Our Kurdish Problem
The Kurds are "cleansing" their domain and provoking
a civil war in Iraq
by Justin Raimondo
It didn't take long for the "liberated" Iraqis
to turn on each other. While no one expected the Sunni Arabs
of central Iraq to take the de-Ba'athification of the country
lying down, the Iraqi "constitution" had barely been
printed up and distributed before large cracks began to appear
in the edifice of the nascent Iraqi state. "President"
Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK),
just the other day called on the Iraqi prime minister to resign,
and while he backtracked a bit later on, the future of a united
Iraq is looking grim. On the eve of Iraq's long-awaited constitutional
referendum, the country shows every sign of imploding.
The Kurds didn't even wait for the ink to dry on the proposed
constitution before they started pushing for de facto independence
and pushing Arabs and Turkmen out of Kurdish-controlled
cities. Eager to seize control of oil-rich Kirkuk [.pdf], which
they claim as their historical Jerusalem, the two major Kurdish
factions are demanding that the city be turned over to them
and that thousands of Arabs and others settled there during the
reign of Saddam Hussein be uprooted and sent back to wherever.
That the ethnic cleansing of Kurdistan hasn't been completed
yet is Talabani's biggest beef: the goal of the two big Kurdish
parties, the PUK and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), has
always been the creation of a "pure" Kurdish state,
and the politics of post-Saddam Iraq have speeded up the implementation
of their program. The Kurdish parties are mobilizing all their
resources in preparation for the coming census, which will determine
the voter lists for the upcoming parliamentary elections in January.
They want to ensure that they control not only the three provinces
in which they hold a majority Dohuk, Irbil, and Suleimaniya
but also seek to grab control of Kirkuk, which is split
almost evenly between Kurds and Arabs, and includes a sizable
Turkish minority that hardly looks forward to Kurdish dominance.
Kirkuk was a garrison city maintained by the Ottomans as
their local military base until the breakup of the Ottoman empire,
when it reverted to the Arabs. It wasn't until oil was discovered
in the 1920s that the Kurds came to their "Jerusalem"
as their propaganda portrays it when the oil companies
had to bring in workers. The population remained fairly evenly
divided between Arabs and Kurds, even under Saddam Hussein
whose "resettlement" policies were aimed at driving
an Arab wedge into Kurdish resistance to Ba'athist rule. However,
today, in "liberated" Iraq, the Kurdish party militias
(known as "peshmerga," which translates as "those
who are willing to die"), are carrying out an ethnic cleansing
of their own. Middle East expert Dilip Hiro recounts the sad
"Assisted by Kurdish-dominated local security forces,
tens of thousands of Kurds have forced Arabs from their homes,
creating at least 100,000 new refugees living in squalid camps
in north-central Iraq. This has engendered widespread anti-Kurdish
feeling among Arabs in the region and beyond. Anti-Kurdish graffiti,
attacking Kurds for collaborating with the 'infidel occupiers,'
is a commonplace in the Shia districts of Kirkuk. Viewing Iraq
as a whole, it is safe to say that if the country slides into
a civil war, it would not be between Sunnis and Shias, but between
Arabs and Kurds and it will start in Kirkuk."
Arab and Turkmen families are being turned out at gunpoint.
The Kurds, unleashed by their American "liberators,"
have engaged in a program of systematic kidnapping, in which
anyone who resists their rule is "disappeared" and
spirited away to an underground jail, as the Washington Post
reported. A grand total of 50 have so far been released, and
the U.S. military is taking credit for negotiating this display
of Kurdish magnanimity. Since the abductions were carried out
under U.S. auspices, and often with the assistance of American
Army units in the region, this is less admirable than it seems.
Hundreds, perhaps more, still languish in Kurdish prisons, where
they are routinely tortured.
The Kurds have enjoyed a largely undeserved reputation as
the most democratic, admirable, and American-like of Iraq's minorities,
mainly on account of their Official Victim status. They were,
after all, treated horribly by the Ba'athists: Saddam slaughtered
them by the thousands, ruthlessly crushing a series of rebellions
against Baghdad's rule albeit at the invitation of the
Kurdish Democratic Party, which today shares power with Talabani
and the PUK.
Now that they are on top, however, the Kurds are instituting
their own reign of terror, one with the potential to be every
bit as brutal as the Ba'athist version. Meet the new boss
same as the old boss. It's an old song, and the lyrics aren't
any different when they're sung in Kurdish.
The Kurds are the Kosovars of the Middle East: that is, they
are unrelentingly aggressive, fanatically tribal, and willing
nay, eager to place themselves completely at the
disposal of the Americans (or whomever) in order to achieve their
dream of an ethnically pure Kurdish state. Theirs is the bloody
legacy of 19th-century romantic nationalism, which caused two
world wars and birthed twin totalitarian monstrosities, national
socialism and Bolshevism. Rival nationalist and supranational
ideologies initially fought it out on the battlefields of Europe,
but the scene of the collision has lately shifted to the Middle
East portending a tragedy that towers above the first.
To envision the future of Kurdistan, one has only to look
at the reality of Kosovo today: the result of the "liberation"
of that former province of Yugoslavia has been the forced removal
of practically all the Serbs and the establishment of a thugocracy
lorded over by the Kosovo "Liberation" Army. In a single
year, over 300 Serbian Orthodox churches were destroyed by Kosovar
terrorism, all under the watchful eye of the NATO occupiers.
Today, Kosovo is run by the Albanian equivalent of the Mafia:
the main industries are drug-smuggling, human trafficking, and
the contraband arms trade. The place is a terrorists' shopping
Like Kosovo, Kurdistan is dominated by various clans, each
with their traditional territory and ancient grievances. The
Kurds, however, have it worse, in some ways, because they are
saddled with two competing gangs of thugs, the PUK and the KDP,
which extort protection money from smugglers and local businessmen
and often engage in internecine wars. The two parties are ostensibly
devoted to the idea of Kurdish independence, but in the past
both have been so busy colluding with outsiders the KDP
cuddling up to Saddam, the PUK allying with Iran and advancing
their own narrow partisan and economic interests that this goal
has often been forgotten. Yet now the Kurds are remembering it
and pressuring their leaders to act.
The U.S., which needs them to fight the insurgency, is cooperating
in every way possible short of calling for their formal independence.
U.S. forces, ostensibly pursuing insurgents coming in through
neighboring Syria, have attacked the Turkmen city of Tal Afar,
effectively supplementing the Kurdish ethnic cleansing campaign
by bombing the area and leveling the city.
As Patrick Cockburn, writing in the [UK] Independent,
"Days after the fall of Saddam the Kurdistan Democratic
Party appointed its own mayor called Abdul Haleq in the city.
He ran up a yellow Kurdish flag outside his office. He was told
by local people to take it down or die. He refused and was killed
the following day. His office, along with the yellow flag, was
burned by an angry crowd."
Now the Kurds wielding the American military as their
instrument have had their revenge. The yellow flag will
soon be raised over the smoking ruins of the city, and the voter
registration rolls will be filled with Kurdish and not
Turkish names. "Democracy" triumphs once again,
and we all ought to be properly inspired. Why, it's almost enough
to bring tears to my eyes.
Aside from the overwhelming American presence, there is also
the less obtrusive but no less important presence of the Israelis.
Seymour Hersh broke the story of how the Israelis have penetrated
Kurdistan in the wake of the American invasion and are using
it as a forward base from which to keep a close eye on the Iranians.
This piece, which first appeared in Le Figaro, reports
some trouble on that front, a "conflict of interests"
between the Israelis and Talabani, who has a history of good
relations with the Iranians and has to keep up the pretense of
upholding the fictitious unity of the Iraqi state:
"Yet the conflict helped retighten the partnership
between Mossad, the Israeli secret service, and Kurdish officials
allies for thirty years against the nationalist regime
in Baghdad. For Israel, it was a question of promoting the Kurds'
federal aspirations and of containing Iranian influence in Iraq.
'After the hostilities, the Israelis, worried to see thousands
of so-called Iranian pilgrims penetrate Iraq, tried in vain to
convince Americans to close the Iran-Iraq border,' Patrick Clawson,
Associate Director of the American research center Washington
Institute for Near East Policy, explained to Le Figaro. But the
United States, anxious not to obstruct their Iraqi Shi'ite allies,
"The Israelis, observing that their allies were getting
stuck, then decided to take things in hand. In Erbil and Suleymanieh,
Israeli instructors, often disguised as businessmen, were charged
with improving the training of the Peshmerga, the Kurdish militia.
According to French military intelligence, at the beginning of
2004, about 1,200 agents from Mossad or from Israeli military
intelligence were operating in Kurdistan. Their mission: to get
Kurdish commando groups on their feet that would be strong enough
to counter the Shi'ite militias in southern Iraq, the latter
more or less manipulated by Tehran."
Due to growing American displeasure, however, the number of
Israeli agents in Kurdish territory has now supposedly been reduced
to around 100. Or perhaps the others are merely keeping a low
profile. Have the Israelis meekly submitted to the Americans
and largely abandoned Kurdistan? Le Figaro doesn't give
us any reason to believe it:
"'We've gotten strong pressure from Washington to
stop our maneuvers with the Kurds,' confides an Israeli sent
to Erbil under academic cover. 'The Americans are no longer in
agreement with Israeli plans,' he asserts. Washington no longer
wants to tolerate a presence embarrassing for its interests."
Well then, what is this Israeli "academic" doing
there, exactly? Washington may not want to tolerate the Israelis
egging on the Kurds, but U.S. policymakers and military leaders
may not have much choice. The Kurdish-Israeli relationship, as
author Georges Malbrunot avers, is some 30 years old and not
about to be dissolved by an American edict. Kurdistan is crawling
with Israeli agents who have the ability to make plenty of trouble
for the central government in Baghdad and the Americans.
A three-way civil war, pitting the Kurds against both the
Shi'ite south and the Sunni-led insurgency, is a looming possibility,
one made more probable by the American (and Israeli) presence,
which acts as a spur to Kurdish separatism. This would be but
the prelude to a regional struggle that would draw in not only
Iran but also Turkey and Syria, which have their restive Kurdish
minorities, as well as Jordan and perhaps even the Saudis.
It isn't just Iraq that's imploding: it's the entire region.
This is what the neocons have always wanted: Michael Ledeen hails
"creative destruction" as the operating principle of
the "revolutionary" Bush Doctrine, which is supposed
to be spreading capital-D Democracy throughout the Middle East.
However, as we are seeing in Kurdistan, and throughout Iraq,
what is spreading is not democratic liberalism but sectarian
hatred and war. A civil war, to start, morphing quickly
into a regional conflagration.
The irony is that all the factors supposed to be standing
in the way of this tragic result the U.S. military, the
Iraqi "constitution," the once and future elections
are only exacerbating the crisis. The Americans level Tal
Afar and encourage the Kurdish rampage. The "constitution,"
which is supposed to settle outstanding ethno-religious conflicts
and regional rivalries, instead only worsens them. The elections
are an occasion of a scrambling for advantage, with the majority
Shi'ites holding the upper hand a result, as we have seen,
that the Kurds are not about to accept without a fight.
As Iran and Israel face off on Iraqi terrain and the country
falls into chaos and civil war, U.S. troops are caught in the
crossfire and still our politicians do nothing. Both parties,
as Cindy Sheehan has discovered in her meetings with Republican
and Democratic warmongers alike, are committed to our foreign
policy of global intervention, especially when it comes to Iraq.
Chuck Schumer's aide told her the war is "good for America"
a crackpot belief shared by John McCain and the neocon-run
As we fall into the Middle Eastern abyss, there is no one
to throw us a rope or so much as an outstretched hand: we are
falling, falling, falling, imagining what it will feel like when
we hit bottom.