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Iraqi Kurds: We May Intervene in Syria

President Obama’s decision to leave Syria to fester has already done much to destabilize neighboring Iraq. But if this morning’s veiled threats from the president of Iraq’s Kurdish region Masoud Barzani is taken at face value, things are about to get much more serious and complicated:

“If the reports are true, showing that citizens, women and the children of innocent Kurds are under threat from murder and terrorism, Iraq’s Kurdistan region will make use of all of its capabilities to defend women and children and innocent citizens,” Barzani’s statement said. He did not elaborate on the nature or extent of possible intervention from Kurdistan. […]

Posted on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) website, Barzani’s statement referred to areas in Syria as “Western Kurdistan.” Spread over large, adjoining tracts of Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran, the Kurdish people are often described as the largest ethnic group without their own state.

Iraq’s Kurds have their own army under the Iraqi constitution, so they may very well be able and willing to intervene in a foreign conflict that Baghdad, which tends to side with Iran and Assad, has ruled out from participating in. Kurdish intervention could not only fan the flames in Syria, but also bring the sovereignty and cohesiveness of Iraq into sharp relief. In addition, the pointed reference to “Western Kurdistan” is sure to have raised eyebrows in Turkey and Iran, both countries with sizable Kurdish minorities.

And so we have yet another reminder that choosing to do nothing in Syria was a choice with as many potentially terrible consequences as doing something early on.

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  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    “And so we have yet another reminder that choosing to do nothing in Syria was a choice with as many potentially terrible consequences as doing something early on.”

    What terrible consequences? Are Americans going to die there if we do nothing? Isn’t this just Islamic scumbags killing other Islamic scumbags? Why should we get involved? What American interest is at risk here?
    Obama has already abandoned the seedling of Democracy we spent blood and treasure planting in Iraq, so why should we care now if it fails and dies? I’m supposed to care if the Iraqi Kurds protect their fellow Kurds in Syria from being murdered? Personally I think they should, it is the honorable thing to do. And if the Islamic scumbags in Turkey, Iran, or some other nation don’t like it, well tough sh_t.
    America has no Dog in this fight, and should butt out!

  • Andrew Allison

    It occurs to me that the strategic thing to do might be to encourage the establishment of a Kurdish state. It would infuriate Iran and Syria, annoy Turkey and Iraq (so what) and make a friend of Kurdistan. The problem with the Mideast is that the “national boundaries” have no relationship to the ethnicity of their inhabitants. Why not try and rectify the underlying problem?

    • bpuharic

      Turkey would probably invade a Kurdish state.

      • Andrew Allison

        Why? They’re been fighting Kurdish independence for close to a Century. ( Granting it would put an end to the war. Suppose acceptance were to provide an entry into the EU? Kurdistan were to become a member of NATO? Conventional thinking is not going to untie the Gordian Knot created by the fall of the Ottoman Empire

        • bpuharic

          That’s the point. The Turks would never accept an independent state part of which encompasses a significant fraction of Turks. Turkey’s a member of NATO already and an independent Kurdish state would have a tough time getting admitted

          • Andrew Allison

            Membership is by invitation of a majority of members (no veto). The point is that if the NATO countries were to decide that a Kurdish State was in their interests and invite it to join, Article V would dissuade any of the surrounding countries from attacking it.
            The issue which I articulated in my comment, is that the national boundaries in the Mideast are completely artificial. History shows us that there are two solutions to the inevitable conflict: the iron fist of dictatorship (Tito in Yugoslavia; Qaddafi, Assad, et al. in the Mideast, etc.) or realignment (Balkans, Sudan, etc.)

  • bpuharic

    “Leave Syria to fester”

    George Bush took our case for invasion of IRaq to the UN. He laid out his case in exquisite detail.

    He failed. He invaded without the explicit approval of the UN. If he, with all the force and influence of the US in the diplomatic community, failed to marshal support, what options does Obama have, given the wreckage of our credibility left by Bush’s failure in Iraq?

    Choosing to ‘do nothing’ is a viable option given the failure of the Arab Spring to start the process of democracy.

  • avery12

    This could be the moment of kairos for the Kurds, grabbing Fortune’s forelock.

  • Hubbub

    Let the place be. Let the Kurds and Syrians and Iraqis and Iranis and Lebanese and Egyptians and Saudis and Omanis and whoeverthehellelse in the region, sort the mess out. We can only bring down the wrath of our own arrogance upon ourselves by intervening in another people’s, far removed from us in spirit, in religion and in culture, war.

    Let us resolve to use our military and our treasure for our own benefit, for a change. Morality only works if you are dealing with reciprocal morality.

    • Andrew Allison

      My visceral reaction is to agree. However, I think we need to at least consider the alternatives. One could argue that the (then) colonial powers created this mess by arbitrarily creating countries absent any ethnic considerations following the demise of the Ottoman Empire. It’s easy enough to say, “not our problem”, but the truth is that it is.

      The sanest approach to the Mideast, IMO, is to reconfigure it on the basis tribal realities. The answer to the question of why should we do that is that the cauldron is creating terrorists with whom we will eventually have to deal.

      A radical alternative which should perhaps not be rejected out of hand is the strategic use of neutron bombs. Radical Islam clearly represents a threat. Why not deal with it forcefully.

    • bpuharic

      Exactly. I’m not sure why so many people figure it’s OUR job to straighten out other people’s messes.

  • lukelea

    You have to admit, the Kurds have a case. And if Jordan should disintegrate, leaving the western half in Palestinian hands . . . well, who is to say the results must be so terrible?

  • USNK2

    The Kurds live on the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates, best real estate on earth.
    That is why the unfair post-Ottoman split has stayed in place.

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