Why Not Kurdistan?
A Case for Making Good on the Promise of a Free Kurdish Nation, and
How It Stands to Benefit American Interests in America’s Conflict with the Islamic State
We find ourselves engaging in yet another Middle Eastern conflict, despite very recent and overwhelming American sentiments of war-weariness (following a decade-and-a-half of Middle Eastern military intervention). Ever since the Islamic State’s two video-recorded beheadings of American journalists were released, America seems prepared to enter another military conflict, albeit perhaps more measuredly so. But there’s a problem.
Our enemy’s enemy, in this case, is still our enemy, too. Confused? The Islamic State (IS) has mostly been able to grow due to prolonged conflict in Syria. There’s still some controversy over whether or not we should be fighting against Bashar al-Assad, but no one’s really talking about that. More timely, the relative lawlessness and chaos in Syria have provided the environment in which IS has been able to grow and take land. This presents a real problem, as IS might be more radical than any major Middle Eastern terrorist organization that we’ve seen up until this point, and we don’t want to be supporting al-Assad, at this juncture. So what do we do?
There seems to be an option that no one’s talking about. Kurds have long been friends to America, and they’ve long-expected independence in Iraq. Iraqi Kurds already operate somewhat autonomously, so the leap from the current state of affairs to a fully independent Kurdistan is not a huge one. Further, the Kurds and Israel are allied, and given recent coldness between Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama, if there were a way to enable the establishment of a Kurdish nation that lay between Iraq, Iran, and Syria, Israel might be very grateful, but that wouldn’t be the only benefit.
In the current conflict with IS, Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been the only Middle Eastern force, to date, that has been consistently effective in stemming the Islamic State’s military advancements, and the Kurds are managing to keep IS at bay. Iraq and Syria are countries in some disarray, and hostilities between America and Iran are longstanding. While it may not be politically wise to make it a stated goal, if the Kurds managed to take territory in Iraq and Syria, this might be a very positive thing for the United States, and we would have an ally between two countries that have been highly problematic for us in recent history: Iraq and Iran, as well as a country that’s been politically problematic more recently: Syria.
A proposed Kurdistan could help to quell much of the violence in Syria. If Kurdish forces forces could take large swaths of northern and eastern Syria, then at the very least, the conflict would grow smaller. If Kurdistan could manage to do this while the fighting is going on, it seems reasonable that the Kurds may be more likely to take on refugees than they would if they were already well-established. This comes with the assumption that a country who had only recently established statehood might be sympathetic to people who have been oppressed, purportedly on the basis of sectarianism.
To this end, Kurds argue that their nation is overdue. The Kurdish diaspora, over Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Turkey, feel, perhaps rightly, oppressed and nationless. The Kurds have seen what they view to have been broken promises in the reformation of Iraq. Processes that presumably would eventually lead to a fully sovereign state have been delayed or not implemented at all.
It’s easy enough to see why Americans would be upset, and want to protect themselves and their interests, but there’s a unique opportunity right now, that could forever change the course of relations between the Middle East and the West, and America, in particular. There seems to be a window in which we might establish an ally in the middle of an area that has proved problematic to us. Obama wants to see the rest of the world pull their weight in dealing with the trouble that comes from Middle East terrorism, but wouldn’t it be helpful if we had an ally in the thick of it whose motivations were aligned with ours? Maybe it’s not so simple, but why shouldn’t there be some talk about it, anyway?
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