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U.S. Should Support an Independent Kurdish State

A strategy to deal with the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq before we lose our influence in the region.

by
Jim Hanson and Brad Patty

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July 6, 2014 - 11:32 pm
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America desperately needs a strategy to deal with the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq before we lose our influence in the region. This strategy should be based on creating more stable political structures and should also require limited U.S. military involvement.

A powerful first step would be to encourage, then endorse, a free and independent Kurdish state. It can serve as an example of good governance that serves its people and also become an ally we can rely on in an extremely volatile region.

It is reasonable to question whether such a state is politically possible. But amidst all the concern over the resurgence of violence in Iraq between Sunni extremists and the largely Shia government, the Kurds have created a new reality on the ground. Kurdish Peshmerga forces now occupy the oil center of Kirkuk after Iraqi military forces abandoned the city. That completes their control of the northern oil fields and the pipeline shipping  oil to Turkey. Although irregulars, the Peshmerga are the most competent fighting forces in Iraq and they have a good chance of holding their gains.

Another factor pointing to the potential viability of this new state is the delivery of a million barrels of Kurdish oil to Israel by way of Turkey. The Kurds recently signed a 50-year agreement to sell oil to the Turks, but were involved in a bitter dispute with the Iraqi government, which claims sole authority to sell oil. Baghdad’s loss of sovereign control of the regions outside the Shi’a heartlands leaves it unable to stop the shipments, and the Kurds have proven they can deliver on their deal with Turkey.

The arrangement with Turkey includes a major policy shift for the government in Ankara, which had long opposed the idea of an independent Kurdistan. Huseyin Celik, a spokesman for the Turkish Justice and Development Party, told a Kurdish newspaper this month, “The Kurds of Iraq can decide for themselves the name and type of the entity they are living in.” The Turkish government has previously opposed a partitioning of Iraq so this change, along with the oil deal, offers an unprecedented opportunity for the Kurds to make the move they have always wanted and declare a free state.

The more difficult question is whether the new Kurdish state should encompass all of what is commonly known as Kurdistan. That includes not just the portions of Iraq they currently govern, but parts of Turkey, Iran and Syria. It seems possible that Turkey has already resigned itself to the idea and sees the Kurds as a reliable trading partner and a buffer from the chaos in Iraq. It is much less likely that Iran and Syria would be so sanguine regarding the situation. But that is not a reason to shy away from the greater Kurdistan solution. Neither of those countries is acting in good faith with us on any number of issues and a reminder that we can still act as the strong horse could actually help that.

The United States should encourage and back this declaration fully. We should recognize the state and establish an embassy once it is made. The truth is that the U.S. has few legitimate allies in the region, but a Kurdish free state would create one. We developed a large amount of good will with them by enforcing no-fly zones that stopped Saddam Hussein’s genocidal attacks on their population. The Kurds welcomed American forces during the Iraq war and provided some of the most reliable forces that fought alongside us during that long conflict. U.S. support for a Kurdish state could cement that relationship and provide us with an actual partner and friend in the most volatile region in the world. It would also provide a secure base from which we could operate Special Forces or drone-strike missions to constrain the fighting in the other parts of Iraq.

Top Rated Comments   
This is such an obvious and constructive move. It would help stabilize the only pro American area left in Mesopotamia, and would finally give the Kurds a homeland which would, miraculously, be born not just at peace, but as an ally of Turkey.

It is indeed so obviously in our national interest that I expect that President Obama will begin bombing the Kurds at any moment, thus making them easy prey for ISIS. At the very least John Kerry will condemn the idea and align with Russia China Syria and Iran in the UN to forever bar the Kurds from official recognition.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (21)
All Comments   (21)
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How are so many people so sure that increasing or sustaining U.S. influence in the Middle East is a good thing? We have a president that is still determined to help "rebels" topple the Christian-respecting, Shia-respecting government of Syria in favor of Sunni fundamentalists. Gulf regimes have also aided these Christian-beheading forces while Iran helped the government of Syria hold off the opposition and they're doing the same for Iraq's government. But Iran is apparently one of the designated enemies, so they must be a government and country full of meanies and nothing else. And now we must read on our "conservative" websites things like,

"A political solution where our Awakening-era allies among the Sunni tribes are returned to power is another strategically valuable outcome. This may or may not mean a free state for them, depending on the course of the negotiations. It needs to at least provide significant autonomy, as the Shi’a-led government has proven it will not fairly guard the interests of its minority populations. It must also be a solution the powerful Sunni tribes feel they have an interest in defending. More Sunni autonomy will also provide a buffer between the Iranian-influenced regions of Iraq and the Levant. The Iranians have powerful influence in the regions of Iraq populated by Shi’a Muslims and their defense of the government in Baghdad has only strengthened their hand."

Assad (with the help of Iran) protecting Christians is something that many of America's self-proclaimed conservatives still refuse to respect but apparently some of them are now really concerned about the interests of Iraq's Sunni minority. What the hell is the goal in the region? Just make it up as we go along and pretend that the U.S. is always right? What about the people standing up for Christians and Shias? It shouldn't be about America.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm not anti-Sunni and I hope the majority of Sunni Arabs get what they want out of this, nation-wise. I guess many Sunnis feel that there needs to be a Sunni movement to combat ISIS, which is understandable. But Iran is not the bad guy.

Considering what has happened to Shias at the hands of the so-called Syrian revolution and what's been happening to Shias recently at the hands of ISIS in Iraq, it's hard to blame Iran for their support of the current Iraqi government. And to say that Iran is "our greater concern" over ISIS is crazy. Though I guess it all depends on what "our" is.

Western and Gulf nations have been fueling terrorism in Syria for a while in hopes of fundamentally changing the country. The West/Israel/Gulf nations don't have the moral high ground in the region over Iran.

I don't have any reason that I know of to dislike the Kurds. Maybe Kurds in Iraq are feeling they have no choice but to separate from that country now (due to a problem created by ISIS, not Iran). Hopefully they can become free if they need to and/or if the majority of Iraqi Kurds really want to but hopefully they can do this without adding to pointless anti-Iran sentiment.
6 weeks ago
6 weeks ago Link To Comment
A free Kurdistan would upset Iran. Many ethnic Kurds along the border rejoins. This would de-stabilize Iran some. Seems like a good idea.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Pax Americana, such as it is, consists of Israel, Egypt, and Jordan. Iraq would be nice but it's only a dream. Turkey is keeping its distance. The Kurds would be a great and good addition to America's clear allies in the region.

Syria cannot stand in Kurdistan's way. It has its own fish to fry.

This could possibly strengthen shia Iraq by clarifying its positions.

Turkey has already allied itself with Iraqi Kurdistan. No one is more surprised than me. Perhaps the Turks like the idea of Iraq broken into portions.

The main problem remains Iran. They've already said they are against a sovereign Iraqi Kurdistan. I have no doubt they'll use their terrorist proxies against it. If the US supports Iraqi Kurdistan I don't see how the Iranians can effectively stand in its way.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Speaking from Israel, it's not precisely peaceful here. And the US has generally been wishy-washy. I would call it a Pax Israelitica.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Keeping Iraq together was a "mistake we had to make". The alternative was dismembering the nation. Unfortunately, had we done so at the time, it would have flown in the face of our stated mission, which was NOT to dismember Iraq, just eliminate the regime.

In hindsight, a serious mistake. We should have recognized Kurdistan's independence in 2001. Keeping Iraq together, given the ethnic hostilities, makes as much sense as keeping Europe unified in 1945.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
We should have at least defended them. If only for that, Iraq II was justified.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
Back about 30 years ago, the main Kurdish fighting group was Marxist. I'm not sure if that was just a thin veneer to get the support of the Soviets or whether it was the true nature of the group. Does anyone have any idea of the political/economic orientation of the current Kurdish leadership?
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
I do believe they're Islamic in nature - but may be the least religious of the Sunnis .... perhaps being more nationalistic.... and they're more Marxist than anything else - probably in an effort to gain largess from Russia(?)....

...but hey.... still living in the cave-man era... like all muslims - never advancing in culture....
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The arrangement with Turkey includes a major policy shift for the government in Ankara, which had long opposed the idea of an independent Kurdistan. "

Well, I'll say! That's a policy shift along the lines of Iran encouraging Israel to annex the territories.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
We also shouild be beefing up our presence in Jordan because al-Baghdadi has said the Hashemite Kingdom is next.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
You'd think we'd of learned that lesson already....

Never interfere when Muslims are killing Muslims - something that's SOP for those goat fornicators for the last 1400yrs or so.....

We need to drill baby drill and eliminate that entire region from holding the world hostage simply for their black stuff....(no, Barry... I wasn't referring to you...)
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
You do know which nation share's Jordan's western border, don't you?
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
This wound enfranchise the largest ethnic group in the world w/o a nation. It would also put a knife to the throat of the ISIS & other terrorists. Make it now!
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is such an obvious and constructive move. It would help stabilize the only pro American area left in Mesopotamia, and would finally give the Kurds a homeland which would, miraculously, be born not just at peace, but as an ally of Turkey.

It is indeed so obviously in our national interest that I expect that President Obama will begin bombing the Kurds at any moment, thus making them easy prey for ISIS. At the very least John Kerry will condemn the idea and align with Russia China Syria and Iran in the UN to forever bar the Kurds from official recognition.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The second step is to lock down the conflict in the south using enough air power to prevent major troop movements and enforce a cease-fire. Then we can bring the legitimate parties, which does not include ISIS, to the bargaining table. We can help broker an arrangement between the government in Baghdad and the Sunni tribes who were our partners during the Awakening and the surge."

I don't know what you've been imbibing but it must be some powerful reality altering hooch as to do anything like that it would take 50,000 to 100,000 ground troops, and even then it would be a very long shot and wouldn't last that long anyway.
7 weeks ago
7 weeks ago Link To Comment
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