Who’s Afraid of an Independent Kurdistan?
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  • WigWag

    It’s time for the United States to give up on Turkey. When Erdogan was desperately seeking refuge during the coup attempt in the summer of 2016, Obama should have ordered the United States Air Force to shoot the would-be Turkish sultan’s plane out of the sky. If Obama had the cajones to do that, Edogan would be dead, the Turkish military would be in charge and the United States would be far better off. Of course the Turkish military doesn’t like the Kurds any more than Erdogan does, but who cares. The United States should not only be supporting Kurdish independence in Northern Iraq, it should be supporting Kurdish independence in Turkey. If American foreign policy elites were less brain-dead, they would see that it is in our long term interest for the Kurds in southeast Turkey and norther Iraq to be citizens of a new Kuridsh nation-state. The longer term goal should be to strengthen this new state so that it can become a base of operations against Iran. Why not invite the Syrian Kurds to the party as well?

    The Kurds are far from perfect. The Armenian Genocide was largely perpetrated by Kurds. And its not just the venal crowd in America’s foreign policy elite who oppose the Kurds to appease the Turks; Trump seems to love Erdogan with the same degree of passion that he despises NFL players who kneel during the national anthem. But the idea that the Kurdish referendum will bring “instability” to the Moddle East is as ignorant as it is laughable. Note to arrogant elites; the Middle East can’t be turned into more of a mess than it already is. One of the reasons that the region is in turmoil is because of the incompetent leadership emanating from American and foreign policy professionals from both political parties over the past several decades. Given the incompetence of the swamp-dwellers, their opinions should be discounted and ignored completely.

    David Goldman has an interesting take on the Kurdish imbroglio. It’s worth a look. See,


    • Fat_Man

      You and I are deep agreement on this issue.

      • Jacksonian_Libertarian

        Turkey under “Dictator for Life” Erdogan, has gone full Islamic Tyrant. America should cut defense ties with Turkey, and move the American forces in Turkey, into Kurdistan. The Kurds could sell their oil to Americans, and then the American Oil could be shipped to the Black sea or the Gulf, with trade sanctions on any country that interferes with American trade.

  • D4x

    Click to view 2005 map of ‘Greater Kurdistan’.
    Sept. 25, 2017 was a non-binding referendum that was supposed to happen in 1919.
    There is nothing “warm and fuzzy” about wanting to expose Woodrow Wilson’s shameful betrayal of the Kurds in 1919.
    The Iraqi Kurdistan KRG referendum vote on September 25, 2017 has been delayed for at least ninety-eight (98) years.

    World War One saw the collapse of four land empires, and the dissolution of two: the Hapsburg and Ottoman Empires.

    From the collapse of Romanov Russia, Hohenzollern Germany, and
    the Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Oct. 21, 1919 Treaty of Versailles
    ‘created’ the nation-states of Poland, Austria, Finland, Hungary,
    Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Yugoslavia.

    U.S. President Wilson shamefully declined the Mandate for Kurdistan, not wanting the USA to be a colonial power in the Middle East.

    The partition of the Ottoman Empire was delayed to August 10, 1920
    Treaty of Sèvres, which recognized the nation-states of Armenia, the Kingdom of
    the Hejaz (Saudi Arabia), and had terms for a Kurdistan referendum, revised
    from the terms considered in 1919 at Versailles. Sevres was superceded by the July 24, 1923 Treaty of Lausanne,
    which ‘created’ the nation-state of Turkey, and confirmed Britain’s Mandates for Transjordan,
    Palestine, Kuwait, and Iraq, including the Ottoman Mosul villayet; and France’s Mandates for Syria, and the Lebanon.

    (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Yemen, and Libya were also ‘resolved’, but the Kurds remained partitioned, as they are in 2017.)

    Kurds have been indigenous to the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates, the Cradle of Civilization, for 5,000 years. They have retained a Kurdish identity through conquest after conquest.

    The sole Kurdish ‘empire’ was Saladin’s Ayyubid Sultanate, 1171–1260CE. Saladin was an ethnic Kurd, born in Tikrit,
    but grew up & educated in Mosul, Aleppo, and Damascus. Regarded as a
    most enlightened Caliph, especially during his reign over Jerusalem during the
    Crusades, he died in 1193, just as the Seljuk Turkish Empire was about to
    fragment into what would become the Ottoman, and, after the Monghol invasions,
    a restored Persian Empire(s). Saladin, fluent in Kurdish and Arabic, was subsequently ‘Arabized’: his tomb is in Damascus, Syria.
    Map of Ayyubid Sultanate 1193 AD By Ro4444 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
    Created Oct. 7, 2010

    I have no linkage to Kurds, but I wanted to cast my vote for Kurdistan, to correct Woodrow Wilson’s shameful betrayal of Kurdistan in
    1919, to acknowledge the Kurdish people everywhere, and stand with Israel for
    being the only nation-state to, in the words of Prime Minister Benjamin
    Netanyahu: “support the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state”.

    adding: Iran’s ‘land-bridge’ to Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean, and Hezbollah in Lebanon has three routes:
    >north through Iraq’s Al-Anbar along the Euphrates River;

    >north through Baghdad, Kirkuk, Mosul, and the KR border along the Tigris River;

    >or west through Turkey’s ‘Kurdistan’.

    • Andrew Allison

      Masterful summary, thank you! The reverberations of the post-WW-I carve-up of the Ottoman Empire will remain with us for a long time. It seems that the lessons of history, one of which is that there has been no status quo in the Middle East ever since, will never be learned.

      • D4x
        Iraqi Kurds celebrate with the Kurdish flag in the streets of the northern city of Kirkuk on September 25, 2017, as they vote in a referendum on independence. (AFP PHOTO/ AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)

        In other news, Iranian fighter jets flew over Iranian Kurdistan, while the Iranian Kurds were celebrating.
        Kurds as Percent of Population and Political Groups.
        I hope Geopolitical Futures does not mind my posting their map in celebration, can’t always keep track of use rights when I save a map to read, but this news from Syria made me want to share:
        In other news: Syrian FM sends message to Iran through Russia Today: 09 26 2017: “ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Damascus is open to discussions with Syrian Kurds about the formation of an autonomous region within Syria’s borders, the country’s foreign minister said in an interview with Russia Today.

        “They want some kind of autonomy within the borders of the Republic of Syria and that issue is open for negotiation and talks,” Minister Walid al-Moualem said in an interview published by Russia Today on Monday.
        He stressed, however, that talks would happen only after ISIS is defeated in the country. Then they can “sit with our
        Kurdish sons and reach an understanding on a formula for the future.”

        Kurds formed the Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria stretching across three cantons commonly known collectively as Rojava.

        On Friday, they held a vote to elect communal representatives, the first of three planned elections. They will hold local and provincial elections in November, followed by a parliamentary vote in January.”
        Makes sense that al-Assad would rather depend on the Kurds than Iran and Hezbollah. Before the civil war, Syria was, for all it’s faults, a safe, multi-confessional state. So many Christians, and enough Circassians and Druze who stayed loyal to Assad.

        TY, I appreciate your acknowledgement of my attempt to summarize the legacy of all those post-WW1 Treaties.
        The Kurds were so well prepared for 1919 Versailles.

      • D4x

        Tangentially related to autonomy for Syria’s Kurds is the interesting coincidence that Sept. 25 was France’s Macron’s first State Dinner, for the Maronite Christian President of the Lebanese Republic and Mrs. Michael Aoun. Sept. 25 was also the opening of “Christians of the East: 2000 Years of History” exhibition organized by the Arab World Institute in Paris
        under the patronage of His Excellency President of France Emmanuel Macron.
        The exhibition aims at shedding light on the history of a diverse community and the major role it has played in the Near East, in the political, cultural, social, and religious arenas. His Excellency President of Lebanon Michel Aoun, along with
        several church leaders and public and political figures also attended the opening.”
        Aoun is, after all, hosting Hezbollah, in Lebanon, and in his governing coalition: from Sept. 21:

        It is good to know that Lebanon has reconciled all the war crimes from their Civil War, because, after all, everybody killed everybody…Assad must see a glimmer of hope.

        • Andrew Allison

          Macron is a poseur who will likely be consigned to the trash heap of history even faster than fellow boy wonders Renzi and Obama. Perhaps the gravest, of the dangers of the revolt against the elites is that the pendulum swings too far. A first state dinner for the head of yet another “county” created as a result of WW-I and currently essentially ruled by Hezbollah is idiotic.

          • D4x

            In the near term, Macron is working on the Lebanon part of the more complex ME dynamics. The Aug. 30 UNSC Res 2373 re-invigorated Res 1701 from 2006. Puts Lebanon on notice to deal with Hezbollah – and Aoun and PM Hariri seem to understand that the LAF has to somehow be the LAF, not Hezbollah’s Armed Forces. Aoun does not want UNIFIL enforcing 1701, which 2373 seems to have authorized, sort of.

            Like Jordan, 25% of Lebanon’s population are Syrian refugees. Donor fatigue has really hurt both economies. I have more than enough weeds in my own yard to look further into these weeds 🙂

            France always hosts a State Dinner for Lebanon. It was really good that this one was timed after the 72nd UNGA, and with the opening of such a beautiful exhibit of mostly Syrian Christian art and mosaics…

            Based on looking at so many photos of the Macrons since the May NATO meet in Brussels through Bastille Day leads me to think Brigitte has the strategic brain. So far, they look like a good team, and certainly better than Hollande. Macron can talk with Putin, and Assad. And, POTUS & FLOTUS need foreign leaders’ visible support. That invitation to Bastille Day was huge, positive coverage everywhere but here. Prince Harry played Melania in Toronto with a staged hand gesture in the photo op, handing US media a new round of trashing her. sigh.

            I wish I could have found photos of that “Christians of the East: 2000 Years of History” exhibition organized by the Arab World Institute in Paris. Erdogan must be livid – Ataturk’s Syriac genocide/expulsion never got the world’s attention. Iran has to be nervous – it looks like Assad is going to chose Syria’s Christians over Twelver Shi’a.

            Again, I can not imagine Hollande doing any of what the Macrons have done in what is a pivotal moment for the still-unresolved maps of 1917-1919-1923. That dustbin of history never empties.

            The news coverage at al-Monitor is better at these weeds and dustbins than I am!

          • Andrew Allison

            You know much more than I about the ME wasteland, but it seems to me unlikely that Lebanon can deal with Hezbollah, and that given its Muslim population, France would be crazy to intervene.
            There’s little question that Maman B has been pulling the strings, but I wonder whether achieving the throne (Jupiter arisen, LOL — Icarus is more like it) has caused him to go off the rails. All he’s achieved so far is to PO the Germans with his pandering Athens speech (I realize that left Tsipras off the Icarus list) and suggestions for a eurozone budget, i.e. raiding the German treasury).

  • Jim__L

    Without the Kurds, isn’t Iraq a majority-Shi’ite country?

    • Ellen

      Even with the Kurds, it has a Shia majority. Without the Kurds, it will be a very large majority.

    • But who cares about the Sunnis or Shi’ites, honestly? Let them deal with their own religious issues.

      • Jim__L

        Depends on how much influence you want Iran to have in the ME.

  • Jonathan Dembo

    Mr. Bernard: Fuss & Feathers. Is Turkey going to go to war over a technicality? Is Iran? Is Iraq? As you point out, Kurdistan has been independent in all but name since 1992. Why would a small change in title lead to war, now? In fact, as you also point out, none of the neighboring states now threatening war, have actually done anything yet. I think that they are all bluffing. Turkey needs Kurdish oil and is heavily invested in Kurdish development projects that would go bankrupt if Turkey declared war. The Russians, too, are investing in Kurdish oil pipelines. They would not be doing that if they feared Kurdish independence. If Turkey declared war on Kurdistan, the Kurds would be unlikely to continue to make war on Assad in Syria and that would lead to the collapse of the anti-ISIS coalition there and a new front against Turkey all along the mountainous border region. It would also likely produce an upsurge in Kurdish violence inside Turkey itself. Why Turkey would want to maintain a unified Iraq, allied to Iran, is also a difficult question to answer. I think that Turkey is likely to bluff, but not to take any action against an independent Kurdistan and I think that the Kurds know this. I think the Turks are mainly concerned about the Turkoman population in Kurdistan and vicinity and, if they are protected, will take no action against Kurdish independence. I also think that the other neighbors, including Iraq, will do the same. The US should keep its powder dry, warn the Turks, Persians, and Arabs to keep their hands off Kurdistan, do nothing to encourage Kurdish independence, but make it abundantly clear that the US would come to the aid of the Kurds if the neighbors attack. An independent Kurdish state allied with the US and Israel would be a perfect counterfoil to the nationalist ambitions of all the existing powers: Turks, Persians, Arabs, and Russians. In my opinion, Kurdistan is in position to block the expansion of all these states and with strong foreign backing likely to be the stable centerpiece of a peaceful Middle East. The US should look forward to the rise of such a power.

    • D4x The American and Kurdish flags woven together with roses at an American independence day event in the Kurdistan Region on July 4, 2017. Photo: Rudaw

      Aug. 22, 2017:“…the Kurds are not getting such guarantees and many other
      promises they received from Washington in the past in return for staying and
      working with Iraq were all broken and never mentioned again. …

      Iraq as a state has failed its people. Thousand-years-old communities have been uprooted from their land and those, such as the Sunnis,have been marginalized to the point of continuous rebellion. These actions arein sharp contrast of what is expected of a responsible state and nothing like what the Americans had in mind when their tanks rolled into Iraq.

      This state failure has now compelled the Kurds to let go of years of investment in Iraq and instead seek a better future for themselves. The US has been giving Iraq one chance after another to no avail; why not givethe Kurds just one chance.”
      “Why America wants Kurds to postpone the referendum” By Ayub Nuri 22/8/2017”

      … High Electoral Referendum Commission holds a voting ballot book at a voting station before [September 25, 2017] tomorrow’s planned referendum for the Kurdistan region [AFP] The ballot was available in Kurdish, Arabic, Turkish and Syriac
      and presented the question,
      “Do you want the Kurdistan region and the Kurdistani areas outside the region’s administration to become an independent state?”

      Almost Five million Iraqi Kurds were eligible to vote on Sept, 25, 2017, ninety-eight years after the Treaty of Versailles.
      3.440, 616 votes were cast, 91.83% voted YES
      Might take a bit longer for “justice and fair dealing by the other peoples of the world.”
      *“Fourteen Points Speech” A speech delivered by President Woodrow Wilson of the United States to a joint session of the United
      States Congress on January 8, 1918.

      • Jonathan Dembo

        I agree on all points, except one. The Kurdish referendum is a good idea so far as it goes, but it applies only to Iraqi Kurdistan and will have no effect in Turkey, Iran, and Syria, where most Kurds live. Kurds have a right to their own state and I believe that it will happen eventually. The US and Israel are on the right side of history on this issue.

        • D4x

          Iraqi Kurdistan’s referendum is already having an impact. Syria is open to autonomy talks after ISIS is defeated in Syria. Then Iran shut down the Kurdistan24 bureau in Tehran, and “Turkey’s state regulator of media on Monday decided to shut down the transmission of three Kurdistan Region-based news channels from the national satellite provider Turksat, including Kurdistan 24.”

          The US is currently trying to support Baghdad central government: “All international flights to and from Irbil in the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq are to be suspended from Friday, an airport official has said.

          The order from Iraq’s central government adds to pressure to cancel the results…”

          I am suspending my coverage of US policy, to pretend this historic vote really does change the status quo, pretending it is still yesterday.

  • RussInOz

    The US should back Kurdish independence and nurture the new state, immediately setting up a permanent military base there to rival Incirlik in Turkey. Turkey is no real ally anymore and the majority of Iraqis are too influenced by fellow Shia Muslims Iran, a status which won’t change in the lifetime of anyone reading this.

  • Attila_the_hun

    The USA must acknowledge The reality. on the ground. The current status is not only extremely difficult to maintain it is imposable. The USA, Turkey or anyone else like it or not. Current ME map will be redrawn along ethnic, religious and geographical boundaries. In not to far distant Turkey and The USA will face unpleasant conflict. Which may lead the disintegration of NATO.

  • Personally, I am not unsympathetic to the idea of a free Kurdish state, provided it holds itself to high democratic standards and maintain regional stability.

    However, I also think that Iraq is a very complex nation, and other groups, such as the Assyrians (an ancient Christian-majority Semitic people native to the region) also desire their ancient homeland back. Most of the Middle East’s modern-day boundaries are relatively artificial and drawn by foreign colonizers, I think Egypt and possibly Lebanon are the only nations with true roots in antiquity.

    How can all these aspirations coincide with one another?

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