Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Update On Kurdistan -- November 22, 2016

"The Kurds Are Nearly There"
Christian Caryl
The New York Review of Books
December 8, 2016


This is an excellent recap of Kurdistan, bringing us up to date, just as one US administration comes to an end, to be replaced by another administration.

Unfortunately, the Kurds are not nearly there. They are no closer today than they were in 2009 but it makes for a nice "headline." This way, if at the end of the Trump administration, they are no closer, Trump can be blamed.

After reading the article, summary interspersed with my comments:
  • biggest obstacle to Kurdistan: Celtic culture (tribal, clannish; unable to come together, compromise, organize)
  • 21st century setback: emergence of ISIS; due specifically to Mideast vacuum created by President Obama pulling American troops out early in his first term
  • 2nd Iraq War -- George W Bush -- 2003
  • after Turkey refused to help, US reached out to Kurds
  • resulted in 15 years of goodwill between US and Kurds
  • Kurds rightfully proud that the US military did not lose a single serviceman on Kurdish territory during the war
  • George H. W. Bush -- old-school foreign policy -- no intention of supporting Kurdish self-determination --  he used the Kurds and Shias to try to defeat Saddam / Baghdad -- then abandoned the Kurds to Saddam's wrath
Kurds' Grand Compromise (at least four parts). For Kurdistan to happen, several things have to happen:
  • Baghdad / Erbil come to agreement -- that is actually fairly close right now
  • Erbil gets its Syrian province -- US / Russia have to agree -- Trump / Putin negotiate
  • Erbil gets it small Iranian province or at least border security guarantees -- sanctions at risk -- Trump, again, a negotiator
  • that leaves Turkey-- probably a bridge too far -- but negotiate "oil to sea" for "peace"; again, Trump good negotiator; perhaps appoint personal emissary to Turkey to hammer out this deal
Background:
  • 30 million Kurds around the world; mostly in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria
  • vast global diaspora: 800,000 in Germany; largest concentration in the US is a population of around 10,000 in Nashville, TN
  • PKK -- Kurdistan's Workers Party: 4-decade-long insurgency vs Ankara; Erdogan -- at first sympathetic -- has now re-ignited war with PKK (see last bullet in this section below)
  • Syrian Kurds: distinguished themselves with US/Russian allies in war vs ISIS
  • KDP -- Iraqi Kurds -- Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) -- Erbil; Masoud Barzani -- will call for elections soon; Obama administration: adamantly opposed to break-up of Iraq (notable exception: former car salesman Joe Biden); KDP: Kurdistan Democratic Party
  • Iranian Kurds: perhaps ethnically closest relationship -- Iran & Kurds
  • PUK -- 1975: critics of KDP's ascendancy gave rise to the rival Talabani clan, become the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)
  • in Turkey: harsh oppression led to rise of another resistance leader -- Abdullah Ă–calan , founded the PKK (see third bullet in this section) in 1978; the PKK started off as a classic Marxist-Leninist party with strong nationalist claims; result: PKK was ruthless against all other Kurdish factions; Ă–calan in Turkish prison since 1999
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Eyes Wide Shut

Three page article, pages 42 - 44 in the periodical noted above. On page 44, in part 3 of this 3-part article, it beings a four-paragraph summary of sorts:
  • 1st paragraph: George H. W. Bush, by name, 1st Gulf War
  • 2nd paragraph: Operation Provide Comfort (April, 1991, Bush I)
  • 3rd paragraph: "Washington's Iraq containment strategy (no president named, but the dates suggest this was the Clinton presidency)
  • 4th paragraph: George W. Bush
  • For the rest of the article, which continues for quite some time, no mention of President Obama or the past eight years. The last date given is 2003, "after the US-led invasion" 
There is barely one thing in the article about President Obama's policies in the Mideast for the past eight years, and that was in the opening paragraphs and back to 2014. There was no mention that not only did President Obama abandon the Kurds; considered them a "JV team" (ask the Kurds if they agreed?); Obama "left" the Mideast, resulting in a vacuum, which resulted in the rise of ISIS. (Unless I missed it, President Obama is not mentioned by name in this very, very long article.)

Earlier in the article we learn that "the Islamic State, which is dominated by Salafist Sunni Arabs, has always regarded the Kurds as mortal enemies, and when the jihadists (ISIS) stages their surprise attack in 2014, the momentum of their offensive brought them just a few miles of the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil. It took a series of hasty American air strikes to stop the jihadists from going further."

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The Caliphate

See this post, from October 15, 2016.

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