By Gerald A. Honigman
The Jerusalem Post article by Yonah Jeremy Bob of September 20, 2018 was titled, “Will Iraqi territory be used to fire rockets on Israel from Iran?” A bit earlier, Seth Frantzman reported on September 9th about a Iranian ballistic missile attack on Kurds deep inside of Iraq which hit the exact building–some say exact room–where Kurdish opposition leaders were meeting. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps was sending a message to others besides Kurds, and both articles dealt with the growing threat of enhanced precision missiles in the region. While a nation as tiny and compact as Israel cannot help but take such matters very seriously, what I’m proposing now goes beyond the usual discussion…
Regarding the Frantzman report, like their otherwise centuries’ old rivals for regional hegemony, Turks and (mostly Sunni) Arabs, the one thing Iran and the other two are in agreement about is the denial of political and even basic human rights to some forty million native people who pre-date at least Turks and Arabs in their region by millennia. Both of the latter have, at times, even outlawed Kurdish language and culture. Twenty two million Kurds in Turkey–about a fourth of the total population–have been renamed “Mountain Turks” by Ankara; and besides Saddam Hussein’s Anfal Campaign in “Arab” Iraq in the 1980s, which took some 200,000 Kurdish lives, the title of the Kurdish scholar, Ismet Cherif Vanly’s book, The Syrian ‘Mein Kampf ‘Against The Kurds (Amsterdam, 1968), says all you need to know about how Syrian Arabs have dealt with them as well.
Iran has continued hanging Kurdish dissidents again this week. All three nations have slaughtered either tens, scores, or hundreds of thousands of Kurds during the past century.
Please check out these excerpts from the September 9th report and note the connection to the more current one as well:
“The big picture then is an Iranian missile threat throughout the region… US allies have missile defense technology to confront the Iranian threat. Israel has a layered system of missile defense including Iron Dome, David’s Sling and the Arrow program, while Saudi Arabia has used Patriot missile batteries to stop the Houthi missiles. This has proven effective. It is also why the IRGC decided to test out its missiles by targeting defenseless Kurdish groups in northern Iraq.”
Those defenses, of course, could be overwhelmed by large numbers of missiles being fired at the same time. Note, please, that very last line above about “defenseless” Kurds.
So, now let’s really begin…
My work related to this much used and abused people pre-dates my doctoral studies in Middle Eastern Affairs over four decades ago. Back then, if you mentioned Kurds, most folks thought you were talking about Little Miss Muffet (and those were the wrong curds). Rarely were they mentioned by even the experts in academia–for a variety of reasons, none good.
A major research project of mine became accepted, in much condensed form, by the heavily Nobel laureate-sponsored academic journal, the Fall 1982 Middle East Review…”British Petroleum Politics, Arab Nationalism, and the Kurds.” From there it landed on the recommended reference list of Paris’s acclaimed Institute d’ Etudes Politiques (Sciences Po), where it still sits today…and from there wound up in the bibliographies and footnotes of assorted scholars https://www.google.com/search?
For quite some time, I’ve called for America to consider a radical change in policy. Radical.
For too long we’ve let Turks and Arabs dictate our positions according to their own self-centered interests–no matter who else got shafted and slaughtered as a result. While Iran champions, funds, and arms Arabs fighting Israel, it suppresses, slaughters, and jails some seven million Ahwazi Arabs in its own oil-rich western province of Khuzistan/”Arabistan.” The mullahs have an annual “Jerusalem Day” so no one talks about an al-Ahwaz Day… https://ekurd.net/viva-
For further enlightenment regarding such State Department duplicity, here’s one version of my widely-published analysis (minus my name), State Department Math, showcased by the KRG in Erbil itself… http://cabinet.gov.krd/a/d.
Presently, with an Islamist-oriented Erdogan government in Turkey, the important American Air Base at Incirlik is now all but useless to Washington.
To replace Incirlik–located in an increasingly anti-American Turkey with a new, latter-day Sultan as its increasingly absolutist ruler–I am asking President Trump’s Washington to continue to think out of the box…as he has done by sidelining the traditional anti-Israel Arabists at Foggy Bottom and elsewhere who fought President Truman over Israel’s very resurrection in the first place in 1948.
Additionally, the President has appointed a new leader, Mike Pompeo, at State with a vision reminiscent of President Reagan’s exceptional secretary of state, George Shultz. Both of the latter are on record stating that Israel would never return to the pre-’67 War, ’49 UN-imposed suicidal armistice lines which made it a mere 9-15 miles wide at its waist, where the bulk of its population and infrastructure were compacted like a sardine can….practically asking to be attacked and bisected by enemies sworn to its destruction. President George W. Bush said Texas had driveways longer than that http://www.
Out of the box…
Think what a major American base, replacing Incirlik, in Iraqi Kurdistan–among folks who actually like us–might achieve.
Next, add to this another major shift…
Instead of just arming Kurds with glorified pop guns and such, America needs to do for Kurds–proven in battle, America’s most effective fighting force against ISIS and others as well–what it has done for their Arab, Turk, and Iranian oppressors: train and equip Kurdish tank, artillery, and anti-aircraft battalions, aircraft squadrons, special forces, and so forth.
Washington armed the mostly Shi’a Iraqi military with sophisticated weaponry either only to see it abandoned to ISIS or shared with Iraqi Shi’a forces in bed with Tehran… Say hello to the likely second Shi’a Islamic Republic in the region.
It’s time to treat allies who, despite their own shortcomings, share many of our ideals and vision, as the allies they are and provide them with the means to actuallywin–not just be a nuisance to their/our enemies. We shamefully used them this way in the ’70s when the Shah of Iran was fighting Saddam (yes, he was around thatlong). As soon as Tehran made its temporary peace with Iraq’s Arabs, Washington, via Secretary of State Kissinger, pulled the rug out from under their feet… resulting in thousands of Kurds being slaughtered and displaced. The late, great New York Times’ William Safire wrote a series of op-eds about this, “The Sellout of the Kurds.”
Worse yet, we repeated this shameful scenario later as well under President George H. W. Bush’s watch. And even President Trump, despite his recent positive actions in the region, gave far less than sterling support when over 90% of Iraqi Kurds voted for independence in a referendum and were subsequently subdued by American tanks and lost the oil fields of Kirkuk and such to the Iraqi (Arab) army. Everyone then jumped on the Kurds, blaming them for their own misfortune, “the timing was bad…you angered all your non-Kurdish neighbors,” and so on. Again, keep in mind that this occurred while the Kurds were doing most of the fighting and dying in the fight against ISIS.
Just what time would have been a “good time” for Kurds, who’ve been waiting a century, to finally ask for their own share of justice in the new age of nationalism in the Middle East, given the nature of the Turks, Arabs, and Iranians who’ve subjugated them all this time?
Blame the victim when you don’t have the backbone to take on the villains. After all, it’s much easier that way–and you won’t tick off Arab oil potentates and their American Big Oil partners in ARAMCO.
Some peshmerga managed to flee to America. I later became good friends with one of these Kurdish fighters after he moved several hours away from me in Florida.
The earlier Jerusalem Post article speaks of Iran’s choice to deliberately test its more sophisticated, precision missiles against “defenseless” Kurds.
Ergo……..Why not drastically change this situation, create another bulwark against the feared Shi’a Crescent (Hizbullah’s Lebanon, Assad’s Alawi Shi’a Syria, Iraq, and Iran)–nightmare of Jordan and its fellow Sunni Arab Gulf states–and give American influence in the region a boost at the same time?
But, again, won’t this anger Turks, Arabs, and Iranians?
Sure will–but that doesn’t mean that such a radical change in policy shouldn’t be done and isn’t morally correct…like Trump defunding UNRWA, making his decisions about Jerusalem, finally making Arabs define the word “refugee” the same way scores of millions of other non-Arab refugees have had to, and so forth. At least as many, if not more, Jews fled from Arab/Muslim lands than Arabs did in reverse due to a war Arabs started with their attack on a minuscule Israel in May 1948.
Yes, the Turks have been an important NATO ally, and they’re worried about how their own 22 million “Mountain Turks” will respond to happenings involving their Kurdish brethren across the border. But, guess what? My bet is that they’ll remain allies.
Ankara is already doing lots of business with Iraqi Kurdistan and has access to its oil as well. A newly-independent or substantially autonomous Kurdistan is not about to do anything stupid to provoke the powerful Turkish military. With my proposed American base in place in the KRG region, and a much better-equipped official Kurdish army, the loose guns among the Kurds will be better contained. But that’s also up to the Turks as well. If they continue to suppress their own Kurds, it will be hard to convince groups like the PKK to ignore this. Furthermore, with Putin’s Russia having visions of recreating the Russian empire, unless Ankara has a bad case of amnesia, it will still realize that it needs NATO and America far more than the latter need it.
An independent (or even just substantially autonomous) Kurdistan???
Destabilizing, critics will complain. Yet, those same voices who expect some forty million Kurds to remain forever stateless, in the next breath demand a 22nd Arab state run by Fatah’s latter-day Arafatians-in-suits and/or Hamasniks. Now, thateventuality wouldn’t be destabilizing…would it ? How do you spell H Y P O C R I S Y ?
A powerful American base in Iraqi Kurdistan will send an important message to both Turkey and Iran to stay out of the area, and it will greatly help to keep militant Kurdish groups from striking out on their own. The serious arming of the official Kurdish military will make it easier for independent Kurdish fighters to integrate into a powerful, American-trained, well-equipped fighting force. The Kurds are already known for their military prowess. Now imagine what could be… As just one example, remember those Iranian missiles both of those above articles reported on? How about American/Kurdish precision missile batteries as close to Iran as vice-versa?
Oh yes, I almost forgot…Most Kurds love Israel, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Jews in Israel and elsewhere have great memories of their Kurdish neighbors. A future alliance between Israel and Kurdistan? Stranger things have happened…
As we’ve seen earlier, the problem still remains regarding Kurds living outside of the KRG region in Iraq…tens of millions in Turkey, Syria, Iran, and elsewhere. That’s why, at the same time we’re focusing on Iraq, more serious attention must also be paid to the plight of other nations’ Kurdish populations. The same way the UN and other international bodies and the American State Department have repeatedly taken Israel to task regarding mostly fictitious sins, they need to hold feet to the fire of those real subjugators and murderers of Kurds and other peoples in the region.
Before ending these remarks, it needs to be recalled that Kurds were indeed promised independence in at least part of the British Mandate of Mesopotamia after WWI. Their hopes were shattered, however, after London got a favorable ruling from the League of Nations in 1925 tying the oil of the heavily Kurdish north to their Mandate in the resolution of the Mosul Question.
The dream of Kurdistan was thus aborted by a collusion of British petroleum politics and Arab nationalism (open the first link at the top), as a solely Arab-dominated Iraq was born in the entire territory–with the Brits actively assisting in squashing the predictable Kurdish response. Powerful rulers emerging in Turkey and Iran–Ataturk and Reza Shah Pahlavi–precluded Kurdish hopes in those areas, and with France imbedded in Syria as one of its two post-WWI Mandates, Mesopotamia was thus the Kurds’ best hope.
With Syria now in shambles, who knows what next might eventually happen–especially if an independent Kurdistan emerges next door in Iraq? A partitioned or federalized Syria, into Sunni, Alawi Shi’a, and Kurdish autonomous states–like in, perhaps, Iraq as well? We live in very potentially pregnant times, indeed.
Given all the above, President Trump’s continued thinking out of the box, along with a major shift in foreign policy, would thus also act to right a horrible historic wrong.
The score for relative justice should not remain Arabs 21, Kurds 0 in perpetuity… with Arabs demanding state #22 (and 2nd, not first, in the original 1920 Mandate of Palestine; since 1922, Jordan has sat on some 78% of the total area) at the sole, reborn nation of the Jews expense.
Iraq was as artificial a state in the Middle East as Yugoslavia was in Europe. Both were formed after the breakup of empires after WWI and brought together different religious and ethnic groups who were, at the very least, rivals–if not outright enemies.
The glue that kept both intact involved leaders who ruled with an iron fist. When Marshal Tito died, it was just a matter of time before Yugoslavia exited the world stage as a united nation, with Serbs, Albanians, Croats, Bosnians, Macedonians, and others reverting to age-old blood feuds and rivalries. With the genocidal tyrant Saddam Hussein’s demise, all bloody hell broke loose in Iraq as well… And, as in the case of Yugoslavia, the possible-to-probable breakup of Iraq may not be a bad thing either.
Different, long antagonistic groups should not be forced to live together if some insist on besting or subjugating others. Where is it written that the time period for the birth of new nations–especially ones which should have been born but were prevented–has come to an end? South Sudan was created not that long ago because of its peoples’ suppression by the north–as just one example.
The age-old hatred between Sunni and Shi’a Arabs; both of the latter’s murderous, dominating, and/or subjugating policies towards Assyrians and Kurds; and Ankara’s use of Iraqi Turkmen to further its own (and their own) interests in the oil-rich, predominantly Kurdish north never did–and now especially don’t–bode well for a future unified Iraq.
It’s thus long past due that an independent Kurdistan, with its oil in Kirkuk to support it economically, arise–accompanied by the same substantial support America gave to subjugating Turks, terrorist-supporting Pakistanis, Afghanis, and numerous Arab despots over the years.
In closing, most of the Foreword to my book, http://q4j-middle-east.com, was written by the President of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria.
Now, why might that be?