July 16, 2006

Will Americans implement the Kissingerian Concept of Status Quo?

Globe Editorial
Behrooz Shojai

In a memorandum dating December 15, 1975, Henry Kissinger, American Secretary of State assures the Iraqi Ambassador to France, Saadun Hammadi, that there should be no concern over the Kurdish issue in Iraq. In the same year, the US-backed Shah of Iran withdrew his support for the Kurdish movement in Iraq, in a humiliating move for the Kurds that led them to realize they were merely pawns in a wider Cold War game. Kissinger’s aim in the Middle East was to maintain the status quo and improve relations with Arab states in order to prevent them being drawn into the Soviet sphere of influence.

Now the Cold War has passed, the only Middle Eastern states opposed to US interests are the Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria. However, the Arab population in general is hostile towards America, and if there was democracy in the Middle East, it is believed that there would not be a single vote in support of regimes supported by the United States. Islamist movements have replaced communism and the Middle East will be a formidable challenge to the US administration for a long time to come.

Fortune has favored the Kurds these days. Decades of long struggles lacerated the already wounded Kurdish movement, and yet all they achieved was Anfal and Halabja. It was thanks to the imprudent actions of Saddam that the West maintained the safe haven for the Kurds in northern Iraq and it was the foolish decision on the part of Saddam’s side not to cooperate with the US-led coalition that helped to consolidate the Kurdish position. In the hostile milieu of the Middle East, it is only the Kurdish and Jewish people that have sympathy for the USA.
Not even Turkey can claim the same level of support amongst its population. America cannot easily forget the Turkish parliament’s decision to vote against permitting a US invasion of Iraq from Turkey.

There remain concerns about US support for the Kurds. Does it depend on the politics of the Middle East? Will the Kurds be sacrificed for US interests? It does not look likely, but now it is for the Kurds to wipe out the slightest sign of such an omen. There are no threats to the Kurds from the rest of Iraq for a long time to come – they are too enmeshed in a civil war to be united against the Kurds. This gives the Kurds time to forward their position and with great zest work for the consolidation of their democracy and National Guard.

However, whilst there is no imminent threat from within Iraq, there remains a threat from the Kurds’ northern neighbors, Turkey. A future vulnerable to a state suffering from Kurd-phobia is inadvisable. It may sound unrealistic, but only a balance like that of China and Taiwan would quell our uneasy neighbor’s quest for southward expansion.

As for the USA, they should realize that the political geography of the Middle East will continue to foment terrorism. Shattering the status quo is indeed in the favor of America’s long-term interests. The US should play an active role in a peaceful settlement of the Kurdish question in Turkey. Perhaps in doing so they will be able to avoid the simplistic “good guys, bad guys” discourse and will gain a formidable ally in the heart of the Middle East.