IRAQI KURDS’ VOTE FOR INDEPENDENCE MET WITH WIDESPREAD INTERNATIONAL OPPOSITION Posted on October 3, 2017 Printer Friendly Tension over Kurdistan: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Oct. 1, 2017 — This past Monday close to 7 million Kurdish citizens of Iraq, cast their votes in a referendum consisting of one question only: Do you support a declaration of independence on the part of the Kurds in Iraq? The Case for Kurdish Independence: Alan Dershowitz, Algemeiner, Oct. 2, 2017 — Over 90% of Iraq’s Kurdish population have now voted for independence from Iraq. Iran and the Kurdish Challenge: Dr. Doron Itzchakov, BESA, Sept. 30, 2017— The Kurdish referendum on independence poses multiple dilemmas for the Iranian regime’s domestic and foreign policy. Canada Quietly Opposes Kurd Independence, Notwithstanding History of Oppression: Terry Glavin, National Post, Sept. 27, 2017 — Here’s something that doesn’t happen very often. On Topic Links Interview of LTC Sargis Sangari on Bill Martinez Live: Near East Center, Sept. 22, 2017 The U.S. Must Tell Its Allies to Back Off the Kurds: Eli Lake, Bloomberg, Sept. 29, 2017 Post-Referendum: Kurds in Iran Demand Rights as Regime Cracks Down: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 30, 2017 Kurdish Referendum: What is the Lowdown?: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 1, 2017 TENSION OVER KURDISTAN Dr. Mordechai Kedar Arutz Sheva, Oct. 1, 2017 This past Monday close to 7 million Kurdish citizens of Iraq, cast their votes in a referendum consisting of one question only: Do you support a declaration of independence on the part of the Kurds in Iraq? The voting was widespread, with 80% of eligible voters going to the polls. It is clear that the question is seen as vital to a large majority of Kurds, leading them to go out to vote. From a practical point of view, the Kurds have been trying to advance their independence for 25 years, ever since the world forbade Saddam Hussein's air force from flying over their territory. They have developed a legitimate, democratic, organized and fair government over the past two and a half decades, as well as a disciplined top level army that proved its mettle against ISIS in Mosul. They have responsible media which portray both sides of the controversy and in general are a tranquil society with no internal violence, a successful economy based on oil and related products. The referendum is highly important for both sides, those for and those against. Supporters want to live in a Kurdish national home with all their hearts, like the French, Dutch, Egyptians, Israelis and the rest of the nations of the world do. They intend to create independence de jure from de facto independence, including international recognition. Their main motivation is national pride and pride in their achievements during these last 25 years, but the memory of the wars waged against them by Iraq in the 20th century plays a part. Lurking in the background is the historic hostility between Kurds and Arabs. Those opposed to a declaration of independence worry mainly about the price Iraqi Kurdistan may be forced to pay for doing so, because its neighbors – Iran to the east, Turkey to the north, Syria to the west and Iraq to the south – have declared their total opposition to the holding of a referendum, let alone a declaration of independence. Turkey threatens war and has concentrated forces on its border with Kurdish territory, despite years of economic cooperation with the Kurds. The Kurds export their oil by way of Turkey, paying enormous sums for that service. Declaring war against the Kurds may well end that cooperation, affecting the "wayward" Kurds' economy for the worse. Another painful price that might have to be paid is an air and sea blockade. Iraqi Kurdistan has no access to the sea, and all its relations with the outside world – people and goods – must take place by way of the air and sea space of Iran, Turkey or Syria. If those countries decide on a blockade and continue to stand by that decision for any length of time, it is hard to see how the Kurds could run a proper national life, certainly not economically. The reason these countries oppose Kurdish independence is the fact that each one of them, especially Iran, harbors a Kurdish minority as well as other ethnic groups. If the Iraqi Kurds succeed in creating a viable state, other minorities will demand independence and the Kurds among them might even try to form a large Kurdish federation or a state that unites with the Iraqi Kurdistan. The Turks see this demand as a strategic danger to their existence, as there are Kurds in every city in Turkey, living mostly in their own neighborhoods, in addition to the Kurdish region of southwestern Turkey. An internal war between the Turkish majority and the Kurdish minority has been going on for a century. It is sometimes extremely violent, with terror attacks in urban areas, and sometimes simmers on a low burner. Erdogan tried to put an end to the warring several years ago, but his efforts only angered the nationalist Turks who endanger his throne, so he went back to limiting himself to negative rhetoric aimed at the Turkish Kurds Erdogan fears that a declaration of war on his part against the Iraqi Kurds will lead to an outbreak of Turkish terror against his regime, while a non-declaration will lead the Turkish Kurds to demand independence. If he does – or doesn't – give in to their demands they may start a new wave of terror against the Turkish regime. Erdogan feels he is trapped and this drives him crazy, so that he keeps coming out with pronouncements, some of them over the top, against the referendum. The Kurds in Iran demand their country recognize a Kurdish state in Iraq after the referendum. They certainly know that Iran will never do that, because recognizing a Kurdish state will awaken, in addition to the Kurds in Iran, all the other minorities to the possibility. This includes the Balouchi, Azari, Arabs, and many more and might bring the artificial Iranian state to an end because only half the people in Iran are Persian. Unsurprisingly, this week Iran declared that its airspace is closed to (plains) to and from the Kurdish area of Iraq. It may be followed by others. Syria, embroiled for a long while in unending struggles and war to keep its country unified under Assad's illegitimate regime, is also opposed to a Kurdish state, viewing it as a negative move for Syria. Arab Iraq is opposed to independence for the Kurds in the country because most of the rich oil deposits are in that region. The regional opposition and threats to wage war against Kurdish Iraq have led European nations, the USA and Russia to be concerned that an needless war may break out, while the entire world is trying to put an end to what is left of ISIS's state and everyone wants the benefit of Pesh Merga's military prowess and the experience it gained during the battle for Mosul. Israel, in contrast to all the nations in the world, seems to be the only country which supports a Kurdish state in Iraq and on the ruins of Iran. Israel will assuredly not be against adding the Kurds in Syria and possibly those in Turkey to a new Kurdish state. The establishment of a Kurdish state is an act of historic justice to a people divided into three by the European powers in order to serve their interests and not for the benefit of the indigenous people in each region where those powers established a state to run the affairs of its citizens… [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents THE CASE FOR KURDISH INDEPENDENCE Alan Dershowitz Algemeiner, Oct. 2, 2017 Over 90% of Iraq’s Kurdish population have now voted for independence from Iraq. While the referendum is not binding, it reflects the will of a minority group that has a long history of persecution and statelessness. The independence referendum is an important step toward remedying a historic injustice inflicted on the Kurdish population in the aftermath of World War I. Yet while millions took to the streets to celebrate, it is clear that the challenges of moving forward towards establishing an independent Kurdistan are only just beginning. Already, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, has said: “We will impose the rule of Iraq in all of the areas of the KRG, with the strength of the constitution.” Meanwhile, other Iraqi lawmakers have called for the prosecution of Kurdish representatives who organized the referendum — singling out Kurdish Regional Government President (KRG), Masoud Barzani, specifically. While Israel immediately supported the Kurdish bid for independence, Turkish leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, tried to extort Israel to withdraw its support, threatening to end the process of normalization unless it does so. It is worth noting that Turkey strongly supports statehood for the Palestinians but not for their own Kurdish population. The Palestinian leadership, which is seeking statehood for its people, also opposes statehood for the Kurds. Hypocrisy abounds in the international community, but that should surprise no one. The case for Palestinian statehood is at least as compelling as the case for Kurdish statehood, but you wouldn’t know that by the way so many countries support the former but not the latter. The reason for this disparity has little to do with the merits of their respective cases and much to do with the countries from which they seek independence. The reason then for this double standard is that few countries want to oppose Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria; many of these same countries are perfectly willing to demonize the nation-state of the Jewish people. Here is the comparative case for the Kurds and the Palestinians. First, some historical context. In the aftermath of WWI, the allied forces signed a treaty to reshape the Middle East from the remnants of the fallen Ottoman Empire. The 1920 Treaty of Sevres set out parameters for a unified Kurdish state, albeit under British control. However, the Kurdish state was never implemented owing to Turkish opposition and its victory in the Turkish War of Independence, whereby swaths of land intended for the Kurds became part of the modern Turkish state. As a result, the Kurdish region was split between Turkey, Syria and Iran and the Kurds became dispersed around northern Iraq, southeast Turkey and parts of Iran and Syria. Though today no one knows its exact population size, it is estimated that there are around 30 million Kurds living in these areas. In contrast to the Palestinian people who adhere to the same traditions and practices as their Arab neighbours, and speak the same language, Kurds have their own language (although different groups speak different dialects) and subscribe to their own culture, dress code and holidays. While the history and genealogy of Palestinians is intertwined with that of their Arab neighbours (Jordan’s population is approximately 50% Palestinian), the Kurds have largely kept separate from their host-states, constantly aspiring for political and national autonomy. Over the years there have been countless protests and uprisings by Kurdish populations against their host states. Some Arab rulers have used brutal force to crackdown on dissent. Consider Turkey, for example, where the “Kurdish issue” influences domestic and foreign policy more than any other matter. Suffering from what some historians refer to as “the Sevres Syndrome” — paranoia stemming from the allies’ attempt to carve up parts of the former Ottoman Empire for a Kurdish state — President Erdogan has subjected the country’s Kurdish population to terror and tyranny, and arrested Kurds who are caught speaking their native language. But perhaps no group has had it worse than the Kurds of Iraq, who now total 5 million — approximately 10-15% of Iraq’s total population. Under the Baathist regime in the 1970s, the Kurds were subject to “ethnic cleansing.” Under the rule of Saddam Hussein they were sent to concentration camps, exposed to chemical weapons and many were summarily executed. It is estimated that approximately 100,000 Kurds were killed at the hands of the Baath regime. So “restitution” is an entirely appropriate factor to consider — though certainly not the only one –in supporting the establishment of an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq. In contrast, the Palestinians have suffered far fewer deaths at the hands of Israel (and Jordan) yet many within the international community cite Palestinian deaths as a justification for Palestinian statehood. Why the double standard? There are many other compelling reasons for why the Kurds should have their own state. Firstly, the Iraqi Kurds have their own identity, practices, language and culture. They are a coherent nation with profound historical ties to their territory. They have their own national institutions that separate them from their neighbors, their own army (the Peshmerga) and their own oil and energy strategy. Moreover, international law stipulated in Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, lays the foundation for the recognition of state sovereignty. The edict states: “The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.” The KRG meets these criteria, as least as well as do the Palestinians. Moreover, the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq — the closest it has come to having its own state — has thrived and maintained relative peace and order against the backdrop of a weak, ineffectual Iraqi government and a brutal civil war. As such, it represents a semblance of stability in a region comprised of bloody violence, destruction and failed states. Why then did the United States — along with Russia, the EU, China and the UN — come out against independence for one of the largest ethnic groups without a state, when they push so hard for Palestinian statehood? The US State Department said it was “deeply disappointed” with the action taken, while the White House issued a statement calling it “provocative and destabilizing.” Essentially, the international community cites the following two factors for its broad rejectionism: 1. That it will cause a destabilizing effect in an already fragile Iraq that may reverberate in neighbouring states with Kurdish populations; 2. That the bid for independence will distract from the broader effort to defeat ISIS — which is being fought largely by Kurdish Peshmerga forces… [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents IRAN AND THE KURDISH CHALLENGE Dr. Doron Itzchakov BESA, Sept. 30, 2017 The Kurdish referendum on independence poses multiple dilemmas for the Iranian regime’s domestic and foreign policy. The most obvious issue is that the success of the Iraqi Kurds in realizing their national identity could catalyze separatist trends among their Iranian counterparts. Although this concern has a degree of validity, Iranian Kurds have their own unique characteristics – one of which is a set of far less pronounced national aspirations than those of their counterparts elsewhere. That point raises the question whether Tehran’s opposition does in fact stem from fear of separatism among the Iranian Kurds. The regime’s considerations may well include other aspects that have largely been pushed to the margins. The relationship between the Kurdish minority in Iran and the central government had ups and downs throughout the monarchic and post-revolutionary periods. The uprising of the Kurdish minority led by Qazi Muhammad, which brought about the establishment of the “Republic of Mahabad” (January 1946) under Soviet patronage, is still engraved on the historical consciousness of the Islamic Republic. The Kurdish uprising was a chain reaction following the uprising of the national movement of Azerbaijan led by Jaffar Pishevari, which had begun two months earlier. Clashes continued into the 1960s, undermining Iranian national identity and morale. The Iranian Kurdish minority’s aspiration for autonomy did not end with the establishment of the Islamic Republic in February 1979. Hope soon receded, however, because of internal rifts and the regime’s uncompromising policy. From 1989 to 1996, a string of assassinations of leaders of the Iranian Kurdish movement left a leadership vacuum that remains to this day. Moreover, the Iranian Kurdish minority – estimated, without official data, at about 7.5 million people – is marked by a lack of structural unity stemming from religious factors. There are also party, ideological, and tribal differences. Unlike in other countries where the Kurdish minority is mostly Sunni, in Iran, a considerable proportion of Kurds – particularly those who live in the Kermanshah province – are Shiite and receive preferential treatment from government institutions. This population voted against holding the referendum, unlike the Kurds belonging to the Sunni branch, who voted in favor. Furthermore, the policy of “divide and conquer,” in combination with the Iranian regime’s tight control and harsh repression of the Kurdish population, has affected this minority’s cohesion. Tehran’s opposition to the nationalist tendencies of the Iraqi Kurds stems from other motives as well, both geopolitical and geostrategic. Iran fears that Kurdish autonomy in northeastern Iraq will weaken its influence in that divided country. That Iran has penetrated Iraq’s political, diplomatic, and security spheres and influences its decision-makers is well known. Tehran uses powerful levers of influence in Iraq, such as the Shiite militias active in the framework of the al-Hashd al-Shabi (the Popular Mobilization Forces). Though these militias operate according to a November 2014 resolution of the Iraqi parliament that subordinated them to the country’s security-political establishment, the first loyalty of some of them is to the Revolutionary Guard and the policymakers of the Islamic Republic of Iran. These militias are subject to Iranian guidance, funding, training, and sometimes even command, and are meant to promote Tehran’s interests. The ongoing fighting in Iraq and Syria and the collapse of governmental rule there has given Iran a window of opportunity to achieve its regional aspirations, which include promoting the “resistance axis” – a tactical and ideological basis for expanding Tehran’s influence across the Middle East… [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents CANADA QUIETLY OPPOSES KURD INDEPENDENCE, NOTWITHSTANDING HISTORY OF OPPRESSION Terry Glavin National Post, Sept. 27, 2017 Here’s something that doesn’t happen very often. On one of the deepest tectonic stresses underlying the blood-soaked ground of the Greater Middle East, an orderly referendum carried out this week in the most exemplary democratic fashion in Northern Iraq has pitted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, European radical leftists and one of the most persecuted minorities on the face of the Earth against U.S. President Donald Trump, Syrian mass murderer Bashar Assad, Turkish strongman Recep Erdogan and the Khomeinist regime in Iran. And Canada. After several postponements and fits and starts going back several years, and against an array of sternly-worded warnings and outright threats of violence, the already semi-sovereign Kurdish Regional Government of Masoud Barzani went ahead with the contentious referendum on Monday. What Barzani sought was a modest non-binding mandate to spend the next two years sitting down with Baghdad to peacefully negotiate a transition out of more than a quarter-century of de facto Kurdish autonomy in Iraq to full de jure autonomy. That’s it. Kurdish election officials report a massive turnout of 78 per cent among more than five million eligible voters and a “yes” vote in the vicinity of 93 per cent. The result was greeted with jubilation among the stateless Kurds, wherever they live. There are at least 30 million Kurds in their mountainous homelands, divided a century ago between Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran. In the Middle East’s various presidential compounds and emirs’ palaces, however, you’d think Barzani had issued a unilateral declaration of independence, proclaimed an outright republic and declared war on his neighbours. In Ankara, Erdogan threatened to cut off landlocked Iraqi Kurdistan from food shipments through Turkey, warning the Iraqi Kurds to “give up or go hungry.” Erdogan also threatened to close the spigots on a pipeline carrying Kurdish oil through Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea. “We have the tap,” he said. “The moment we close the tap, then it’s done.” Two years ago, Erdogan resumed a brutal war in Turkey’s Kurdish regions following the collapse of peace talks with the leadership of Turkey’s 14 million Kurds… Netanyahu’s backing of the Kurdish referendum — and Kurdish independence — should come as no surprise. The Israelis and the Kurds have forged strong bonds of affection going back decades — it is not uncommon to see Israeli flags being waved at pro-independence rallies in Iraqi Kurdistan — and Israelis count the Kurds foremost among their few friends in the Middle East. Canada’s opposition to Barzani’s referendum is just as unsurprising. For all Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “world stage” declarations of solidarity with the marginalized, the voiceless and the dispossessed, the Trudeau government has declared its interest in going along with the Iraqi status quo. The presence of Canadian Special Forces working alongside Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the fight against the Islamic State in Operation Impact is irrelevant to the matter of the aging Barazani’s legacy referendum project. Trudeau has made much of not taking sides in the Kurdish referendum controversy, on the grounds that he’s “very sensitive” to matters related to separatism. Staying out of the arguments about Kurdish independence in Iraq sensibly follows from Canada’s experience with two referendum campaigns in Quebec, Trudeau says, when there was a danger of “foreign interlocutors” weighing in… [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.] Contents On Topic Links Interview of LTC Sargis Sangari on Bill Martinez Live: Near East Center, Sept. 22, 2017—On 19 SEP 17, LTC Sargis Sangari was Interviewed on Bill Martinez Live in reference to the 25 SEP 17 KRG referendum, the three state “solution” for Iraq, and the security situation of the Assyria Nineveh Plain and Kirkuk under the current and future conflicts between the Sunni Muslim Kurds and the Iraqi Arabs. The U.S. Must Tell Its Allies to Back Off the Kurds: Eli Lake, Bloomberg, Sept. 29, 2017— No one expected the neighbors to be happy when Iraq's Kurds voted for independence this week. After all, even though the Kurds say the Iraqi constitution does not forbid a referendum on statehood, there is still a regional war going on against the Islamic State. It's a chaotic moment to be talking about redrawing national borders. Post-Referendum: Kurds in Iran Demand Rights as Regime Cracks Down: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 30, 2017— Last Sunday, on the eve of the independence referendum by the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, Iranian Kurds began celebrating. The next day, as people went to the polls across the border in Sulaimaniya, Erbil and other cities, Kurds in Iran celebrated en masse. In Baneh, Mahabad and Sanandaj, Iran, videos showed thousands in the streets, many of them with Kurdish flags. Kurdish Referendum: What is the Lowdown?: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 1, 2017— Despite many efforts to stop or postpone it, the Iraqi Kurdistan referendum has become a fait accompli and must be taken into account in shaping future developments, and Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani (also known as "Kak Masoud" — "Brother Masoud" in Kurdish), the man who orchestrated the exercise, must be as pleased as Punch.