Divide and Conquer

Evin Cheikosman

By Evin Cheikosman:

All the evidence is on the table and powerful countries like Israel and Turkey are pretty much making revealing bouts of support for an independent Kurdistan with loud speakers and bell horns!

According to numerous reports by Reuters, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, the tanker ‘SCF Altai’ transferred a cargo of Kurdish oil from another tanker ‘United Emblem’, which had been plying the Mediterranean for two weeks after loading at the Turkish port of Ceyhan. The ‘SCF Altai’ then docked at the Israeli city of Ashkelon and off-loaded its crude. Thus far, Israel is the first buyer of independently exported Kurdish oil.

This past Thursday, Israeli FM Lieberman told the United States that, “Iraq is breaking up before our eyes and it would appear that the creation of an independent Kurdish state is a foregone conclusion.”

 Wednesday, Israeli President Shimon Peres told U.S. President Obama that he did not see unifying Iraq as possible without massive foreign military intervention and that this underscored Kurdish separation from the Shiite Muslim Majority and Sunni Arab minority.

Along with Israeli President Peres, PM Erdogan has also expressed support for the Kurds’ right to self determination. Frankly, Erdogan does not care whether Iraq stays in one piece or not as long as a future independent Kurdistan does not try to annex Kurdish regions within Turkey. Whether this compromise will be honored or not, that is up for a separate discussion.

As of now, Turkey has a 50 year deal to send Kurdish oil by pipeline to its port of Ceyhan, and Erdogan’s government has submitted its proposal to the Ankara Parliament and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP),is expected to pass the legislation by bolstering its majority with Kurdish lawmakers.

The draft law says it will allow the government to “take necessary precautions” and enable members of the PKK, to return home from camps in Turkish and northern Iraqi mountains, as well as secure their “integration into the society.”

Ankara made these paramount changes just days before an announcement that PM Erdogan will compete in the country’s first presidential election in August. Many argue that Turkey’s Kurds, who constitute about 20 percent of Turkey’s population, could deliver victory for Mr Erdogan, whose AK party scored 44 per cent in March local elections. PM Erdogan is finally realizing the benefits of being a fan of Kurdistan.

Being a fan of Kurdistan, however, is not easy for a country like Turkey, which is built on ultra nationalist ideals. Nevertheless Turkey has come very far from the days of “Ataturkism” when everyone and anything not Turkish was a threat to Turkish identity and stability. Today Turkey is growing comfortable with the idea of an independent Kurdistan; most likely due to the realization that the threat of ISIS and other extremist forces coming from the north pose a greater threat to the country’s stability than the Kurds living in Turkey do. Aiding a free Kurdistan boosts Turkey’s economic value – hence its devoted assistance with exporting Kurdish oil – and the AKP realizes the political value via improving Erdogan’s chances in Turkey’s presidential election.

So Israel and Turkey are on board with an independent Kurdistan, but what about the USA? The USA firmly believes that a Kurdistan would further destabilize an already unstable, fragmented Iraq. Supporting the Kurds would set the momentum for greater resentment against the U.S. from an already angry group of MENA countries that do not support a Kurdistan.

As evidenced by U.S. Secretary of State Kerry’s recent visit to Erbil this week, he vouched for an agreement of unification for Iraq, told Kurdish President Barzani to not declare independence, and explained the necessity for Kurdish cooperation in forming a new government in Baghdad. Furthermore, he made it very clear that the Americans would only support the removal of PM Maliki from power if the Kurds along with the Sunnis, would unite behind an alternative. This is a long, hard list of concessions, makes you wonder what the Kurds get in return? Nothing as always.

Of course, Barzani didn’t buy it and his response was this: “We did not cause the collapse of Iraq, it is others who did. And we cannot remain hostages for the unknown…the time is here for the Kurdistan people to determine their future, and the decision of the people is what we are going to uphold…We are facing a new reality and a new Iraq.”

That is indeed the case. We are facing a new reality and we are far past the need to form a “unified” Iraq. Just the word, unified, is a contradiction in itself. Iraq has never been a unified government. The PM has always been a Shiite, the president is a Kurd, and the Speaker of Parliament is a Sunni. Iraq is as ethnically divided as ever and will always be divided along ethnic lines. You cannot say that a unified Iraqi government is the solution to the problem because the problem is unity.  This obsession with unity has driven a power hungry Shiite PM Maliki to use the excuse of “unity” to his own benefit. Now he controls pretty much every sector of the Iraqi government in the name of “unity.” Saddam Hussein did the same thing in the name of religion, and was able to rule for over 20 years!

In addition, Maliki does not even want a unified government! When the U.S. presented him with their “national salvation government” agreement to put the government back together, Maliki outright rejected it saying that the agreement represented a “coup against the constitution and political process” and an attempt to “steal the votes from the voters.” Maliki does not want to share Iraq with the Kurds or the Sunnis, a condition the U.S. has for helping Iraq fight ISIS. One would think this fact would be a no-brainer, but the U.S. apparently didn’t think so – hence the pointless meeting in Erbil.

The U.S. knows more than any other country that the Kurds have bent backwards for the greater good. They fought with the Americans during the Iran-Iraq war and Iraqi-Kurdistan has served as a safe haven for American soldiers.

In 2010, a year before the American military left the country, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. promoted an arrangement to keep Mr. Maliki as prime minister while seeking to give some power to his main political rival, Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite who then headed a bloc that also represented many Sunnis.

In an effort to cement that power-sharing relationship, in November of that year, President Obama telephoned Jalal Talabani, a Kurd who serves as Iraq’s president, and asked him to relinquish his post so it could be given to Mr. Allawi. Mr. Talabani turned down the request.

Nothing has changed since 2010 or since the first encounter between Kurds and the west. The relationship has always been imbalanced; one party’s blood being sucked lifeless for the political gains of the other.

But today Kurds are conscious, they are awake and there is not one Kurd in this world that is not waiting on pins and needles for the glorious call for independence that Kurdish president Barzani is currently setting the stage for.

So what is the solution? Divide and conquer. Iraq will continue to weaken as a unified government and will soon transpire into the dream of ISIS. If Iraq continues down this path, it will become a land of warfare, and Islamism will spread like contagion. People say, the USA and Iran will not let that happen; but I think that it is just a strategy to let Shia, Sunni, and Kurd continue to kill each other until the only thing that is left is dead land that can be divided and controlled by the two opposing powers in MENA right now, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Today Iraq has to be for Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds separate and alone. Each will learn to grow stronger if each is given the long desired opportunity to be seen as a unique people within their own realm of affairs. With that said, time is of the essence, and Iraq is running out of time.

Evin Cheikosman is a Kurd living in Los Angeles, CA, A recent graduate in International Politics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, she has studied abroad in Berlin, Germany and will soon be traveling to Zhuhai, China on a teaching assignment. Thereafter she will be pursuing a masters degree in foreign affairs. During her free time, Evin posts facts and opinions concerning Kurdish politics on her blog: Minority Politico

One Response to Divide and Conquer
  1. sami
    July 7, 2014 | 15:33

    the writer prizing turky for been support the oil export from north iraq but she forget the histry of missthreatment by turky state of her kurds?
    Still the most kurd leader inside turky prisoned, isnt?
    Why the not defeding or promoting indepandent for follow kurds in turkey and iran?

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