By: HASSAN FARAZIAN
SUMMARY: The recent opinion by Ellen Wald on the planned Kurdish referendum for independence without any international and UN mandate needs more historically geopolitical scrutiny to connect the dots with the evolution and prospects of the Kurdish movement and the Kurdish Regional Government(KRG) in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. The following are pertinent by respectfully filling the factual gap in examining a different analysis.
In the 1970’s during the Iran/Iraq politico-regional tension and rivalry The Shah of Iran with the help and approval of the United States, Britain and very high participation of Israel helped Mustafa Barzani, also known as Mullah Mustafa a true Kurdish nationalist leader with arms and logistic support to destabilize Saddam Hussein’s regime — at the time an ally of the Soviet Union in the context of East-West geostrategic conflicts. Mullah Mustafa also helped smuggle Iraqi Jews to the safe Heaven of Iran as their first stop that had a de facto relationship with the Jewish State.
But for Israel, apart from the rescuing of Jews, the bigger strategic objective was to destroy the rising Iraqi military. Therefore, when the entire operation ended in 1975 because of the Iran-Iraq Algerian Peace Agreement, Israel was extremely unhappy. However, it is crucial to remember the Kurdish help was an essential part of The Shah’s strategy that had finally brought Saddam Hussein to the negotiation table. In the aftermath of the US, Britain and its allies 2003 invasion of Iraq, Israel was at it again by sending its military and intelligence operatives to Iraqi Kurdistan as well as encouraging the return of Kurdish Jews to that region as its fifth column – until now. It has also helped the KRG enormously through political, financial, military and intelligence aid and guidance. The clandestine sale of Iraq’s oil by the KRG through Israeli ports is indeed masterminded and implemented by Israel. The aim this time around for Israel has been to diminish the Iranian presence and influence in Iraq, by creating a surrogate base that would match the Iranian socio-cultural and religious affinity in the region.
The oil factor and its acquisition by the KRG although financially important to its objective of pursuing Israeli guided scenario of independence is not crucial anymore to the global oil industry given oil’s declining position that shall continue to haunt all producing countries. In the United States alone, solar and wind has just reached the 10 percent level of its Total Energy production and rising. Ironically, Texas is the biggest producer of Wind power in the United States. The market glut is here to stay as new technology (such as oil fracking) along with the continuing economic slowdown has meant the end of OPEC as we have known it. According to a reliable source, at least 5 to 10 percent of all oil sales by OPEC members and other producers are sold as much as 10 percent below the official announced market price — because of the oil glut as well as economic necessity and enormous budget deficit in the oil-producing countries with Nigeria being the biggest unofficial price discounter. The KRG cannot hope to use the oil as leverage to reach its political goal of independence and recognition either by OPEC members or the international community.
Surrounded by hostile environment as a landlocked region, the KRG and any future independent Kurdistan will have to surmount many practical as well as political obstacles in the long run diplomatically and not, as Ms. Wald has suggested, through arms struggle which is not a realistic option. The historical Kurdish heritage has meant a deep-rooted cultural bond and harmony with Iran that has never had a “Kurdish” problem in the same way experienced by Turkey or Syria. In fact, the Kurds celebrate the same Iranian New Year Norooz, and their flag resembles a large degree the one used by the pre-revolution Iranian regime; and their current Prime Minister Nechervan Barzani is the grandson of Mullah Mustafa and a graduate of Tehran University. The Turkish and Syrian perspective is, however, very different as they have both shared a common political, territorial and military goal and hostility in suppressing any Kurdish aspiration for independence. For this reason alone, in the current Syrian crisis, Turkey has repeatedly launched fatal airstrikes against Kurdish fighters in Syria that Washington has supported and consider effective against ISIS. It has also operated deadly strikes in northern Iraq against the US and Israeli supported Peshmerga. This is drawing a line in the sand by Turkey as a grave warning against any declaration of independence either by KRG or its recognition by their supporters such as Israel and the United States or Europe that have been in a tense relationship with Turkey’s government. In the current very precarious Middle East turmoil and economic uncertainties in the West as a whole, they cannot afford yet another dispute with the controversial Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan that has been on thorny grounds, even with its traditional allies the United States and Germany since his accession to power. In short, the West needs Turkey more than it can afford another geostrategic challenge — with most likely another wave of human tragedy — which a new conflict for the support of an independent Kurdistan would undoubtedly imply.
There is also the reality of a fractured Kurdish political entity that should not be underestimated by the supporters of an independent Kurdistan. As the United States and its allies have found out the hard way in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now forgotten South Sudan, these countries are riddled with many ethnic and religious schism. Hence an important underlying reason for the US and the West’s failure, in general, to “babysit” and accomplish the act of nation-building. In the aftermath of the 1975 Algerian Peace agreement between Iran and Iraq, Mullah Mustafa and many of his collaborators were sacrificed and were given refugee status in Iran. Then in 1999 the United States and Israel abducted Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party] leader handing him over on a silver platter to Turkey. But Henry Kissinger’s cold-blooded response in a leaked report on covert intelligence activities known as the “Pike Report” had summed up the true nature of the United States and Israeli attitude and objective in the Kurdish operation when he had stated: “…..Covert action….should not be confused with missionary work.” The declared Kurdish leaders of various factions should seriously heed the call of history. By responsibly accepting, for now, greater autonomy in Iraq to an unattainable independence objective that can very well drag the brave, courageous Kurdish people into yet another disastrous and consequential calamity witnessed in Syria, Libya, and the greater Middle East – as envisaged and proven by the unscrupulous foreign interests.
The United States and Israeli support for the Kurds right now are based on their strategic and tactical interests, period. The recent statement by the Pentagon that all arms given to the Kurdish fighters will be retrieved after the defeat of ISIS and as unrealistic it may sound is supposed to reassure Turkey, NATO’s southern flank partner about its policy toward Kurdistan. There is no doubt that because of their shortsighted and an unattainable “policy” in the long run and as sure as eggs is eggs, the United States and Israel will eventually abandon both the Syrian and the Kurdish factions they are supporting solely for their strategic purposes. Just as they have always done previously on other occasions over the past decades.