by Tahir Mahmoud (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 8, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1437)
President Erdogan’s policies are leading toward facilitating the establishment of the Kurdish State in Northern Iraq while he thinks he is undermining the Kurds in Syria and Turkey.
Through his military aggression against Syria, Turkish President Erdogan is involuntarily facilitating the Kurds in Iraq an opportunity to declare independence. It will cost Turkey dearly.
Since the start of the proxy-war against Syria, Ankara has made numerous strategic miscalculations in its policy vis-à-vis Syria by buying into Washington’s imperialist design. By initiating military aggression against the Kurdish militia in Syria, the AKP regime may solve its short-term problem, but is involuntarily facilitating a Kurdish state in Iraq.
Anyone with even rudimentary familiarity with secessionist Kurdish politics would know that one of the principle reasons the Kurds have not managed to establish an independent state so far is because the Kurdish separatist movement is itself bitterly divided. To understand how deep the intra-Kurdish divisions go, let us take a short tour into history.
In the 1990s, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fought Massoud Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and engaged in armed conflict with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). In 2013, PKK backed the Change Movement (Goran) against Barzani’s rule in Northern Iraq.
Between 1994 and 1998, the two main Iraqi Kurdish parties, Masoud Barzani’s KDP and Jalal Talabani’s PUK, fought a civil war in which Barzani sided with Saddam Hussein by jointly fighting PUK in Erbil.
Today, while the Syrian Kurdish group, the Democratic Union Party, better known by its acronym PYD, is a sworn enemy of the Turkish government, Barzani-ruled northern Iraq has an alliance with Ankara that Barzani uses in intra-Kurdish politics against other Kurds.
At the moment the Barzani (northern Iraq) faction is the strongest among the various Kurdish secessionist groups as it enjoys direct US and Israeli support, along with friendly relations with Iran and Turkey. In a highly unlikely scenario, if the Kurds of the region were to declare independence today, the Barzani faction will be the Kurdish kingmaker, something other Kurdish factions resent as much as Turkish, Iraqi, or Syrian control.
By attacking the PYD and the PKK, Turkey is further strengthening the Barzani faction and might weaken other Kurdish factions to the point of no revival. This might force other Kurdish parties to subordinate themselves to the semi-independent entity ruled by Barzani in northern Iraq. Once other Kurdish parties accept Barzani’s dominance, Washington and Tel Aviv can and probably will make a call for the establishment of the Kurdish state at the expense of Iraq.
Tel Aviv is very open in its support for an independent Kurdish state, as it will automatically threaten Islamic Iran, whom it sees as a strategic threat to its occupation of Palestine. Washington cannot be blatantly pro-independent Kurdistan in the Muslim East, as it will spoil its relations with Turkey and some Arab nationalist factions in Iraq.
Nevertheless, what is important to keep in mind is that while the PKK and PYD are organized militias, Kurdish-ruled northern Iraq possesses statehood attributes and state-like resources along with external non-regional support. Northern Iraq is a de-facto independent Kurdish state. Baghdad has almost no control over northern Iraq and it is highly improbable that Barzani does not realize the important role he can fulfill for Washington and the Zionist entity, if they decide to increase pressure on Iran and Turkey.
If Turkey crushes the already weak PYD in Syria and weakens the PKK, the northern Iraqi faction of the Kurds will have no worries in establishing its dominance over the Kurdish secessionist scene and pursue independence with US and Zionist backing.
Tel Aviv and Washington would love to see their strategic allies in northern Iraq consolidate power among pro-independence Kurds in the region as it will be easier for them to manage the Kurdistan project. By having a pro-US leadership among the Kurds positioned on top, it will use the Kurdish question as a destabilization tool for the entire region.
At the moment the Kurdish political scene is too fragmented, so it will create a lot of headache for the US and the Zionist entity in managing the Kurdistan project in its current form. Washington and Tel Aviv are waiting to cultivate the right circumstances. One of their key priorities is to subordinate all Kurdish factions to the northern Iraq faction ,which they have infiltrated.
The Kurdish issue in the Muslim East should also be seen as Washington’s plan B once the Zionist occupation of Palestine collapses. The Kurdistan project doubles as a substitute for Israel.
Therefore, it is crucial for regional powers like Iran, Syria, and Turkey to give long overdue rights to the Kurds. While Iran managed to appease many Kurdish grievances, the latest being the establishment of the Kurdish Language and Literature program at the University of Kurdistan, based on Article 15 of the Iranian Constitution, Syria and Turkey have been slow in addressing many hot and legitimate Kurdish demands.
This process must be speeded up as the Kurdish secessionist scene has always been prone to non-regional infiltration. During the cold war, the PKK freelanced as a Soviet proxy and recently after years of holding a decent position in Syria, PYD leader Saleh Muslim, after frequenting Western capitals began more actively pushing for the partition of Syria and asked for direct assistance from Barzani in this matter.
Turkey’s shortsighted policy on PYD in Syria must be solved at the regional level jointly between Ankara, Damascus, and Tehran. The premise of this solution should be granting Kurds some form of autonomy, be it territorial or communal. By denying the legitimate aspirations of Kurds for cultural autonomy and equal rights, the region is pushing the Kurds into Washington’s strategic trap set up against Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey.
Wisdom and common sense dictate that the Kurds’ legitimate demands should be accommodated so that they operate within the framework of the states they are situated in. The Muslim East (aka Middle East) cannot afford any more fragmentations or wars.