Monday, July 14, 2014

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Kurds And Their Ways

Many have noted, in the current centenary observance of
the beginning of World War I, that among the ongoing
direct consequences of that global conflict and its aftermath
was the Middle East map created at the 1919 Versailles
conference. As with many of the contrived boundaries
formulated at Versailles that year to satisfy the victors’
(Great Britain, France, Italy, the United States) revenge
against the vanquished powers (Germany, Austro-Hungary,
Turkey) AND their territorial ambitions, the lines drawn,
and the new nations created, were mostly artificial and
unstable, often ignoring the historic religious and ethnic
groups in disputed areas.

In addition to the punitive terms against Germany, the
most egregious acts of the resulting treaties were in the
Middle East. The British government’s false promises to
both the Jews in Palestine and the Arabs throughout the
region are by now well-known and were chronically
problematic. Concessions to Italy in North Africa backfired
before and during World War II. The aspirations of
religious and ethnic groups were usually ignored. The
dissolution of the vast Turkish empire did lead to a
post-war revolution and the creation of a democratic
secular regime in the now-smaller nation of Turkey, but
even there the seeds of minority ethnic persecution
and unfulfilled national aspirations festered.

Among the smaller but historic and culturally-rich groups
in that region were the Armenians and the Kurds. The
Armenians are Christians; the Kurds are Moslems.
The former suffered genocidal and violent persecutions
between the world wars, their populations were divided
into the regions controlled by hostile larger groups.
Eventually, following the break-up of the Soviet Union in the
early 1990’s, an independent democratic Armenian state was
created, fulfilling the aspirations of the first Armenian
nation that existed 2600 years ago

The Kurds, on the other hand, have not been allowed their
own state, although a revolt in 1922 declared the short-lived
kingdom of Kurdistan that was suppressed in 1924, and its
territory was turned over to the British mandate of Iraq.

When Saddam Hussein was overthrown through U.S.
intervention in 2003, the Kurds of Iraq, living most in the
north of that country, formed a semi-autonomous
province, and although part of Iraq, they have for the most
part controlled their area with their own leaders. As the
U.S. has completely withdrawn from Iraq, and the central
government in Baghdad faces insurrection from a new
terrorist offshoot from Al-Qaeda which now proclaims
itself the new Islamic “caliphate,” the Kurds have seized
on the Iraqi disorder to reclaim and secure nearby areas
and cities which were historically Kurdish lands.

Importantly, Turkey, which has long opposed an independent
Kurdistan on it border, has reversed itself and now accepts
Kurdish national aspirations in Iraq.

It is, as many have now observed, a rare opportunity to at
least in a small way to repair the current Middle East map
by creating an independent Kurdish nation. The Kurds are
Moslems, but they are generally pro-Western and opposed
to Islamic terrorism. If given their own nation, and
supported by the U.S. and Europe, they would likely be
another island of balance to the rabid anti-Americanism in
Iran and Syria. Because the Kurdish territory contains
some of the current Iraqi oil fields, an independent Kurdish
state could be economically self-sufficient. Since the
population would be mostly ethnically and religiously
homogeneous, an independent  Kurdish republic would
likely have few of the tensions so prevalent in the current
“artificial” nations of Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
Longer-term, Kurdish minorities throughout the region
could settle in the new Kurdish state. Located between
Turkey and Iran, it could serve as a buffer between
conflicting Islamic forces in the region. Israel is known
to be ready to welcome an independent Kurdish state,
and would promptly add the new nation as a friendly
trading partner.

The Obama administration has stubbornly opposed a
new Kurdish nation as a threat to Iraqi “unity,” but any
true unity now seems beyond any possible reality in the
present political situation. The United States should be
advancing Kurdish national aspirations, not blocking

Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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