Tag: Kurdistan

IRAQI KURDS’ VOTE FOR INDEPENDENCE MET WITH WIDESPREAD INTERNATIONAL OPPOSITION

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.]

                                                                       

 

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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.]    

 

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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.]

                                                           

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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.

 

 

 

 

SYRIA CEASE-FIRE HOLDS; M.E. PLAYERS COMPETE FOR CONTROL OF POST-I.S. LANDSCAPE

Who Wins and Loses From Syrian Ceasefire Deal?: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, July 9, 2017— A cease-fire went into effect on Sunday in southern Syria along the border with Israel and Jordan that covers the provinces of Deraa, Quneitra and Suweida.

America Needs a Post-ISIS Strategy: John R. Bolton, Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2017— The headlines out of Syria are eye-catching: There are signs the Assad government may be planning another chemical attack.

Kurdistan: From Referendum to the Road to Independence: Dr. Edy Cohen, BESA, June 24, 2017— After WWI, the victorious powers promised independence for the Kurds.

Mosul Is Liberated—But Not Yet Free: Bernard-Henri Lévy, Tablet, July 11, 2017 — There are joyous liberations.

 

On Topic Links

 

How Long Will the Southern Syria Ceasefire Last?: Elizabeth Tsurkov, Jerusalem Post, July 10, 2017

Israel a Key Player in Syria Ceasefire Deal: Alex Fishman, Ynet, July 9, 2017

Despite Ceasefire Deal, Iranian Stronghold in Syrian Golan Still Possible: Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet, July 9, 2017

After the Defeat of ISIS in Mosul, Iran Prepares for Regional Domination: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, July 13, 2017

 

WHO WINS AND LOSES FROM SYRIAN CEASEFIRE DEAL?

                             Seth J. Frantzman

                                                  Jerusalem Post, July 9, 2017

 

A cease-fire went into effect on Sunday in southern Syria along the border with Israel and Jordan that covers the provinces of Deraa, Quneitra and Suweida. US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster provided the usual boilerplate reasons behind American support for the move, saying the United States is committed to “helping to end the conflict in Syria,” and that this agreement would be an “important step toward common goals.”

 

The deal is unique in that it was signed by the US, Jordan and Russia and came amidst G20 talks in Hamburg. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the cease-fire as relating to the “de-escalation zones” that had been agreed to in Astana in May. The cease-fire in southwest Syria shows that Russia and the US are capable of working together in Syria – at least for the moment. After the Astana talks in May, Syria rejected US monitoring of the four “de-escalation zones” around Idlib, Homs, East Ghouta in Damascus and southern Syria.

 

Hamidreza Azizi, an assistant professor at Shahid Beheshti University in Iran, wrote in the Middle East journal Al-Monitor on May 24 that Iran supported the de-escalation zones to enhance its prestige because doing so would bring Tehran and Moscow closer together. Turkey’s Syrian rebel allies were outraged at Iran’s participation in Astana. Today we see the fruits of that outrage in this separate deal. It also represents the US “buying in” to southern Syria, where the US already has interests at its base in al-Tanf and in supporting Israel’s concerns in the Golan. The US won’t work with Iran, but it can work with Moscow.

 

Jordan has emerged as a key US ally in all of this. The king of Jordan was in Washington for his third visit with Trump administration officials, according to reports, in the last days of June. In March, Abdullah II told Trump that Jordan wanted an end to the conflict in Syria, according to a White House statement on the meeting. The June visit came as fighting flared along the Golan Heights border with Syria. On July 6, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly phoned Trump in Europe to discuss ramifications of the cease-fire. This comes amidst Israel’s warnings against Iran’s and Hezbollah’s role in Lebanon and Syria.

 

Israel can’t be a signatory on the cease-fire memorandum, for obvious reasons, since countries involved with the Syrian civil war would reject official Israeli involvement, and Israel doesn’t want to be officially involved. But Jordan and Israel’s security interests in southern Jordan dovetail, and Jordan was a key player in this deal. “We’ll continue working with US and Russia to ensure success of cease-fire deal in south Syria and final de-escalation area plan,” tweeted Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on July 7. The goal is a comprehensive cease-fire “and political solution accepted by Syrians that safeguards integrity, independence and sovereignty of Syria,” he wrote.

 

So who wins and loses in the latest cease-fire? Jordan is the big winner. The kingdom has forged a unique bond with Trump’s administration, which listens to Amman. It was an observer at the Astana talks on July 4-5, but appears to have been working the whole time on a separate cease-fire for the south with the US and Putin. For Jordan, the situation in southern Syria is key to security. It wants the million Syrian refugees who have fled to return to their homes – only peace and cease-fires can achieve that.

 

The Syrian rebels of the Southern Front also seem to be winners. They distrust Iran’s role at Astana, and Jordan is their lifeline for humanitarian aid and other supplies. Also, Jordan and the US likely want to eradicate an ISIS pocket bordering the southern Golan. Air strikes there last month killed two ISIS leaders. The US is a winner if the cease-fire works because it shows that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Trump can accomplish something on the ground. Putin and Trump have a complex relationship because of accusations of Russian meddling in the US elections. Any kind of official success they can have at achieving peace in Syria might change the conversation and show Trump’s Putin relationship to bear positive fruit.

 

For Israel, this is a test of who guarantees the cease-fire and whether there is an opening to move Iran away from the Russia-Syria access. Weakening Iran’s role in Syria, and therefore Hezbollah’s role, would make Jerusalem less concerned. It could also cause Hezbollah to lash out to sink the cease-fire. Turkey is also making noises about the Kurds in northern Syria, which could cause a crisis. The US and Russia have invested in this cease-fire; if it works, it could prove Tillerson’s July 8 comment about “other areas where we can work together” prescient. That would mean the Syrian civil war is turning a new corner. But six years teaches us not to be so hopeful.                                              

 

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AMERICA NEEDS A POST-ISIS STRATEGY

John R. Bolton

Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2017

 

The headlines out of Syria are eye-catching: There are signs the Assad government may be planning another chemical attack. American pilots have struck forces threatening our allies and shot down a Syrian plane and Iranian-made drones. The probability of direct military confrontation between the U.S. and Russia has risen. Yet the coverage of these incidents and the tactical responses that have been suggested obscure the broader story: The slow-moving campaign against Islamic State is finally nearing its conclusion — yet major, long-range strategic issues remain unresolved.

 

The real issue isn't tactical. It is instead the lack of American strategic thinking about the Middle East after Islamic State. Its defeat will leave a regional political vacuum that must be filled somehow. Instead of reflexively repeating President Obama's errors, the Trump administration should undertake an "agonizing reappraisal," in the style of John Foster Dulles, to avoid squandering the victory on the ground.

 

First, the U.S. ought to abandon or substantially reduce its military support for Iraq's current government. Despite retaining a tripartite veneer of Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs, the capital is dominated by Shiites loyal to Iran. Today Iraq resembles Eastern Europe in the late 1940s, as the Soviet anaconda tightened its hold. Extending Baghdad's political and military control into areas retaken from ISIS simply advances Tehran's power. This cannot be in America's interest.

 

Iraq's Kurds have de facto independence and are on the verge of declaring it de jure. They fight ISIS to facilitate the creation of a greater Kurdistan. Nonetheless, the Kurds, especially in Syria and Turkey, are hardly monolithic. Not all see the U.S. favorably. In Syria, Kurdish forces fighting ISIS are linked to the Marxist PKK in Turkey. They pose a real threat to Turkey's territorial integrity, even if it may seem less troubling now that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's plans have turned so profoundly contrary to the secular, Western-oriented vision of Kemal Atatürk.

 

Second, the U.S. should press Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf monarchies for more troops and material assistance in fighting ISIS. America has carried too much of the burden for too long in trying to forge Syria's opposition into an effective force. Yet even today the opposition could charitably be called "diverse." It includes undeniably terrorist elements that are often hard to distinguish from the "moderates" the U.S. supports. Getting fresh contributions from Arab allies would rebalance the opposition, which is especially critical if the U.S. turns away, as it should, from reliance on the Iraqi forces dominated by Tehran.

 

Third, the Trump administration must take a clear-eyed view of Russia's intervention. The Syrian mixing bowl is where confrontation between American and Russian forces looms. Why is Russia active in this conflict? Because it is aiding its allies: Syria's President Bashar Assad and Iran's ayatollahs. Undeniably, Russia is on the wrong side. But Mr. Obama, blind to reality, believed Washington and Moscow shared a common interest in easing the Assad regime out of power. The Trump administration's new thinking should be oriented toward a clear objective: pushing back these Iranian and Russian gains.

 

Start with Iran. Tehran is trying to cement an arc of control from its own territory, through Baghdad-controlled Iraq and Mr. Assad's Syria, to Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon. This would set the stage for the region's next potential conflict: Iran's Shiite coalition versus a Saudi-led Sunni alliance. The U.S.-led coalition, enhanced as suggested above, needs to thwart Iran's ambitions as ISIS falls. Securing increased forces and financial backing from the regional Arab governments is essential. Their stakes are as high as ours — despite the contretemps between Qatar and Saudi Arabia (and others) — but their participation has lagged. The U.S. has mistakenly filled the gap with Iraqi government forces and Shiite militias.

 

Washington is kidding itself to think Sunnis will meekly accept rule by Iraq's Shiite-dominated government or Syria's Alawite regime. Simply restoring today's governments in Baghdad and Damascus to their post-World War I boundaries would guarantee renewed support for terrorism and future conflict. I have previously suggested creating a new, secular, demographically Sunni state from territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria. There may well be other solutions, but pining for borders demarcated by Europeans nearly a century ago is not one of them.

 

At the same time, the U.S. must begin rolling back Russia's renewed presence and influence in the Middle East. Russia has a new air base at Latakia, Syria, is involved in combat operations, and issues diktats about where American warplanes in the region may fly. For all the allegations about Donald Trump and Russia, the president truly in thrall to Moscow seems to have been Mr. Obama…

 

Russia's interference, particularly its axis with Mr. Assad and Tehran's mullahs, critically threatens the interests of the U.S., Israel and our Arab friends. Mr. Assad almost certainly would have fallen by now without Russia's (and Iran's) assistance. Further, Moscow's support for Tehran shatters any claim of its truly being a partner in fighting radical Islamic terrorism, which got its modern start in Iran's 1979 revolution.

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                                                       

 

Contents

KURDISTAN: FROM REFERENDUM TO THE ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE

Dr. Edy Cohen

BESA, June 24, 2017

 

After WWI, the victorious powers promised independence for the Kurds. This did not materialize, however, mainly due to the opposition of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. Since then, the Kurds have suffered persecution and oppression in the countries where they reside: Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. The Kurds now constitute the largest national group in the world without a state to call their own.

 

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the Kurds have enjoyed a broad autonomy that has rekindled their aspiration for independence. This aspiration gained great momentum due to the considerable assistance provided by the Peshmerga, the Kurdish military militia, to the war effort against ISIS, without which the Iraqi army would not have succeeded in liberating the Mosul area from the Islamist terrorist organization. But there is a certain irony to the Iraqi victories in Kurdistan: they led to a mini-crisis between the Baghdad government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over the revival of Kurdish national aspirations.

 

On this subject, it seems there has been no change in the position of the current Iraqi government in relation to that of its predecessors. According to the central government and Iraqi public figures who oppose Kurdish independence, the Kurds – like Assyrians, Yazidis, and Turkmens – are an inseparable part of Iraqi society who must not disengage from the Iraqi motherland. Moreover, harsh disputes exist between the KRG and the Iraqi government over oil ownership in Kurdistan and the reimbursement of funds demanded by the government for the sale of that oil. Unexpected support on this matter was recently received from Saudi Arabia, which sought to take revenge on Ankara for its support of Qatar.

 

As for Israel, while there is a thunderous official silence on the subject, there is no doubt that Jerusalem would support an independent Kurdish state. About three years ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu declared Israel’s support for the establishment of such a state in the part of Iraq where Kurdish autonomy is today. “We must support the Kurds’ aspirations for independence; they deserve it,” Netanyahu declared in a speech at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

 

This statement received a harsh response from Nuri al-Maliki, former prime minister of Iraq (2006-14), who repeatedly told the media pejoratively that Kurdistan would be a “second Israel.” When Israeli reporters arrived in Iraq to cover the war on ISIS, Maliki did not hide his anger. Many other Iraqi leaders besides Maliki accuse the president of the Kurdish autonomous region, Massoud Barzani, of collaborating with Israel, thereby hinting at the military assistance given by Israel in the 1960s and 1970s to the Kurds under the leadership of Mustafa Barzani (Massoud’s father) in their war against the central government.

 

Few countries support a referendum and the granting of independence to the Kurdish people in their state. The Kurdish region, which has no sea outlet and is surrounded by enemies, shares a border with Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. These countries, especially Iran and Turkey, all strongly oppose the establishment of a Kurdish state. They fear, like Maliki, that Kurdistan – which has managed to build a friendly island of calm and stability in an area surrounded by enemies and war – will indeed become that distasteful thing, a “second Israel.” This expression has been used extensively in recent years whenever the issue of Kurdistan’s independence has made headlines. It is entirely possible that the Iranians and the Turks will try to derail the referendum and divide the Kurdish factions.

 

For its part, Israel has an economic and security interest in supporting a Kurdish state. In view of the profusion of jihadist militias in Syria and Iraq, Jerusalem must be involved in developments in Kurdistan. It would be in Israel’s interest for the IDF to train and instruct Peshmerga soldiers in any future Kurdish state. One could go further – it might be sensible to build an air force base in Kurdistan for the state’s protection. Moreover, the independent Kurdish state may well allow the restitution of its former Jewish population, driven from Iraq for its plundered property, thus setting an important precedent for future Arab-Israeli peace agreements.

 

Beyond these vital interests, the people of Israel greatly sympathize with the just struggle of the Kurds. There are many commonalities between the Kurdish people and the Jewish people, both of whom have suffered continuous long-term persecution and are scattered throughout the world. Iran, Turkey, and the Arab states will never support the independence of Kurdistan. The Kurds must lose no time after the referendum in declaring their disengagement from Iraq and the establishment of the independent state of Kurdistan.

 

In all probability, the state of Kurdistan will be an island of stability that is respectful of human rights. It will therefore differ substantially from the countries surrounding it. The Trump administration should support the referendum and the independence of the Kurdistan region and its disengagement from Iraq, since this development is of interest to the entire region. The Kurdish people must have a state of their own, and the sooner the better. The international community should support the independence of Kurdistan, not only the establishment of a Palestinian state. Self-determination and independence should be the prerogative of all peoples, not a principle selectively applied.               

 

Contents

MOSUL IS LIBERATED—BUT NOT YET FREE

Bernard-Henri Lévy

Tablet, July 11, 2017

 

There are joyous liberations. Of Paris in 1944, for example—a liberation insurrectionary and exultant. And then there are leaden liberations: Warsaw’s in 1944; Berlin’s in 1945; and, more recently, Sarajevo’s. The liberation of Mosul obviously falls into the second category. There is a sense of relief, of course. There is, too, the elation of victory—and, for someone who experienced some of the most terrible phases of the battle from the inside, there is intense emotion.

 

But, seeing the images of survivors emerging from the city, their faces frightened and drawn from eight months in hell; viewing the field of ruin to which one of the oldest cities in the world has been reduced; reckoning up the numbers of those killed, those displaced, people from whom the Islamic State took everything while losing this war, it is hard not to feel great dismay.

 

Was it really necessary, first of all, to wait three years before deciding to act? Before launching the assault, did we have to give the enemy time to fortify its positions, to acquire sophisticated weapons, to irrigate terrorist networks abroad, to slaughter and then slaughter some more? When the evidence of horror was as manifest as it was in Mosul, could we not have taken the initiative and killed the serpent’s egg, as Ingmar Bergman urges in one of his finest films?  And what of the “Day After”? Will the coalition decide that its job is done now that it has finally managed to overcome, with its vast forces, a few thousand badly disciplined fighters who were strong only because of our weaknesses (notably our temporizing)? And will we, once more, brag “Mission Accomplished” as the stragglers from the ragtag Islamist force fall back to Hawija, Tal Afar, Raqqa … or Paris?

 

What fate will the victors reserve for the million Mosul residents, so many of whom viewed the Islamic State favorably before quickly becoming disenchanted? Will the victors treat those who remained—or who fled very late in the game—as collaborators, or will they see them instead as hostages? Is it possible that we may fail to realize that the behavior of the liberators—whether magnanimous or inspired by revenge—will determine the future face of a city that, with a little work, could be turned into a laboratory of peace and reconciliation? Who will lend themselves to that work of reconstruction, work that if done right will be a second liberation? Iraq? A state that has been in a state of chronic chaos since the fall of Saddam Hussein? Iraq alone, a state governed by Shiites, whose hate for the Sunni majority of Mosul’s population is an open secret?

 

Instead, might we not imagine, given the high stakes, that the city should come temporarily under international administration? Why not—confronted with this blank slate on which no schools, hospitals, repositories of memory, or social forums remain standing—entrust reconstruction to a pool of donor nations, global institutions, and sovereign funds, Arab and non-Arab? Is it not geopolitically critical that the former Nineveh should become again the cosmopolitan city that it has been since humans began living in cities?

 

And one last question: the Kurds. It was the Kurdish peshmerga that, in October and November 2016, opened Mosul’s gates for the Iraqis. It is they who, for two long years, held fast (as England alone resisted the Nazis until well into 1941) while the Iraqi army recovered from the rout of August 2014; it is they who held a front line 1,000 kilometers long before ultimately repelling the Islamic State. Fighters, they were, from the very start, sentinels of a free world that everywhere else was buckling under the Islamist surge. And so, the question is this: Will the world, having thanked the Kurds on the eve of the final battle, dismiss the historic role they played?

 

On Sept. 25, the people of Iraqi Kurdistan will vote in a referendum on the independence that was promised them a century ago and to which they believe more strongly than ever that they have a right. In a way, that question is addressed to the world as well; and the world will have to choose between two responses:

 

• To throw up a great hue and cry, as Ankara, Teheran, and Moscow have already done, to urge this erstwhile ally, no longer needed, to be a good little ally and to cool its heels: Let’s not add chaos to chaos, goes the argument; let’s not pour more powder into the powder keg of the area; no one needs a new state to further inflame a Middle East that is already complicated enough.

 

• Or to heed the opposing voices contending that Iraq is the factitious state, a state born from the convulsions of World War I, a colonial artifact. And to bring stability to the region nothing could be better, the counterargument continues, than to recognize a nation already endowed with solid democratic institutions, a culture of respect for non-Kurdish minorities and for women, a taste for secularism, a concern for good governance, and a sincere tilt toward the West.

 

For me, having spent two years crisscrossing these lands of strife and hope, the right answer is as clear as day. Far from destabilizing the region, the emergence of a free Kurdistan would be a potent force for stability and peace. The conclusion of the battle of Mosul challenges us all to make this heartfelt choice for justice and reason.

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

How Long Will the Southern Syria Ceasefire Last?: Elizabeth Tsurkov, Jerusalem Post, July 10, 2017—The ceasefire negotiated by the US, Russia, Jordan and reportedly Israel covering southern Syria is the latest, but not last ceasefire agreements negotiated by the foreign backers and warring parties in the Syrian civil war.

Israel a Key Player in Syria Ceasefire Deal: Alex Fishman, Ynet, July 9, 2017—Without Israeli involvement, it’s very unlikely that the ceasefire agreement in Syria would have been born.

Despite Ceasefire Deal, Iranian Stronghold in Syrian Golan Still Possible: Ron Ben-Yishai, Ynet, July 9, 2017—From an Israeli perspective, the ceasefire agreement in southwestern Syria, which goes into effect at noon Sunday, is a positive development—but not positive enough.

After the Defeat of ISIS in Mosul, Iran Prepares for Regional Domination: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, July 13, 2017—When the Iraqi army liberated Mosul from ISIS this week, they were joined by the Shiite militia, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), or in Arabic the Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi.  Leading the PMF is Jamal al-Ibrahim, known by his nom de guerre Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AMID SEETHING IRAQI SECTARIANISM—KURDS EYE INDEPENDENCE, TRUMP HAS “SADDAM NOSTALGIA”, & EZRA’S TOMB MARKS JEWISH HISTORY

 

 

 

ISIS Attack on Funeral Risks Reigniting Sunni-Shi'ite Bloodbath: Arutz Sheva, Feb. 29, 2016— A suicide bomber struck a Shi'ite funeral northeast of Baghdad Monday, killing at least 24 people, including militia commanders, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS) group, officials said.

2016: The Year Kurdistan Finally Breaks from Iraq?: Seth J. Frantzman, National Interest, Feb. 26, 2016— In early February the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, called for a referendum on Kurdish independence.

Trump’s Saddam Nostalgia: A.J. Caschetta, Daily Caller, Feb. 29, 2016 — Remember when Sean Penn went to Iraq in December of 2002 in a bizarre attempt to meet with Saddam Hussein and prevent the inevitable U.S.-led invasion?

Jewish Shrine Reminds Iraqis of Religious Coexistence: Adnan Abu Zeed, Al-Monitor, Feb. 14, 2016— Jews reportedly built the tomb of the Prophet Ezra in Iraq in the fifth century, and the site has undergone many changes since.

 

On Topic Links

 

Iraq’s Biggest Dam Could Collapse at Any Time, Killing Thousands: New York Times, Mar. 1, 2016

U.S. Special Operations Forces Capture Islamic State Operative in Iraq: Gordon Lubold, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 2, 2016

Iraqi PM's Plan to Include Shiite Militias in Mosul Offensive Underscores Iranian Influence: John Rossomando, IPT, Feb. 22, 2016

Amid Iraqi Chaos, Moktada al-Sadr, an Old Provocateur, Returns: Tim Arango, New York Times, Feb. 26, 2016

         

 

 

 

        ISIS ATTACK ON FUNERAL RISKS REIGNITING SUNNI-SHI'ITE BLOODBATH

Arutz Sheva, Feb. 29, 2016

 

A suicide bomber struck a Shi'ite funeral northeast of Baghdad Monday, killing at least 24 people, including militia commanders, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS) group, officials said. The blast in Muqdadiyah, which also wounded dozens of people, threatens to spark another round of revenge attacks against Sunni Muslims in the area, like those carried out after bombings in January.

 

The latest attack targeted a funeral for a well-known Shi'ite member of the Beni Tamim, one of the main tribes in Diyala province, where Muqdadiyah is located. Sadiq al-Husseini, the head of the Diyala province security committee, said that a commander from Asaib Ahl al-Haq and another from Badr – two powerful Shi'ite militias – were killed in the blast.

 

Officials in the province appealed for calm in the aftermath of the attack. Muqdadiyah residents should "join hands to get out of the current crisis," said Ali al-Tamimi, the head of the Muqdadiyah district council. And Diyala Governor Muthanna al-Tamimi said that: "Muqdadiyah will not fall into the trap of sectarian strife promoted by some politicians."

 

The Islamic State jihadist group claimed the attack in an online statement, saying a suicide bomber who detonated an explosive belt targeted a gathering of militiamen in Muqdadiyah. It listed the names of some who were allegedly killed.

 

Suicide bombings are a tactic almost exclusively employed in Iraq by ISIS, a Sunni extremist group that overran swathes of the country in 2014. The Muqdadiyah attack came a day after bombings in a Shi'ite area of northern Baghdad killed at least 39 people and wounded at least 76, the deadliest attacks in the capital so far this year.

 

ISIS said in an online statement that two of its suicide bombers carried out the Baghdad attacks. ISIS also claimed an attack at a cafe in Muqdadiyah that killed at least 20 people and wounded dozens in January, after which revenge attacks targeted Sunni properties in the area. Human Rights Watch said Shi'ite militiamen abducted and killed civilians in the Muqdadiyah area after the attack, in addition to burning homes and mosques.

 

Amnesty International also said that militiamen destroyed Sunni mosques, shops and homes following the January attack, and that authorities subsequently "turned a blind eye to this shocking rampage." The death of militia leaders in the Monday bombing increases the odds of another round of revenge attacks in the area.

 

Iraq turned to Shi'ite militia forces in 2014 to help counter an ISIS onslaught that overran large areas north and west of Baghdad, and they have played a key role in halting the jihadist advance and later pushing them back. But they have also carried out repeated abuses during the conflict that ultimately feed mistrust of the government and are harmful to Baghdad's efforts to reassert and maintain control in recaptured areas. Diyala province was declared "liberated" from ISIS in late January 2015, but ending their open control of populated areas has not brought an end to attacks by the jihadists.

                                   

 

Contents

2016: THE YEAR KURDISTAN FINALLY BREAKS FROM IRAQ?

Seth J. Frantzman

National Interest, Feb. 26, 2016

 

In early February the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, called for a referendum on Kurdish independence. “The time has come and the conditions are now suitable for the people to make a decision through a referendum on their future,” wrote Masoud Barzani. He cautioned people that it did would not entail the “immediate declaration of statehood” but rather judging the will of the “people of Kurdistan” and to create the political landscape to “implement this will at the appropriate time and circumstances.”

 

On February 13, the German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier took to Twitter to express “serious concern” about plans for a referendum, after reportedly meeting Barzani at the Munich Security Conference. Serious concern would be diplomatic speak for “no.” Critics abroad see the independence referendum as a mix of political strategy and long time policy. Ibrahim al-Marashi, a California-based history professor, wrote at Al Jazeera, “Not only does a call for independence appeal to Kurdish constituents, it serves as a tool to empower the KRG vis-a-vis the central government in Baghdad.” Some have suggested that the referendum is merely cover for the Kurdistan Democratic Party to renew its electoral mandate. Elections scheduled for 2013 and 2015 have been postponed to 2017, an issue that ruffles feathers among the smaller parties in Kurdistan. Currently the KRG is governed by the KDP, the largest party, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

 

If a referendum was merely a cynical ploy, then why is the KRG’s own government being so hesitant about it? Perhaps because this has happened once before. The last time Kurdistan had a referendum for independence was in 2005, when 1.9 million Kurds voted in Iraqi national and KRG regional elections. 98 percent of those casting ballots said yes to independence. In 2014, Barzani told the BBC he wanted to hold a referendum. The Kurdish parliament was supposed to set a date for the decision. Then Kurdistan was attacked by Islamic State on August 3, 2014.

 

The war against ISIS has illustrated Kurdistan’s de facto independence better than any referendum could. Cut off from Baghdad, the region functioned independently. It had to control its own economy and develop its own oil resources. Its budget was cut from Baghdad as well due to the war, and the KRG was plunged into financial crises, having to support two hundred thousand Kurdish peshmerga fighters on the frontline against ISIS. Iraq’s Baghdad government condemns any attempt by the KRG to secede. “Any unilateral position from any party without coordination or approval will be against the constitution and illegal,” Saad al-Hadithi, a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, told the press in late January.

 

The KRG has cited referendums in Catalonia, Quebec and Scotland as precedents. But in each of those cases, the national-level democracy accepted the regional referendum and did not actively oppose it, or try to prevent it by force. Neither did foreign governments express opposition to the concept of Scottish independence, or Quebecois independence, for instance. Perhaps a more interesting precedent would be that of Kosovo. In 1991, more than one million Kosovars voted in a referendum for independence from Yugoslavia. Although Serbs boycotted the vote, 99 percent of voters supported independence. After Kosovo had declared independence in 2008, ten years after a U.S.-backed intervention to push Serbian forces from the province, Kosovo Serbs voted in 2012 against accepting Kosovo administration. Unsurprisingly, more than 99 percent of the twenty-six thousand who voted refused to accept Kosovo.

 

In these instances, the referendums took place against the central government’s wishes. There are many other examples of such referendums, such as the one held in Somaliland in 2001, affirming independence from Somalia. While 112 countries recognize Kosovo, it is notable that many do not, despite the support it has received from the U.S., the EU and the international community. Countries that try to go it alone, such as Somaliland, do not face a bright future. Even countries that have won independence through a referendum, such as South Sudan, have found themselves plagued by internal conflict. The Crimea referendum, in which 96 percent were said to have voted to join Russia, was widely seen as discredited by the fact that the Russian army had occupied the peninsula.

 

This leaves Kurdistan in an unenviable position. Sero Qadir of the Institute for Research and Development in Kurdistan argues that the referendum is a way to show the public’s approval for independence, but he stresses that with or without the referendum, Kurdistan has a right to independence. “In my view the referendum is connected with independence and I believe we could have independence anyway without the referendum,” Qadir explained. “When Barzani speaks about it,” he said, it “is because he wants to bring together the political parties and collect them in one idea. . .” Qadir added that in such an event Barzani would have a stronger hand in dealing with Iraq and the international community. He expects to see independence in 2016: “There are three who support it formally: Israel, Saudi, France. But some smaller countries, we estimate around 40 others, support our independence.”

 

Dr. Kemal Kirkuki, a former speaker of the KRG parliament, member of the KDP politburo and a peshmerga commander near Kirkuk, wrote in a response to a query about independence that the “self-determination is a natural right” of all nations. “Self-determination is a right that the International Law, the UN charters and covenants, and Human right laws all agree on—it is an international legitimate legal right for people.” He asserts that any independence would not violate the Iraqi constitution, an issue raised by Baghdad, because the constitution states the various components of the country have taken it upon themselves to “decide to unite by choice.” They can therefore separate by choice.

 

He also asks why the international community has watched Kurdistan defend the world against ISIS but does not demand that Kurdistan receive its full budget from Baghdad. “The international community should be also willing to recognize our natural and legal right to practice self-determination, and conduct our referendum…”

 

Qadir argues that as time goes on, the KRG’s independence goals will be eroded and undermined by Iran, and by the region’s Sunni-Shia sectarianism. “If we stay in Iraq we lose what we have, we will be a small government in Iraq which has ethnic-sectarian war and we will end up as [a] slave of Iran.” There is a sense that Iran works behind the scenes to encourage other parties in the KRG, such as the Goran (Change) movement, to oppose independence. Publicly, these other parties claim to support independence, but have not spoken out about the need for a referendum with the gusto of the KDP. Contending with pressure from within as well as outside Kurdistan’s borders, Barzani will surely face no end of challenges between today and the referendum.

 

Contents

TRUMP’S SADDAM NOSTALGIA

              A.J. Caschetta                                          

     Daily Caller, Feb. 29, 2016

 

Remember when Sean Penn went to Iraq in December of 2002 in a bizarre attempt to meet with Saddam Hussein and prevent the inevitable U.S.-led invasion?  Upon returning home, the activist/actor told Americans they were being lied to and that Iraq was “a happy place. They had flowery meadows and rainbow skies, and rivers made of chocolate, where the children danced and laughed and played with gumdrop smiles.”

 

Actually that line comes from the parody of Sean Penn in “Team America: World Police” (2004). But Penn’s actual performance in his greatest role as Saddam’s “useful idiot” (the phrase is Lenin’s) may be his most enduring work. The assertion that the world would be better off if Saddam Hussein still ruled Iraq never went away entirely. But it reemerged with new relevance after Donald Trump lit into Jeb Bush in the February 13th Republican primary debate with accusations from the Code Pink playbook: President Bush knew there were no WMDs in Iraq and lied about it.

 

After the debate, Trump offered more to CNN: “Iraq used to be no terrorists. He (Hussein) would kill the terrorists immediately, which is like now it’s the Harvard of terrorism…If you look at Iraq from years ago, I’m not saying he was a nice guy, he was a horrible guy, but it was a lot better than it is right now. Right now, Iraq is a training ground for terrorists.” This selective and nostalgic look back at Saddam’s Iraq is a muddy and sentimental vision, almost a form of amnesia in its failure to recall the threats Saddam posed. And it is entirely dependent on faulty logic.

 

The “hypothesis contrary to fact” fallacy occurs when an argument is made expressing with certainty how a situation would be different were the facts of history different (Trump’s claim that the world would be “100 percent better” with Saddam). This sophistry assumes a priori only the best possible outcomes and ignores all others in a single-minded drive to prove a point.

 

Saddam nostalgia assumes that if 2003 went differently Saddam would have stopped invading his neighbors, trying to assassinate U.S. presidents, cheating on the UN inspections imposed by the surrender terms of 1991, and massacring Shiites and Kurds (America’s one true ally in Iraq). Saddam murdered Kurds with special aplomb, as the 1988 chemical attack on the village of Halabja demonstrates.

 

But it ignores the possibility of a worse regime run by Saddam’s heirs: Qusay, the efficient bureaucrat and Uday, the monster who brought the term “rape room” to the American lexicon. It also ignores Saddam’s funding of Palestinian and international terrorism. One can doubt the Czech Republic’s claim that Mohammad Atta met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence agent, but no one can refute the existence of Salmon Pak, Saddam’s premier terrorism training center 15 miles south of Baghdad.

 

Those who deny Saddam’s WMD threat often cite the final report of the Iraqi Survey Group (ISG), but James Lacey showed a decade ago that doing so requires focusing selectively on the report’s assertion that no new stockpiles of WMDs were found while ignoring the assertion that Saddam “was preparing to rapidly reconstitute his WMD program the moment he broke out of sanctions.”

 

The ISG report itself shows symptoms of Saddam nostalgia, for its assertion that the various nerve and mustard agents found in Iraq post-2003 did not constitute “a secret cache of weapons of mass destruction” overlooks the fact that Saddam successfully hid these prohibited weapons from UN inspectors throughout the post-Gulf War era. Strangely, the absent-WMD narrative endures even after C.J. Chivers’ detailed October 14, 2014 expose in The New York Times proved what many Iraq War vets know – there were many chemical weapons found in Iraq – the only dispute is over the vintage of those weapons. And what of the 55,000 metric tons of yellowcake uranium (for which there is only one known use) quietly taken out of Iraq in the summer of 2008?

 

Finally, Saddam nostalgia ignores the debate over a massive transfer of something from Iraq to Syria that took place days prior to the 2003 invasion. The head of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency stated in 2003 that “satellite imagery showing a heavy flow of traffic from Iraq into Syria, just before the U.S. invasion in March, led him to believe that illicit weapons material ‘unquestionably’ had been moved out of Iraq.” That official was James Clapper, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence.

 

The Bush administration might be faulted for a number of policies concerning Iraq, but the argument that things would be better if Saddam were still around is preposterous. Saddam nostalgia says that Bush was lying when he said “we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.” Actually that line comes from an Obama speech, just over four years ago.                  

 

 

Contents

          JEWISH SHRINE REMINDS IRAQIS OF RELIGIOUS COEXISTENCE

  Adnan Abu Zeed                   

                                        Al-Monitor, Feb. 14, 2016

 

Jews reportedly built the tomb of the Prophet Ezra in Iraq in the fifth century, and the site has undergone many changes since. Although the tomb of Jewish Prophet Ezra was turned into an Islamic landmark over the years following the Jewish exodus in the 1950s, clerics there say they are preserving the Jewish character of the shrine. The tomb is in the town of Uzair, which is the Arabic version of the name Ezra, and the shrine has taken on many Islamic aspects. The shrine contains Hebrew scriptures and Jewish symbols, and Quranic verses and Islamic inscriptions. It was turned into an Islamic landmark following the mass exodus of the Jews of Iraq to Israel in the 1950s.

 

Iraqi journalist and author Abdulhadi Mhoder found in this area a symbolic harmony between Islam and Judaism. He told Al-Monitor that this harmony “reflects religious tolerance and confessional coexistence in Iraq." He said, “This harmony can also be seen in the tomb of Jewish Prophet Dhul-Kifl [Ezekiel] in Babil, which Muslims still visit.”

 

An Iraqi Jew who lives in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region stirred controversy a year ago when he told Al-Araby al-Jadeed newspaper that “the Shiite endowment’s takeover of the Prophet Ezra’s Tomb and a Jewish shrine beside it is a Muslim persecution of Jews.” Al-Monitor asked cleric Ali al-Mhamadawi, one of the supervisors of Ezra’s tomb, about the issue. He denied the statement of the Jewish man, who had spoken to the newspaper on condition of anonymity.

 

“Muslims are the ones who took care of the place and rebuilt it after it was deserted following the Jewish exodus from the city,” Mhamadawi said. “These accusations are refuted by the fact that Islam considers Ezra a holy prophet, as he was mentioned in the Quran. That is why religious rituals are held in his shrine.” He added, “Jews can visit the shrine; they are always welcome.”

Al-Monitor asked Mhamadawi about stories in the media claiming that the Muslims overseeing the place had deliberately removed all Jewish symbols and replaced them with Islamic verses. Mhamadawi did not answer the question. Instead, he pointed out Jewish symbols and Hebrew writing on the walls of the hall and on a hanging plate. He said, “If we wanted to erase them completely, nobody could have stopped us. But we respect other religions.” He admitted that “some Jewish [symbols], including the Star of David, were removed in the 1980s unintentionally during maintenance operations that the Ministry of Awqaf [Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs] conducted during Saddam Hussein’s era.”

 

There was no trace of Ezra’s story in the shrine. Instead, Islamic books, written prayers and photos of Shiite figures filled the place. Ezra lived from about 480 to 440 B.C. Some Muslim Iraqis still have good memories about the Jews who lived in Iraq until the 1950s. The ancient conflict was replaced during that time with peace and cooperation. Ali al-Saadi, a teacher who was born in Uzair and is interested in its history, told Al-Monitor that the senior citizens of the city still remember the names of dozens of their Jewish neighbors. He confirmed that Jews and Muslims lived together in peace and that Jews freely practiced their religious rituals.

 

Jews lived in Iraq more than 2,500 years ago in Babil, Baghdad and Mosul, among other places. But in the 1940s and 1950s, they were the victims of theft and murder, and they left the country for two reasons. First, they thought that the 1941 Iraqi coup d’etat happened in collusion with the Nazis. Second, Iraqi Jews faced a wave of anger in the wake of the global Jewish emigration to Palestine to build a Jewish state. Most of them were displaced between 1949 and 1950 after Israel was established. Saadi said, “Jews owned houses and green fields that surrounded the shrine. These are still officially registered in their names in the real estate departments, although Jews are no longer present in Uzair. These houses have a special architecture characterized by wooden ornamented columns and oriels [bay windows].”

 

The shrine of Ezra has withstood centuries in an area inhabited by a deeply religious Shiite majority, unlike a nearby school that was once a synagogue. "Its landmarks have been completely altered," Saadi said. "It included an underground vault that was demolished in the 1980s during maintenance operations conducted by the Ministry of Awqaf.” At the shrine, there are some eroded Jewish inscriptions exposed to neglect and unfavorable weather conditions. These inscriptions are endangered unless they are given appropriate care. At the top of the main entrance is an ancient corroded silver plate inscribed with Hebrew words.

 

Islamic symbols completely dominate the place. Umm Hassan, who was visiting, did not know about its Jewish history. But she was certain that it is linked to numerous healing miracles, and many Muslims here share this faith. Al-Monitor talked to author and researcher Ali Hasan al-Fawwaz about the shrine. He said, “People visit the place because of their attachment to religious sanctities. Even if Prophet Ezra was a Jew, he is part of the collective conscience of the followers of monotheistic religions such as Islam and Judaism, which honor the savior.”…                   

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

On Topic

 

Iraq’s Biggest Dam Could Collapse at Any Time, Killing Thousands: New York Times, Mar. 1, 2016—American officials in Baghdad are warning that a critical dam in northern Iraq may collapse, and that more than a million people could be drowned or left homeless if it gives way.

U.S. Special Operations Forces Capture Islamic State Operative in Iraq: Gordon Lubold, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 2, 2016—The U.S. military has detained an Islamic State operative after a recent raid in Iraq, U.S. officials said, in an instance of the new U.S. emphasis on ground operations meant to capture extremists and obtain intelligence, instead of killing them from the air.

Iraqi PM's Plan to Include Shiite Militias in Mosul Offensive Underscores Iranian Influence: John Rossomando, IPT, Feb. 22, 2016—Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi plans to include the Iranian-backed Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi militias, many of which are trained or controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in any planned offensive to retake Mosul.

Amid Iraqi Chaos, Moktada al-Sadr, an Old Provocateur, Returns: Tim Arango, New York Times, Feb. 26, 2016—They came from the slums of this city’s underclass, the alleyways and the simple halls of the seminary in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, and the outer reaches of the rural south.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                        

 

 

 

                  

 

 

 

ERDOGAN, SEEKING VOTES AMID MIGRANT CRISIS & M.E. INSTABILITY, RENEWS WAR AGAINST KURDS

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication.

 

Mr. Erdogan’s War Against the Kurds: New York Times, Aug. 31, 2015 — It’s not unusual for political leaders in trouble to use diversionary tactics to turn their fortunes around.

Is Turkey’s President Dragging His Country to War for Votes?: Thomas Seibert, The Daily Beast, Sept. 8, 2015 — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is betting that increased pressure on Kurdish rebels in southeast Anatolia will be a vote-getter in snap elections less than two months away.

NATO Allies Making It Easier for Iran to Attack Israel?: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, Sept. 10, 2015 — In early 2013, NATO supposedly came to its ally's help…

The Mideast Migrant Crisis Requires Mideast Solutions: Noah Beck, Algemeiner, Sept. 8, 2015 — Political responses to crises are often tardy and embarrassingly fad-driven, as with the current global outcry over the image of a three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on the Turkish shore.

 

On Topic Links

 

Inside Turkey’s Revived War Against the Kurds: Lauren Bohn, The Atlantic, Aug. 18, 2015

'There Will Be a Civil War in Turkey': Welcome to Cizre, the 'Center of Kurdish Resistance': John Beck, Vice News, Aug. 7, 2015

Report: Hamas Recruiting Students in Malaysia, Training Terrorists in Turkey: IPT News, May 11, 2015

Europe's New Migration Era: Prof. Eyal Zisser, Israel Hayom, Sept. 9, 2015

                  

                   

MR. ERDOGAN’S WAR AGAINST THE KURDS                                                                              

New York Times, Aug. 31, 2015

 

It’s not unusual for political leaders in trouble to use diversionary tactics to turn their fortunes around. Hollywood capitalized on this theme in a popular 1997 film called “Wag the Dog” in which, right before an election, a political spin doctor distracts voters from a presidential sex scandal by engaging a film producer to create a fake war with Albania.

 

There are suspicions that a real-time, dangerous version of that scenario is playing out in Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in a desperate struggle to stay in power after his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party lost its governing majority in a crucial election in June. Ahead of new elections set for Nov. 1, Mr. Erdogan last month reignited a war with Kurdish separatists, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or P.K.K., in an apparent effort to rally support for the government and thus salvage his ambitions for continued authoritarian rule and greatly expanded powers.

 

In recent years, Mr. Erdogan made strides toward recognizing the rights of Turkey’s Kurdish minority and moving toward a fragile peace with the separatists, who had waged a three-decade war against the Turkish government. About 40,000 people were killed, most by security forces. All that diplomacy seems like ancient history, now that Turkish warplanes have resumed strafing targets in northern Iraq where the separatists are based. The pretext for the renewed fighting was the killing of two Turkish police officers. But even if the gunmen were P.K.K., as the government claims, Mr. Erdogan could have found other ways to respond than all-out war.

 

Mr. Erdogan had long counted on the Kurds to help him achieve the parliamentary supermajority in the June elections that would have allowed him to change the Constitution and create a more powerful presidency. The Kurds make up 18 percent of the population. And while marginalized for years, they had voted for his party in the past. But in June, many of the Kurds, joined by secular Turks, switched loyalties to the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party. Despite strenuous efforts during the campaign by Mr. Erdogan to discredit it, that party won enough votes to help deprive Mr. Erdogan’s party of a governing majority.

 

By renewing military action, Mr. Erdogan appears to be making an aggressive appeal to Turkish nationalists opposed to self-determination for the Kurds. He is worried about the growing strength of the separatists, whose military affiliate in Syria has become a close and effective ally of the United States in the fight against the Islamic State. More broadly, Mr. Erdogan is fearful that the Kurds, an ethnic group with populations throughout the region in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, will push even harder to establish the sovereign state they have long yearned for. They have been emboldened by their Syrian affiliates’ gains against ISIS and the creation of a relatively stable Kurdish province in Iraq.

 

Mr. Erdogan last month agreed to let the Americans use Incirlik air base and two other bases to fly missions against ISIS, a long overdue commitment that should have been pro forma for a NATO ally but took a year of tough negotiations because of Turkish resistance. He also agreed to join the American-led coalition in the fight against ISIS. But it is clear that his main priority is fighting the Kurdish separatists. The United States should use its influence in the region to stop the fighting and deprive Mr. Erdogan of an excuse to continue a military operation that makes the difficult struggle against the Islamic State even harder.    

           

                                                                                   

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IS TURKEY’S PRESIDENT DRAGGING HIS COUNTRY TO WAR FOR VOTES?                                                    

Thomas Seibert                                                                                                   

The Daily Beast, Sept. 8, 2015

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is betting that increased pressure on Kurdish rebels in southeast Anatolia will be a vote-getter in snap elections less than two months away. But a flare-up of Kurdish rebel attacks that have inflicted the heaviest losses on Turkish soldiers in years has Turks wondering whether Erdogan is dragging the country to war to suit his own political needs.

 

So devastating was the shock of the latest attack by rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) near the Turkish border with Iraq on Sunday that the government and the military waited more than 24 hours before revealing that 16 soldiers had died. It was the highest death toll for the Turkish army in a single combat event since 2011.

 

Fighters from the PKK, a rebel group designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and Europe, attacked a military convoy in the town of Daglica and blew up a number of military vehicles with roadside bombs. The well-connected security analyst Metin Gurcan said on Twitter that 500 to 600 rebels attacked the soldiers, while bad weather prevented Turkish attack helicopters from helping the encircled troops. The PKK said at least 31 soldiers were killed. In the aftermath, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu held emergency meetings with advisers and Turkey’s chief of general staff, Hulusi Akar, and requested a meeting with opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a rare step in Turkey’s polarized political scene. Addressing the public Monday evening, Davutoglu pledged that the mountains of southeastern Anatolia would be “cleansed” of rebels.

 

While the government is promising a tough response to the new PKK attack, Kurdish politicians say government security forces are responsible for the killings of six civilians in the southeastern city of Cizre, which the army and police have closed off while they fight the PKK. A delegation of the legal Kurdish party HDP said after a visit to the city that police were stopping ambulances carrying injured and sick people to the hospital. A 10-year-old girl was killed by a police sniper inside her own home, they said.

 

Following news of the soldiers’ deaths in Daglica, Turkish nationalists attacked HDP offices in several cities around the country. Even before the latest flare-up, violent clashes between Turks and Kurds were on the rise. Turkish right-wingers in Istanbul stabbed a 21-year-old Kurd to death after they overheard him speaking Kurdish on his cellphone, the leftist Evrensel newspaper reported Monday. With tensions heightened across the country, Erdogan declared in a television interview that things would be different if parliamentary elections in June had produced a majority in the house to change the constitution and introduce a presidential system with him at the helm. Critics say Erdogan sabotaged the search for a new government after the June election, in which his AKP party lost its parliamentary majority. They say Erdogan pushed through the new election, scheduled for November 1, in the hope of winning back the AKP majority and, ultimately, getting the presidential system he wanted.

 

Kilicdaroglu, the opposition leader, has accused Erdogan of stoking tensions in southeast Anatolia to attract nationalist voters to the AKP. “He is responsible for the blood that is being spilled and for terrorism,” Kilicdaroglu said last month, adding of the AKP’s leaders: “They want to stay in power with the help of chaos.” The leader of the Kurdish HDP party, Selahattin Demirtas, echoed Kilicdaroglu, saying Erdogan and his ruling party are hoping a new Kurdish conflict will help to win back their parliamentary majority. “The AK Party is dragging the country into a period of conflict, seeking revenge for the loss of its majority in the June election,” Demirtas said.

 

Outside Turkey, Eric Edelman, a former U.S. ambassador to Ankara, argues Erdogan is bent on regaining control over parliament in order to push through the presidential system that would give him wide-ranging powers. To that end, Erdogan is portraying the HDP as the political arm of the terrorist PKK and trying to “steal votes” from the right-wing MHP party. Airstrikes against the PKK have reignited “a conflict that had been on the road to resolution,” Edelman wrote in an op-ed late last month in The New York Times.

 

The question is whether Turks will follow Erdogan. Murat Gezici, a pollster, says his latest survey shows that 56 percent of voters hold Erdogan responsible for the latest flare-up of violence, which began in late July. A suicide attack blamed on the so-called Islamic State that killed more than 30 people on July 20 triggered PKK assassinations of Turkish police officers, with the rebels holding Ankara partly responsible for the ISIS strike. In response, the Turkish government sent warplanes to bomb PKK hideouts in northern Iraq and in Turkey itself, while also bombing some ISIS positions in Syria.

 

Turkey’s harsh response angered U.S. officials, who said Erdogan’s government was much less interested in fighting ISIS than taking out the PKK. One senior U.S. official was quoted as saying last month that the campaign against ISIS was only a “hook” for the Turks. “Turkey wanted to move against the PKK, but it needed a hook,” the official told The Wall Street Journal. Since then, several dozen soldiers and police officers, and hundreds of PKK fighters, have died, according to Ankara. The renewed fighting shattered a cease-fire between the state and the PKK that had been in force since 2013 and fueled hope for a permanent end to the conflict, which began in 1984. Erdogan says the PKK used the ceasefire to stockpile weapons. The rebels have been attacking security forces in the region on a daily basis and putting up checkpoints.

 

So far, there is little evidence that Erdogan’s plan of hitting the PKK to win votes is working. Several polls show the AKP has lost even more ground, while HDP is gaining support. There is “no sign that the latest violent clashes have increased any AKP votes,” Ziya Meral, a London-based Turkey analyst, tweeted Monday.               

                                                                       

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NATO ALLIES MAKING IT EASIER FOR IRAN TO ATTACK ISRAEL?                                                   

Burak Bekdil

Gatestone Institute, Sept. 3, 2015

 

In early 2013, NATO supposedly came to its ally's help: As Turkey was under threat from Syrian missiles — potentially with biological/chemical warheads — the alliance would build a mini anti-missile defense architecture on Turkish soil. Six U.S.-made Patriot missile batteries would be deployed in three Turkish cities and protect a vast area where about 3.5 million Turks lived.

 

The Patriot batteries that would protect Turkey from Syrian missiles belonged to the United States, Germany and the Netherlands. In early 2015, the Dutch mission ended and was replaced by Spanish Patriots. Recently, the German government said that it would withdraw its Patriot batteries and 250 troops at the beginning of 2016. Almost simultaneously, the U.S. government informed Turkey that its Patriot mission, expiring in October, would not be renewed. Washington cited "critical modernization upgrades" for the withdrawal.

 

Since the air defense system was stationed on Turkish soil, it unnerved Iran more than it did Syria. There is a story behind this. First, Patriot missiles cannot protect large swaths of land, but only designated friendly sites or installations in their vicinity. That the six batteries would protect Turkey's entire south and 3.5 million people living there was a tall tale. They would instead protect a U.S.-owned, NATO-assigned radar deployed earlier in Kurecik, a Turkish town; and they would protect it not from Syrian missiles with chemical warheads, but from Iranian ballistic missiles.

 

Kurecik seemed to matter a lot to Iran. In November 2011, Iran threatened that it would target NATO's missile defense shield in Turkey ("and then hit the next targets," read Israel) if it were threatened. Shortly before the arrival of Patriots in Turkey, Iran's army chief of staff warned NATO that stationing Patriot anti-missile batteries in Turkey was "setting the stage for world war."

 

What was stationed in Kurecik was an early-warning missile detection and tracking radar system. Its mission is to provide U.S. naval assets in the Mediterranean with early warning and tracking information in case of an Iranian missile launch that might target an ally or a friendly country, including Israel. So, a six-battery Patriot shield to protect the NATO radar in Kurecik against possible Iranian aggression was necessary. And that explains why the Iranians went mad about Kurecik and openly threatened to hit it.

 

NATO and Turkish officials have always denied any link between the Patriot missiles and the NATO radar in Turkey. They have often pointed out that the Patriot batteries were stationed in the provinces of Adana, Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep, while Kurecik was in nearby Malatya province. But the Patriot is a road-mobile system: It can be dismantled easily and re-deployed in another area in a matter of hours (the road distance between Kurecik and Kahramanmaras is a mere 200 kilometers, or 124 miles).

 

Clearly, Iran did not go mad and threaten to hit all NATO installations in Turkey because it wanted 3.5 million Turkish citizens to die from the chemical warhead of a Syrian missile. It went mad and threatened because it viewed the defensive NATO assets in Turkey as a threat to its offensive missile capabilities, which the Patriots could potentially neutralize.

 

Why, otherwise, would a country feel "threatened" and threaten others with starting a "world war" just because a bunch of defensive systems are deployed in a neighboring country? Iran did so because it views the NATO radar in Turkey as an asset that could counter any missile attack on Israel; and the Patriots as hostile elements because they would protect that radar. In a way, Iran's reaction to the NATO assets in Turkey revealed its intentions to attack.

 

It could be a total coincidence that the U.S. and Germany (most likely to be followed by Spain) have decided to pull their Patriot batteries and troops from Turkey shortly after agreeing to a nuclear deal with Iran. But if it is a coincidence, it is a very suspicious one. In theory, the Patriot systems were deployed in Turkey in order to protect the NATO ally from missile threats from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Right? Right.

 

Assad's regime is still alive in Damascus and it has the same missile arsenal it had in 2013. Moreover, Turkey's cold war with Assad's Syria is worse than it was in 2013, with Ankara systematically supporting every opposition group and openly declaring that it is pushing for Assad's downfall. Why were Assad's missiles a threat to Turkey two and a half years ago, but are not today?

 

The Patriot missiles are leaving Turkey. They no longer will "protect Turkish soil." Apparently, NATO allies believe, although the idea defies logic, that the nuclear deal with Iran will discourage the mullahs in Tehran from attacking Israel. It looks as if the potential target of NATO heavyweights' decision is more a gesture to Iran than to Turkey.

                                                           

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THE MIDEAST MIGRANT CRISIS REQUIRES MIDEAST SOLUTIONS

Noah Beck

Algemeiner, Sept. 8, 2015

 

Political responses to crises are often tardy and embarrassingly fad-driven, as with the current global outcry over the image of a three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on the Turkish shore. He was hardly the first innocent victim of this century’s most brutal war. Where has the world been for the last 54 months?

 

Indeed, the unfolding humanitarian crisis was an entirely foreseeable consequence of Obama’s spineless Syria policy, and the Western European leaders who followed it. So, despite Obama’s efforts to anesthetize the public, it is understandable if some collective shame for Western failures — driven by tragic images that went viral — has prompted Europe suddenly to announce that it will accept more refugees from the war-torn Middle East.

 

But how did the West become more responsible for the Mideast refugee crisis than the wealthiest Mideast states (whose funding of Islamist rebels helped to create that crisis)? According to news reports and think tanks, Arab Gulf donors have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Syria in recent years, including to ISIS and other groups.

 

Even if Gulf states weren’t at all responsible for aggravating the Syrian refugee crisis by strengthening ISIS, their wealth, proximity and cultural/religious affinities with the refugees should still make these countries far more responsible than Europe is for their welfare. The vast majority of refugees are Muslim Arabs. They therefore share a common language, religion, culture and ethnicity with the wealthy Gulf countries that have shunned them for reasons of national security (as if the West didn’t have such concerns). Any dialect or denominational differences Mideast refugees may have with Gulf states are nothing compared to the cultural, linguistic, ethnic and religious differences between most Middle East refugees and the European countries they hope to enter.

 

Even more absurd, Gulf countries are bringing in foreign laborers to build up their vast, oil-rich territories. Putting aside their horrific exploitation of those workers (which is a scandal all of its own, even if campus protests, international boycotts and U.N. resolutions never mention it), why aren’t they instead accepting Mideast refugees who would happily accept the work that imported labor is now doing? Similarly, why have no Gulf countries granted Palestinian refugees citizenship if they so readily advocate for them at the U.N. out of some purported concern for their welfare? The cynical hypocrisy is staggering.

 

By contrast, tiny Israel absorbed nearly a million Jews from the Middle East and North Africa who were similarly made homeless when, in the 1940s and 1950s, their survival meant fleeing the Muslim-majority states where they had lived for milennia. Israel has also accepted plenty of non-Jewish refugees, from the Vietnamese “boat people” in the late 1970s, to African refugees and migrants in recent years. Israel has provided humanitarian medical assistance to countless Syrians and now Israel’s deputy minister of regional affairs Israel (an Arab Druze) has joined the leader of the political opposition in urging Israel to accept Syrian refugees, despite the demographic and strategic risks of doing so.

 

Yet Europe now tries to hurt Israel’s economy by stigmatizing goods from the West Bank, with no similar economic campaigns against any of the Gulf countries, whose human rights records are exponentially worse on every issue (freedom of speech, women’s rights, religious freedom, minority rights, gay rights, treatment of guest workers, helping refugees, etc.). Such double standards will undoubtedly worsen as Europe becomes increasingly Muslim — a trend that will only intensify with the current refugee crisis. But appeasement hasn’t kept Europe safe from Islamist attacks, as evidenced by the 2004 Madrid bombings, the 2005 London attacks, the 2014 Belgium attack and this year’s attacks in Paris (to name just a few).

 

Europe clearly failed to integrate Muslim immigrants into its societies, which only reinforces doubts about the wisdom of bringing in more such immigrants. More importantly, the EU’s sudden, politically correct acceptance of refugees addresses the symptoms rather than the root cause: the rise of ISIS — an evil cancer that metastasizes with each day that the world dithers. The longer ISIS survives, the more people are killed, tortured and enslaved, the more Syria’s minorities are persecuted under an extremist Sunni-Islamic rule, and the more refugees desperately try to flee wherever they can…

 

Notwithstanding the generous island-purchase-offer by an Egyptian billionaire, the best long-term home for these refugees is not some remote Greek island (which only consolidates ISIS’s victory). Rather, the refugees should be able to live in security and dignity in the same region from which they fled, which means defeating ISIS and converting the ISIS-liberated territories into mini-states that will serve as safe havens for moderate Sunnis and the various minorities at risk, including Christians, Kurds, Druze, Yazidis and Alawites (who will become the most targeted after Syria’s Alawite-led regime falls).

 

The Kurds — who have fought ISIS with more courage and determination than any other party — have more than proven themselves worthy of a state. The fact that Christians once made up 20% of the Middle East and are now safest in the only non-Muslim country in the entire region — Israel — reinforces the need to create a Mideast Christian state. Such a state could exist around Mosul and/or other parts of Iraq/Syria where Christianity has historically existed (Assyria, Antioch, etc.). The Druze — an ancient religion that has often also suffered persecution — could be given a state in southwest Syria. There could be yet another, non-religious state that welcomes any other minorities, like the Yazidis, and moderate Sunni Muslims.

 

Until ISIS is replaced with stable and sane states, the Gulf countries should welcome all Mideast refugees.

To address the Middle East refugee crisis intelligently, the E.U. should help to defeat ISIS, convert liberated territories into states for the region’s persecuted minorities and pressure Gulf states to absorb all refugees in the interim.                                                                       

 

Contents                                                                                                                                               

 

On Topic

                                                                                                        

Inside Turkey’s Revived War Against the Kurds: Lauren Bohn, The Atlantic, Aug. 18, 2015—It was nearly midnight on July 23 when a slew of Turkish police officers raided Mehmet Cedinkaya’s home and detained his 17-year-old mentally disabled son, Azat.

'There Will Be a Civil War in Turkey': Welcome to Cizre, the 'Center of Kurdish Resistance': John Beck, Vice News, Aug. 7, 2015 —The trenches have been dug in Cizre. Several feet wide and paired with mounds of earth and torn-up building material, they appeared blocking roads in this Kurdish enclave in southeastern Turkey after Ankara launched an intensive air campaign against the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in July. 

Report: Hamas Recruiting Students in Malaysia, Training Terrorists in Turkey: IPT News, May 11, 2015

Europe's New Migration Era: Prof. Eyal Zisser, Israel Hayom, Sept. 9, 2015 —The migrant crisis transpiring in Europe has, in recent weeks, expedited efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian civil war. It is clear such endeavors are hopeless.

 

                                                                      

 

              

TURKS DENY ARMENIAN GENOCIDE & ENDORSE ANTISEMITIC CONSPIRACIES, WHILE KURDS PROVE EFFECTIVE AGAINST I.S.

Turkey's Obsessive Fantasy: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, May 5, 2015 — In his 2007 bestseller book, "The Children of Moses," quirky Turkish writer Ergun Poyraz claimed that then Prime Minister [now President] Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a crypto-Jew.

Turkey’s Patriotic Lies: Robert Fulford, National Post, Apr. 24, 2015— If a whole nation believes a persistent lie in order to be thought patriotic, how will that affect the public life of the country?

The Status of Western Military Aid to Kurdish Peshmerga Forces: Lazar Berman, JCPA, May 11, 2015 — The Kurdish peshmerga forces (literally “those who confront death”) have proven willing and able to stand up to the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) on the battlefield.

Israel’s Road From Lausanne to Kurdistan: Ariel Harkham, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 29, 2015— With the Lausanne agreement signed earlier this month, it’s safe to say that Iran is on the march.

  

 

On Topic Links

 

A Century After Armenian Genocide, Turkey’s Denial Only Deepens: Tim Arango, New York Times, Apr. 16, 2015

Does Turkey Have the Putin Disease?: Thomas Seibert, Daily Beast, Apr. 15, 2015

New Anti-Semitic Film All the Rage in Turkey: Burak Bekdil, Middle East Forum, Apr. 27, 2015

Kurdistan Thrives Despite War With ISIS: Michael J. Totten, World Affairs, Apr. 19, 2015

         

                                     

TURKEY'S OBSESSIVE FANTASY                                                                                              

Burak Bekdil                                                                                                                                

Gatestone Institute, May 5, 2015

 

In his 2007 bestseller book, "The Children of Moses," quirky Turkish writer Ergun Poyraz claimed that then Prime Minister [now President] Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a crypto-Jew. The book's cover depicted Erdogan and his wife in a Star of David, and portrayed Erdogan as a secret agent of "international Jewry."

 

Only six years after the publication of "The Children of Moses," in 2013, Erdogan, along with Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei and UN official Richard Falk was on top of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's annual list of the top 10 anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slurs. If one asked Poyraz, the author of the book, he would most likely explain Erdogan's deep anti-Semitism with another conspiracy theory: his public anti-Semitism is a perfect "disguise" for him to serve the Jews.

 

Erdogan's ideologically inherent anti-Semitism, often expressed in a blend with his anti-Zionism, is only too well-known internationally. In 2013, the year he "won the award" for his anti-Semitism, he said that Zionism was a crime against humanity. The Middle East has never been short of conspiracy theories. But the idea that there are crypto-Jews or secret friends of Israel is increasingly popular with Muslims who are waging political, ideological and sectarian wars among themselves.

 

Recently, a top Iranian military commander accused Saudi Arabia of following the footsteps of Israel. "Saudi rulers follow Israel as a role model," said Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards. Only a few days earlier, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had appeared on television with his own version of conspiracy theories, this time pointing to Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, one of Turkey's regional nemeses, as Israel's "secret ally." Davutoglu said: "A [invisible] hand wants Assad to survive. Just like Sisi … Neither Assad nor his family has done any harm to Israel. … Sisi continues with the siege of Gaza. Because for Sisi, Israel's security is more important than human dignity in Egypt."

 

Davutoglu illustrated a stereotypical Islamist's judgment: When I have ideological, political or sectarian cold wars with my co-religionists and they refuse to convert to my worldview, it must be because they are the secret allies of Israel. The regimes of both Assad and al-Sisi are Turkey's worst regional enemies, because Ankara views them as barriers to the Muslim Brotherhood or similar Islamist regimes in Syria and Egypt.

 

Davutoglu's allegation is deeply problematic for a number of reasons. First, it does not satisfy him that both the regimes of Bashar Assad and his late father Hafez Assad in Syria have been in a state of war with Israel for decades. He openly declares that Syria must "do harm" to Israel. Davutoglu does not hide his annoyance that the Assads' Syria has not done any harm to Israel. To put it in more simple words, the Turkish Prime Minister wants Israel to be harmed. Second, Davutoglu's allegation is at the same time a confession. He says that the Sisi regime in Egypt maintains its blockade against the smuggling of arms into Gaza. That is factual, so it is not wrong. But then he says Egypt does this because "for Sisi, Israel's security is more important than human dignity in Egypt."

 

So the Turkish Prime Minister clearly admits that without Egypt's control over the border and destruction of smuggling tunnels, the Palestinians will smuggle arms into Gaza to commit acts of terror against Israel. The Turkish Prime Minister also admits that he has a problem with Israel's security, that he would prefer an insecure Israel, and he equates "human dignity" in Egypt with Israel's insecurity — by means of weaponry smuggled to Palestinian terrorists through the tunnels he would prefer not destroyed by the Egyptian government.

 

In a saner part of the world, Davutoglu (and therefore, Turkey) could be accused of openly sponsoring terrorism. He will not be. Instead, a Shiite rival or Sunni enemy might argue that Davutoglu says he is upset by Israel's security because he is a crypto-ally of Israel. The slanderous, defamatory pattern repeats itself — always in the same conspiratorial way.

 

                                                                       

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TURKEY’S PATRIOTIC LIES                                                                                             

Robert Fulford                                                                                                    

National Post, Apr. 24, 2015

 

If a whole nation believes a persistent lie in order to be thought patriotic, how will that affect the public life of the country? This is a major problem for Turkey, though only a few Turks will admit it. The issue arises now because Armenians everywhere are commemorating the Armenian genocide, which began a century ago this week. Their remembrance services have brought out the anger and paranoia in Turkish politicians. Officially, Turks do not believe the account of the tragedy accepted by most historians and 22 countries, including Canada. Over and over, the Turks say it never happened the way most of the world believes. It is as if the Germans and Austrians were to claim that the accepted history of the Holocaust is a lie.

 

Nationalist Turks experience Armenian mourning as a rebuke. On April 12 Pope Francis, in a service in St. Peter’s Basilica, described the death of about 1.5 million Armenians as the “first genocide of the 20th century.” The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was outraged. He reacted by calling the pope “a politician, not a man of religion.” He added, “I warn him not to repeat the same mistake.” He was also offended when the European Parliament mentioned “genocide” in a resolution. Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said the use of “genocide” reflects European racism. He accused the Pope of being part of plots against Turkey and its ruling AKP party.

 

The disputed tragedy’s roots go back to the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. When it began falling apart, previously obedient subjects began asserting ethnic independence. A movement called the Young Turks took control of the empire’s Turkish region. The core of the Young Turk Revolution was the exclusionist and xenophobic Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), which assumed power in 1913.

 

The two million Armenians in what became Turkey, many of them manufacturers and merchants, aroused jealousy in the poor peasants and soldiers around them. That feeling coincided with the new government’s desire that Turkey should be mainly Turkish. The government confiscated Armenian property, fulfilling a nationalist plan to increase Turkish control of business. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were forced to emigrate. Many died of starvation while seeking a new home.

 

The case of Orhan Pamuk, the only Turkish winner of the Nobel prize in literature, shows how these events haunt national thinking. In 2005 an ultra-nationalist lawyer sued him for saying to a Swiss magazine that “30,000 Kurds have been killed here, and a million Armenians. And almost nobody dares to mention that. So I do.” Pamuk was trying to throw light on Turkey’s cramped attitude to freedom of speech: “What happened to the Ottoman Armenians in 1915 was a major thing that was hidden from the Turkish nation. But we have to be able to talk about the past.” He was charged under the Turkish Penal Code, which then prescribed up to three years imprisonment for insulting the Republic.

 

His trial was halted on a technicality but Turkey was internationally condemned both for the law and for using it against Pamuk. A European Union official said this might affect Turkey’s chance of winning full membership in the EU. Foreign writers lined up to support Pamuk. The charges were dropped and a new penal code passed. Still, the lawyer who brought the original charge said Pamuk must be punished “for insulting Turkey and Turkishness.”

 

Turkish propagandists insist, above all, that 1915-17 was not genocide. After all, they argue, genocide is an intentional crime. If Armenians were killed, it was not the government’s intention. They claim Armenian deaths resulted from spontaneous outbreaks in a chaotic time. Scholars usually consider it genocide. Ronald Grigor Suny, a University of Michigan historian, calls his detailed book, “They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else”: A History of the Armenian Genocide (Princeton University Press), published this year. Suny explores a mountain of documents and makes a powerful case — but, as any Turk would be quick to point out, he has Armenian ancestors.

 

Henry Morgenthau, at the time U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, wrote in his memoirs that the Turkish authorities who wrote deportation orders were condemning Armenians to death. “They understood this well, and in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact.” For the Turks, denying that assertion has become an obsessive neurosis, a poison in their national discourse. Their habit of denial has made them the victims of a crime they claim never happened.

           

                                                                          

Contents                                                                                               

   

THE STATUS OF WESTERN MILITARY AID

TO KURDISH PESHMERGA FORCES                                                                                       

Lazar Berman                                                                                                               

JCPA, May 11, 2015

 

The Kurdish peshmerga forces (literally “those who confront death”) have proven willing and able to stand up to the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) on the battlefield. By contrast, two whole divisions of the U.S.-trained and financed Iraqi Army, along with tens of thousands of police and other paramilitary forces, fled in the face of the IS onslaught in 2014, leaving behind advanced weaponry paid for by American taxpayers for the jihadis and their Ba’athist allies to add to their arsenal.

 

Realizing that the Kurdistan Region, the most stable and secure region of Iraq, could fall to IS unless they stepped in, several Western countries increased military aid to the peshmerga after the city of Mosul fell in the summer of 2014, but the Kurdish fighters’ performance remains uneven.  Kurdish officials claim the aid is insufficient, and that Baghdad is preventing some shipments from reaching their forces. It certainly has not enabled the peshmerga to sweep the Islamic State away from Kurdish areas, but weapons are not the only factor keeping the peshmerga from achieving a far-reaching victory.

 

Though the peshmerga is under the nominal unified control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) president, it is effectively two separate party militias with ample distrust between the sides. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) peshmerga fought a bloody civil war in the 1990s, and are largely loyal to the party, not the regional government. The rivalry can also affect deployment.  Both peshmerga organizations sent far too many troops to Kirkuk in an attempt to gain dominance in the oil-rich region in June 2014, leaving other strategic areas dangerously undermanned.

 

As with many aspects of the Kurdish economy and government society, corruption and nepotism are rampant in the peshmerga.  Senior commanders are chosen because of family connections, and some commanders have lied about the number of fighters under their command in order to pocket salaries and benefits. A nephew of KRG President Massoud Barzani is accused of fleeing the battlefield in January during an amphibious IS assault on peshmerga positions.  Kurdish refugees in Syria also claim that peshmerga fighters fled their positions in Sinjar while Syrian Kurdish Peoples Protection Unit (YPG) fighters stayed to fight.

 

The peshmerga are primarily stocked with light arms, many of which were captured from Saddam Hussein’s forces during the wars in 1991 and 2003. AK-47s and Soviet machine guns, often mounted on unarmored jeeps, make up the preponderance of their weaponry. Even before the recent arms shipments, they did have some anti-tank capabilities, including American TOW missiles and RPG-7s. Their artillery was largely limited to Soviet-era howitzers and small mortars.

 

The peshmerga have their own armor as well, including American MRAP vehicles, old Soviet T-54/55 tanks, and some newer T-72s, captured from the Iraqis in the 2003 Iraq War. Though they do have several hundred tanks in total, they are woefully unequipped to provide the logistical support needed to reliably field sustained offensive armored operations, and have no ground maneuver capabilities.

 

Peshmerga commanders have long complained of acute ammunition shortages for small arms and for their artillery and armor. Kurdish officers and leaders point to their inferior arms to explain sometimes embarrassing setbacks against the Islamic State. Weapons certainly play some role in the peshmerga’s performance, but do not at all determine the outcome of the fight. The far more lightly armed Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters, with a deeper commitment to their cause and to their leaders, have proven especially effective against IS.

 

There are significantly more decisive factors peshmerga commanders would rather not mention. Despite their storied reputation, the peshmerga glory days were in a bygone era. They cut their teeth fighting a guerrilla war against Saddam’s conventional forces in Kurdistan’s mountainous terrain during the 60s, 70s, and 80s. After the 1991 Gulf War, peshmerga forces saw little action beyond a civil war between 1995-1998. Training since the fight against Saddam has also been entirely inadequate, and the peshmerga became a border guard and counter-terrorism force, untrained to fight mobile IS insurgents on open plains.

 

The Islamic State’s early August 2014 offensive against northern Iraq, in which they captured Mount Sinjar and the Mosul Dam and threatened Erbil, spurred a commitment for arms and other aid from Western countries, including the United States, Albania, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, and United Kingdom. The aid came in various forms. Dozens of military advisers from the U.S., UK, France, Italy, and other countries have been training peshmerga fighters in the use of weaponry and intelligence. Kurdish fighters have also flown to Germany to train on weapons systems there.

 

Countries have provided significant quantities of rifles, pistols, grenades, and ammunition, some of which are outdated.  Italy, for instance, sent tens of thousands of AK-47s and other weapons captured during the Balkan conflicts in the early 1990s.  Non-lethal equipment has come in the form of night-vision equipment, mine detection systems, helmets, body armor, communications gear, and light vehicles. Though the Kurds would like to build up an attack and ground support capability from the air, it does not look to be in the offing. However, Italy announced it would send four Chinook helicopters for logistics and troop movement.

 

Perhaps the most significant weapons system the peshmerga has received is the MILAN anti-tank missile, provided by Germany.  The missile has been especially effective against the Islamic State’s armored suicide vehicles moving toward peshmerga checkpoints and positions. Germany has provided other military aid in well, totaling over 700 tons. Turkey has also begun sending non-lethal military equipment and is training fighters.

 

Iran, which holds significant sway in the Kurdistan region, is also sending arms to the peshmerga. Tehran has established itself as the peshmerga’s primary artillery provider, especially BM-14 and BM-21 truck-mounted rocket launchers. The Soviet-made systems go through ammunition rapidly, and Iran sends daily shipments to the Kurds. Ties are especially close with the PUK peshmerga….

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

                                                                                   

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ISRAEL’S ROAD FROM LAUSANNE TO KURDISTAN

Ariel Harkham                                

Jerusalem Post, Apr. 29, 2015

 

With the Lausanne agreement signed earlier this month, it’s safe to say that Iran is on the march. Tehran is now enjoying the benefits of a “diplomatic iron dome” it’s been building over the course of six-plus years of negotiation, nurtured and in a sense funded by US President Barack Obama’s desire to negotiate while not addressing the larger problem of a militant regime run amok. The result is that while diplomats agree on an acceptable number of centrifuges, the Iranian Islamic revolution has grown more aggressive, supporting, coordinating or running wars in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon and now Yemen, while being increasingly open about its genocidal intent toward Israel.

 

Israel, on the other hand, has done what it traditionally does when it comes to strategic international threats, which is to sit on the regional sidelines and wait things out. Though this approach may have worked for it in the past, and is still popular with the Israeli public today, it ignores the unprecedented nature of the growing threats that now surround Israel. It’s clear that Israel needs an independent strategy on Iran. And, though it may seem unexpected, it can find the potential for such a strategy in the Kurdish people’s fight for independence.

 

As a national independence movement, the Kurds have a claim to national sovereignty at least as strong as that of any other ethnic minority. Despite this, it seems when you look at the surface, there’s little room to break the hostilities, entanglements and intolerances created by the current regional players – Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Armenia, and the Kurds themselves – who are involved in the Kurdish conflict. But, digging a little deeper, the Kurds offer Israel a unique opportunity to build from the ground up a new friend by helping with the sort of nation-building challenges that the “start up nation” is uniquely able to help overcome.

 

For Israel, there are a number of compelling interests and motivations that argue for the adoption of an interventionist Kurdistan policy that goes beyond the back channels and current lip-service support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has thus far offered. The Kurds, who number around 30 million people, have, like the Jews, suffered for centuries as a powerless and persecuted minority. They’ve been gassed, massacred and exiled, and to this day not only remain stateless but have watched as their land has been split into five separate countries. Furthermore, with a distinct claim and an ancient history going back millennia, the deep cultural parallels to the Jewish story generates the critical public support for a sustainable aid program in the Knesset.

 

There’s good reasons to believe the Kurds themselves have what it takes. Foreign Affairs recently called 2015 “The Kurds’ Big Year” in a lengthy piece arguing in favor of northern Iraq as the most likely seat for Kurdish independence this year. Islamic State (IS) has effectively removed Baghdad’s authority over the autonomous Kurdish majority in the north (who had been left to fend for themselves). The world watched in horror at the end of 2014 as the Yazidis were butchered and enslaved, stressing the need for a solution to the ongoing Kurdish crisis, causing even the typically antagonistic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to shift his stance on the Kurdish question, becoming more sympathetic and eventually putting in motion a political process to resolve his own country’s Kurdish problem.

 

The result is that the Kurds have extended control as far as Kirkuk and, in the process, have been legitimized on the world scene to the point of receiving foreign military assistance from NATO and signing their own global oil agreements (of which Israel was among the first customers). Last year, Masoud Barzani, the leader of the ruling KRG, announced a highly touted independence referendum in northern Iraq, giving the Kurds their greatest hope of freedom in generations.

 

Looking at Israel’s national interest in a free Kurdistan, there’s a compelling case for an interventionist policy in the near-term. Inhabiting northern Iraq, eastern Turkey and southern Iran, the Kurds are situated on a strategic launch pad in the heart of the region, whose importance is hard to ignore. Moving strongly in support of a Kurdish state would also allow Israel to strengthen relationships with western Asian states, like Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, who have a vested interest in Kurdish independence and a shared anxiety over their Iranian neighbor.

 

For the Kurds, Israel has much to contribute, not least of which is a highly advanced military-industrial complex that’s sophisticated enough to develop a bold military aid program to supply Kurdish fighters. Its premier intelligence agencies are able to assist Kurdish leaders in decision making and a highly-trained and experienced IDF officer corps could advise and train Kurdish soldiers. In addition to initiating clandestine support specifically for the Iranian Kurds’ independence movement, Israel has the means to provide arms and advisers to the Iraqi Kurds with the goal of assisting them in maintaining autonomous control over their region, degrading Islamic State (IS), and strengthening Kurdish resolve in the face of Iranian aggression…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

 

Contents

                                                                                     

On Topic

 

A Century After Armenian Genocide, Turkey’s Denial Only Deepens: Tim Arango, New York Times, Apr. 16, 2015—The crumbling stone monastery, built into the hillside, stands as a forlorn monument to an awful past.

Does Turkey Have the Putin Disease?: Thomas Seibert, Daily Beast, Apr. 15, 2015—Is NATO ally Turkey on track to become a country under one-man rule?

New Anti-Semitic Film All the Rage in Turkey: Burak Bekdil, Middle East Forum, Apr. 27, 2015—Turkey's biggest enemy, according to its Islamist rulers, is not the fanatical jihadists who now neighbor their country in large swathes of land in Syria and Iraq; nor is it the thousands of "sleepers" at home — the same jihadists who have not staged a sensational act of terror, but might yet.

Kurdistan Thrives Despite War With ISIS: Michael J. Totten, World Affairs, Apr. 19, 2015 —A suicide-bomber blew himself up and killed three people—the terrorist himself, along with two Turkish citizens—in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, at a popular café just down the street from the US Consulate.

 

KOBANI UNDER SIEGE, JIHADIS BEHEADING KURDS— MORE THAN AIRSTIKES NEEDED TO DEFEAT I.S.

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 

 

Contents:

 

The Defense of Kobani: Jonathan Spyer, Middle East Forum, Sept. 27, 2014— This week witnessed the second determined attempt by Islamic State forces to destroy the Kurdish enclave around Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) city in northern Syria. Kobani is one of three autonomous enclaves maintained by the Kurds in Syria.

Obama Betrays the Kurds: Robert Zubrin, National Review, Sept. 30, 2014 — In his speech to the United Nations last week, President Obama pledged to the world that the United States would use its might to stop the horrific depredations of the terrorist movement variously known as the Islamic State, ISIS, or, as he calls it, ISIL.

Welcome, Kurdistan: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, Sept. 9, 2014— Before welcoming the emerging state of Kurdistan in northern Iraq, I confess to having opposed its independence in the past.

Why Jews Need to Support the Kurds: Michelle Hubermann, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 22, 2014 — It all began when  a video clip went viral of a tearful Yazidi MP in the Iraqi parliament.

               

On Topic Links

 

Kurdish People Fast Facts (Timeline): CNN, Aug. 24, 2014

Islamic State Beheads Kurds as Coalition Jets Strike Group Near Turkish Border: Ynet, Oct. 1, 2014

Kurdish Hunger Strikers Stage Protests Seeking Support Against Isis Jihadis: Aaron Walawalkar & Ben Quinn, Guardian, Oct. 1, 2014

A Litmus Test for Kurdistan: Jenna Krajeski & Sebastian Meyer, New York Times, Sept. 30, 2014

                                                

                                     

THE DEFENSE OF KOBANI                                                                                              

Jonathan Spyer

                                               

Middle East Forum, Sept. 27, 2014

 

This week witnessed the second determined attempt by Islamic State forces to destroy the Kurdish enclave around Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) city in northern Syria. Kobani is one of three autonomous enclaves maintained by the Kurds in Syria. As of now, it appears that after initial lightning advances, the progress of the jihadis has been halted; they have not moved forward in the last 24 hours. The arrival of Kurdish forces from across the Turkish border is the key element in freezing the advance. Yet Islamic State has captured around 60 Kurdish villages in this latest assault, and its advanced positions remain perilously close – around 14.5 km. – from Kobani city. Around 100,000 people have fled Kobani for Turkey, from the enclave's total population of around 400,0000. Islamic State employed tanks, artillery and Humvees in its assault, according to Kurdish sources. The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) have no comparable ordnance. However, their fighters were assisted by Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) guerrillas who crossed in from Turkey, and appear to have played a vital role in halting the advance.

 

Whether the current situation will hold is not yet clear. But the commencement of US and allied bombing on Islamic State in Syria probably means the jihadi forces will have more pressing issues to attend to for the moment. The assault on Kobani indicates that Islamic State is turning its attention back to Syria. The Kurdish enclave has long been a thorn in the side of the jihadis; the Kurdish-controlled area interrupts the jihadis' territorial contiguity, separating Tel Abyad from Jarabulus and making a large detour necessary from Islamic State's capital in Raqqa city to the important border town of Jarabulus. For this reason, the jihadis have long sought to conquer the area. Abu Omar al-Shishani, the much feared Chechen Islamic State military commander, is reputed to have made the conquest of Kobani a personal mission. With the weapons systems captured in Mosul now fully integrated, and with further progress in Iraq impeded by the presence of US air power, it appears Islamic State is now making its most serious effort to achieve this goal.

 

The Kobani enclave has long been an isolated, beleaguered space. This reporter visited there this past May; at the time, Islamic State was trying to block the supply of electricity and water into the city. Skirmishes along the borders were a daily occurrence. Particularly notable also were the very strict border arrangements kept in place by the Turkish authorities to the north – in stark contrast to the much more lax regime maintained facing the areas of Arab population further west. As of now, a determined Kurdish mobilization appears to have stemmed the jihadi advance. Unless the picture radically changes again, Kobani looks set to remain a thorn in the side of Islamic State.

 

Perwer Mohammed, 28, an activist close to the YPG in Kobani, sounded worried but hopeful when speaking from the city on Monday: "They are now on the outskirts of Girê Sipî [Tel Abyad]. But they will have to pass through our flesh to get to Kobani, and they are no longer advancing from the east." A variety of forces contributed to the mobilization; 1,500 PKK fighters arrived in Kobani city to reinforce the YPG there, according to Kurdish sources. In addition, forces loyal to both the Kurdistan Regional Government of Massoud Barzani and to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) are set to arrive in Kobani. The PUK forces, according to the organization's website, are currently on the Iraq-Syria border, waiting to deploy. The YPG itself, meanwhile, is trying to push forces through from Ras al-Ain to Tel Abyad on the eastern edge of the enclave. A concerted Kurdish military effort is under way.

 

Suspicions remain regarding possible collusion between Turkish authorities and Islamic State. The Kurds have long maintained that at least in its initial phase, Islamic State was the beneficiary of Turkish support. Evidence has emerged of Turkish forces permitting Islamic State fighters to cross back and forth across the border during early clashes with the YPG. The subsequent picture remains shrouded in ambiguity, as Turkey officially denies any relationship with Islamic State. But the release of 49 Turkish hostages by the terror movement this week under unclear circumstances has once more cast a spotlight on the possible complex connection between the two. If the situation in Kobani holds, this will offer proof of the limitations of Islamic State forces. In Iraq, their advance has been stopped by the coordination of US air power with Iraqi and Kurdish forces. In Kobani, as of now at least, the jihadis appear to have been stalled by determined resistance on the ground alone. Yet the last chapter remains to be written. Should Kobani fall, large-scale massacres of the type which befell the Yazidi communities in the Mount Sinjar area in August would inevitably follow; this is likely to result in a massive new refugee problem. Moreover, an Islamic State victory would consolidate the borders of the jihadi entity considerably.

 

The clash between Islamic State and the Kurdish autonomous areas also has broader ramifications than merely tactical military significance – it shows the extent to which "Iraq" and "Syria" have become little more than names. In Kobani, two successor entities to these states are clashing. The Kurds have organized three autonomous cantons stretching east to west from the Syria-Iraq border to close to the Mediterranean coast. The Sunni jihadis, for their part, have organized their own "state," going southeast to northwest. Kobani is the point at which these two projects collide. Hence, the outcome of the current fight will indicate the relative strength of these two very different projects. Yet the clash itself offers a broader lesson regarding the shape of things to come, in the ethnic/sectarian war now raging across what was once Iraq and Syria.                                                            

 

Contents

                  

                                                              

OBAMA BETRAYS THE KURDS                                                                                        

Robert Zubrin                                                                                                      

National Review, Sept. 30, 2014

 

In his speech to the United Nations last week, President Obama pledged to the world that the United States would use its might to stop the horrific depredations of the terrorist movement variously known as the Islamic State, ISIS, or, as he calls it, ISIL. “This group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria,” the president proclaimed. “Mothers, sisters, daughters have been subjected to rape as a weapon of war. Innocent children have been gunned down. Bodies have been dumped in mass graves. Religious minorities have been starved to death. In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings have been beheaded, with videos of the atrocity distributed to shock the conscience of the world.” “No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions,” he said. “There can be no reasoning — no negotiation — with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death. . . . We will support Iraqis and Syrians fighting to reclaim their communities. We will use our military might in a campaign of air strikes to roll back ISIL. We will train and equip forces fighting against these terrorists on the ground.”

 

These are brave words that well and truly denounce evil for what it is. Unfortunately, the president’s actions since then have been anything but consistent with his pledge to stop the terrorism. As these lines are being written, some 400,000 Kurds in and around the town of Kobane in northern Syria, on the Turkish border, are being besieged and assaulted by massed legions of Islamic State killers armed with scores of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and heavy artillery. Against these, the Kurdish defenders have only AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. The Kurds have called on the U.S. to send in air strikes to take out the jihadist forces. In response, the administration sent in two fighter jets Saturday, which destroyed two Islamic State tanks and then flew away. The Kurds are begging for arms. The administration has not only refused to send arms, but is exerting pressure both on our NATO allies and on Israel not to send any either. Over 150,000 Kurds have fled their homes to try to escape to Turkey, but they are being blocked at the border by Turkish troops. Meanwhile, Turkey is allowing Islamist reinforcements to enter Syria to join the Islamic State, while Islamist elements of the Free Syrian Army, funded and armed by the United States, have joined forces with the group in the genocidal assault on the Kurdish enclave.

 

According to Kurdish sources, the Turks are massing troops on their own side of the border, with the apparent plan being to sit in place and allow the Kurds to be exterminated, and then move in to take over the region once they are gone. This is the same plan as Josef Stalin used when he allowed the Nazis to wipe out the Polish underground during the Warsaw rising of 1944, and only afterward sent in the Red Army to take control of what was left of the city. If anything, it is even more morally reprehensible, since it could be pointed out in Stalin’s defense that his forces were at least pummeling the enemy elsewhere while the Warsaw fight was under way. In contrast, the Turks are doing nothing of the sort. For an American administration to collude in such a mass atrocity is infamous. If we are to win the war against the Islamic State, we need ground forces, and the Obama administration has rejected the idea of sending in any of our own. The Kurds, who have demonstrated both their bravery and their willingness to be friends with America, are right there, and already engaged in the fight. If supplied with adequate arms and backed by serious U.S. tactical air support, they could roll up ISIS as rapidly as the similarly reinforced Northern Alliance did the Taliban in the fall of 2001. Done right, this war could be won in months, instead of waged inconclusively for years.

 

The administration, however, has rejected this alternative, and has instead opted for a Saudi-Qatari plan to allow the Syrian Kurds to be exterminated while training a new Sunni Arab army in Saudi Arabia. Given the Saudi role in the new army’s tutelage and officer selection, the Islamist nature of this force is a foregone conclusion. At best it might provide a more disciplined replacement for the Islamic State as an Islamist Syrian opposition at some point in the distant future (current official administration estimates are at least a year) when it is considered ready for combat. Meanwhile the killing will simply go on, with the United States doing its part to further Islamist recruitment by indulging in endless strategy-free bombing of Sunni villages. So now, to paraphrase the president, “Mothers, sisters, daughters will be subjected to rape as a weapon of war. Innocent children will be gunned down. Bodies will be dumped in mass graves. Religious minorities will be starved to death. In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings will be beheaded, with videos of the atrocity distributed to shock the conscience of the world.” Surely we can do better.

                                                                                               

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WELCOME, KURDISTAN                                                                                                  

Daniel Pipes                                                                                                                                  

Washington Times, Sept. 9, 2014

 

Before welcoming the emerging state of Kurdistan in northern Iraq, I confess to having opposed its independence in the past. In 1991, after the Kuwait War had ended and as Saddam Hussein attacked Iraq’s 6 million Kurds, I made three arguments against American intervention on their behalf, arguments still commonly heard today: First, Kurdish independence would spell the end of Iraq as a state; second, it would embolden Kurdish agitation for independence in Syria, Turkey and Iran, leading to destabilization and border conflicts; and three, it would invite the persecution of non-Kurds, causing “large and bloody exchanges of population.”

 

All three expectations proved flat-out wrong. Given Iraq’s wretched domestic and foreign track record, the end of a unified Iraq promises relief, as do Kurdish stirrings in the neighboring countries. Syria has been fracturing into its three ethnic and sectarian components — Kurdish, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab — which promises benefits in the long term. Kurds departing Turkey usefully impede the reckless ambitions of now-President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Similarly, Kurds decamping Iran helpfully diminishes that arch-aggressive mini-empire. Far from non-Kurds fleeing Iraqi Kurdistan, as I feared, the opposite has occurred: hundreds of thousands of refugees are pouring in from the rest of Iraq to benefit from Kurdistan’s security, tolerance and opportunities. I can account for these errors: In 1991, no one knew that autonomous Kurdish rule in Iraq would flourish as it has. The Kurdistan Regional Government, which came into existence the following year, can be called (with only some exaggeration) the Switzerland of the Muslim Middle East. Its armed, commercially minded mountain people seek to be left alone to prosper.

 

One could also not have known in 1991 that the Kurdish army, the peshmerga, would establish itself as a competent and disciplined force; that the Kurdistan Regional Government would reject the terrorist methods then notoriously in use by Kurds in Turkey; that the economy would boom; that the Kurds’ two leading political families, the Talabanis and Barzanis, would learn to coexist; that the Kurdistan Regional Government would engage in responsible diplomacy; that its leadership would sign international trade accords; that 10 institutions of higher learning would come into existence; and that Kurdish culture would blossom. All this did happen, though. As Israeli scholar Ofra Bengio describes it, “Autonomous Kurdistan has proved to be the most stable, prosperous, peaceful and democratic part of Iraq.”

 

What’s next on the Kurdistan Regional Government’s agenda? The first item, after severe losses to the Islamic State, is for the peshmerga to retrain, rearm and tactically ally with such former adversaries as the Iraqi central government and the Turkish Kurds, steps which have positive implications for Kurdistan’s future. Second, the Kurdistan Regional Government leadership has signaled its intention to hold a referendum on independence, which it rightly presumes will generate a ringing popular endorsement. Diplomacy, however, lags. The Iraqi central government, of course, opposes this goal, as do the great powers, reflecting their usual caution and concern for stability. (Recall George H.W. Bush’s 1991 “Chicken Kiev speech.”) However, given the Kurdistan Regional Government’s superior record, outside powers should encourage its independence. Pro-government media in Turkey already do. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden might build on his 2006 suggestion of “giving each ethno-religious group — Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab — room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests.” Third: What if Iraqi Kurds joined forces across three borders — as they have done on occasion — and form a single Kurdistan with a population of about 30 million and possibly a corridor to the Mediterranean Sea? One of the largest ethnic group in the world without a state (a debatable claim: e.g., the Kannadiga of India), the Kurds missed their chance in the post-World War I settlement because they lacked the requisite intellectuals and politicians.

 

The emergence now of a Kurdish state would profoundly alter the region by simultaneously adding a sizable new country and partially dismembering its four neighbors. This prospect would be dismaying in most of the world. However, the Middle East — still in the grip of the wretched Sykes-Picot deal secretly negotiated by European powers in 1916 — needs a salutary shake-up. From this perspective, the emergence of a Kurdish state is part of the regionwide destabilization, dangerous but necessary, that began in Tunisia in December 2010. Accordingly, I offer a hearty welcome to its four potential parts joining soon together to form a single, united Kurdistan.                                                                                                                       

 

 

Daniel Pipes is President of Middle East Forum and a CIJR Academic Fellow

                                                                                                                               

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WHY JEWS NEED TO SUPPORT THE KURDS                                                                                 

Michelle Huberman                                                                                            

Jerusalem Post, Aug. 22, 2014

 

It all began when  a video clip went viral of a tearful Yazidi MP in the Iraqi parliament. Screaming in despair, Fiyan Dakheel begged the international community to save her people – they were being massacred, buried alive, their women taken away to be sold as slaves. Soon after images of dehydrated and starving figures, their faces beaten by sun and sand, began to appear on our TV screens. Here was a catastrophe of epic proportions – 50,000 Yazidis stranded on a mountain in northern Iraq. It was an opportunity for Harif – our  association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa – to show that we stood in solidarity with the Yazidis  and other beleaguered minorities fleeing the barbarism of Islamic State, the jihadist army sweeping across Syria and Iraq.

 

We were invited to take part in a predominantly Kurdish demonstration on Wednesday 13th August outside the Prime Minister''s residence in Downing Street reported here. The welcome was warm: Kurds addressed us in Hebrew and called us ''their brothers.'' We were all chanting  "Down with Isis, Solve the crisis". "We are all Peshmergas!” I was interviewed for Kurdish TV and I told them I felt like I was watching the people board the train for Auschwitz. It was not enough  just to drop emergency aid to let the Yazidis live a couple more days. Not since the Allied war against the Nazis had we been confronted with such evil.  I felt that we needed to bomb the enemy into submission. To destroy ISIS.

 

Later, a Harif representative joined with Kurds, Hindus and Pakistani Christians to present a petition to the UK Prime minister to call for the government to strengthen Kurdish fighters and prevent a genocide. On Saturday we heard about a second demonstration: I had forsaken synagogue to be at the demo outside the BBC offices in Portland Place. The crowd was double the size of Wednesday's – more like 1,000, and it swelled during the protest that culminated in a march down to Trafalgar Square. The red flags of the communist Turkish Kurds were in evidence, and some banners called for an end to Zionism and imperialism. We already had our Harif posters – which we had made for a protest three years earlier bringing attention to the non-Muslim and non-Arab minorities in the Middle East. They seemed appropriate once again, and probably more pressing now.  To this demonstration I also brought some homemade posters showing both the Kurdish and Israeli flags – overprinted with WE SUPPORT THE KURDS – DOWN WITH ISIS.

 

The Christians, the Yazidis and other minorities in the Middle East need our support. They are experiencing the same brutality that the Iraqi and Kurdish Jews experienced when they lived there when Iraq was ruled by an  Arab Sunni Muslim regime. I have met too many Jewish refugees and heard their first-hand testimonies to know that the Yazidis are experiencing the same persecution. It is a myth that minorities and Arab Muslims lived in harmony together. Hundreds of Jews were murdered in the pogrom of 1941- known as the Farhud.  Many escaped Iraq through the south to Iran just before the state of Israel was born. Israel airlifted out 90 percent of the community in 1950 and 51 and in the 1970s the remnant of Iraqi Jewry were smuggled out at great risk by Kurdish people. The Kurds also had a discreet military alliance with the Israelis .

 

When I reached into my bag and pulled out my little A4 Israeli Kurdish flag, I hesitated at first but then held it high above my head so that everyone could see.  I could feel the whole crowd slowly turning towards me. Slightly shocked at first, but then turning to smiles. People started coming over and saying, ''thank you''. I was joined by friends who also held up the same mini- posters and had the same experience. I was interviewed by an Italian journalist on what were my views on the Palestinians. "I told them that we feel very sorry for the Gazans and the problem was Hamas. They are like ISIS suppressing their people and murdering those that don't agree with them. They need to be overthrown like ISIS.” To another journalist: "ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram – they’re all the same. An enemy to civilisation. They need to be destroyed.” Jews need to have a presence at these demonstrations. We need to show that we stand with other minorities against religious fascism and fanaticism. The Israeli and Kurdish flags need to flutter side by side.    

    

Contents                                                                       

 

On Topic

 

Kurdish People Fast Facts (Timeline): CNN, Aug. 24, 2014

Islamic State Beheads Kurds as Coalition Jets Strike Group Near Turkish Border: Ynet, Oct. 1, 2014—Report says Islamic State group beheads group of Kurdsish men, women, while sources say US-led airstrikes have targeted group's fighters; two blasts in Homs kill children and residents.

Kurdish Hunger Strikers Stage Protests Seeking Support Against Isis Jihadis: Aaron Walawalkar & Ben Quinn, Guardian, Oct. 1, 2014 —Members of the Kurdish diaspora have been staging protests and hunger strikes around the world in support of calls by Kurdish leaders in Syria for weapons to help their forces fighting Islamic State (Isis) in the besieged border town of Kobani, where they fear a massacre if support does not arrive soon.

A Litmus Test for Kurdistan: Jenna Krajeski & Sebastian Meyer, New York Times, Sept. 30, 2014—When Iraqi Kurds say that Kirkuk is their Jerusalem, they are referring both to the city’s cultural significance and to the trouble it causes.

 

 

 

               

 

 

 

                      

                

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Contents:         

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Daniel Pipes: Hello, Kurdistan

Before welcoming the emerging state of Kurdistan in northern Iraq, I confess to having opposed its independence in the past. In 1991, after the Gulf War had ended and as Saddam Hussein attacked Iraq’s 6 million Kurds, I made three arguments against American intervention on their behalf, arguments still commonly heard today: (1) independence for Iraq’s Kurds would spell the end of Iraq as a state, (2) it would embolden Kurds to agitate for independence in Syria, Turkey, and Iran, leading to destabilization and border conflicts, and (3) it would invite the persecution of non-Kurds, causing “large and bloody exchanges of population.”

 

All three expectations proved flat-out wrong. Given Iraq’s wretched domestic and foreign track record, the end of a unified Iraq promises relief, as do Kurdish stirrings in the neighboring countries. Syria is already fracturing into its three ethnic and sectarian components — Kurdish, Sunni Arab, and Shi’i Arab — which promises benefits in the long term. Kurds’ departing from Turkey would usefully impede the reckless ambitions of now-president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Similarly, Kurds’ decamping from Iran would helpfully diminish that arch-aggressive mini-empire. Far from non-Kurds fleeing Iraqi Kurdistan, as I feared, the opposite has occurred: Hundreds of thousands of refugees are pouring in from the rest of Iraq to benefit from Kurdistan’s security, tolerance, and opportunities.

The map below shows the area controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), with the just-conquered province of Kirkuk in green.

I can account for these errors: In 1991, no one knew that autonomous Kurdish rule in Iraq would flourish as it has. The KRG, which came into existence the following year, can be called (with only some exaggeration) the Switzerland of the Muslim Middle East. Its armed, commercially minded mountain people seek to be left alone to prosper.

 

One could also not have known in 1991 that the Kurdish army, the peshmerga, would establish itself as a competent and disciplined force; that the KRG would reject the terrorist methods then notoriously in use by Kurds in Turkey; that the economy would boom; that the Kurds’ two leading political families, the Talabanis and the Barzanis, would learn to coexist; that the KRG would engage in responsible diplomacy; that its leadership would sign international trade accords; that ten institutions of higher learning would come into existence; and that Kurdish culture would blossom.

 

But all this did happen. As Israeli scholar Ofra Bengio describes it, “autonomous Kurdistan has proved to be the most stable, prosperous, peaceful, and democratic part of Iraq.” The photograph below shows Erbil, the flourishing capital of Iraqi Kurdistan:

What’s next on the KRG agenda?

 

The first item, after severe losses to the Islamic State, is for the peshmerga to retrain, re-arm, and form tactical alliances with such former adversaries as the Iraqi central government and the Turkish Kurds, steps which have positive implications for Kurdistan’s future.

 

Second, the KRG leadership has signaled its intention to hold a referendum on independence, which it rightly presumes will generate a ringing popular endorsement. Diplomacy, however, lags behind. The Iraqi central government, of course, opposes this goal, as do the great powers, reflecting their usual caution and concern for stability. (Recall George H. W. Bush’s 1991 “Chicken Kiev speech.”)

 

However, given the KRG’s superior record, outside powers should encourage its independence. Pro-government media in Turkey already do. Vice President Joe Biden might build on his 2006 suggestion of “giving each ethno-religious group — Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab — room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests.”

 

Third: What if Iraqi Kurds joined forces across three borders — as they have done on occasion — and formed a single Kurdistan with a population of about 30 million and possibly a corridor to the Mediterranean Sea? One of the largest ethnic groups in the world without a state (a debatable claim: e.g., the Kannadiga of India), the Kurds missed their chance in the post–World War I settlement because they lacked the requisite intellectuals and politicians.

 

Every map of the Kurdish peoples differs from the others, but this one offers an estimate of their geographic extent, including a corridor to the Mediterranean Sea:

The emergence now of a Kurdish state would profoundly alter the region by simultaneously adding a sizable new country and partially dismembering its four neighbors. Such a prospect would be dismaying in most of the world. But the Middle East — still in the grip of the wretched Sykes-Picot deal secretly negotiated by European powers in 1916 — needs a salutary shake-up.

 

From this perspective, the emergence of a Kurdish state is part of the region-wide destabilization, dangerous but necessary, that began in Tunisia in December 2010. Accordingly, I offer a hearty welcome to its four potential parts soon joining together to form a single united Kurdistan.

A COMPLEX, UNSTABLE REGION: EGYPT AND TURKEY ARE RIVALS, BOTH FEAR A NUCLEAR IRAN & SYRIA IS THE WILD CARD

Contents:                          

 

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Growing Ties Between Egypt, Turkey: New Regional Order?: Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times, Nov.13, 2012—Egypt and Turkey are forging an alliance that showcases two Islamist leaders maneuvering to reshape a Middle East gripped by political upheaval and passionate battles over how deeply the Koran should penetrate public life.

 

Why Turkey Should Be Tough On Iran: Can Kasapoglu, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 6, 2012—A nuclear Iran will be tantamount to the collapse of the over five-century-old balance of power between Turkey and Iran, which was first created by the Battle of Chaldiran between the Ottoman and Safavid empires in 1514.

 

Turkey in the Syrian Crisis: What Next?: Veli Sirin, Gatestone Institute, Oct.26, 2012—Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad treats Turkish military reprisals as pin-pricks. Nonetheless, while massacres continue inside Syria, confrontations and counterblows proliferate along the country's border with Turkey, including exchanges of mortar-shell fire. But how long will this stalemate continue?

 

On Topic Links

 

 

The Kurds’ Evolving Strategy: The Struggle Goes Political in Turkey: Aliza Marcus, World Affairs Journal, Nov./Dec. 2012

A Kurdish Wedge Between Iraq, Turkey: Joost Hiltermann, Real Clear World, Oct. 24, 2012

Erdogan Pays for His Foreign Policy: Halil Karaveli, National Interest, Nov.12, 2012

 

 

 

GROWING TIES BETWEEN EGYPT, TURKEY:
A NEW REGIONAL ORDER?

Jeffrey Fleishman

Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2012—

 

Egypt and Turkey are forging an alliance that showcases two Islamist leaders maneuvering to reshape a Middle East gripped by political upheaval and passionate battles over how deeply the Koran should penetrate public life. The relationship may foreshadow an emerging regional order in which the sway of the United States gradually fades against Islamist voices no longer contained by militaries and pro-Western autocrats.

 

Each country has a distinct vision of political Islam, but Turkey, which straddles Europe and Asia, and Egypt, the traditional heart of the Arab world, complement each other for now. Turkey's strong economy may help rescue Egypt from financial crisis, while Cairo may further Ankara's ambition to rise as a force among Islamic-backed governments.

 

What bonds and rivalries may ensue is unclear, but they are likely to affect what rises from the bloodshed in Syria, the influence of oil nations in the Persian Gulf, future policies toward Israel and the volatile divide between moderate and ultraconservative Islamists. The nations offer competing story lines playing out between the traditional and the contemporary.

 

"Turkey has done a good job so far of balancing the relationship between the religion and state. It is secular," said Ahmed Abou Hussein, a Middle East affairs analyst in Cairo. "This is not the case in Egypt. We haven't found the balance between religion and state yet. We're all confused, not only the Islamists."

 

The two countries recently conducted naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi visited Ankara in September and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to arrive in Cairo this month with promises of closer cooperation and a financial aid package that may reach $2 billion….The nations' deepening ties come amid international and domestic pressure emanating from revolutions that are recasting political rhythms in the Middle East and North Africa.

 

Erdogan is moving to fashion Turkey's democracy into a model for Arab governments even as he has been criticized by human rights groups for the arrest [and deaths – Ed.] of thousands of Kurdish activists. Morsi is seeking to restore Egypt's global stature after years of diminishment under deposed leader Hosni Mubarak.

 

Turkey's diplomatic finesse and economic allure have allowed it to deftly exert its regional influence. But the civil war in Syria has shredded relations between Ankara and Damascus and left Erdogan, who has threatened Syrian President Bashar Assad with wider military action, searching for a plan to end the conflict on his border.

 

Turkey has also drawn the ire of Iran, a Syrian ally, for signing on to a U.S.-backed missile shield. And Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki this year called Turkey a "hostile state" and accused it of agitating sectarian tension in his country….

 

Egypt's deeper problems bristle on the home front, including unemployment, poverty, crime and decrepit state institutions that became more glaring after last year's overthrow of Mubarak. Both Morsi and Erdogan, who rose to power nearly a decade ago, curtailed the political influence of their nations' generals, but each has been accused by secularists as having authoritarian streaks tinged with Islam. The countries have a tendency to harass and arrest dissidents and journalists.

 

A closer fusion of Cairo and Ankara stems in part from the influence Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood had on Islamist organizations across the region, including Erdogan's Justice and Development Party. While the Brotherhood was being persecuted by Mubarak, a brash Erdogan riveted the "Arab street" with his populism and chiding of leaders, such as Mubarak, for their compliance toward the West.

 

The question is, how will Erdogan and Morsi maneuver the politics of a Middle East that both want to influence, and which Egypt regards as its historic and strategic territory? "I don't think Egypt even under the Muslim Brotherhood would appreciate a Turkey that would nose around on Egypt's political turf," said Kemal Kirisci, a professor of political science and international relations at Bogazici University in Istanbul.

 

But Turkey offers Egypt a pragmatic — some analysts suggest modern — approach to the West, the global economy and stability…."What is interesting about Turkey's success is its commitment to practical visions and plans," said Seif Allah el Khawanky, a political analyst. "Morsi's administration doesn't have this." Both countries are working toward new constitutions. Turkey's politics spring from a secular democracy and a history of defined political parties that have tempered the influence of Islam. Turkish women who wear hijabs are banned from political office. Egypt's Islamist-dominated government, however, is pushing for a constitution firmly rooted in sharia, or Islamic law, and there is little inclination among conservatives to import the Turkish model…..

 

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WHY TURKEY SHOULD BE TOUGH ON IRAN
Can Kasapoglu

Jerusalem Post, November 6, 2012

 

A nuclear Iran will be tantamount to the collapse of the over five-century-old balance of power between Turkey and Iran which was first created by the Battle of Chaldiran between the Ottoman and Safavid empires in 1514.

 

Only after Selim the 1st (or Yavuz Sultan Selim Khan – the first Sultan of the empire who claimed the caliphate) overcame the Safavid Empire of Persia was Istanbul able to exert full control and authority over eastern Anatolia and Northern Iraq. However, for some time now Ankara’s sovereignty in eastern Anatolia and vital national security interests in Northern Iraq have been under significant Iranian threat via proxy war, subversive activities, and political and military machinations. Iran also stands in the way of Turkey’s regional hegemonic agenda, especially in Syria, and in a greater sense in the Levant region.

 

Throughout history, this corridor has always been a natural route for Turkish expansions into the region we call Greater Middle East today. As a matter of fact, just a couple of years after Sultan Selim Khan vanquished the Safavid Empire in Chaldiran he fought another regional power, the Mamluk Sultanate, at the Battle of Merj Dabik, and conquered Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, or in other words a large portion of the Levant.

 

At this juncture, understanding the geopolitical mentality of the Ottoman expansion and its correlation with Iran is of crucial importance. In order to project power in the Levant, Turkey has to be safe from the Iranian threat. And vice versa: Iran, whether the Safavids or the contemporary Islamic Republic, must keep Turkey under constant threat to secure the Levant and/or avert Turkish expansion. Thus, Turkish decision-makers should well understand the geopolitical logic of Selim Khan’s perception of Iran as the rock [standing] between Turkey being caged into Anatolia or being a real regional power (which is definitely not same thing as being popular in the region).

 

Iran’s desire to keep Turkey constantly under threat resurfaced in the 1990s and 2000s via Tehran’s proxy war attempts. Be it the Kurdish Hezbollah or PKK terrorism, Tehran will do its utmost to keep Ankara in trouble with constant low-intensity conflicts.

 

Put simply, if the whole Turkish 2nd Army, which is responsible for the Iraqi, Syrian and Iranian borders, was not dealing with the terrorism threat, it would probably be occupied with power projection activities beyond its field of responsibility. Iranian strategists are aware of this fact. Turkey overcame Damascus when it was harboring PKK in the 1990s through an escalation strategy and gunboat diplomacy. Can those measures be taken against a nuclear Iran? This is just a hypothetical question for now, however, in the near future it could be a very real scenario facing the Turkish security establishment.

 

To counterbalance a nuclear threat from Iran, Turkish leaders will have only two options. The first is to pursue mass conventional military modernization and procurement, and an aggressive shift in military doctrine. This means an additional burden on Turkish taxpayers and a great cost in terms of investments in social improvement and economic development.

 

The second option is to pursue its own military nuclear program. Technically, however, this would be almost impossible to accomplish due to Turkey’s ties with the Western security system and commitment to the NPT regime….

 

After the Cold War, there is no US tactical nuclear capability left on Turkish soil. It is known that there are nuclear warheads at the Incirlik base, but Turkey does not hold the trigger mechanism. Briefly, a nuclear Iran cannot be, or only at a very steep cost, deterred by Ankara. This reality probably spells the end for Turkey’s historical imperial character….

 

Moreover, within the sectarian fragmentation of the region, a nuclear Iran will most likely spearhead the Shi’ite bloc against Turkey more aggressively. Thus, Ankara either gets tough with Iran now, or lets a nuclear Iran get tough with Turkey in the near future.

 

In summary, Turkish decision makers should simulate the first day of Iran’s nuclear breakthrough, and count down to the present day. Then they can clearly see that every single day counts, and that Tehran’s nuclear breakthrough has to be prevented at all costs. Turkish mass media keeps voicing the opinion that the military option would be a nightmare for the region, and defends muddle-through efforts that can do nothing but buy time for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

 

They are correct in saying that the military option would be a nightmare – but on the other hand, it would also be a nightmare to allow a tyranny which is also Turkey’s historical geopolitical rival in the region to arm itself with nuclear weapons.

 

We will soon see whether anyone in Turkey today clearly perceives the Iranian threat as did Sultan Selim Khan, or whether “sober and wise” intellectuals, seeing the mushroom cloud over Istanbul, keep repeating that “the military option against Iran would be a nightmare for the region” – probably from the safety of an NBC shelter.

 

(The author, who served as a post-doctoral fellow for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, holds a PhD from the Turkish War College, and a Master’s degree from the Turkish Military Academy.)

 

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TURKEY IN THE SYRIAN CRISIS: WHAT NEXT?

Veli Sirin

Gatestone Institute, October 26, 2012 at 3:15 am

 

Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad treats Turkish military reprisals as pin-pricks. Nonetheless, while massacres continue inside Syria, confrontations and counterblows proliferate along the country's border with Turkey, including exchanges of mortar-shell fire. But how long will this stalemate continue?

 

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in his public comments, is addicted to candor, if not bluster. He condemns the weakness of the United Nations in the face of the Syrian bloodletting, yet is even more dismayed, it seems, to realize that Turkey cannot wage war on the Al-Assad regime. Turkey cannot save Syria; it cannot march to Damascus; it cannot remove the Al-Assad state apparatus, and it cannot reconstruct Syria as a Turkish protectorate.

The Syrian Army is a significant military force, and would respond with a wholesale offensive, devastating poor Turkish villages. The Syrian war is spreading into Lebanon; its extension northward could produce a general conflagration in the area.

 

For these reasons, and not out of sympathy for the Syrian tyrant, the overwhelming majority of Turks oppose a military campaign against Damascus. The Turkish political opposition calls on Erdogan to renounce his bellicose rhetoric. Turkey will, it is hoped, avoid a war with Syria, even as Erdogan postures as a great military figure and proposes a "vision" for resolution of the crisis.

 

Erdogan tours the Middle East and in many places is applauded. This, of course, increases his popularity at home. Arab sympathy for Erdogan most likely reflects his adoption of an anti-Israeli stance. He has also called for Islamic unity. "Brotherhood" and "community" are the pillars on which Erdogan has constructed his project for a Muslim-dominated Mediterranean.

 

Turkish "neo-Ottomanism," combining Islamist supremacy with patriotic fervor, is not limited to Ankara's initiatives in foreign policy. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has made Ottoman nostalgia a central feature of Turkish cultural life.

 

Examples of this attitude are plentiful. With an AKP municipal government, Istanbul every year now celebrates May 29, commemorating the conquest of the city by Sultan Mehmed II in 1453. In 2010, Istanbul considered itself the "European Capital of Culture," and the budget for the program emphasized renovation of Ottoman architectural sites. Istanbul no longer projects itself only as a bridge between east and west, but as the center of Ottoman civilization. None of these developments is reassuring.

 

NATO, in an urgent meeting on the Syrian disaster in June, declared clear support for Turkey. The hurriedly-assembled NATO ambassadors described Syrian attacks on the Turkish frontier as a breach of international law and a menace to regional security. But NATO concluded diffidently, "As indicated on June 26, the alliance is monitoring closely the Syrian situation."

 

The U.S. promised to support Turkey. Tommy Vietor, National Security Council spokesperson, said late last year, "We continue to call on other governments to join the chorus of condemnation and pressure against the Assad regime so that the peaceful and democratic aspirations of the Syrian people can be realized. President Obama has coordinated closely with Prime Minister Erdogan throughout the crisis in Syria and will continue to do so going forward." The U.S. appealed to Al-Assad to step down from power, agree to an armistice in the fighting, and initiate a political transition.

 

After Turkey forced a Syrian passenger aircraft to land in Ankara on October 10, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle visited his Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, in Istanbul. Westerwelle placed his country unambiguously on the side of Turkey. The German representative declared, "Under international law, Turkey must not tolerate transport through their airspace of weapons or military supplies to Syria." In a similar case, with a violation of German airspace, [he] said his government would have done the same thing. "Turkey is our partner," Westerwelle added, "and they can count on our solidarity."

 

The German foreign minister, however, distanced Germany from Erdogan's harsh criticism of the UN Security Council, which Erdogan has said should be reformed, as at present two permanent members, Russia and China, possess veto power over any action on Syria.

 

Erdogan repeats to the world that a humanitarian disaster is taking place in Syria. "If we wait for one or two of the [UN Security Council's] permanent members… then the future of Syria will be in danger," he insists. But his opinion is not supported by most of the rest of the world. Erdogan, in an October 13 speech in Istanbul, invoked the Balkan tragedy that occurred two decades ago. "How sad is," he said, "that the UN is as helpless today as it was 20 years ago, when it watched the massacre of hundreds of thousands of people in the Balkans."

 

No one can predict where all this oratory will end up. It is only certain that there are victims on both sides of the Turkish-Syrian border, and in the conflict inside Syria. Since the beginning of October, the Turkish army has directed fire at 87 locations inside Syria, and has killed at least 12 Syrian soldiers, according to a report based on Turkish military sources, and published in the Turkish daily Milliyet on October 20. The paper stated that Syria had launched mortar rounds or other shells across the border 27 times, and that in the Turkish response, five Syrian tanks, three armored vehicles, one mortar, one ammunition transporter and two anti-aircraft guns were destroyed, with many more military vehicles damaged.

 

The Europeans tend to their own affairs, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council negotiate among themselves, Turkey claims it is considering unilateral action against Syria. But Erdogan is, to many, no more than an impotent, tantrum-prone, and dangerous demagogue – which the Obama administration and other "concerned powers" will not publicly admit. Some say that notwithstanding a possible Erdogan strategy for the establishment of Syria as a Sunni Islamist ally – or vassal – of an AKP-led Turkey, he and his party are needed for any positive action by NATO against Al-Assad. But presumptions that he can act consequently to rescue the Syrian people are mistaken. And the rest of us can only wait and hope for the best.

 

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The Kurds’ Evolving Strategy: The Struggle Goes Political in Turkey: Aliza Marcus, World Affairs Journal, Nov./Dec. 2012—The new face of the Kurdish rebel fight in Turkey could easily be Zeynep, a thirty-year-old university graduate with a full-time management job in Diyarbakir, the unofficial capital of the Kurdish southeast.

 

A Kurdish Wedge Between Iraq, Turkey: Joost Hiltermann, Real Clear World, Oct. 24, 2012—The mood in Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk – the three largest cities in Iraqi Kurdistan – is newly buoyant these days, and with good reason. Iraq's Kurds, who occupy the semiautonomous

 

Erdogan Pays for His Foreign Policy: Halil Karaveli, National Interest, Nov. 12, 2012—Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is used to prevailing over his foes. The once all-powerful Turkish generals who defied him now linger in prison. By all accounts, Erdogan is the most powerful leader of the Turkish republic

 

 

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Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
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The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

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Ber Lazarus, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

QUEL PEUPLE N’A PAS DROIT À SON ÉTAT AU PROCHE-ORIENT?

 

 

«ÉVENTUELLEMENT, TOUTE L’HUMANITÉ
SERA DES RÉFUGIÉS PALESTINIENS»

Daniel Pipes

The Washington Times, 21 février 2012
Version originale anglaise: “Eventually, All Humans Will Be Palestine Refugees”
Adaptation française: Anne-Marie Delcambre de Champvert

De toutes les questions qui agitent le conflit israélo-arabe, il n'en est pas de plus centrale, de plus pernicieuse, de plus primordiale, de plus permanente, de plus chargée d'émotion et de plus complexe que le statut de ces personnes connues sous le nom de réfugiés palestiniens.

 

Les origines de ce cas unique, comme l'observe Nitza Nachmias de l'Université de Tel Aviv, remontent au comte Folke Bernadotte, médiateur du Conseil de Sécurité des Nations Unies. Se référant à ces Arabes qui avaient fui le mandat britannique sur la Palestine, il avait soutenu en 1948 que l'ONU avait une «responsabilité concernant l'allègement de leurs souffrances» parce que c'était une décision de l'ONU, la création d'Israël, qui en avait fait des réfugiés. Malgré le caractère inexact de son point de vue, ce dernier demeure vivace et puissant et contribue à expliquer pourquoi l'ONU consacre une attention sans pareille aux réfugiés palestiniens en attente de leur propre État.

 

Fidèle à l'héritage de Bernadotte, l'ONU a mis en place une série d’institutions spéciales exclusivement pour les réfugiés palestiniens. Parmi celles-ci, l'Office de secours et de travaux des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés de Palestine (UNRWA), fondé en 1949, se distingue comme étant la plus importante. C'est à la fois la seule organisation de réfugiés traitant d'un peuple spécifique (la Commission des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés s'occupe de tous les réfugiés non palestiniens) et la plus grande organisation des Nations Unies (en termes de personnel).

 

L'UNRWA définit apparemment ses domaines d'intervention avec une grande précision: «les réfugiés palestiniens sont des personnes dont le lieu de résidence était la Palestine entre juin 1946 et mai 1948, qui ont perdu à la fois leur domicile et leurs moyens de subsistance par suite du conflit israélo-arabe de 1948». Le nombre de ces réfugiés (qui à l'origine comprenaient quelques Juifs) a, bien sûr, beaucoup diminué au cours des 64 dernières années. En admettant le nombre (exagéré) de l'UNRWA des 750.000 réfugiés palestiniens du début, à peine une petite partie de ce nombre, environ 150.000 personnes, est encore en vie.

 

Le personnel de l'UNRWA a pris trois mesures importantes au cours des années afin d'élargir la définition de réfugiés palestiniens. Tout d'abord, et contrairement à la pratique universelle, il a étendu le statut de réfugiés à ceux qui sont devenus des citoyens d'un État arabe (Jordanie, en particulier). Deuxièmement, il a pris une décision peu remarquée en 1965 qui a élargi la définition de «réfugiés palestiniens» aux descendants de ces réfugiés qui sont de sexe masculin, un changement qui permet aux réfugiés de Palestine uniquement de transmettre leur statut de réfugié aux générations suivantes.

 

Le gouvernement des U.S.A, principal bailleur de fonds de l'agence, a seulement un peu protesté contre ce changement capital. L'Assemblée générale l'a entériné en 1982, de sorte que maintenant la définition d'un réfugié palestinien comprend officiellement «les descendants de réfugiés palestiniens de sexe masculin, y compris les enfants adoptés légalement.» Troisièmement, l'UNRWA en 1967 a ajouté des réfugiés de la guerre des Six Jours à sa liste; et aujourd'hui, ils représentent environ un cinquième du total des réfugiés de Palestine.

 

Ces changements ont donné des résultats spectaculaires. Contrairement à toutes les autres populations de réfugiés, dont le nombre diminue à mesure que les gens s'installent ou décèdent, la population des réfugiés de Palestine a connu une croissance au fil du temps. L'UNRWA reconnaît ce phénomène bizarre: «Lorsque l'Agence a commencé à fonctionner en 1950, elle devait répondre aux besoins d'environ 750.000 réfugiés de Palestine; aujourd'hui, 5 millions de réfugiés palestiniens sont admissibles aux services de l'UNRWA.». En outre, selon James G. Lindsay, un ancien conseil juridique de l'UNRWA, en vertu de la définition de l'UNRWA, ce chiffre de 5 millions ne représente que la moitié de ceux qui sont potentiellement admissibles au statut de réfugiés palestiniens.

 

En d'autres termes, plutôt que d'avoir une population 5 fois moins nombreuse sur plus de six décennies, l'UNRWA a une population de réfugiés qui a augmenté de près de 7 fois. Ce nombre pourrait croître encore plus rapidement, ceci dû au sentiment croissant que les femmes réfugiées devraient également transmettre leur statut de réfugié. Même lorsque, dans environ 40 ans, le dernier réfugié réel de l'époque du mandat sur la Palestine, mourra, les pseudo-réfugiés continueront à proliférer. Ainsi le statut de «réfugiés de Palestine» est voué à gonfler indéfiniment. Autrement dit, comme le fait remarquer Steven J. Rosen [qui fait partie] du Forum du Moyen-Orient, «étant donné les normes de l'UNRWA, tous les hommes seront un jour des réfugiés palestiniens.»

 

Si le statut des réfugiés de Palestine était sain, cette expansion sans fin n'aurait guère d'importance. Mais le statut a des conséquences destructrices pour les deux parties: Israël, qui souffre des ravages causés à une catégorie de personnes dont les vies sont brisées et faussées par ce rêve impossible de retour à la maison de leurs arrière-grands-parents, et les «réfugiés» eux-mêmes, dont le statut implique une culture de dépendance, de ressentiment, de rage, et d'inanité.

 

Tous les autres réfugiés de la Seconde Guerre mondiale (y compris mes propres parents) se sont établis depuis longtemps; le statut de réfugié palestinien a déjà trop duré et doit être restreint à de vrais réfugiés avant que cela ne cause davantage de dommages.

«DEUX ÉTATS (NATIONS) POUR DEUX PEUPLES?»
Éditorial

UPJF.org, 21 février 2012

Le slogan «Deux États pour deux peuples» s’est imposé ces dernières années, au point de devenir une sorte de mantra que l’on répète inlassablement, comme s’il s’agissait d’une formule magique pour amener la paix au Moyen-Orient… Les événements récents – du «Printemps arabe» à l’hiver islamiste en Égypte, en Tunisie ou en Syrie – montrent pourtant que la réalité de cette région du monde est très fluctuante, et beaucoup plus complexe que les slogans simplistes. Non seulement les concessions unilatérales israéliennes, depuis les accords d’Oslo signés il y a bientôt 20 ans, n’ont pas amené la paix dans la région, mais elles ont renforcé le camp le plus extrémiste au sein de la société arabe palestinienne; celui du Hamas et du Djihad islamique. Le récent accord entre le Fatah de Mahmoud Abbas et le Hamas montre que ces deux organisations partagent aujourd’hui les mêmes objectifs, et que seule leur stratégie pour y parvenir diffère.

 

Il est en effet de plus en plus clair que les Palestiniens ne sont nullement intéressés à la création d’un État démocratique vivant en paix aux côtés d’Israël, et qu’ils font tout leur possible pour parvenir à l’éradication de l’État Juif, tantôt par la guerre et le terrorisme, tantôt par la délégitimation d’Israël et du sionisme sur la scène internationale.

 

Dans ces circonstances, parler de «deux États-nations», comme l’a fait récemment le Président de la République [Sarkozy], relève plus de l’incantation que de l’analyse objective de la situation. On ne peut à la fois proclamer son amitié pour Israël et son attachement à sa sécurité, et se dire favorable à la création d’un nouvel État arabe palestinien à l’Ouest du Jourdain, qui se transformera inévitablement en nouvelle base de terrorisme contre Israël, comme l’est devenue la bande de Gaza depuis le retrait israélien en 2006.

 

La mise en parallèle de l’État Juif, foyer national d’un des peuples les plus anciens au monde, qui a offert à l’humanité un apport inestimable sur le plan culturel, spirituel et intellectuel, et de l’État palestinien, revendiqué par une nation tout récemment apparue (certains diront «inventée»), dont la seule «contribution» majeure à l’humanité est, à ce jour, l’invention du terrorisme international, est insultante pour le peuple Juif. Il est surprenant qu’un ami sincère comme Nicolas Sarkozy ne comprenne pas cela…

 

L’insistance de la diplomatie française à vouloir à tout prix créer un État palestinien est d’autant plus suspecte qu’elle est totalement muette sur le refus palestinien de négocier directement avec Israël, sur les violations palestiniennes répétées des accords conclus, et sur l’incitation constante à la haine dans les médias officiels de l’Autorité palestinienne, qui qualifient de «martyrs» et glorifient les auteurs de l’odieux attentat d’Itamar. Ce mutisme est d’autant plus inacceptable que l’Autorité palestinienne ne fonctionne que grâce au financement généreux de l’Union européenne.

FATIMA HOUDA-PEPIN INTERVIEWÉE PAR
RICHARD MARTINEAU AUX FRANCS-TIREURS

Dépêche

Pointdebasculecanada.ca, 16 février 2012

Le 15 février 2012, Télé-Québec a diffusé une interview de Fatima Houda-Pepin par Richard Martineau. […] L’interview de madame Houda-Pepin a été présentée au début de l’émission. Après avoir rappelé que Fatima Houda-Pepin est vice-présidente de l’Assemblée nationale depuis mai 2007 et députée depuis 1994, Richard Martineau a souligné combien sa contribution avait été importante pour empêcher l’introduction des tribunaux islamiques au Canada en 2005.

 

Richard Martineau: La preuve que même en tant que «simple députée» on peut faire une différence, vous l’avez fait (lors du) combat que vous avez mené, tambour battant, contre l’instauration de la charia, des tribunaux islamiques au pays. Vous étiez vraiment la première au front.

 

Durant l’entretien, Richard Martineau a demandé à madame Houda-Pepin d’élaborer sur son contact avec l’islam radical au Canada alors qu’elle n’y avait pas été confrontée dans le Maroc de son enfance.

 

Richard Martineau: Il y a une phrase que vous avez dite qui m’a très bouleversé. Vous, vous êtes née au Maroc, vous avez été à l’école coranique, vous avez fréquenté l’école coranique lorsque vous étiez enfant. (…) Vous avez dit: «J’ai connu le fondamentalisme en arrivant au Canada».

 

Fatima Houda-Pepin: En effet. En effet. (…) Moi je viens d’une famille très religieuse et pratiquante. Donc, la religion pour moi c’était la joie, c’était le partage, c’était la musique, c’était les fêtes. (…) La religion qui s’épanouit, qui se vit humblement, sereinement et une religion qui se vit dans la confiance et dans la sérénité. Ma mère exigeait d’inviter mes amies juives aux fêtes religieuses et mes amies chrétiennes. C’était un devoir. Il fallait qu’elles soient là. Et moi, j’allais célébrer avec elles leurs fêtes. Je célébrais Noël avec elles et ainsi de suite. J’arrive ici et là Noël c’est haram (interdit), l’arbre de Noël c’est haram…Tout est haram. Mais qu’est-ce que tu fais ici si tout ça est haram?

 

Madame Houda-Pepin a rappelé combien les opposants au radicalisme islamiste devaient être spécifiques dans leurs interventions s’ils espéraient avoir la moindre chance de ralentir le phénomène.

 

Fatima Houda-Pepin: Le combat contre les intégrismes de toutes les religions, c’est un combat périlleux. Il faut être prêt à le mener ce combat-là et la première condition, c’est la connaissance. Si vous ne connaissez pas ces phénomènes, si vous ne connaissez pas leurs structures, leurs organisations, leur agenda, où est-ce qu’ils s’en vont et ce qu’ils veulent, ça sert à rien de vouloir vous attaquer à plus fort que vous.

QUI MÉRITE VRAIMENT UN ÉTAT?
LES KURDES OU LES PALESTINIENS?

Victor Sharpe
Israel-Flash.com, 21 février 2012

Vraiment c’est une bonne question! Il y a plus de vingt États arabes au Moyen-Orient et en Afrique du Nord, mais le monde exige, en chœur avec une animosité à peine déguisée envers Israël, qu’un un autre État arabe soit créé au sein des quarante miles qui séparent la mer Méditerranée du Jourdain.

 

Israël, un territoire pas plus grand que le pays de Galles ou l’État du New Jersey, serait forcé de partager cette bande de terre avec une nouvelle entité arabe hostile appelée «Palestine», tout en voyant sa taille actuelle réduite à neuf miles de largeur autant dire un projet génocidaire – ce que l’homme d’État israélien, Abba Eban, décrit comme les frontières d’Auschwitz.

 

Rappelez-vous, il n’a jamais existé dans toute l’histoire une nation souveraine indépendante appelée la Palestine – et certainement pas non plus arabe. Le terme «Palestine» a toujours été le nom d’un territoire géographique, comme la Sibérie ou la Patagonie. Mais n’a jamais été un état. Mais il y a un peuple qui, comme les Juifs, mérite une patrie et qui vraiment peuvent remonter leur ascendance à des milliers d’années d’histoire.

 

Ce sont les Kurdes, et il est très instructif d’examiner leur remarquable histoire en parallèle avec celle des Juifs. Il est également nécessaire de revoir l’injustice historique qui leur a été imposée au fil des siècles par des empires et des voisins hostiles.

 

Revenons à la captivité des dix tribus d’Israël, ces tribus ont été déportées à partir de leurs terres par les Assyriens en 721-715 avant l’ère commune. L’Israël biblique a été dépeuplé, ses habitants Juifs ont été déportés vers une zone dans la région de l’ancienne Médie et de l’Assyrie – ce territoire correspondant à peu près aujourd’hui à celui du Kurdistan. L’Assyrie a été à son tour conquise par les Babyloniens. Les Babyloniens sous Nabuchodonosor ont ensuite envahit le royaume de Juda en – 586 avant l’ère commune.

 

Les deux autres tribus juives ont été envoyées à leur tour dans la même même zone que celle de leurs frères du nord du royaume. Lorsque le conquérant perse de la Babylonie, Cyrus le Grand, a permis aux Juifs de retourner sur leurs terres ancestrales, de nombreux Juifs sont restés et ont continuer à vivre avec leurs voisins Babyloniens – une région qui, encore une fois, correspond dans nos temps modernes au Kurdistan.

 

Le Talmud de Babylone se réfère dans un passage aux déportés Juifs de Juda ayant reçu l’autorisation rabbinique de communiquer le judaïsme à la population locale. La maison royale kurde et une grande partie de la population en général dans les années qui ont suivi ont accepté la foi juive. En effet, lorsque les Juifs se soulevèrent contre l’occupation romaine au 1er siècle après l’ère commune, la reine a envoyé des troupes kurdes visant à soutenir les Juifs assiégés.

 

Dès le début du 2ème siècle après l’ère commune, le judaïsme a été fermement établi au Kurdistan, et les Juifs kurdes en Israël parlent aujourd’hui une forme ancienne d’araméen dans leurs maisons et dans les synagogues. La vie juive est devenue si intime et à un tel degré que de nombreux contes populaires kurdes sont en rapport avec les Juifs.

 

[…] Après que la révolte ait échoué contre Rome, de nombreux rabbins ont trouvé refuge dans ce qui est aujourd’hui le Kurdistan. Les rabbins se sont joints à leurs collègues universitaires, et au 3ème siècle après l’ère chrétienne, les académies juives de la région étaient florissantes.

 

[…] Sous l’empire perse des sassanides les Juifs et les Kurdes ont souffert de persécution et cela a duré jusqu’à l’invasion arabo-musulmane au 7ème siècle. Les Juifs et les Kurdes se sont joints aux envahisseurs arabes dans l’espoir que leur action leur apporterait un soulagement aux déprédations et persécutions subies sous les sassanides. Peu de temps après la conquête arabe, les Juifs de l’État autonome Juif de Himyar (royaume antique du Yémen) ce qui est l’Arabie Saoudite aujourd’hui ont rejoint les Juifs dans les régions kurdes.

 

Cependant, sous l’occupation arabo-musulmane, leur situation a empiré, et les Juifs ont souffert en tant que dhimmis dans les territoires contrôlés par les musulmans. Les Juifs ont été chassés de leurs terres agricoles du fait des taxes onéreuses imposées par leurs suzerains musulmans. Ils ont donc quitté la terre pour devenir commerçants et artisans dans les villes.

 

Beaucoup de paysans Juifs ont été convertis à l’islam par la force et les circonstances désastreuses les poussèrent à se marier avec leurs voisins. De cette population kurde est issue une grande figure historique. En 1138, un garçon est né dans une famille de guerriers et d’aventuriers kurdes. Son nom était Salah-al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyoub – mieux connu en Occident sous le nom de Saladin.

 

Il a été l’artisan de la reconquête de Jérusalem contre les croisés chrétiens, et a donné la victoire aux musulmans sur les Francs même si les arabo-musulmans se méfiaient de lui du fait qu’il soit Kurde. Les Arabes de l’époque étaient au courant de la relation étroite qui existait entre le peuple kurde et les Juifs. Saladin a établi des mesures de justice et humanitaires en temps de guerre et temps de paix également. Cette situation contrastait avec les méthodes employées par les Arabes.

 

En effet, Saladin fut non seulement juste pour les chrétiens, mais il a permis aussi aux Juifs de se développer à Jérusalem et, à ses frais, à fait déblayé le Mur occidental du Temple Juif, enterré sous des tonnes de déchets pendant l’occupation chrétienne byzantine. Le grand rabbin et philosophe Juif Maïmonide était le médecin personnel de Saladin.

 

[…] Mais revenons à nos jours et les raisons pour lesquelles les clameurs du monde se font entendre pour un État palestinien arabe, et que ce même monde tourne étrangement le dos à l’indépendance nationale d’un état kurde. Le principe universellement accepté de l’autodétermination ne semble pas s’appliquer aux Kurdes.

 

Dans un article paru dans le New York Sun, le 6 Juillet 2004 intitulé «L’Exception d’un état kurde», Hillel Halkin expose la discrimination et les doubles standards employés à l’encontre des aspirations à l’indépendance des kurdes. La brutalité de la realpolitik, fait que les Arabes qui se disent Palestiniens ont de nombreux amis dans le monde arabe riche en pétrole – pétrole dont le monde a désespérément besoin pour son économie.

 

Les Kurdes, comme les Juifs, ont peu d’amis, et les Kurdes ont peu, ou aucune, d’influence dans les couloirs internationaux du pouvoir. M. Halkin a souligné que «les Kurdes méritent bien mieux un État que les Palestiniens. Ils ont leur propre langue et une culture unique, les Arabes palestiniens n’en n’ont pas. Ils sont un peuple distinct et ce depuis de nombreux siècles, les Arabes palestiniens ne sont pas un peuple distinct des arabes. Ils ont été trahis à plusieurs reprises par les promesses durant les 100 dernières années par la communauté internationale, tandis que les Arabes palestiniens n’ont été trahis que par leurs compatriotes arabes.»

 

[…] Pendant la tyrannie de Saddam Hussein, les Kurdes ont été gazés et assassinés en grand nombre. Ils ont subi un nettoyage ethnique par les Turcs et continuent d’être opprimés par le gouvernement turc actuel. L’actuel ministre des Affaires étrangères turques, Ahmet Davutoglu, a eu le culot de déclarer, lors d’une réunion du Centre d’études stratégiques et internationales, que la Turquie soutient les opprimés dans le monde.

 

Il a ignoré l’oppression des Kurdes par son propre gouvernement et appelle les terroristes sanguinaires de la bande de Gaza des «opprimés». Sur la base de la pure realpolitik, la légalité et la moralité de la cause des Kurdes est infiniment plus forte que celle des Arabes qui se disent Palestiniens. D’autre part, après le renversement de Saddam Hussein, les Kurdes ont fait preuve politiquement et économiquement d’une grande sagesse.

 

La différence avec les Arabes de Gaza est que, lorsqu’Israël a donné le contrôle total de la bande de Gaza, les Arabes n’ont pas choisi de construire des hôpitaux et des écoles, mais plutôt des bunkers et des lanceurs de missiles. En plus de cela, ils ont imposé la charia humiliant les femmes et les non-musulmans.

 

L’expérience kurde, en cours sur le territoire quasi-indépendant qui est le leur a montré au monde une société décente, où tous ses habitants, hommes et femmes, jouissent de libertés bien plus grandes que ce qui peut être trouvé dans le monde arabo-musulman – et certainement nulle part ailleurs en Irak, qui est en train de sombrer dans un chaos ethnique, maintenant que l’armée américaine l’a quitté. […]

 

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