Baer Handling of the Kurds

By Dr. M. Koohzad:

Robert Baer

Former CIA officer Robert Baer

With a little knowledge about the Middle East, Iraq, and the Kurds, Robert Baer, the infamous CIA field officer and TIME Magazine’s online intelligence columnist, wrote a brief, dry, and unacceptable essay entitled “How to Handle the Kurds,” published in the October 2007 issue of this magazine. His column is anything but intelligent. Of course, Mr. Bear is entitled to write about whatever he wishes. However, it is a disgrace that he has been hired and paid to write about his biased and misleading concepts and that his work has been published in such a magazine.

First, the title is insulting. The word “handle” is typically used in reference to animals, unruly people, and criminals. Mr. Baer comes across as an arrogant field officer ordering obedience from a subordinate, in this case, the president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani. He called on the Kurdish president of Iraq four times without using a title such as Mr. or President. Mr. Baer wrote, “Jalal Talabani will have to stop acting like a Kurdish national resistance leader and more like a President. What he has to do is kick the Turkish Workers’ Party, the PKK, out of Iraq…[and not to] incite Kurds in neighboring countries.” Apparently, he had no idea what the PKK stands for. None of the three letters of this acronym stands for “Turkish”.

Mr. Baer’s book See No Evil, was the basis for George Clooney’s film Syriana (2005). According to Baer, Syriana, no relation to Syria, is the name of an oil-rich country in the Middle East where brothers kill each other. Perhaps Mr. Baer received a lot of money from that movie, growing very rich and even more arrogant. But, his 2008 book called The Devil We Know: Dealing With The New Iranian Superpower, sold very few copies.

Evidently, he deliberately includes metaphysical words such as Evil and Devil in the titles of his books. By the way, Iran is neither a “devil” nor a “superpower”. Mr. Baer first wanted to teach us how to “handle” the Kurds and then how to “deal” with the “devil.” He may have gotten these two cold mechanical words from the CIA’s assassination manual, the foundation of his education that earned him a job as an assassin.

When promoting this book about Iran on NPR, he was unable to pronounce the name of the devil, Iran, correctly. Among many other languages, it is said that he is fluent in Arabic and Farsi. The majority of the proper names he talks about are in either one or the other of these two languages. Yet, he is able to pronounce few of the proper names from the Middle East correctly. His poor pronunciation indicates the shallowness of his knowledge of the region. The above-mentioned mistake of using “Turkish” instead of “Kurdish” looks like an honest mistake. But, it is also a symptom of the superficiality of his understanding of the situation. A self-declared expert about the Middle East would be well advised to verify his information, avoid being rude to other nationalities, and quit acting as if he is still working for the Company.

Mr. Bear just followed the general concepts about the Kurds formulated mainly in the US that is a double standard of sorting out the good Kurds from the bad ones. Based on his Hypocritical Dualism, he categorized the PKK – the Kurdish freedom fighters from Turkey – as “no good”, the Iraqi Kurds were mostly “good,” and the Iranian Kurds only recently morphed into being “good”. By the way, the Kurds in Iran were “bad” before 1979. Then, the question is: what to call the Kurds in Syria? Recently, they were able to secure a free Kurdistan Regional Government, similar to the one in Northern Iraq.

Turkey is worried about this. Approximately 25 million Kurds live as second-class citizens in Turkey. This is half of all of the Kurds in the world. Ankara has denied the existence of the Kurds. Kurdish was banned in Turkey in 1924. They have been humiliated, forcefully assimilated, deported, and more than once they have been the targets of genocide. Since then, the world’s largest numbers of Kurdish people here have been fighting for their basic human rights and freedom. The US has been helping Turkey to manage its Kurdish population. For this purpose, the Turks have been using American-made WMD and financial help. No other ethnic group in the world has been the target of more state terrorism than the Kurds.

So, what is the answer now that the Turks are worried and Americans confused as to “what should we call the Kurds in Syria?” Hint; avoid the Western double standard and dichotomy. Perhaps we should just call them what they are! The Kurds. All of Syrian Kurdistan is ultimately controlled by the Kurds. They have a democratic model and civil society similar to the Iraqi KRG, next door. The Kurds in Syria and elsewhere do not need to be “handled” or “dealt” with. They have already learned the art of self-governing. They know how to be the pilot of their own fate and future and join the civilized world. The West should stop helping the enemies of the Kurds.


Baer, Robert. “How to Handle the Kurds.”, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2007.,8599,1675638,00.html

Baer, Robert B. The Devil We Know: Dealing With The New Iranian Superpower. New York: Three Rivers Press 2008.


Dr. Koohzad is a Professor Emeritus of Middle Eastern Studies in the United States. 

Also by the author: Koohzad, M. “Kurdistan Ignored Even by American Professional Geography Textbook Writers.” The International Journal of Kurdish Studies, Vol. 22, Nos. 1 & 2, 2008, pp. 173-192. 

Copyright © 2013

Copyright © 2013

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