Trump Presidency: Implications for the Kurdistan Region

T. Belman. Hopefully Trump will recognizer Kurdish independence both in Iraq and Syria. Then it should build up their military. Israel already has a strong relationship with the Kurds. Thus the US will have two strong allies who can fight their own battles situated to the north and the south of two Iranian proxies. In addition the US could get the Kurds to lead in the destabilization of Iran. Remember there are over 8 million Kurds in Iran adjacent to the new Kurdistan.

Netanyahu has good relations with Azerbaijan who was prepared to allow Israel to attack Iran from their territory. They recently announced that they had bought $5 billion in military hardware from Israel. Many Azeries live in Iran adjacent to Azerbaijan.

Kazakistan is also friendly.

By Laurie Mylroie, KURDISTAN24

The Kurdistan Region, including its most senior officials, has warmly welcomed the election of Donald Trump. Almost certainly Trump will prove friendlier than Barack Obama. But that friendliness will probably manifest itself in small, individual decisions, rather than a single big one, like declaring support for Kurdish independence.

And a lot will depend on the Kurds themselves: understanding the new environment; making smart, thoughtful decisions; and taking the right steps to exploit the opportunities that the new US administration offers.

For Americans, Trump represents a muscular isolationism. He reflects, in part, weariness with the “war on terror.” On Sunday, in his first post-election interview, Trump observed, “We’ve been fighting this war for 15 years” and we’ve spent $6 trillion, adding, “We could have rebuilt our country twice” with that money.

Obama shares that weariness and first ignored the threat from the Islamic State (IS.) Thus, he allowed it to metastasize and only began to take it on, after the danger had become acute.

Trump realizes the IS threat remains serious, and his highest national security priority is to “knock out” the organization. And like Obama, Trump will not send US troops.

Thus, Trump greatly appreciates the Peshmerga and the Kurdish people more generally. While campaigning in Nashville, he affirmed, “We should be arming the Kurdish [fighters.] They’ve proven to be the best fighters. They’ve proven to be the most loyal to us. . . . They have great heart. We should be working with them much more than we are.”

The statement illustrates how Trump thinks and the qualities he values. Essentially: they like us and they are helping us. So we really need to help them. Abstract concepts—like maintaining Iraq’s territorial integrity—are irrelevant.

One early change in US policy may well be to arm the Peshmerga directly, rather than continue to funnel arms intended for them through Baghdad.

Obama became reluctantly involved in the fight against IS. Virtually no thought or planning has gone into addressing the question of what Iraq will look like, after IS is defeated.

Rather, the pretense of the Obama administration is that Iraq can be restored to the form it had, prior to the anti-IS war, although that is at odds with intelligence assessments.

Two months ago, CIA Director John Brennan expressed his doubts that Iraq, as well as Syria, “can be put back together again. There’s been so much bloodletting, so much destruction. . . I question whether we will see, in my lifetime, the creation of a central government in both of those countries that’s going to have the ability to govern fairly.”

The Obama administration has been unwilling to face that problem. It acts as if Baghdad were a legitimate government. Its attitude toward Iraq issues, including the war against IS, is that Baghdad is in the lead and Baghdad properly makes the decisions.

One example involves representation at the international conferences dealing with the anti-IS campaign. The Obama administration does not accept that the Kurdistan Region should attend the conference independently. Rather, it leaves to Iraqi officials to decide whether they want to include Kurdish representatives in their own delegation.

This attitude has hurt Kurds. The Kurdistan Region hosts 2/3 of the refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Iraq. Officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) should attend any conference on humanitarian issues related to the anti-IS war.

But Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Ibrahim al Jaafari, did not want KRG representation at last summer’s international conference on humanitarian assistance in the anti-IS war. Only at the last minute, was the KRG’s Washington representative invited, and then on a restrictive basis—as an observer, rather than participant.

Once Trump takes office, Washington will not likely defer to the whims of Iraqi ministers. The loyalty of the Kurds, as described by Trump, contrasts sharply with the ambivalence of Baghdad’s Shiite government—over which Tehran wields considerable influence. For Trump being loyal to America counts for a lot!

Trump will also be far less tolerant of Iran than Obama, if not actively hostile toward it. That will constitute one more reason to drop Obama’s insistence on subordinating Erbil to Baghdad’s direction.

Finally, once IS is defeated, Baghdad and Erbil will have to determine key issues for the future. This includes Kurdish independence, as well as the boundaries of the Kurdistan Region. Under Obama, the US would have weighed in on Baghdad’s side. Under Trump, the US is far more likely to be neutral, and even, perhaps, to support Erbil.

These are some ways that the Kurdistan Region can expect to benefit from the new US president. It won’t likely be through one dramatic proclamation, but a series of smaller decisions that, cumulatively, may well have a very big impact.

Laurie Mylroie is a Washington DC correspondent for Kurdistan24 and covers the State Department and Pentagon.

December 18, 2016 | 4 Comments »

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  1. addendum:
    Like that other infamously brutal dictator and thug — people just repeat this like a mantra — last year:

    “At the initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Duma (Russian Parliament) has legislated a law outlawing “distorted and/or extremist” commentary of Scriptures.

    The purpose of the unusual law, it is widely understood, is the prevention of cynical advantage being taken of Biblical verses for anti-Semitic purposes.”

    left out a link in the other one.

    “Despite Kosovo’s open admiration for Israel, Palestinian unilateralism and ties with Russia and Serbia make recognition of the Balkan state difficult for Jerusalem.”

    The one about Kosovo thwarting an Isis attack on Israeli athletes was a standalone with no quote. Kosovo versus Munich, eh?

  2. “Trump Fish: Iraqi restaurant spells out Kurdish faith in president-elect” Support the Kurds? Kind of a no-brainer, there.

    Kazakhstan isn’t completely free of anti-semitism. (probably only Laos is) but I googled Kazakhstan and Holocaust and guess what: Jews fled TO Kazakhstan.

    And Azerbaijan? There was one massacre of Azerbaijanis and Jews by, get this, Armenians!

    I was thinking, what about Albania? I know there was an Albanian Muslim SS — The Grand Mufti organized the Bosnian Muslim SS (and they say they had no role in the Holocaust, that’s just for starters) — but before the war — well this is from Yad Vashem:

    “There is no trace of any discrimination against Jews in Albania, because Albania happens to be one of the rare lands in Europe today where religious prejudice and hate do not exist, even though Albanians themselves are divided into three faiths.”
    Herman Bernstein, the United States Ambassador to Albania, 1934

    I was surprised at what I found for Kosovo. It was mostly the Italians, and Albanians who profited from stolen Jewish property. The Jews of Kosovo went to concentration not death camps and the rate of survival was high. I remember reading that they love Elie Wiesel in Kosovo. He’s a hero there. It was scurrilous when he died and his ignorant detractors said he only cared about Jews. Clinton went to war on his advice. I googled Kosovo and Human rights and sure enough:

    among other allegations, anti-Gay, sex trafficking, disabled babies taken away from their parents and put in institutions, anything else they can dredge up, I am sure. Which isn’t to say these things aren’t true — even not involving Islamists – but if you are friendly to Israel? Watch out! Better not have any dirty laundry or skeletons in the closet. You will be in the dock as number one culprit ahead of seriously genocidal and gender-apartheid regimes. Reminds me of the movie “Snake Eyes” with Nicholas Cage. He’s a corrupt cop who risks his life to stop a major terrorist attack on a stadium — it’s an inside job of the military, of course, this being a liberal film, there were truther films before 9/11, another one with Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson I recall — and afterward, when he becomes a hero, his whole life comes under the spotlight and then he is revealed as a criminal and the scum of the earth.

    Though apparently Israel still doesn’t recognize Kosovo

    “Despite Kosovo’s open admiration for Israel, Palestinian unilateralism and ties with Russia and Serbia make recognition of the Balkan state difficult for Jerusalem.”

    Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan support Israel against Iran. One of them was going to be a refueling station for an attack on Iranian nukes before Obama outed it. Israel buys a quarter of its oil from Azerbaijan. Ironically, the oil fields of Baku is where the German and Japanese forces were supposed to link up so they could win the war with unlimited energy supplies.

    Netanyahu’s trip to Azerbaijan draws Iranian ire

    Informative article. among other things, joint-production of drones. In 2012, Lieberman said Azerbaijan is more important to Israel than France. It is also a bigger trading partner.

  3. Kurds live on the watershed of Tigris & Euphrates. Just like Tibet and Kashmir, Kurdistan is more about watersheds than anything else.