Kurdistan’s Moment? Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 20 2014 @ 1:03pm

kurdish-populations-map

Iraqi Kurdish leaders are reportedly hinting that they’re on board with partitioning Iraq. That’s not surprising, as they’d get their own state out of such an arrangement:

Kurdistan Democratic Party figure Abdul Salam Berwari said in a phone interview with Al-Hayat, “The Kurdish political leadership sees since the 1990s that the only solution for the survival of a unified Iraq is to transform the structure of the state to reflect the population distribution of Iraqis. The basic components are the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, and the experience of the last 10 years supports what has always believed. … There is no solution except by establishing three regions for Iraq’s main components.” …

Pointing to the worsening differences between Erbil and Baghdad, Nechirvan [Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government] told the BBC that Iraq can never return to the period before ISIS’s expansion and called on “Maliki to step down from office after the completion of the current phase,” [saying] “an independent Sunni region” is the “best solution to rule the country.”

Reporting on the Kurdish fight against ISIS in the north, Jaime Dettmer relays the peshmerga’s scorn for Maliki and his soldiers who abandoned their posts to the Jihadist advance:

Convoys of trucks carrying peshmerga, who flash thumbs-up signs when locals wave, have been scurrying along the highways of Iraqi Kurdistan strengthening positions in readiness to block jihadists and their Sunni militant allies from gaining any territory. But stopping jihadist infiltration will be no easy feat and the Kurds are relying on sympathizers among the Sunni tribes around Mosul and to the south of Kirkuk to alert them to ISIS movements.

The Kurds have no faith in the Iraqi military rallying and the confident note struck on Wednesday by beleaguered Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki only prompted peshmerga derision. In a televised address announcing that a fight-back had begun, he promised government forces would retake Mosul. But the Kurds don’t see al-Maliki as the man who can save Iraq: they blame his exclusionary Shiite politics for the disaster that has befallen the country. Like the Americans they want al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government to be replaced by one able to reach out to Sunni Muslims and start a process of reconciliation to undercut the jihadist exploitation of Sunni resentment.

Meanwhile, Marsha Cohen explores Israel’s longstanding, complicated relationship with the Kurds:

For decades, Israel has been a silent stakeholder in northern Iraq, training and arming its restive Kurds. Massimiliano Fiore, a fellow at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, cites a CIA document found in the US Embassy in Tehran and subsequently published, which reportedly attested that the Kurds aided Israel’s military in the June 1967 (Six Day) War by launching a major offensive against the Iraqi Army. This kept Iraq from joining the other Arab armies in Israel, in return for which, “after the war, massive quantities of Soviet equipment captured from the Egyptians and Syrians were transferred to the Kurds.”

So what stake does Israel have in Kurdish fortunes today?

Less than a year ago, Lazar Berman of the Times of Israel, under the optimistic headline, “Is a Free Kurdistan, and a New Israeli Ally, Upon Us?” quoted Kurdish journalist Ayub Nuri who argued that Kurds were “deeply sympathetic to Israel and an independent Kurdistan will be beneficial to Israel.” Fast forward a year later to Neriah’s article titled, “The fall of Mosul could become the beginning of Kurdish quest for independence,” where he says nothing about the stakes for Israel. Would an increasingly independent Kurdistan continue to look to Israel as its patron?

Or will Kurdistan fully join an anti-ISIS Iraqi alliance, backed jointly, if discreetly, by Iran, with the approval of the US? Any scenario in which Iran is part of the solution, rather than the underlying problem, is a nightmare for Israel.

Previous Dish on the Kurds here, here, and here.

(Map via Jeremy Bender)