course McCain — their patron saint — is very publicly terminally ill … yes, I’m cynical enough to anticipate some “win one for the Gipper” before McCain sheds his mortal coil.
I’m also reminded (as Iraq says “no second Israel” wrt a western-mandate created independent Kurdish state) about the high expectations voiced when the Palestinians demanded state recognition (aljazera says 137 nations had recognized as of last January – article oddly unavailable) … net effect uncertain.
Lots to read, including from https://journal-neo.org/2017/09/25/is-the-kurdish-referendum-a-bluff-or-the-real-deal/
this latter quote reinforcing my unexpected impression readings a year or so ago about the rifts within larger kurdistan … while the American press tends to paint the Kurds as somehow morally better and more worthy (because that’s part of our formula for “freedom fighters”)
As I’ve said, many “hate” neocons but wouldn’t necessarily recognize neocon “intervention” if it sat down next to them disguised as getting the Kurds that independent state “everyone” agrees they deserve, carved out of Iraq and Syria first with Turkey and Iran to be negotiated later (or to benefit from somewhere to relocate their Kurds) — “We” seem a-ok with ethnic cleansing if we’re playing traffic cop.
The Vietnam series has brought back a lot of memories and reminded me of things I had forgotten — like John McCain POW’s Charleston Heston movie-star all-American good looks … scary stuff.
An interesting addition here, from Jim W. Dean at NEO:
“The Kurds’ weak economic point is their having an undiversified economy where everyone looks toward increased oil revenues as their salvation. But for Barzani it has been a great unifier politically. Baghdad has been struggling with its own serious economic problems where ironically, despite its energy wealth, much of that failure is due to not having had enough electricity for manufacturing businesses to increase critically needed domestic production and jobs, and reduce imports.
Iraq also has a ruling class that has been a looting class, taking its purloined funds out of the country, to the UAE generally. But fortunately the new Iranian gas pipelines are coming on stream to fix the electric power shortage so manufacturers can operate more than a few hours a day.
Showdown at the Kirkuk corral
Barzani and Abadi are playing a big game of chicken now, hoping the other will blink and back off. The Iraqi popular militias (PMUs) think that a civil war is unavoidable, and are ready for it. But if someone can fund the PMUs as Iran has done, then outside powers can intercede to help the Kurds, and will do so.
Some think that could be the Saudis wanting an anti-Iran base in Iraqi Kurdistan. After all, the King had stated that regime change in Iran was his main goal. Good luck with that your highness. But the Saudis have now publicly come out against the referendum, maybe feeling that a civil war would push Baghdad more into the hands of Iran.”
I’ve read in several articles that it was a power play by Barzani (to “re-unify” Kurds under him) by a referendum they cannot refuse (and it’s expected to be approved by vast margins). It’s expected to be approved but is not binding on Iraq (or, of course, Turkey, Iran or Syria — countries who are not likely to peacefully accept similar secessionist “referendums”).
Iraq does not want to be partitioned, nor does Syria, particularly not by Kurdish sometimes USA-proxy forces — Iraq has been “fighting off” American plans / suggestions that it partition itself for over a decade.
Juan Cole has a very good, quick and dirty outline of Kurdish history back to pre-WWI … and the Wapo has a 5-things you need to know about Kurdish referendum which is also useful.
As far as I can tell, this may well backfire without genuine benefit or gain.
The Kurds in Syria in the first years after 2011 stayed allied with Assad who promised expanded citizenship and autonomy …. Unlike other parties, the Kurds will never dally with allying with ISIS or Alqaeda (because their Sunni Islam is not compatible).
Cole’s article is also interesting in the intersecting fates of the Kurds with other religious minorities who took refuge in Kurdish regions (because of their tolerance) …
I tried to read-up on the schism in the Syrian Kurdish leadership and was quickly swamped (reminiscent of trying to suss out the factions in Bosnia, if you recall). There are rivalries and lineages … I haven’t seen anything on the impact of the Iraqi referendum on Syrian Kurds (if you can figure out who they are and who speaks for whom, versus themselves in self-interest)
Susan,…”Iraq does not want to be partitioned, nor does Syria, particularly not by Kurdish sometimes USA-proxy forces”
Of course Iraq and Syria “don’t want to be partitioned”, they would prefer that Kurdish areas remain a fiefdom of the central government, but their interests diverge on several points. Baghdad and Damascus are the remnants of an ancient Arab caliphate. The two countries are actually quite different in their treatment of minorities. Iraq has had a long history of persecution, especially under Saddam. The Kurdish enclaves in Syria are not conducive to a separate state(they are scattered along the northern border with Turkey). It is quite likely they would be amenable to a federated Syria. A lot depends on what Turkey’s erratic President Erdogan will do but they are almost certainly more attracted to a rapprochement with Damascus than an alliance with the anti-Damascus forces backed by Turkey.
Well, I’m hopeful this referendum is not being used (secondarily by other parties) to trigger bad acts by Erdogan, for whom Merkel’s victory will have consequences (assuming she follows through on cancelling Turkey’s EU membership processing). The USA has been vigorously and “patiently” sponsoring Turkish integration in “the West” for decades now — see also using the pretext of “protecting / supporting the Kurds” for the creation of no fly zone (original recipe) and other interventions — a spanner in the works at a time when the “let’s battle ISIS together” pretext is about to expire.
The blowback from the killing of 3 Russian officers in an area of “shared intel and coordination” is yet to be reckoned. Not sure it’s even been mentioned by the MSM — again, accident versus provocation? Are the American generals demonstrating their over-confidence or compensating for an American president losing respectability, descending into evil clown recklessness.
It was only months ago that we had CIA / special ops factions, on the ground in Syria, working at cross purposes … The Kurds seem to have their very own insular office in the state department, part of the McCain State Department … god only knows that they’ve been promised this time (or by whom). Rifts and factions within American policy wrt the Kurds (and others) have successfully been kept unacknowledged and/or obscured. Poorly managed and/or conflicts over policy can look like a double-cross — Bay of Pigs, even April Glaspie and Kuwait come to mind
The Kurds were victims of our capricious encouragement of their “freedom fighting” after GWI … fool me twice ?? quite possible.
Since the Montevideo Convention is more recent, it, as a matter of common sense, prevails over theories from the 14th century or, indeed, the Congress of Vienna. In addition, treaties always prevail over customary law. The European concept of the nation-state and the right of self-determination that is inherent in it developed only in the 19th century. Clearly, international recognition cannot, by definition, confer sovereignty. A state cannot be “sovereign” if its supposed sovereignty has been conferred on it by another state, all the more so as, if sovereignty can be conferred by the unilateral act of another state, it can also be withdrawn in the same way. That contradicts the very idea of sovereignty. Recognition as a test of sovereignty might have been fine in 1815, when European affairs were regulated by the five Congress powers, but it is meaningless in a world where the UN has 193 Member States. Recognition is a political act on the part of the recognizing state. Granting it doesn’t confer sovereignty, withholding it does not prevent a state being sovereign. Kosovo is recognized by 111 countries but some others (most notably Serbia) do not recognize it as a sovereign state. Ukraine is recognized by 65 countries (including Russia). The so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” claims to be sovereign but is recognized by no country (not even Russia).
Myths persist if never challenged and even then.
“This lasted for three years until Iran and Iraq settled their differences in the Algiers agreement, backed by Henry Kissinger, then Secretary of State. That suddenly cut off Iran’s support for the Iraqi Kurds, and allowed years of repression from Baghdad to culminate in the massacre by Saddam Hussein of as many as 5,000 Kurdish civilians with poison gas in Halabja in 1988.”
When the massacre by Saddam Hussein persisted, I called Stephan Pelletiere. who had done the on site investigation, which concluded it was likely a Iranian gas attack that caused the deaths. I remember his response. If no one has done any further studies, then my conclusions stand.
We have seen that approach of continuing to state the same lie over and over until it is accepted as truth.
“Joost Hiltermann, who was the principal researcher for Human Rights Watch between 1992–1994, conducted a two-year study of the massacre, including a field investigation in northern Iraq. According to his analysis of thousands of captured Iraqi secret police documents and declassified U.S. government documents, as well as interviews with scores of Kurdish survivors, senior Iraqi defectors and retired U.S. intelligence officers, it is clear that Iraq carried out the attack on Halabja, and that the United States, fully aware of this, nevertheless accused Iran, Iraq’s enemy in a fierce war, of being partly responsible for the attack.” http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/17/opinion/halabja-america-didnt-seem-to-mind-poison-gas.html
Mr. Luria, Pelletiere’s investigation did not focus on what people said and documents but on the nature of the gas used. His conclusion, it was gas available to Iran not Iraq. I don’t know what Mr Pelletiere’s response to you would be, perhaps he has changed his mind, but at the time his conclusions were based on on-site tests and if his position is still the same as when we talked, he would have responded to you as he did me. Halabja was a battleground and both sides were fighting over it. In talking to Mr. Pelletiere, who was with the CIA at the time of his inspection, I didn’t get the impression that he was making some kind of political statement, merely what he found at the site. Nevertheless, as I remember, he did feel compelled to speak out because of the accusation flying around that Iraq did it. Think WMD’s. I don’t think Human Rights Watch is that apolitical, some have accused it of being the opposite.
I did not find any reference to a “Pelletiere” in Joe Lauria’s coment that you write as if in response to. Lauria’s comment, and NYT link, appear to reference investigative work by a “Joost Hiltermann”.
If you re-read your comment to which Lauria responded, you ended writing, “If no one has done any further studies, then my conclusions stand.”
Lauria provided information from a Human Rights Watch researcher’s “further studies”.
Your comment does not even bolster your own previous comment referencing Pelletiere information for authority, since yuo add only your own personal reminiscences of your own conversations with Pelletiere as “corroboration”.
Evangelista, I used a quote from Mr. Lauria’s article regarding Saddam Hussein massacre at Halabja.
Further studies and forensic evidence are not necessarily the same, which was my point. Once something happens, you can’t make it unhappen.
I am guilty of not having read the link I posted because I assumed I knew what Pelletiere said. After reading it, it said what I thought it would.
“it is clear that Iraq carried out the attack on Halabja”…agree, Saddam was the only one with a motive at that time(as any Kurd would confirm)
Halabja in 1988 was a stronghold of a Kurdish Peshmerga militia then allied with Iran.
Joost Hiltermann is the author of A Poisonous Affair: America, Iraq, and the Gassing of Halabja Cambridge University Press (2007). In addition to the 1988 Halabja attack, Hiltermann’s research concluded that numerous other gas attacks were unquestionably perpetrated against the Kurds by the Iraqi armed forces.
The literature on the Iran-Iraq war reflects a number of allegations of chemical weapons use by Iran. According to Hiltermann, t these allegations are “marred by a lack of specificity as to time and place, and the failure to provide any sort of evidence.” Hiltermann called these allegations “mere assertions” and added that “no persuasive evidence of the claim that Iran was the primary culprit was ever presented.”
The efforts of Stephen C Pelletiere, a senior CIA political analyst on Iraq during Iran-Iraq war, were likely an attempt to direct attention from US support for Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons against Iran.
An investigation conducted by Dr Jean Pascal Zanders, Project Leader of the Chemical and Biological Warfare Project at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, into responsibility for the Halabja massacre also concluded in 2007 that Iraq was the culprit, and not Iran.
In August 2013, Foreign Policy charged, based on recently declassified CIA documents and interviews with former intelligence officials, the U.S. had firm evidence of Iraqi chemical attacks beginning in 1983. Saddam’s regime also received intelligence assistance from the CIA in 1987 prior to the Iraqis’ early 1988 launch of sarin attacks to stop the potentially decisive Iranian offensive to capture the southern city of Basra, which, if successful, might have resulted in a collapse of Iraqi military and government.
It is time for the countries with Kurdish populations to come together, to jointly announce that the Kurdish shall have the same rights as others in their countries but will not be granted a separate state. The Kurds have been active in promoting a single Kurdish state at least since the end of World War I. They have been used by the United States in the past as a way of weakening Iraq and more recently Syria. It is disingenuous for the United States to claim opposition to a Kurdish referendum when they, with Israel’s urging and support, attempted to create a de facto Kurdish state. There are encouraging signs that the countries in the Middle East are beginning to realize just how manipulative Europe and the United States have been and there is more opportunities in cooperation than conflict.
In a world where current affairs are dominated by the actions of basically insane power holders, it is futile to be drawn into the intricacies of their endlessly involved games, which they fail to understand themselves. Unless we can back away and evaluate things from a detached position, we will only become participants in the spreading confusion. The real solutions to our escalating world problems are refreshingly simple, and have nothing to do with the tortured analyses of “experts”. Sadly however, those absorbed in these madhouse dramas are unable to step away from their frenetic pursuit of various unclear and unattainable goals for even a brief moment of clarity and sanity.
What a mess we have made of our human world. Today simplicity and simple honesty are considered naïve and irrelevant. Too bad, these verities really represent our last chance before our cleverness destroys all of us.
It’s my opinion that the Kurds are being played as suckers. Mostly by Israel, but also by the US.
I’ve no idea why the Kurds are being the front guys in the attack on Raqqa, especially since they know they won’t get to keep it. It might be as simple as them mostly being an “occupying force”, and an excuse for the US Air Force to “pull a Gaza” on a major Syrian city. Any massive destruction in Syria pleases Our Master Israel to no end.
Zachary I know your concerned about American finger prints being found on the death of that Russian three star general being killed. In case you haven’t seen this moonofalabama report, here it is….
Could any of this be related to what this article states about craving out a Kurdish state?
I hope this doesn’t turn out to mean what it looks like it means. Recall last year before the election what the former CIA boss said:
Is his faction in control now? Or might they be some rogue elements doing what they please in the chaos of the Trump “Administration”?
Not at all a good situation.
I might add that a Kurdish state could give Israel a staging area for operations over the border with Iran to support Kurdish independence there as well, to try to break up Iran.
I’ve long thought of something like that myself, and there needn’t be a formal Kurdish State for it to happen. If Israel every tries a sneak attack on Iran, I’d expect them to slip in a major strike force to airfields in Kurdish-occupied lands. Essentially land, refuel, and take off again with full weapons loads. No doubt Iran has had the same thoughts as the two of us.
In a Kurdish State Israel would be able to set up an embassy and legally operate from there. As Iraq and Israel have no diplomatic relations Israel cannot have a consulate here. Israel has had ties with the Iraqi Kurds since the 1960s and as Sy Hersh pointed out in 2004, Israel launched missions from Iraqi Kurdistan to stir up Kurds in both Iran and Syria and we could expect more of the same in a Kurdish State. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2004/06/28/plan-b-2
…and the other possibility is that Israel is being played by Barzani. With all his problems of consolidating Iraqi Kurdistan I seriously doubt he would want to support an Israeli airstrike on Iran.
I would think that from a Kurdish state Israel could use less, or no refueling to reach Iran. The logistics would be a real improvement over what Israel has now, and with the Iraqi government being what it’s turned out to be, a Kurdish state friendly to Israel would seem compatible.
While the Russians may not really be saying much as pertains to Iraq, I’m thinking that the Syrian component will be a whole nother matter. The Russians were/have been pretty frontal about Syria. I suspect that they know what the game is, which is to split up Syria for just this purpose (Israeli conduit/launching pad toward Iran). And Russia supports Iran. Figure that things in Syria are going to ramp up substantially. Based on the US’s track record of supporting the Kurds (and, well almost any group) I’d think that the Israelis might second guess any notion of traipsing through Syria thinking that they (Israelis) will have cover from the US should Russia become agitated.
That would directly oppose Israel to the interests of Iraq, Turkey, and Russia as well as Syria and Iran, who might well be forced to attack the base, putting the US on the wrong side as usual, fighting for presumed special rights rather than for stability and progress, not an issue for our corrupt oligarchy.
Any escalation could lead to a war with Israel, and potentially nuclear escalation. Such an attack upon Israel may well be the best thing for the region in the long run, given its permanent intransigence and troublemaking for the region.
As reported over a year ago, Western governments, working in concert with Saudi Arabia and Israel, have armed Kurdish separatists and directed these proxy groups to attack Iraqi, Syrian and Iranian state forces:
“Kurdish forces that allowed themselves to be used by Western interests were used as one of several components – the others involving sectarian extremists including Al Qaeda – to divide and destroy Iraq, and now they are being used against Syria, and soon against Iran.
“Stratfor’s report titled, ‘Iranian Kurds Return to Arms,’ [July 29, 2016] provides some initial insight into what will undoubtedly evolve into a much wider Iranian conflict in the near future should US objectives be achieved and expanded upon in eastern Syria.
“The use of Kurds by Western interests is a modern-day example of classical imperial divide and rule in motion. What the Kurds ‘think’ they are fighting for is absolutely irrelevant versus what in reality they are being armed, organized, and used for by Western interests.
“The most likely scenario – should the majority of Kurdish armed groups maintain this current course – sees them being used to divide and destroy Syria, creating enduring chaos they themselves will be exposed to.
“This, by necessity will lead to heavy reliance upon outside support to survive in that chaos leading to the creation for all intents and purposes of a Kurdish-version of Israel – a stunted faux-state perpetually dependent on Western support and ruled through corrupt proxy regimes unrepresentative of the people they presume governance over. It is a future of perpetual war with Turkey, whatever remains of Syria and Iraq, and a growing conflict with Iran driven not by genuine Kurdish aspirations or interests, but exploited ideological aspirations serving Western designs to undermine and topple Iranian power and institutions and reassert Western hegemony across the region.”
What Syria’s Kurds “Think” They are Fighting For Versus Reality
By Tony Cartalucci
Thanks, Abe, for the link and summary.
Note the burst of “disagreement” from BobH below: a rather conspicuous effort to downplay the relationship between Kurdish proxy forces and US/Israeli interests.
Where shall I start?
The Barzani Kurds have Israel as their principal public supporter due to their long and intimate relationship, which includes supporting Kurdish terrorism against Iran.
“The story goes that Israeli soldiers and Mossad agents wept”
Reliable reporting via the New York Times
Abe,…Why are you trusting an article in the NYT to authenticate your position? Even if it’s true that zionists see hope in an alliance with an independent Kurdistan isn’t it still possible that Barzani could be playing Netanyahu? It’s not all about Israel. The Kurds have their aspirations too…and theirs are legitimate!
The Jerusalem Bureau Chief of the New Tork Times is perhaps the most reliable source to authenticate Israel’s position concerning its dearly beloved Kurdish “ally”.
Halbfinger, whose journalistic credentials apparently include belonging to a Conservative synagogue in New Jersey, reported:
“Mr. Netanyahu, who endorsed not only the referendum but also the establishment of a Kurdish state, had ample strategic reason: A breakaway Kurdistan could prove valuable to Israel against Iran”.
Gosh, we sure are learning a lot about Kurdish and Israeli “aspirations”.
Abe et al.,…it seems we have a disagreement here. Where shall i start?
“Kurdish forces that allowed themselves to be used by Western interests were used as one of several components… to divide and destroy Iraq.”…“The use of Kurds by Western interests is a modern-day example of classical imperial divide and rule in motion.”
POINT #1- note that according to the author the Kurds are the ones being “used”…like they have no interests of their own, apart from being loyal subjects of a nation-state i.e. Iraq, Syria, Turkey or Iran.
POINT#2-Iraq & Syria are artificial states, created by imperial powers. The “nation” part is missing…they have no single ethnic identity.
” What the Kurds ‘think’ they are fighting for is absolutely irrelevant versus what in reality they are being armed, organized, and used for by Western interests.”
POINT#3- The arrogance of the author’s position is apparent and dismissive of Kurdish culture.
“This, by necessity will lead to heavy reliance upon outside support to survive in that chaos leading to the creation for all intents and purposes of a Kurdish-version of Israel – a stunted faux-state perpetually dependent on Western support ”
POINT#4- There is no analogous situation between an independent Kurdistan and Israel. In fact, other ethnic groups have been historically encroaching on Kurdish lands. Even if Barzani has some tacit support from Israel an “alliance with the devil” has been an historical necessity of independence movements. For example, Irish nationalists tried to import German arms during World War I and the independence struggle culminated in the Easter uprising(1916)and the eventual granting of home rule(the Irish Free State), a half measure that divided the country and pitted the Irish against each other. What the Kurds now have is a MidEast version of “home rule” and have no more reason to trust Baghdad than the Irish had to trust London.
“It is a future of perpetual war with Turkey, whatever remains of Syria and Iraq, and a growing conflict with Iran driven not by genuine Kurdish aspirations or interests, but exploited ideological aspirations serving Western designs to undermine and topple Iranian power and institutions and reassert Western hegemony across the region.”
POINT#5- What happens in Turkey, Syria and Iran largely depends on those countries and how they treat their Kurdish minorities. Syria and Iran have a reasonable record with their minorities and I would expect Barzani will be busy consolidating his position in Iraq. Turkey has a horrible record on minority human rights that has largely been underreported, yet Barzani has a symbiotic relationship with Turkey out of economic necessity(as Joe Lauria points out), so it’s doubtful that he would antagonize Turkey.
POINT#6- It isn’t all about Western interests or zionism! Yes, Western interests have become synonymous with multinational intrigues and zionist expansionism is a real threat to peace in the MidEast and elsewhere. Value judgements are subjective and I realize pluralism e.g. cultural pluralism is a subjective value but the subjugation of minorities even in the perceived interests of world peace is I believe a false solution to a very complex problem.
Except for your “POINT #2”, which founders in an ‘artificial’ distinction, suggesting that “single ethnic identity” is required for a “natural” state, your comments are essentially correct.
Tonty Cartalucci, who Abe quotes, falls into the distoritive trap of defining motives in terms of “Western interests”.
He, and everybody involved in defining the Kurd situation (here and almost everywhere else) need to do some study of Kurdish History. They need to carry the information they derive from that study to recent Kurdish history, from, we may say, the beginning of the 21st century, noting, particularly, the constant focus of Kurdish interest and direction, whichever of the geographically bounded nations their populations are in. The constant is, and has been since the Ottoman Empire era, been Kurdish autonomy. In result it has always been Kurdish interests that have defined Kurdish actions. Their alliances have been for that and in all cases to that purpose. Taking arms form “Western interests” has not been for “Western interests”, but for Kurdish interests. Dealings with Syria have been always for Kurdish interests. Dealings with Iran have been for Kurdish interests, dealings with Iraq have been for Kurdish interests. A Kurdish state carved out of northern Iraq, if accomplished, will be a Kurdish taking advantage of presented opportunity, not a Kurdish beach-head in a course to conquer, as Western interest oriented seem only able to conjecture. Syrian Kurds, allowed continued autonomy, will remain Syrian, and will enlist, when they can, national Syrian aid in staving off Turkish aggressions (and providing refuge for oppressed Turkish Kurds), and Autonomous Kurds in Iran will remain Iranian, and utilize that status to maintain their autonomy, and that of Kurds in general, which will mean, if a Kurdish state is carved from northern Iraq, protection for the new Kurdish state (which, when a new Iraq may be formed, will align with that state, to, so far as doing so is in Kurdish interest and allows them security for their autonomy.
Turkey is the state that stands to suffer from Kurds’ autonomy, being the state in the region that has the most specific history of antagonistic action against Kurds in its population (The Iraq that did, too is no more).
Kurds will take arms from anybody who offers them, and will use the arms (some of them) for the benefits of the providers to the extent the ends of the providers coincide with the Kurds’. In Syria, for example, they will oppose Da’Esh and its forces for the U.S., but not Syria, who they may push for strategic reasons, to establish themselves as a force to be respected, and will then, from the strength of their pushing, negotiate for their own autonomy interests, the U. S., and other “Western interests” interests abandoned. They have done this before, the pattern is there to be recognized.
Evangelista, …Thank you for your response…please relate what you think the problem is with POINT#2.
There is no necessary or desirable connection between ethnicity and nationality in the modern sense. Ethnicity may reinforce the nationality of uneducated peoples.
Created multi-ethnic nations may divide into hostile factions when uneducated, and often do not work as democracies.
SamF,…I use the term “nation” for clarity to distinguish it from “country” i.e. in the sense of “the Cherokee nation”. I realize this is not universal. You would have had to read my post link above to understand my attempt to distinguish between the two. In this sense ethnicity(or nation) is largely based on a common ancestral language(which can still absorb immigrants). A country(or a nation-state) has common laws and a common language(often adopted) e.g. the U.S. or India.
“Ethnicity may reinforce the nationality of uneducated peoples.”
The word “uneducated” is often used by central governments to describe ethnic minorities when, in fact, they can be highly educated (i.e. the Catalonians or the Basques) in their own language. Forced assimilation into the dominant language of a nation-state often results in civic unrest and conflict. Switzerland has avoided this problem with a federal system that allows education in the language of the cantons that compose the nation-state. Iraq & Spain have traditionally tried to impose the language of the dominant culture which creates fear of cultural euthanasia.
1: Unclear because you and Abe both state that the Kurds are being used.
2: Appears to conflate nationality with ethnicity: see my comment below.
3: The quote suggests insufficient economic/military self-sufficiency rather than “arrogance.. dismissive of Kurdish culture.”
4: The analogy with Israel is not complete but worth mention because it is involved.
5: Kurdish nationalism in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran is used by Israel and the US to fragment those states and create chaos; it is not “how they treat their Kurdish minorities” in the absence of such influence.
6: Yes, but none claimed that all would be rosy apart from zionism, but rather that minority rights are being used as an excuse by those interests, which is clearly true.
These are suggestions, not as critical as it may sound.
All six points from BobH are bogus. They ignore not only history and culture, but geopolitical reality.
The Kurdish languages form a subgroup of the Northwestern Iranian languages like Median. The term “Kurd,” however, is first encountered in Arabic sources of the seventh century. Early Islamic sources provide early attestation of the name Kurd.
Kurdish people have ethnically diverse origins.
Kurds are a significant ethnic group in Syria (9% of the population), Iraq (17%), Iran (7-10%), and (15-20%).
In Iraq, Kurdish people are an ethnic majority in 3 of Iraq’s 19 governorates, and have a presence in Kirkuk, Mosul, Khanaqin, and Baghdad. In Iran, Kurdish people mostly inhabit 4 of Iran’s 31 provinces.
The Kurdish region of Iran has been a part of the country since ancient times. The Kurdish ethno-nationalist movement. Nearly all Kurdistan was part of Persian Empire until its Western part was lost during wars against the Ottoman Empire.
Unlike in other Kurdish-populated countries, there are strong ethnolinguistical and cultural ties between Kurds, Persians and others as Iranian peoples. The Kurds sharing much of their history with the rest of Iran is seen as reason for why Kurdish leaders in Iran do not want a separate Kurdish state.
The so-called referendum in Iraq is the result of maneuvers by a number of Western proxy forces.
NATO-member state Turkey has actively supported Al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda forces) in Syria and maintained supply corridors for Islamic State terrorist forces operating in both Syria and Iraq.
The 2014 offensive by Islamic State terrorist forces furthered weakened the Iraqi state, providing a “golden opportunity” for the Kurdish militants declare an independent Kurdish state. In 2014, Turkey’s ruling AK party indicated Turkey’s readiness to accept an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Various sources reported that Al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda forces) in Syria has issued a fatwa calling for Kurdish women and children in Syria to be killed, and the fighting in Syria has led tens of thousands of refugees to flee to Iraq’s Kurdish region.
“All six points from BobH are bogus. They ignore not only history and culture, but geopolitical reality.”
Abe,…none of the statements you raise here(which i wouldn’t argue with) address any of the points in my response to the Cartalucci article you posted.
bogus – adjective – (of something) not what it appears or claims to be; false but made to look real
The six points of “disagreement” from BobH all fail to address the Cartalucci’s geopolitical analysis of the function of Kurdish militants:
“Kurdish forces that allowed themselves to be used by Western interests were used as one of several components – the others involving sectarian extremists including Al Qaeda – to divide and destroy Iraq, and now they are being used against Syria, and soon against Iran.”
The spurious “response” of BobH assiduously avoids the reality of efforts to construct a “New Middle East” that serves Western interests rather than the welfare of its people.
One can easily guess why.
Barzani does indeed have symbiotic relationships with both Turkey and Israel, to name but two of the visible Western interests fomenting chaos and war in Syria and Iraq.
The relationships are far more political and military than economic.
Your “response” is little more than a collection of Hasbara talking points on behalf of those “freedom-loving” Kurdish separatists who bravely wave the flag of a “nation” whose interests they uphold
Barzani gets more than “some tacit support” from Israel.
That flag waving in Iraq right now is not all about Israel. It’s all about Iran.
Abe…get over it! I’m not here to be part of your choir. I guess I’m just another Hasbara troll!
Your six points of diversion (they can’t even really be described as “disagreement” since you completely avoided direct discussion of Cartalucci’s article) certainly do mimic the talking points spewing from Tel Aviv, Washington, and Western mainstream media concerning this spontaneous surge of Kurdish flag waving.
And that “part of your choir” bit does sound like standard troll grumble.
But you get the benefit of the doubt, Bob.
In case you’re simply not paying attention, no one here has advocated the subjugation of minorities.
Hasbara talking point:
“a way for Jerusalem to covertly support the Kurds’ fight against the Islamic State”
The only benefit from unity with an unresponsive central government is forestalling inevitable conflict. This goes not only for Kurdistan but also for Catalonia and most likely Scotland if local inequities are not addressed. I have long favored regional autonomy but that is seldom a permanent solution. Imposed authority is particularly insidious when it subjects an ethnic minority to forced assimilation; it is tantamount to cultural euthanasia.
I don’t trust any of this. Although once again WWI comes back to bite the Middle East in the butt, the world suffers right along with it. Oh if only some well meaning person could travel back in time to Versailles to warn of what will become of all those redrawn boundaries, but that is another story, and a cry baby one at that. We are here now, so what should we all expect. Well we could ask the geniuses at the Brookings Institute.
Tony Cartalucci writes about how the Brookings people have even planned for an attack on Iran. Let’s just put it this way, Iran just needs to screw up, or at least allow whatever they do to be spun in the Western Press as an Iranian violation of somekind or of something, which would lead to the impetus for the U.S. and Israel to attack Tehran. Maybe this Kurd independence referendum might just be the ticket.
What a mess.
Clearly the Kurds of Iraq must accept autonomy within a federation of Iraq, and Iraq must grant the same autonomy to the Sunni regions to avoid more uprisings there. Diplomacy leading to a constitutional convention appears to be essential.
A major problem is the failure of Iraqi ethnic/religious groups to grant equal rights to the others, largely the result of historic injustices causing irrationality, militancy, and fears. The problem spans all cultures, such as Ukraine, and is similar to the US before the Civil War. But the US is even less diplomatic and democratic now than when it failed to resolve its own far simpler regional differences.
A major problem is the Israeli troublemaking, arming the Kurds to destabilize Iraq and Iran, threatening to move 200,000 Jewish Kurds there, and motivating Barzani and others connected with Israel to seek far more autonomy than consistent with a federation. The US should adamantly oppose Israeli troublemaking, but has been corrupted to support it.
Without restoration of democracy in the US, we cannot be a positive influence on developing nations, but instead cause enormous suffering
“Kurdish fighters in Syria operate under the name of the YPG, which is ‘tied to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a radical guerrilla movement combining [anarchist ideas] with Kurdish nationalism. PKK guerrillas [have] fought the Turkish state from 1978’ and the PKK is ‘classified as a terrorist organization by the European Union, Turkey and the U.S.’ […]
“Washington has long wanted to oust the Arab nationalists in Syria, regarding them as “a focus of Arab nationalist struggle against an American regional presence and interests,” as Amos Ma’oz once put it. The Arab nationalists, particularly the Ba’ath Arab Socialist party, in power since 1963, represent too many things Washington deplores: socialism, Arab nationalism, anti-imperialism, and anti-Zionism. Washington denounced Hafez al-Assad, president of Syria from 1970 to 2000, as an Arab communist, and regards his son, Bashar, who succeeded him as president, as little different. Bashar, the State Department complains, hasn’t allowed the Syrian economy—based on Soviet models, its researchers say—to be integrated into the US-superintended global economy. Plus, Washington harbors grievances about Damascus’s support for Hezbollah and the Palestinian national liberation movement.
“US planners decided to eliminate Asia’s Arab nationalists by invading their countries, first Iraq, in 2003, which, like Syria, was led by the Ba’ath Arab Socialists, and then Syria. However, the Pentagon soon discovered that its resources were strained by resistance to its occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and that an invasion of Syria was out of the question. As an alternative, Washington immediately initiated a campaign of economic warfare against Syria. That campaign, still in effect 14 years later, would eventually buckle the economy and prevent Damascus from providing education, health care and other essential services in some parts of the country. At the same time, Washington took steps to reignite the long-running holy war that Syria’s Islamists had waged on the secular state, dating to the 1960s and culminating in the bloody takeover of Hama, Syria’s fourth largest city, in 1982. Beginning in 2006, Washington worked with Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood to rekindle the Brother’s jihad against Assad’s secular government. The Brothers had two meetings at the White House, and met frequently with the State Department and National Security Council.
“The outbreak of Islamist violence in March of 2011 was greeted by the PKK as an opportunity. […]
“Modern-day Syria, it should be recalled, is already the product of a division of Greater Syria at the hands of the British and French, who partitioned the country into Lebanon, Palestine, Transjordan, and what is now Syria. In March, 1920, the second Syrian General Congress proclaimed ‘Syria to be completely independent within her ‘natural’ boundaries, including Lebanon and Palestine.’ Concurrently ‘an Arab delegation in Palestine confronted the British military governor with a resolution opposing Zionism and petitioning to become part of an independent Syria.’ France sent its Army of the Levant, mainly troops recruited from its Senegalese colony, to quash by force the Levantine Arabs’ efforts to establish self-rule.
“Syria, already truncated by British and French imperial machinations after WWI ‘is too small for a federal state,’ opines Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad. But Assad quickly adds that his personal view is irrelevant; a question as weighty as whether Syria ought to become a federal or confederal or unitary state, he says, is a matter for Syrians to decide in a constitutional referendum, a refreshingly democratic view in contrast to the Western position that Washington should dictate how Syrians arrange their political (and economic) affairs. […]
“Kurdish forces are not only ‘retaking’ Christian and Muslim Arab towns in Syria, but are doing the same in the Nineveh province of Iraq—areas ‘which were never Kurdish in the first place. Kurds now regard Qamishleh, and Hassakeh province in Syria as part of ‘Kurdistan’, although they represent a minority in many of these areas.’
“The PKK now controls 20,000 square miles of Syrian territory, or roughly 17 percent of the country, while Kurds represent less than eight percent of the population.
“In their efforts to create a Kurdish region inside Syria, the PKK ‘has been accused of abuses by Arab civilians across northern Syria, including arbitrary arrests and displacing Arab populations in the name of rolling back Islamic State.’
“Tip of the US Spear
“For Washington, the PKK offers a benefit additional to the Kurdish guerrilla group’s utility in advancing the US goal of weakening Syria by fracturing it, namely, the PKK can be pressed into service as a surrogate for the US Army, obviating the necessity of deploying tens of thousands of US troops to Syria, and thereby allowing the White House and Pentagon to side-step a number of legal, budgetary and public relations quandaries. […]
“The PKK has struck a bargain with the United States to achieve its goal of establishing a Kurdish national state, but at the expense of Syria’s efforts to safeguard its independence from a decades-long US effort to deny it. The partition of Syria along ethno-sectarian lines, desired by the PKK, Washington and Tel Aviv alike, serves both US and Israeli goals of weakening a focus of opposition to the Zionist project and US domination of West Asia.”
The Myth of the Kurdish YPG’s Moral Excellence
By Stephen Gowans
The mess has a distinctly militarized method and a decade-old map.
In June 2006, Armed Forces Journal published a map for “The New Middle East” by Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters, a prominent pro-war strategist, shows the method to the current madness:
Creating ethnic tension and civil war in order to redraw the boundaries and divide most of the Arabs from most of the oil.
A new “Arab Shia State” would contain much of the oil, separating governments in Riyadh, Baghdad and Tehran from what is currently the main source of their national wealth.
The plan for also involves the creation of a “Free Kurdistan” – a large swath of territory carved out of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey, that would serve as an energy transit corridor.
Prominent neocons publicly proclaimed that their goal for the War on Iraq was to redraw the borders of the Middle East. The ostensible reason given for this arrogance is to separate feuding ethnic and religious groups from each other.
However, if you combine maps of the “new Middle East” sought by these armchair warriors with maps of the oil fields, a more sinister motive becomes obvious.
Dividing up Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia would allow the consolidation of most of the region’s oil into a new country (which presumably would be allied to the United States). This would remove control over the oil from governments based in Baghdad, Tehran and Riyadh, allowing new arrangements of control to be established.
The supposed “failure” of the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq allowed the next administration to propose “fixing” the problem by splitting Iraq into three new states – a Kurdish enclave in the north, a Shiite Arab state in the south, and a Sunni region in the center. Most of Iraq’s oil would be concentrated in the Shiite region, with lesser amounts in the Kurdish part, and very little would remain for the Sunnis. This would allow the US to focus its occupation and manipulation on the parts of Iraq that have oil, and the parts without oil could be ignored.
Saudi Arabia has a similar confluence of ethnicity with petroleum geography. Saudi oil fields are in the east, along the Persian Gulf. The two holy cities of Mecca and Medina are in the west, along the Red Sea. Some neo-conservatives have floated the idea of partioning Saudi Arabia into at least two countries – one with the holy cities but without oil, the other without holy cities but with oil fields. The US merely wants to control the oil and is not interested in occupying Mecca and Medina.
Iran’s oil is mostly in the western provinces along the Persian / Arabian Gulf. One particularly oil rich region is Khuzestan, an Arab area of Iran. Most “Westerners” probably think that Iran is an Arab country, but while it is Islamic, it is not Arab. Most Iranians speak Farsi, not Arabic. Iranians are Persians, not Arabs. Iran is a multi-ethnic country, but it is a strange circumstance that the area with the most Arabs is also one of the areas with lots of oil. In 1980, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein attacked Iran (with the covert help of the US), he was hoping to seize Khuzestan’s oil fields to add them to his own oily empire (Khuzestan is on the border of southern Iraq).
The neo-con proposal for a new “Arab Shia State” along the northern Persian / Arabian Gulf would separate the bulk of the oil from Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Senator Joe Biden, chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, ran for President in 2007 largely on the platform of promoting Iraqi partition as a “solution” to the Iraqi disaster that Bush’s invasion created. While Biden’s presidential ambitions went nowhere, he was made Vice President in the Obama administration.
And up through the ground come a bubblin crude.
Oil that is, black gold, Kurdish tea.