• Sunday, 03 July 2022

Middle East Negotiations and Kurdistan’s Lack of Strategy

Saro Qadir Saro Qadir December 21, 2014 Columns
Middle East Negotiations and Kurdistan’s Lack of Strategy
Throughout history Middle East has been always an area of struggle and dispute between its variable components. Chaldean and Assyrian tradition, the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Quran, all had been emerged out of conflicts and per se narrate the history of disputes. However, during the extended rule of Muslims especially the Ottoman Empire, the area had been constantly at war. Our generation comprehends this history well as we have lived with it.

Now, the region is dealing with the revival of a Salafi Movement, which is against advancement and progression. The legacy of colonialism and the division of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, which is known as Sykes-Picot agreement, are two main reasons for this kind of revival. These two reasons, however, give grounds for the emergence of this kind of terrorism. The unrealistic and unfair divisions of Ottoman Empire have created terrorist movements that have had a profound impact on the whole world especially the Middle East. All the views and indications suggest that no force can suppress this sociopolitical and fascist movement (fundamental Salfists) on the area that has been divided by Sykes-Picot agreement. The disputed factions are Sunnis, Shiites, and the nations—Kurds, Israelis, Amazighs, Azerians, and Baloches. Shiite and Sunni Salafists are now in war with each other. Since solutions cannot be given within the framework of religious ideologies, the Middle East national movements in this stage are more than ever compatible with democracy and secularism. Hence, practically they are against Salafist terrorists. The fall of Ottoman Empire coincided with the division of the world between two opposing blocs—Capitalism and Communism. World War I divided the Middle East under Sykes-Picot Agreement which provides legitimacy for this division.

World War II, the result of the emergence of fascist fundamental movements, waged between Asian and European big forces to divide the world. The fascist-Nazi-militarist movements in Italy, Germany, and Japan took power in their countries and broke the holy borders and waged a war. They used the most violent ways of governance, and committed war crimes, genocides, and holocaust in which thothe U.S. nds of Polish, Chinese, Koreans, and Russians were killed.

After World War II, Communism became a widespread global movement which resulted in tensions between western bloc of capitalism and eastern bloc of communism that lasted for forty five years. The war ended in 1992 with the soviet dissolution. Then a new world system with the American leadership emerged.

After World War II and the fall of Axis powers by force, world map has been changed, many new states emerged, and some states with their long history divided. After the cold war, however, new states emerged as a result of soviet dissolution and Kurdistan Region has emerged as a de facto government.

The new world system under the leadership of the U.S. has not been stable in the past twenty two years. In the first decade, The U.S. and its allies reorganized the legacy of communism apart from gulf war which, like Pandora’s Box, opens a box for Islamist Salafists to emerge. In the second decade, the U.S. and its European allies dragged into a continuous war—a Salafist and extremist one from Qandahar to Erbil and Kobane.

Now, the U.S. is drawing its strategy based on eliminating terrorism, which does not have a specific geography. Europe and the U.S. are now in the orbit of this Islamist terrorism. In 1990s, the U.S. has combated rebel states, but now it has to cross borders to combat terrorism. In the past decades, when the U.S. has tried to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, an international consensus has been required and the U.S. had to wait until a kind of agreement reached. Yet, now it carries out attacks without prior notice from the UN. The defenses of Erbil and Kobane are examples of such and this is all due to the ISIS which crosses the borders like what Nazis and Fascist did in WWII.

All these can be seen as indicators of a belief that crossing borders cannot be restored. Now the question is what is in the U.S. strategy? The U.S. has not said anything about this yet, but they are constantly negotiating. In this respect, the U.S. and Europe are on one side and countries like Russia, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are on the other. The latter has no doubt about capabilities of the former. Yet, they are, despite their differences, cooperate each other in this regard. Thus, the U.S. position is weak in the Middle East. Apart from Israel and Kurdistan Region, none of the foregoing countries in the region unconditionally expressed their support for the U.S. and instead they are using the Islamist terrorism as a card for maintaining their interests.
All Sunni nations are anti-ISIS coalition with the U.S. including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Emirates, and Turkey. Yet, they, in one way or another, support terrorism. Some of them provide grounds for the terrorists’ ideology and education; others use terrorism as a political card in the region. For example, though it depends on the U.S. bases for its security, Qatar supports terrorism and use the card in the conflict between Shiites and Sunnis.

The legacy of Sykes-Picot is fading away and part of this instability in the Middle East is due to this. If we take a look at Kurdistan according to this agreement, one can see how mercilessly and harshly Kurdistan is divided geographically in a way that throughout the century has blocked any attempt of its people to gain their freedom. The southern part of Kurdistan faced genocide and mass murdering under the name of Anfal; thousands were displaced and fleeing in 1991 as well. As a result, the U.S. and its allies took action and supported the Kurds. Recently, after the disaster of Kobane and Shingal, the U.S. and the world have supported the Kurds. In all these events, the U.S. and Europe are obliged to cross the holy borders of Sykes-Picot.

It is interesting to note that when borders have been drawn between Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, Kurds or the geography of Kurdistan has not been taken into consideration. For instance, Shingal is linked to the southern Kurdistan within Iraq but it does not have any border sharing with other parts of southern Kurdistan and it is isolated. It should have been linked to western part of Kurdistan at the time. Similarly, Kobane and Afrin should have been linked to northern part of Kurdistan. These three Kurdish towns are isolated and become like “isles”. Hence, when they are attacked by ISIS, the other parts cannot immediately support and help them, and this actually grabbed the attention of the world. The tragic epics of Mount Shingal and the struggle of Kobane will remain in history. This tragedy is a result of the legacy of Sykes-Picot and give justifications for breaking and dismantling these borders.
Middle East conflicts are religious. Islamist extremists have started war against all religions in the region and against the world. Hamas Israel and Hezbolla Israel conflicts, ISIS’ war against Christians, Yazidis, Kakai, and Alawites, and Shiite Sunni conflict account for the situation. Nations like Kurds, Amazighs, Baloches, and Azers struggle for self-determination. They are divided between both Shiite and Sunni worlds. The state of Israel, both as a nation and religion, are opposed. These nations have been victimized due to Sykes-Picot. They have not been taken into account by colonialism, and even the international laws have been used as obstacles against them.

The old announced strategy of the U.S. in the Middle East is to protect the security of the states, providing energy resources, and democratization. Upon these principles, apart from democratization, the U.S. defended Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries. Yet, when it comes to other countries, the U.S. stressed the need for democratization. A road-map for democratization in the Middle East was announced ten years ago. As a result of this, Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries altered into a blind Salafist which does not allow any kind of progress in the region and the world. Over the past three decades, all the wealth of gulf countries used for the sake of creating an abundance of Salafist schools and movements. These schools and movements have trained thousands of Muslims throughout the world and among immigrants to defy the whole world.

Saudi Arabia had a strategy for Islamic movements in other Islamic countries. From 1980s, it opened its borders for Ikhwan and the Gulf States became safe havens for them. They also created Islamic resistance in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Out of this strategy, Taliban, Al-Qaida, Boko Haram, ISIS, and Al-Nusra came into being. Over the past three decades, extremists, takfirists, and Salafists have worked to move out Islam from mosques into the streets and made the religion political. The result of this teaching was the creation of thousands of extremists who are ready to explode themselves and make jihad. Thus a doctrine has been emerged whose sole aim is death.

The democratization strategy by the U.S. has been resulted in creating chaos and disorder in the past four years in Arabic world. The dictatorial nationalist regimes were pressured and people socially moved. Since political and ideological activities had been banned in these countries, the unrest caused by Arab Spring helped extremist salafists to develop rapidly. Since Arabic society did not familiarize with democracy, voting, and freedom, the events became a trophy for Islamist extremists. Apart from Tunisia, none of the Arabic countries made headway.

Now there is nothing left for the road-map and democratization, and instead all are talking about getting rid of the plague of islamist extremists. This extremism has become a terror posing threat to the whole world. Hence, the west considers both Israel and Kurdistan Region as examples of democratic entities in the region. In turn, the Islamic countries of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey consider these examples false. Now the question is what are the strategies of these three countries? What is announced and seen on the ground can be explained as such: Turkey seeks to restore the prestige of Ottomans and wants to lead the Sunni world. It considers the entire region as its own center for protecting its interests. Hence, it draws a sophisticated policy, and considers excluding Iran, Saudi, and Egypt as a guarantee for preserving its interests in the region.

Saudi Arabia, with Egypt, wants to lead the Muslim world and strives for keeping the countries in different designs of Islamic tradition. It announces a brutal, doctrinal war against Shiite Iran and wants to maintain its oil wealth. For this purpose, it continues to help and support extremist movements (including terrorists). Saudi Arabia finds in Salafist ideology an alternative for Arabic nationalism.

Egypt wants to restore its position: a military state, half civic, and representative of Arabic nationalism and dictatorship, and with the help and support of Saudi Arabia, considers itself the protector of the Arabic countries’ borders. There is a historical and sensitive relation between Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt; therefore, they cannot go together. Part of Turkey’s isolation now is related to this historical relation, and another is due to its own contradictory and untrue strategy.

Iran is the leader of Shiite world and committed to send out its Islamic-Shiite revolution outside its borders. The first step of its strategy is to develop Shia crescent and has interests in all changes in the region including Kurdistan, Palestine, central Asia, and Afghanistan. It wants to challenge Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and now is in negotiations with the U.S.

Israel is an unchangeable coalition of the west, and considers preserving its interests in challenging the strategies of Turkey, Iran, and Arabs. It does not conceal its sympathy with the Kurdish issue. Yet, it does not have a big military to mobilize outside its borders and can only protect itself. Its strength lie in strong lobbies it has in Europe and America.

Now after four years of Arab Spring, we see that Salafist extremists are prevalent. This has opened the gates for terrorists to grow and aborted democratization trends in Arabic countries. When it comes to democracy within Middle East countries, one can mention Israel, Turkey, Tunisia, and Kurdistan Region of Iraq. However, Turkey’s democracy is on trial. Where does Kurdistan stand within these changes and crisis and what is its strategy? Our country has been thrown into the center of war and has suffered losses and damages in terms of human and material resources, and now on the fore front of combating terrorism though it has been supported internationally. Logically it is necessary for the Kurds to adapt to the changes. It needs to have its clear stance and strategy. Since Kurdistan is not a state, still international laws debar it to mix with international community. All its neighbors, Turkey, Iran, and Arabs oppose its independence. Since it cannot neglect these three fronts, it practically shows friendliness.
Political parties in Kurdistan—either in northern part or other parts-- are not, at least now, with independence, apart from Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and president Barzani. Thus, one can say that Kurds do not have a strategy for independence. Neither have a unified stance for the future. In both northern and western parts, there is an inadequate strategy to be with Turkey or Syria. The situation in eastern part of Kurdistan is not good and the political parties are weak, not having a unified stance for their future as well.

The instability in Kurdistan reflected in KRG’s performance for unity and protection. Some influential political movements are with the staying within Iraqi state and adapt to the Iranian interests in the region. Three main factions have to unify their stances and identify Kurdistan strategy. They are Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The U.S. is negotiation with Iran on the one hand, and both Turkey and Saudi Arabia on the other about the future of the Middle East, and their interests. They are sometimes at odds with each other. If Kurdistan does not show strength and not have a clear stance, it will be the victim or a makeweight for balancing the interests of others. There is nothing like benevolence, faithfulness, and morality in international relations. Kurds in south, north, and west have one destiny. They need to be highly conscious politically and nationally. They have to abandon vengeance, sensitivity, and cooperating with opponent parts. It is easy for the west and the U.S. to deal with a unified Kurdistan. Thus, the Kurds should take part or be aware of the negotiations with strength; otherwise it will be marginalized with empty-handed and as always divided. Now, it is time for the Kurds to challenge this destiny and write its own destiny.