Monday, December 01, 2014

Kurdish Triangular Relationship

As the largest stateless nation in the world, numbering over 30 million people, the Kurds live primarily in northeastern Syria, northern  Iraq, northwestern Iran, and southeastern Turkey. With own distinguished culture, traditions, language, and historical path, Kurdish population of the Middle Eastern (ME) region were unlucky in gaining independence as a separate unique nation-state after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1920
Starting from 1931, Kurdish in Iraq, led by legendary Ahmad Barzani, have been attempting to re-unite and establish historically desired Kurdistan. It took the Kurds almost another century to, finally, "decide their fate and not let anyone do that for them." Treaty of Sevres called for creation of an autonomous Kurdish state; however, the people did not stay united and spread across the neighboring countries with Turkey representing the 'biggest' home for (more than 15 million) Kurds.
Grandson of the Kurdish contemporary ideology founder [Ahmad Barzani], Mr. Masoud Barzani, currently the President of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, has been using the "time" to build the strategy towards proclaiming independence of (regionally) united Kurdish state. Israel and the United States have been major external business partners which were also often seen as supporters and allies in the fight against suppression of Kurds within Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey, violating international human rights acts and democratic norms. Since the geopolitical, religious situation in the ME has been escalating, the KRG finds itself in a very delicate position when the ultimate goal of seeking independence in the region has to become a secondary ambition. The Islamic State (IS) is the new centerpiece for joint pro-security actions: the (external) world's and regional stakeholders. 
Israel, the lonely nuclear power in the Middle East, foresees the rise of Kurdistan as a free nation in future. Even if covertly, it has been supportive of the Kurds fighting against Syrian, Iraqi, Turkish governments. According to Israeli officials, 'going covertly' was purely Kurdish decision which is 'respected' by the colleagues in the region. The Kurds cannot allow the Arab nations, Iran, and Turkey pursue elimination of the ethnic minority group further due to the links with the enemy in proximity. However, the Kurds share Israel's 'loneliness' and praises the nation's strength when it comes to defense of own territories and pursuing unification of Jews across the world. Today, together with the Kurdish Union Party in Syria (PYD), the KRG is preparing for gradual transformation of the Kurdish territories in the four countries of the region into a unified state with or without external support. Obviously, the Kurds will not count on peaceful referendums taking place in Syria, Turkey, Iran or even Iraq as the majority-rule governments would use all means to prevent such an event from occurring.  
The U.S.' Foreign Policy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is not mono-angled as well: the Administration is bound to the One Iraq policy, which thwarts the Kurdish ambitions in the region. In addition, American Government does not want to see further escalation of insecurity in MENA, given the threat that the IS has brought so far. However, President Obama continues ordering covert shipments of arms to the Kurds who have showed readiness and willingness to fight the terrorist group exploding the regional security. Local Kurdish leaders complain about American paradox: resist Kurds' seceding from the Iraqi state while destroying the IS with military funding, training, and equipping that the U.S. provide the Kurds with. But, those are the constraints of the White House which feels (personally) responsible for rebuilding previously attacked Iraq. Re-setting the Washington-Kurdish-Baghdad relations to a new wave of cooperation might take time and remain being secondary until the issue with terrorism (regional and global) is present. 
At the end of the day, the "Kurdish Question", as the Turkish Government prefers to call it, is solely the prerogative of the Kurds and not of a single other state. Any party involved in the region has to and will always pursue own nationals security priorities and can serve as the Kurds' support group only in case of an 'accidental' overlap in its objectives with Kurdish aspirations. Though often, the scenario will still be complicated as the international and regional powers might have divergent goals, i.e. could sympathize Iraqi Kurdish and be absolutely against of Syrian ones. While seeking support in Washington or Jewish Jerusalem, Kurdish leaders ought to remember about the clashes of national interests and attempt to find common grounds at least when it comes to shared security concerns. Therefore, maybe, what President Barzani emphasizes when he meets American, Jewish counterparts and Kurdish soldiers in the battlegrounds is politically more sound -- Kurdish people can and should be patient on their way towards an independent [Kurdish] state. 
Until then, in addition to driving cars with 'Iraq' number plate replaced with a homemade "Kurdistan" sticker, the Kurds have to seriously consider re-unification among themselves -- cooperation across Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey -- and unify efforts towards independent Kurdistan at politico-economic levels as well. Encountering almost a century of separate historical path as part of Syrian or Turkish or Iraqi or Iranian governments, Kurdish have achieved different stages of development as a nation (i.e. recent boom of Kurdish economy in Turkey with investment successes of 1,200 Turkish companies operating in [Turkish] Kurdistan or the establishment of the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq and autonomous Kurdish region in Iran) in all of its 'four parts'. Such a circumstance creates another challenge for the Kurds in the long run. However, memories about the wars and aggression from the 'four governments in power' should keep Kurdish motivated and hopeful about the eventual freedom, even if it takes them carrying out major -- on the ground -- responsibility and sacrificing human capital in fight against common enemies, like the IS, for example, first. 

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