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.