Rescue and Abandonment
Kurdishaspect.com - By Dr. Rashid Karadaghi
In his informative article, “The Fight of Their Lives,” (The New Yorker, September 29, 2014), Dexter Filkins describes the relationship between the Kurds and the United States as “a series of swings between rescue and abandonment, between gratitude and distrust.” In these few perceptive words, Filkins accurately sums up the ups-and-downs in the American-Kurdish relationship in the last fifty-or-so years.
The relationship between the Kurds and the United States has been an underlying theme of the four articles I have written in the last two-and-a-half months, since the siege of Kobani. Some may wonder why I keep coming back to this very theme. Well, for very obvious reasons, for no one can afford to ignore the critical role the U.S. plays in world affairs today. We know that very little can get done in the world today without the U.S. support or blessing. This is not to underestimate the role of other Western countries as a whole in international affairs, but what is undeniable is that the U.S. remains the glue without which little can be accomplished.
What the Kurds are hoping for in their relationship with the U.S. is more “rescues” and no “abandonments,” so that there will only be gratitude and no distrust. Any fair-minded person would agree that there have been rescues, and very critical ones, which I have alluded to in my previous article “No Friends but the Americans” --- such as the “safe haven” and no-fly zone of the nineties in South Kurdistan giving new life to the Kurds following the Anfal and Hakabja tragedies and the 1991 mass exodus --- and the critical support the Kurds have received, and are receiving today, from the U.S. in the fight against the ISIS terrorists in Kobani, where U.S. support has been indispensable, and in South Kurdistan as a whole, including the assistance given the Yazidis in Shingal.
In this relationship, however, there have also been instances of abandonments, such as the abrupt withdrawal of support in 1975 for the Kurdish fight for autonomy within Iraq, which caused a big setback to the Kurds. But we don’t want to dwell on the negative too much now, for this is a different time and the relationship today is on a different footing and it is hoped that it will grow and expand for the benefit of both sides. What we cannot overlook, however, and can only describe as abandonment, is the U.S. stance on some issues that are critical for the Kurds. The first of these issues is the sale of Kurdish oil by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and the second is the manner in which the Peshmerga is being armed. On both these issues, the U.S. has been showing too much deference to the failed state of Iraq and the Iraqi government and very little to Kurdistan and the KRG.
Since the creation of modern-day Iraq almost a hundred years ago and the discovery and sale of oil soon thereafter, oil extracted from Kurdish land has been used by successive Iraqi governments not to build up the infrastructure of the Kurdish region and serve the Kurdish people but to buy weapons to kill them with, including WMD as used in Halabja in 1988 killing over five thousand people in a matter of hours. Iraq has always used oil revenues to finance its aggressive wars against the Kurds. Aren’t the Kurds justified, therefore, in selling their own oil for their own benefit? Why should the Kurds have any loyalty to a government that has done nothing in its entire history to benefit them and has done everything in its power to annihilate them? There has been no exception to this attitude by any Iraqi government since the formation of Iraq a century ago. Furthermore, since the beginning of this year the Iraqi government has refused to send the Kurds their 17% share of Iraq’s budget, which amounts to billions of dollars. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has had to borrow money to pay for essential goods and services and pay government workers their salaries. Under these adverse circumstances, the KRG has tried to sell its oil independently without going through Baghdad, causing a big dispute with the Iraqi government. Incidentally, according to the Iraqi constitution, the Kurds have been acting within their right. In this dispute, instead of siding with what is right, which is the KRG position, the U.S. has been siding with the dysfunctional Iraqi government, a government which, like its predecessors, has shown only hostility to the U.S. and the West. The U.S. stance can only be described as abandonment.
The other example of abandonment is the manner of arming the Peshmerga. As the whole world knows, the Peshmerga have been the only effective military force on the ground fighting the ISIS terrorists. The Kurds are undoubtedly grateful for the armament and training they have been receiving from the U.S. and the coalition partners in their war against ISIS. However, all the weapons and ammunitions going to the Peshmerga have had to be inspected by and delivered through Baghdad! Does this make any sense? How long must the Kurds remain under the thumb of a government that has proven time and again that it is no less an enemy of the Kurds than ISIS?
If passed, the HR5747 Resolution by the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hopefully solve this enormous problem through authorizing arming the Peshmerga directly. We salute the author(s) and all the bipartisan supporters of this bill and hope for its swift passage by Congress and its implementation by the Administration. Congressman Ed Royce, the Foreign Affairs Committee chair, was on target when he said in a statement in November that “Despite being armed with antiquated weapons, the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces have proven to be the most effective fighting force currently fighting ISIL.” The bill correctly notes that attempts by the U.S. to resupply Kurdish forces were “constrained and delayed” by the Baghdad government. The bill also notes that, “A strong Peshmerga force is essential to countering the ISIL threat to Iraq, the region, and United States interests.” It is heart-warming to see that, finally, the positive role of the Kurds and the brave Peshmerga is being recognized by those policy-makers who, instead of accepting State Department erroneous conclusions blindly, have been looking at the facts on the ground for themselves and reaching the right conclusions. We hope for a continuation of this positive trend because it is beneficial not only to the Kurds but to the U.S. as well.
The myth of the Kurds being “the unstable element in the Middle East,” which has been fabricated and perpetuated by the enemies of the Kurds and accepted as the truth by ill-informed policy-makers in the West, has been discredited time and time again. The whole world now knows that the Kurds are the true elements of stability in the Middle East and it has always been their enemies who have caused all the atrocities in the area through their occupation of territories that is not their own. The Kurds have never occupied an inch of foreign territory; it has always been their neighbors / enemies who have occupied the Kurdish homeland. So, who is the real cause of instability, the Kurds or those who have always wanted to subjugate them and plunder their land? History is unequivocal on the answer to this question. It is about time that a stateless nation of forty million strong found its rightful place among the community of nations officially through establishing their independent state on their ancestral homeland.
When all is said and done, the ultimate question will be: What will happen to the Kurdish-American relationship when, sooner or later, ISIS is defeated or its threat diminished? Will there be another abandonment by the U.S., or will the current level of support and co-operation between the U.S. and the Kurds be built on and expanded? Does the critical role the Kurds have been playing, and will play, in fighting the scourge of ISIS count for anything? Will the loyalty and the friendship of the Kurds to the U.S. and the West as a whole and their commitment to Western values of freedom, democracy, and human rights amount to any tangible results? Exactly what does it take for the Kurds to have a seat at the table, to be accepted as a country, and not merely as an annexed-by-force part of another country, like the 193 members of the UN, some of whom are outright enemies of all the democratic values that we value so much? Let us hope that the skeptics will be disappointed.