USA & Kurds: partners or allies?

By Hiwa Osman:

The recent meeting of US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates with President Barzani coupled with a phone conference between President Barzani and US Vice-President Joe Biden has once again raised questions about US-Kurdish relations.
Last September, I wrote that it is not difficult to become an ally of the United States, but it may be more of a challenge to become a true ally and partner. I also said that upholding that values of good governance, human rights and transparency influence relations with the US.

Kurdish-US relations have thus far been framed by an alliance that is strongest during difficult periods, and benefits the bigger ally more than the smaller one. This will not continue forever.

Because America has changed, the Middle East is changing and Iraq is gradually recovering. Sooner or later, the Kurds will have to make a move to adapt to these changes and set a more solid and permanent foundation for its relationship with the USA.
As things stand, the Kurds want America’s assistance in settling problems with Baghdad over Kirkuk, oil, the Peshmerga and the referendum. America on the other hand wants the Kurds to help fix Baghdad’s dysfunctional politics and back an extended presence of US forces in Iraq.

This endless cycle will continue for as long as the United States is in Iraq. The Kurds should ask themselves: What will this relationship look like when the US pulls out completely?

No one can predict exactly what will occur, but the relationship will certainly change. The one certainty in all of this is that the USA won’t need the Kurds as much they need them today.

Hence, the relationship will be different one altogether. It will be up to the Kurdish side to set the tone of the new relationship and better position itself for the new phase, which will mostly be about creating a healthy stability as opposed to being a problem fixer for the USA.

In order to do this, the Kurds will have to work on the Kurdish, Iraqi and regional levels to become a facilitator of genuine stability without disrupting the entire region.

Regionally, the Kurds need to have stable relations with their neighbors, even with Iran. They have been trying to do so and to an extent have been successful. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s visit to Arbil was a good example

At the Iraqi level, relations with Baghdad need to be made more solid and outstanding issues need to be settled the two sides as Iraqi partners in the new Iraq. Given the nature of the various Iraqi political groups and the interference of Iraq’s neighbors, the less America intervenes to solve problems, the more sustainable the agreement will be when America leaves.

On the home front, the Kurdish house needs to be in order. The longer these street demonstrations continue and the longer tensions exist between the political parties in government and the opposition, the less credible the region’s political process will be. This will make it less capable of solving its problems internally.

The Kurdish leadership — specifically President Barzani — needs to take a strong initiative to tackle the grievances behind the ongoing demonstrations, which are similar to those elsewhere in the region.

These steps will decide whether America’s future relations with the Kurds will resemble its relations with democracies in Europe or those with countries, such as Egypt or Saudi Arabia.

This article first appeared on Thoughts from Iraq

One Response to USA & Kurds: partners or allies?
  1. David Abdullah Barzani Forrd
    October 8, 2013 | 05:03

    I am here to support the Kurdish people in their effort to become American citizens “or” to advocate a free and independent Kurdistan.

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL