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Kurds, Kurdistan and the US Dilemma

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When Kurds use violence to pursue an independent Kurdistan from Turkey, the American government calls those fighters "terrorists." When Kurds use violence in the name of an independent Kurdistan against Iran, the American government does not label those fighters "terrorists."  When Kurds use their Peshmerga fighters to fight insurgents in Iraq, the American government calls those fighters "allies."

According to an article published in The New Yorker** (November 20, 2006) the United States government has been providing aid and assistance to the Kurds when they attack Iran in pursuit of their political aim of independence. American officials in Iraq deny providing aid to the Kurdish fighters on the Iranian border. By providing such aid, the increasing number of reports charge that the United States is carrying on a clandestine war against Iran by way of the Kurds.

There are more than twenty-five million Kurds whose territory was carved into five pieces after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire.  The decisions made by European and American diplomats in the early part of the twentieth century left Kurdistan divided and placed under the forcible authority of five different states (Syria, Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Russia [now Armenia]).  Kurds have been seeking to recombine their peoples and their territory into a united Kurdistan ever since.

US policy makers have stepped into a long-standing conflict that rivals the Israeli/Palestinian dispute over territory and the political status of the parties.  Turkey claims Kurdish territory as does Iran, Iraq and Syria. The existence of Kurdistan goes without question.  What stands out as a major, unresolved territorial and political dispute created in large part by the British with the breakup of the Ottoman Empire must be resolved. Without a solution the festering aspirations of the Kurds and the fears of the states that claim their territory will continue to threaten and even cause a major, regional war.

The European Union, United States of America, Russian Federation, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria, and all of the states that depend on Middle East oil for their economic security have an interest in the peaceful transformation of Kurdish territories into a politically stable nation. Kurdish peoples should be reunified according to their own choice and Kurdish neighbors have a right to feel secure in relations with the Kurds.

An international conference on Kurdistan should be called to specifically resolve the Kurdish claims to the right of self-determination.  The proposed international conference concerning the stability of Iraq in December can well serve as one venue where side-bar discussions can take place to lower the temper of different contending parties (read: Turkey, United States and Iran).  The United States government has a duty to the region and the world, (having unlawfully invaded Iraq in 2003) to make an effort with all parties to resolve the Kurdish dilemma.  The US is now sitting on all sides of the Kurdish table. It will have to resolve its own ambivalence and settle on a more impartial role. If the US government is providing encouragement and aid to Kurds to attack Iran, then the United States should pull back and stop efforts to threaten Iran. The United States government has a great deal to say to the Kurds in the north of Iraq, it should support that stable government in its efforts to restrain the Kurds who are defending their territories in Turkey.  The Turkish government is a NATO member, the United States must provide assurances of maintaining respect for Turkish territorial integrity.  For these types of decisions US policy leaders will need to exercise the greatest flexibility, maturity and discipline diplomatically.

All of these steps involve the United States government because it inserted itself in the affairs of Middle Eastern states. It must resolve its dilemma in favor of regional stability and collective security. If an international conference provides for self-determination for the Kurds and regional stability and collective security regional peace will have been strongly endorsed. While the United States government is a significant irritant in the Middle East, it has now become an essential party to resolving the question of Kurdistan, the Israeli/Palestinian dispute, the Israeli/Hezbola dispute,  the Iraqi civil war and the nuclear power question in Iran.  Colin Powell's message: "You break it, you own it." My message: "Fix it and stop acting like a religious zealot and stop acting like a teenager on steroids. Act like an adult...US government!"

(** The New Yorker: ABD, PKK'nın İran kolunu destekliyor", Hürriyet, November 20, 2006. (Turkish) )

(c) 2007 Center for World Indigenous Studies

(Dr. Rÿser is the author of Fourth World Geopolitics and the forth-coming book Nationcraft, and actively participated in the twelve-year effort to draft the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.)


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