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Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Posts Tagged ‘Kurds

Fighting Iran with Kurds

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What follows is a must-read analysis of Turkey’s new Kurdish problem by M. K. Bhadrakumar. With a few crucial twists and turns, it all boils down to the U.S.-Iran conflict—with Turkey as a beneficiary. Read the whole article (here):

U.S., Turkey, and Iraqi Kurds join hands
M. K. Bhadrakumar; Asia Times Online; Apr. 23, 2012

The tensions between Turkey and Iraq have been steadily building up, and of late they have sharply escalated. The “crisis in Iraq” referred to in the Turkish statement is Maliki’s ongoing political battle with Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, which has taken a sectarian Shi’ite-Sunni dimension. In sum, Turkey has waded into Iraq’s sectarian politics and is positioning itself on the side of the Sunnis and the Kurds.

Conceivably, Washington and Ankara are acting in tandem and there is close coordination of the US and Turkish policies toward Syrian and Iraqi Kurds. For both, the ultimate objective is to weaken Iran’s regional influence. The Obama administration hopes that Turkey’s efforts against the PKK are successful and is providing intelligence support for the military operations.

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Written by M. James

April 23, 2012 at 7:10 pm

The new Kurdish problem

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Regarding Turkey and the [d]evolution of Syria, I recently posted:

[The Turks] have also been undoubtedly fearing one particular result of regime collapse in Syria.

Kurds.

The problem, of course, is that the Kurds are being excluded, or excluding themselves, from the SNC—effectively excluding themselves from the future of Syria. The suggestion is that they have something else in mind. All things being equal, this should worry the Turks, who have been dealing with the “Kurdish problem” since the beginning of the Republic.

This new problem has not escaped the columnists at Today’s Zaman. Here, to begin, is a brief history:

The Kurds were unable to develop a major political movement until the late 1950s. There was no major problem between Arabs and Kurds then either. Yet, with the emergence of the Baathists as a dominant force in 1956, tension broke out between Arabs and Kurds and has continued to today. Arab nationalism had a negative effect on the relations between the Kurds and the political regime, driving the Kurds away from the military. Kurdish lands were redistributed under land reform policies, beginning with the Agricultural Relations Law, Kurdish geographical names were changed and various Arab clans were deployed from other parts of the country to the Kurdish regions to create an Arab zone.

When Hafez al-Assad of Syria started to support the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Syria’s Kurdish issue became somewhat connected to Turkey’s. Siding with Iran during the war between Iran and Iraq, Syria did not refrain from cooperating with Iraqi Kurds against Saddam Hussein. Thus, by supporting the PKK and establishing relations with Iraqi Kurds, Syria managed to divert the political potential of Syrian Kurds to these areas.

And here is an outline of the new problem:

This much is clear: As in Iraq, the Syrian crisis is potentially giving birth to a Kurdish autonomous region. That will be historically critical for all other states. It is time to realize that the Arab Spring has a strong inner Kurdish Spring effect. The Kurdish question is before regional states like Turkey, Iraq and Syria. If the Kurds gain the ability to have two regional governments, the traditional strategy of “solution within the nation-state” may fall forever. There is another major development: Despite their differences on other issues, Turkey, Syria and Iran were united on the Kurdish issue. Such a coalition no longer exists. Forty years ago, Iraq was part of this nation-state coalition against the Kurds. Iraq was dismissed in the 1990s. Syria can be similarly dismissed.

A second Kurdish autonomous region will bring Kurdish politics to a final phase: nation building. One need not be a genius to see that such a development may cause border changes some time in the future. Then the final questions will be these: Shall we have several autonomous Kurdish regions? Shall we have them be part of a regional state like Turkey or Iraq? Or, shall we have an independent Kurdish state to unite all these autonomous Kurdish regions?

Then again, is an autonomous Kurdish state really a problem for Turkey? It depends on a number of factors, of course, but a new, accountable Kurdish state could be exactly what Turkey needs in order to put an end to Kurdish separatism.

Written by M. James

April 10, 2012 at 12:45 am

Syria: On your mark, get set…

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I outlined in my last post the reasons to believe that Bashar al-Assad is on the way out. First, the Saudis are now overtly arming the opposition; and second, the U.S. and Turkey are overtly providing “nonlethal” assistance, a vacuous claim in the face of the undoubtedly coordinated effort with Saudi Arabia.

The real significance is in the first event, however, which establishes an ethnic Arab mandate for NATO to latch on to. This anti-Assad mandate has only been strengthened today by Syria’s “rejection” of “any Arab League initiative” to end the crisis. Bashar al-Assad, already ostracized by the Arab community, will now be perceived as completely beyond reason. He is, effectively, no longer an Arab.

The second event, “nonlethal” assistance, is just a first step toward a now-plausible Plan B—NATO troops on the ground (they’re getting ready). But Plan A is still in effect, and the training, assisting, and arming of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) will continue in Turkey. But even more important will be the training of the Syrian National Council (SNC), which has been officially chosen as the sole representative of the Syrian opposition. Though some assure us that the Syrians are well-equipped for a government restructuring, actions have thus far spoken louder than words. The SNC will have all it can do to convince the world it isn’t just another Libyan NTC.

At the moment, though, there is one missing piece. The Turks, the dogs that barked but wouldn’t bite, suddenly seem ready to bite—after a timely meeting from President Obama. But it would be an oversight to say that the Saudis’ lethal assistance in Syria was the Turks’ breaking point. Although the Turks are not ethnic Arabs, and (given their Ottoman past, especially) need the Arab mandate just as much as the rest of NATO, they have also been undoubtedly fearing one particular result of regime collapse in Syria.

Kurds.

And here’s more reason for the Turks to be afraid:

Most of the opposition factions present signed the statement [to recognize the SNC as the formal representative of the Syrian people] except for a few representatives of Kurdish factions upset over the absence of a reference to a settlement for Kurdish Syrians.

So why, suddenly, is Turkey sending its generals to the Syrian border, hosting the SNC conference, and smiling in the face of Syrian anarchy—and unhappy Kurds?

I imagine it has something to do with what Obama said during that “one-hour and 45 minute meeting” with Erdoğan.

Bashar al-Assad knew that his regime’s collapse would change things in the Middle East. We are about to find out what he meant.

Written by M. James

March 28, 2012 at 11:24 pm