Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Now There's an Idea

Brookings Institute fellow Ranj Alaaldin has a clever idea about how Trump can strike back against Iran, back the Iraqi Kurds in their independence struggle against the Shiite-controlled central government in Baghdad.

The Kurds and their Peshmerga have always been America's best allies in the region going back well before Saddam was driven out of Kuwait.

The Kurds are a people without a homeland. The French and British had promised them they would get just that during WWI after the Ottomans, Germany's ally, were toppled. That led to the Treaty of Sevres in 1920.

But then along came a fierce Turkish nationalist, Ataturk, threatening to give the Brits and the French another bloody nose and so they folded and replaced Sevres with the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 that restored Turkey to the boundaries that stand today.

While they were at it, the Brits and the French carved up the rest of the Ottoman empire between themselves creating new nations including Syria, Iraq and Iran. It was called the Sykes-Picot or Asia Minor agreement.

France was to have control of A while the Brits got B. The deal was drawn strictly for European convenience and ignored all the ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural realities on the ground. That also meant that the Kurdish homeland was carved up among Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey where, as ethnic minorities, they fared pretty much as minorities fare in the Middle East.

The Brits and the French made a horrible mess of it, lumping Shiite minorities with Sunni majorities here, Sunni minorities with Shia majorities there, Arabs here and Persians there. A formula for the conflicts that have persisted ever since.

Right now Trump is really pissed with Iran but he's also pissed with Iraq, Syria and, more recently, Erdogan's Turkey.  The only group that has given America no grief is the Kurds.  And wouldn't it plant a burr under the saddle of the Turks, the Syrians, the Iraqis and especially the Iranians if Trump backed the Kurdish north's independence from Baghdad?

Then again, given America's record of winning wars in that region, maybe Trump will sit this one out.


Anonymous said...

Let's put this through tbe usual Trump decision-making process:
1. Will it make me money? No, not really.
2. Will it piss off libruls or reverse an Obama policy? No, not really.
3. Is it the stupidest possible response? No, that's still attacking N Korea.

Sorry, Mound. It ain't gonna happen.

Jay Farquharson said...





The Mound of Sound said...

John Kenneth Galbraith's other son, Peter, wrote a great book in 2006, "The End of Iraq, How American Incompetence Created a War Without End."

After Saddam was ousted from Kuwait the Kurds had a brief uprising that Hussein brutally put down. That led to a no-fly zone over the Kurdish sector and the southern marshlands.

Peter Galbraith was then a Senate foreign relations committee staffer and he was seconded to the Kurds to help them establish governance and, in particular, to write their own constitution.

When Iraq fitfully came together after Saddam's ouster, the Kurds held out until Baghdad agreed the reconciliation would be subject to the Kurds' constitution and the creation of an autonomous zone. Galbraith had drafted what he called in his book a "poison pill" provision in the Kurdish constitution that provided for secession. The Arab Iraqi parties had to allow that in.

Even back in 2006 the Kurds foresaw a future conflict over Kirkuk with its rich oil fields. During his reign of terror Saddam had displaced large numbers of Kurds from the city, repopulating with Sunni Arabs, his own people. When Saddam was turfed the Kurds moved to recover those homes and re-establish their Kurdish majority in the city and region.

And, what do we have now? Iraqi Shiites going to war with Iraqi Kurds over the prize, Kirkuk.

Galbraith argues that the only hope for Iraq is for it to be divided into the Shiite south, Sunni center and Kurdish north - three autonomous states living as they once did before the Brits and French hobbled them all together into today's failing state, Iraq.

If I didn't have such a backlog of reading I'd take another look at Galbraith's book. Depending on how this conflict evolves I might just do that anyway.

The Mound of Sound said...

Jay, I read the links. There was something odd about Landis that led me to go a bit further. The main criticism I found is that he's very pro-Assad.

Here's one critique that seems well footnoted.

It does make me reluctant to take for granted his objectivity toward the Kurds.

Owen Gray said...

Nations splintering is getting to be a common meme.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hardly surprising, Owen, given that the European colonial powers ignored the Westphalian model through the mid-19th and 20th centuries.

Trailblazer said...

I have to wonder , considering today's politics, Just how long the United States of America can remain 'United" ?

The USA is trying to set in stone! what Britain and France did years ago to the middle east.

It won't work; we all know it.
The industrial military complex have other ideas!

Reality is becoming extremely difficult to negotiate!!


Jay Farquharson said...

He started out being a Syrian Spring supporter, but, as the war went on, as "the" major Western Syrian Scholar, he started seeing faces and names in the FSA from the past, and from other countries.

When you see a Saudi cleric who has called for decades for the death of tafkiri's, who was exiled from Saudi Arabia for extremism, fronting a group of "prodemocracy" free Syrians from Lybia, Tunisia, Chechnia, etc with some familiar names and faces from Islamic terrorism there, tends to have an impact.

Through out the middle part of the Syrian Civil War, there actually wasn't much "Comment" on Syria Comment, instead, there were long org charts of various FSA militia's and groups, reconstructed from their videos, fatwha's, communiques, public proclamations, martyr's lists and memorials, alliances and combined offences.

Much like what Anti-Racist Canada does with the Nazi's social media postings.

Landis reached the same conclusion in early 2014, that the Pentagon reached in 2016 after dumping in billions of dollars of weapons, funding and training, and the CIA reached in mid 2017, when their last shipment, 900 tons of exSoviet weapons, wound up in the hands of the rebranded alQuida,

That secular, inclusive, pro-Democracy militia's were few and far between in Syria and were tactically, strategically dominated by Islamic Jihadi's, with whom they had to cooperate to survive.

BTW, the Yinon Plan's been around since the '80's,

"He then proceeds to analyze the weaknesses of Arab countries, by citing what he perceives to be flaws in their national and social structures, concluding that Israel should aim to bring about the fragmentation of the Arab world into a mosaic of ethnic and confessional groupings.[8] 'Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation,' he argued, would prove to be advantageous to Israel in the short term.[18] He saw contemporary events in Lebanon as a foreshadowing of future developments overall throughout the Arab world. The upheavals would create a precedent for guiding Israeli short-term and long-term strategies. Specifically, he asserted that the immediate aim of policy should be the dissolution of the military capabilities of Arab states east of Israel, while the primary long-term goal should work towards the formation of unique areas defined in terms of ethnonational and religious identities.[19]


If breaking up a nation into micronations is the solution to competing regional goals, we should try it with Canada first as "proof of concept", as it's much less likely to result in internicene wars, bantustans, genocide and ethnic cleansing.

The Mound of Sound said...

Jay, get a grip. Why would you imagine that Canada should be a crash test dummy for dissolution? Where is the will for that, even in Quebec? Canada has fuck all to do with the Middle East and its disingenuous to suggest otherwise. The Middle East, like much of Africa, has been destabilized by first European and then American intervention.

As for Landis, I remember when the economic gurus were Hayek and Friedman and look where that ended. I'm not convinced, Jay.

As for Israel I believe all this religious fervor - Christian, Muslim and Judaic is venomous crap. I would gladly see Israel forced back and confined within its pre-67 borders with American guarantees of its territorial security.

rumleyfips said...

I can't see the Israeli/Saudi use of first ISIS now Kurdistan as proxies ( cannon fodder )against Iran as a good thing. Now that Turkey is getting closer to Iran, Iraq and Syria in opposition to a Kurdish, Israeli, Wahabbi triad trouble is afoot.

Anonymous said...

"How American Incompetence Created a War Without End."
Not so fast.
The war "without end" was PLANNED. At least by some folks.