Archive for the 'Kurdistan' Category



Long Live Kurdistan! An Emerging Counterweight in the Middle East?

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years ago

As usual, Walter Russell Meade astutely notes the emerging Kurdish state in northeastern Syria:

Syria’s Kurds once waged a fruitless struggle with Damascus against discrimination and for basic rights like citizenship and official recognition of a distinct Kurdish language and culture. Now, however, the equation has changed, and large chunks of northeastern Syria are now under the sole control of the Kurds.

Back in July, Butcher Assad ceded the responsibility of governing and maintaining law and order in northeastern Syria to Kurdish leaders. In return they would keep out of the uprising. Syrian Kurdish leaders have taken this responsibility and run with it.

Of particular value is the accompanying map:

This illustrates the haphazard nature of current national boundaries in the Middle East, the result of post-World War I deals by the British and French.  Much of the conflict in the Middle East results from the incoherence of diverse ethnic groups arbitrarily compressed into a nation state.   As the Middle East continues to snowball into chaos and war, it may be that more sensible states will necessarily emerge.

Interestingly, Meade appears worried about the emergence (or re-emergence) of Kurdish nationalism in Syria and elsewhere, but from the viewpoint of U.S. national interests, the Kurds seem to be a natural ally of the U.S. in a critical part of the world where such allies are few and far between.

The Kurds are a distinct people group from the Arabs, Persians and Turks.   The Kurds in northern Iraq are one of the most pro-American populations in the entire Middle East and yet the Obama Administration has left them with little tangible support.   Syria presents an opportunity for the U.S. to establish a Kurdish enclave that can be a lever against an increasingly Islamist Turkey, as well as Iran, Iraq and whatever state emerges in the remainder of Syria.

The Kurds present an opportunity for the U.S. in Iraq as well.   After kicking ourselves out of Iraq last year, a new Romney Administration might take advantage of the autonomy of Kurds in Iraq to expand U.S. influence and presence there.  Iraq appears to be headed towards another civil war as the Shiite leadership in Baghdad increasingly excludes the Sunnis.   The U.S. could have a significant influence, through Iraqi Kurds, in curbing the excesses of the Shiite government or, failing that, to buttress the security and integrity of the Kudish region against pressure from the Baghdad government or Iran.

This is the kind of statecraft that the U.S. has seemingly forgotten.  We do not need infantry battalions on the ground nor billions of dollars in foreign aid to influence the direction of events in the Middle East.  The U.S. first needs to prove itself reliable as an ally (something that has suffered enormously under Obama).  Next, the U.S. must show the unique value it brings to vulnerable peoples like the Kurds:  expertise and training; economic development through private industry and trade; an unmatched (for now) diplomatic, military and humanitarian muscle available in times of need.   Like the Israelis, the Kurds have shown themselves to be fierce, independent, industrious, loyal and willing.   These are basic qualities necessary in an ally.   (Which is, perhaps, why, after 11 years, Afghanistan cannot be called an ally in any true sense of the word).

U.S. Foreign Policy Triumphs Again! Turkey Fills the Vacuum In Iraq

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 11 months ago

As if it wasn’t bad enough that the U.S. could not figure out how to negotiate an extension of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq, leading to the “premature evacuation” of our forces in two months time, the Turks have decided to make it clear to the world (and, more importantly, the regional powers that matter) the decidedly unmanly U.S. foreign policy.

Turkey has apparently decided that it is really just too inconvenient to keep dodging back and forth across the northern Iraqi border in pursuit of Kurdish militants.  Instead, according to this news item from August (which seems to have slipped under the collective radar), the Turks are fortifying bases in northern Iraq and settling in for a seemingly long stay.

ANKARA, Turkey, Aug. 19 (UPI) — Turkey targeted Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq for a second day, broadening the reach of its fight against the rebels, officials said.

The attacks Thursday came as Turkey said it’s turning intelligence outposts into operations garrisons to fight the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as PKK, to northern Iraq, where Turkey has 2,500 troops.

Turkey, which has had intelligence outposts in the region since 1995, will transform a Bamerni garrison into a logistics center for supporting major operations against PKK, Today’s Zaman reported.

The publication, citing sources, said fortification of outposts would enable Turkish troops in Iraq to stay there longer to search for members of the outlawed PKK. Bombings are to continue and units from Sirnak province will be deployed in the region, officials said.

Today’s Zaman did not give casualty figures in the latest attacks.

The 25 cross-border operations Turkey has conducted so far have been short because of pressure from allies and regional governments, but sources told Today’s Zaman Turkey would now continue operations as long as necessary to end the threat of terrorism in northern Iraq.

After a regular meeting Thursday, led by President Abdullah Gul, Turkey’s National Security Council said it’s embarking on “more effective and decisive strategy in the fight against terrorism.”

About 20 million of Turkey’s 74 million residents are Kurds, living mainly in the southeast near the country’s borders with Iraq and Iran, and the PKK’s fight for Kurdish independence has claimed 40,000 lives in the past three decades.

There are so many knife wounds in such a short story.  The actions of Turkey here could not present a stronger contrast with U.S. actions if Hollywood wanted to script it.

First off, the Turks do not seem to have learned that Iraq is a sovereign state and that any bases in Iraq used to pursue Turkey’s enemies must be subject to arduous and infinite negotiations, full of lavish offers of foreign aid and support.    How long did Turkey negotiate with Nouri al-Maliki in order to get these basing rights in a supposedly sovereign Iraq?  The article is silent but it is a safe bet that there were no negotiations.   Turkey essentially told the Iraqis, “We’re doing this.  Get used to it.”

Next, what about immunity for Turkish soldiers from prosecution under Iraqi laws?   Obama has told us that those Iraqis are absolute sticklers about this sort of thing.  Why the Iraqi people would never allow foreign soldiers on their soil who can violate Iraqi law with impunity.   The U.S. just couldn’t get that point resolved, so time to pack up in a hurry and get out of Dodge.    Somehow, though, it doesn’t look like the Turks are at all worried about Iraqi prosecutors putting Turkish soldiers in jail.

And how about that nasty Turkish attitude about a few, measly PKK fighters taking shelter in Iraq?  Kurds make up over 25% of Turkey’s population and have historic claims to parts of Turkey, Iraq and Iran.   Arguably, the Kurds were robbed of their own state when the victors of World War I split up the Ottoman Empire.   Unlike the U.S. in Pakistan, Turkey seems to have no problem treating the Iraqi border as purely optional and, now, it seems that part of Iraq itself will become effectively Turkish until the PKK is sorted out.   If that ever happens.

And what to make of Turkey’s methods for defeating the PKK?  It sure does not sound like Turkey is establishing these bases in Iraq in order to win the hearts and minds of PKK guerillas.   I sure hope that Turkish forces are going to be culturally sensitive and not commit any grievous offenses like flatulence in the presence of Iraqi Kurds, but we cannot expect that Turkish leaders will be nearly as enlightened as American leadership in this regard.  Instead, it appears that the Turks are intent on finding and killing as many of the PKK militants as possible, hence the talk by President Gul about “effective and decisive strategy in the fight against terrorism.”   Sounds way too warlike.   Not at all a COIN-centric policy.

Nonetheless, these actions by Turkey should not diminish the crowning achievement announced by President Obama that U.S. forces will be completely withdrawn from Iraq by January 1, 2012 and the war officially “over.”

Funny.  Wasn’t there a time in U.S. history when a war was not “over,” it was “won” ?

UPDATE: Michael Rubin has just posted this damning bit of information that relates how the once openly-pro American Kurds of Iraq have now (correctly) read the complete collapse of American foreign policy in the Middle East and are embracing the Iranian Regime:

The Iraqi Kurds have prided themselves on being America’s allies throughout the Iraq war and its aftermath. Repeatedly, regional leader Masud Barzani​ told visiting American generals and dignitaries that the Kurdish region was the most pro-American in Iraq.

The Kurdish authorities, however, have never made ideological alliances, but are the ultimate realists: Barzani forms partnerships with whomever he believes can most fulfill his own interests. With the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, it is clear that anyone with an ounce of self-preservation is rushing to cut deals with the Iran. After all, the most common Iranian influence theme, Iraqi politicians say, is that “You may like the Americans better, but we will always be your neighbors.” Hence, on October 29, Barzani traveled to Iran where, on Sunday, he warmly embraced both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. According to press reports, Barzani declared, “We will not forget the assistance of the Iranian people and government during the hard times passed by Iraq. To preserve our victory we need Iranian assistance and guidance….”

Everyone in the region knows that the way Iraqis negotiate is to state extreme positions as a deadline approaches, and then go behind closed doors in a smoke-filled room to hash out agreements. The Iranians often quip that they play chess while the Americans play checkers. No one expected Obama to forfeit before the game actually began. But, alas, now that he has done so, he will discover just how deeply he has lost Iraq and Iraqis.

The only consolation I can take from this is that Obama’s replacement in 2013 may be able to undo some of the terrific damage done U.S. interests in the world.   The Kurds and Iraqis at large may quickly come to regret making any deals with the Iranian Regime and may be looking for help in 2013 once the U.S. regains its senses.

Will Kurdistan Save Iraq?

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 5 months ago

Omar Fadhil sees the Maliki-Hakim-Sadr alliance as shaky.  Perhaps he is right, and while he sees Maliki as being at a crossroads, I still have serious doubts as to the future security and independence of Iraq (independence from Iran).  Maliki’s “Hail Mary” pass on the vote recount has found no fraud.

In an embarrassing rejection of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s efforts to overturn his rival’s lead in Iraq’s inconclusive parliamentary election, a laborious manual recount of votes in Baghdad has turned up no evidence of electoral fraud and will not change the final outcome, officials said Friday.

The recount was ordered nearly a month ago after Maliki’s Shiite-dominated electoral slate alleged that as many as 750,000 ballots had been manipulated, with the worst violations occurring in Baghdad.

Had the allegations been upheld, the recount could have eroded the two-seat lead of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s faction. Allawi, a secular Shiite supported by Sunni Arabs, is claiming the right to form the next government as the head of the largest, if not majority, bloc in parliament.

Not finished yet, the duplicitous, lying and treacherous Ahmad Chalabi and the so-called Iraq “Justice Commission” intend to keep pursuing their political opponents in spite of being shut down by a panel of Iraqi judges.  Whether they  continue down this path or not, the entire effort is a front for Iranian interests, and everyone knows it.

The U.S. Marines are no longer in Anbar, and the balance of the U.S. forces are no longer effective in Iraq, because of the Status of Forces Agreement.  Confined to their bases with requirements to ask permission even to move outside the wire, they cannot assess atmospherics or gain intelligence.  They are effectively shut down except for training or assistance when requested by the ISF.  Security has degraded, and the ISF still relies on the U.S. for logistics, supplies, transportation and maintenance.  We are in the strange position of being Santa Claus without any authority over any aspect of the situation on the ground, both preventing the ISF evolution and maturity to a legitimate military force and watching as things unravel.

Abe Greenwald (h/t Michael Totten blogging at Instapundit) gives us a more optimistic picture in Kurdistan, a necessary read for anyone interested in Iraq.

The Kurds of the area known as the Kurdish Regional Government want to secure a free, democratic, and thriving Kurdistan. They are on their way to pulling it off. Personal safety here (where I am a guest of the KRG) is a given, so that most of the time, you forget you’re in Iraq. Parts of Erbil resemble Miami, Florida. There are rows of manicured palm trees, bustling retail strips, car dealerships, and everywhere the organized rubble of construction …

Praise for America is ubiquitous. The Kurdish foreign minister told my group matter-of-factly, “It was your men and women, in uniform who shed blood, who overthrew Saddam.” I heard a group of smart Kurdish students cite chapter and verse on American exceptionalism.

The Kurdish nation is bound to America like few others. Kurdish hopes for autonomy — after a history of being the victims of ethnic cleansing and mass slaughter — first became a precarious reality when George H.W. Bush instituted the northern no-fly zone over Iraq in 1991, three years after Saddam Hussein’s Anfal campaign wiped out up to 100,000 Kurds with chemical weapons. With American protection in place, the Kurds began building infrastructure and honing their political vision. When George W. Bush toppled Saddam’s regime in 2003, the Kurds, who make up about 20 percent of the Iraqi population, began building what they promote as “the other Iraq” in earnest.

Nibras Kazimi sees what is happening in Iraq as merely political bickering.  Strangely, he offers us several pictures, one of Ahmad Chalabi (on the very left) with Ayad Allawi.

And this proves what?  That Allawi has to sit with the criminal Chalabi at the same table?  If it is an attempt at an exoneration of the situation in Iraq at this present, then in reality it becomes more a reflection of Kazimi’s previous service to Chalabi.

With the likes of Sadr, Maliki, Hakim and Chalabi driving the ship, Iraq is set up for a long, difficult voyage.  Abe Greenwald closes his commentary with this observation.

In discussing the achievements of the Iraq war, those of us who support the Iraqi liberation have developed a journalistic tic whereby we must attach the disclaimers fragile and reversible to every positive development. This is probably wise, but in the effort to shed the “triumphalist” label, we’ve neglected to emphasize something else about achievements in Iraq. They are precious. Nowhere is this more achingly obvious than in Iraqi Kurdistan. There is a population of 4 million overwhelmingly Muslim, pro-American, pro-democracy political and cultural reformers in an oil-rich, strategically critical location in the Middle East. Somehow, the current U.S. administration sees no significant U.S. interest in this treasure, won with the blood of the American soldier. For a White House and a State Department that tout engagement as a panacea, the neglect to engage Baghdad leadership and keep the Iraqi experiment on a positive course is egregious.

Egregious indeed.  It was so when President Bush confirmed the Status of Forces Agreement, and it is so as President Obama continues down the path of appeasement of Iran.  In order to stop Iranian hegemony, the SOFA would have to be undone, U.S. basing rights would have to be permanently confirmed in Kurdistan, and a covert war engaged to undermine the Iranian regime and foment an insurgency inside of Iran.  This is the only option to avoiding a large and bloody confrontation with the radical Mullahs who see things in an eschatological context.  Ironically, what the American political left cannot see is that strong action now is the only alternative to horrible actions later.

Sadly though, Iran may become the only winner in Iraq.  All of this has precisely a zero percent chance of happening with this current cowardly and confused administration.  With the report that Greenwald gives us above, Kurdistan gives us the only shining beacon of light available in the region.  Will it be enough without increased U.S. involvement?


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