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The attacks by the Turkish military and government on the Kurdish security forces which have fought Daesh/ISIS, controlled checkpoints and guarded captured jihadis in areas of northern Syria, have sparked questions, comments and condemnation from all over the world. Finally, it seems, the world which heretofore avoided or ignored the plight of the largest ethnic population on the planet which does not have it's own land and nation, and who have been attacked, targeted and denigrated constantly by Turkey; is verbally championed by politicians in neighboring countries, in Europe, in North America and even Asia.
Why the sudden spark of interest? Which countries and governments are actual allies of the Kurdish people? Why are they concerned if Turkey takes over the prison camps where terrorists and their jihadi families are currently held? This week I address these questions as well as review the situation with an attempt at establishing an independent Kurdistan which was almost accomplished at this time in 2017, but was thwarted by some of these same nations and by factions of the Kurdish people themselves.
First, let's review the United States government actions and alliances with the Kurdish people since the 1970s, since this background is often omitted in contemporary analysis and news reports but is integral to understanding what the Kurds have endured, what has been promised and negotiated but never delivered to the Kurds. I also give examples of historical and recent attacks against the Kurds by both Iraq and Turkey.
In 1975, Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State, secretly channeled $16 million in military aid to the Kurds, who believed Washington supported their right to self-determination. In 1976, however, the Pike report, issued by the House Select Committee on Intelligence, revealed that the U.S. never had any intention of supporting a Kurdish state:
Documents in the Committee's possession state: "President Nixon, Dr. Kissinger and the foreign head of state [the Shah of Iran] hoped that our clients [the Kurds] would not prevail. They preferred instead that the insurgents simply continue a level of hostilities sufficient to sap the resources of our ally's neighboring country [Iraq]. This policy was not imparted to our clients, who were encouraged to continue fighting."
At the 1975 Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) summit, Iran and Iraq temporarily resolved their border dispute. The Iraqi government was then informed that U.S. support for the Kurds would be withdrawn, while the Kurds themselves were kept uninformed about what was happening. Iraqi forces immediately launched an aggressive campaign against the Kurdish rebels. The United States knew but did not warn their allies, the Kurds.
"The insurgents [Kurds} were clearly taken by surprise. Their adversaries, knowing of the impending aid cut-off, launched an all out search-and-destroy campaign the day after the agreement [with Iran] was signed. The autonomy movement was over and our former clients scattered before the [Iraqi] central government's superior forces."
As Iraq wiped out the remaining rebels, the Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani sent a message to Kissinger: "Our movement and people are being destroyed in an unbelievable way, with silence from everyone. We feel, your excellency, that the United States has a moral and political responsibility towards our people, who have committed themselves to your country's policy."
Kissinger, didn't bother to send a reply. According to the Pike report:
"Over 200,000 refugees managed to escape into Iran. Once there however, neither the United States nor Iran extended adequate humanitarian assistance. In fact, Iran was later to forcibly return over 40,000 of the refugees and the United States government refused to admit even one refugee into the United States by way of political asylum even though they qualified for such admittance."
As Kissinger later explained to a Congressional staffer, "Covert action should not be confused with missionary work." U.S. strategic interests, in other words, were more important than mere moral principles. "Even in the context of covert actions," concluded the Pike report, "ours was a cynical enterprise." theintercept.com/2019/10/07/kurds-syria-turkey-trump-betrayal/
Dr. Henry Kissinger advised every president since Richard Nixon and was a key adviser for both Bush Presidents, former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State. Even President Trump had a courtesy meeting with Dr. Kissinger at the beginning of his presidency. He is a consultant for a number of foreign policy organizations and international organizations including the Council on Foreign Relations and the Bilderberg Group. He is also considered a war criminal by certain countries and international organizations. Henry Kissinger remains controversial.
From de-classified documents we now know the US intel community did know Iraq (under Saddam Hussein) possessed and used chemical weapons against Iranians and against the Kurds. foreignpolicy.com/2013/08/26/exclusive-cia-files-prove-america-helped-saddam-as-he-gassed-iran/
The international press was alerted to the chemical attack against the Kurdish people in Halabja. The photos of civilians of all ages, over 5,000 killed by sarin nerve gas and many still suffering the effects of poisoning-circulated around the world. For a time a resurgence of condemnation of those using chemical weapons was part of political discussions and served as rationale later after the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 war in Iraq, to effect the capture and death of Saddam Hussein and his commander cousin "Chemical Ali' Ali Hassan al-Majid. (see photos below)
"During the Clinton administration in the 1990s, the Iraqi Kurds, were the 'good Kurds'. Because they were persecuted by Iraq, our enemy, they were worthy of U.S. sympathy. But the Kurds a few miles north in Turkey started getting uppity too, and since they were annoying our ally (Turkey), they were the 'bad Kurds'. The U.S. sent Turkey huge amounts of weaponry, which it used — with U.S. knowledge — to murder tens of thousands of Kurds and destroy thousands of villages." https://theintercept.com/2019/10/07/kurds-syria-turkey-trump-betrayal/
www.shafaaq.com/en/kurdistan/a-turkish-dam-destroys-a-12000-kurdish-town/ The post-war independence of Iraqi Kurds after the Iraq war of 2003, made Turkey extremely nervous. In 2007, the U.S. allowed Turkey to carry out a heavy bombing campaign against Iraqi Kurds inside Iraq.
With the assistance of the US National Security Agency (NSA) The Turkish military were able to target Kurds with drones, cyber interception, geo-location, surveillance and assassination starting in the Bush administration and expanded under the Obama Administration: theintercept.com/2014/08/31/nsaturkeyspiegel/
Turkey also built dams which controlled, rationed and denied water to northern Iraq-the areas of the KRG - "Kurdistan". For more in depth description of this "Hydro-warfare" by Turkey, see my post from last year: www.jopatti.com/blog/power-plays-hydro-warfare
The Independent region of Kurdistan contains the rich oil producing fields of Kirkuk and Kurdish president Barzani negotiated an agreement for revenue sharing with the Iraqi Baghdad government. However in March, 2014 The Iraqi government under Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki blocked the transfer of revenues to the Kurdish authorities, leaving regional leaders unable to pay the salaries of officials.
In May, 2014 -Daesh/ISIS starts their seige in Anbar province. The Kurdish Peshmerga-Those Who Confront Death-protect Kirkuk. The US and Iraqi government supply Peshmerga fighters with weapons and leave them to battle Daesh/ISIS. Mosul falls to Daesh/ISIS completely by June 2014.
"October 2014 - The Iraqi Kurdistan government sends Peshmerga forces to the northern Syrian city of Kobane - via Turkey - supporting Kurdish fighters attempting to defend the city from attack by Daesh/ISIS. December 2014-Peshmerga and Syrian Kurdish fighters retake Mount Sinjar from Islamic State forces.
Russia's Rosneft reportedly pays 1 bn US dollars in advance for Iraqi Kurdistan's crude oil, signalling growing Russian interest in the region's natural resources.
June 2017 - A cross-party meeting led by President Barzani agrees to hold an independence referendum on 25 September." Iraq's government in Baghdad threatens reprisals. www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-15467672
Mosul is recaptured by Peshmerga with some help from Iraq and US forces by September 2017. Barzani holds the referendum and many countries condemn him in addition to many Kurds objecting to the timing of the referendum. Iraq government responds by cutting all revenues, closing the Erbil airport to all international flights and changing visa requirements to Kurdistan region.
President Barzani resigned in October 2017.
November 2017, the last strongholds of Daesh/ISIS in Iraq and Syria fall with strong fighting by the Peshmerga. Many ISIS militants are captured but many are aided in their escape by Iraqis sympathetic to Daesh, and many more make their way through Turkey.
In early 2018, after seizing the Kurdish-majority Afrin district, the Turks expelled half Afrin's inhabitants and brought in jihadi Arabs as part of their program of “Arabisation” well as their plan to destroy any of the US-fostered administration.
Kurdish forces have maintained control over areas of northern Syria for the past few years. But in January, 2019- Turkey launched an operation targeting Kurdish groups in northwest Syria, The Kurds requested aid from the Syrian government as well as the international community.
Peshmerga units have been guarding large camps where Daesh/ISIS fighters and their families are held. One camp called Al Hol has more than 70,000 ISIS members. It is very difficult to control. These fighters and their families are not able to return to their country of origin in most cases. Over 10,000 are estimated to be foreigners from Europe, Asia and North America. They still maintain their ideology, most show no remorse and continue with their "system" of justice, punishments and sharia law. www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-al-hol-syria-camp-caliphate-islamic-state-riot-violence-stabbing-a9143401.html
Turkey uses it's position in NATO to leverage support for it's actions and for procuring weapons-which they are using against the Kurds. They also use the threat of releasing these jihadi fighters back into the refugee population and possibly back to eastern and western Europe and beyond. They are walking 'time bombs'.
It is also important to be note that Turkey stood by during the years of sieges, brutality, murder, torture by Daesh/ISIS of Christians, Yezidis, Shiite, Sufi, and Sunnis and foreigners of all ages. They did not help in the defeat of Daesh/ISIS.
"Turkey argues the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which has defeated Islamic State, is a threat to Turkey as it is connected to Turkey’s separatist Kurds, who have been in conflict with the Turkish state since 1984. The YPG has vowed to defend its villages, towns and cities. The Kurds have in recent months received a steady supply of US arms and vehicles enabling them to resist. They may not, however, prevail against Turkish aerial bombing and shelling from artillery across the border." www.irishtimes.com/news/world/middle-east/us-abandonment-of-syria-s-kurds-risks-bitter-fighting-1.4042627
As of last week, October 2019, President Erdogan of Turkey announced to the world his intentions to create (by any means necessary) a "corridor zone" and this means the Kurds in the north will be in danger. They may be pulled away from their duties guarding Daesh/ISIS fighters/members in order to defend themselves and their compatriots. Moreover, US forces were moving out of these areas leaving the Kurds with no other reinforcements. Understandably they are looking to Russia as well as the Syrian Defense forces for additional support.
"The Turkish offensive will likely target the Arab-majority city of Tel Abyad in Northern Raqqa Province. It will create an opportunity for ISIS to achieve breakout success in eastern Syria while the U.S. partner force, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), fights Turkey along the border. Pro-Assad regime forces could also attempt to exploit the chaos to seize oil fields currently under SDF control." www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/turkish-invasion-northeast-syria-looks-imminent
So who are and who will be the Kurds allies now? The latest statement from US President Trump seems to point to more straightforward- "No, we can't help you" rather than the pretense of "supporting the Kurds" by previous administrations whilst they acted more like adversaries than allies betraying them in a number of different situations with their proxies actions and inaction.
President Trump however, did add he would find ways to heap significant economic reprisals on an already weakened Turkish economy and currency should Erdogan go beyond an as of yet unspecified "line in the sand" in terms of treatment of the Kurds. As a businessman, President Trump indicated the US should not be putting money into maintaining camps for jihadis, nor add more training/equipment for the Kurds. That is the rationale that is important to factor in this equation/policy shift.
Can the Kurds trust anyone after all this history with "allies"? Would you?! I highly recommend you read Kurdish news sites in English (or Kurdish is you can) for a more informed, authentic and complete picture of what is happening in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and even Iran - which has it's own area called "Kurdistan".
Here is one site which shows there is movement by the KRG to reach toward Russia:
"Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani received on Monday Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Erbil to discuss the bilateral ties between Erbil and Moscow."
And another site in English: www.shafaaq.com/en/kurdistan/a-turkish-dam-destroys-a-12000-kurdish-town/
Finally Rudaw news. which some will criticize but they have on the ground reporters who know the language: www.rudaw.net/english/analysis/0710201
This is a developing event and reports from many sources will try and claim "exclusive" and "shocking" content. Go to those sources which are reporting from those on the ground, with verifiable communications and with an objective viewpoint as possible-that excludes Al Jazeera and most main stream US news including Kurdistan24. There are credible independent reporters, youtube reports from the Kurds themselves you can read/watch. Sift through their agendas to try and digest a kernel of the truth and the consequences of actions/inaction in this volatile region.
Until next Tuesday, stay vigilant...
Including a Peshmerga female unit in Syria, with a short song and message from the field in Kurdish. Enjoy: www.youtube.com/watch?v=doPZW7QoxVk