Kurds In the Shadow of US Foreign Policy

Nemat Sharif

2019 / 1 / 5

Kurds In the Shadow of US Foreign Policy
F*ck ‘em if they can’t take a joke!
Henry Kissinger: to the Kurds. (1975)

(1) Left in the Lurch Again!
I vividly remember the week long walk to the Iranian border to escape the wrath of Saddam Hussein’s army. That was in 1975 when the USA withdrew support from the Kurds in Northern Iraq, (currently run by the Kurdistan Regional Government for the past two decades´-or-so), ignoring all Kurdish pleas not to leave the Kurds at the mercy of a butcher. Then, Saddam Hussein reached a deal with the Shah of Iran, sponsored by the Nixon Administration. Later, Henry Kissinger who had masterminded the deal said “Covert action should not be confused with missionary work.” Worst yet, in response to the Kurdish pleas, he instructed a staff member: “Promise them anything, give them what they get, and fuck them if they can’t take a joke.”

Later in the 1990’s, the phrase ‘good Kurds and bad Kurds’ was popularized by US decision makers to justify America’s duplicity towards the Kurds, in reference to Iraqi and Turkish Kurds respectively. In the aftermath of the 2017 Kurdish referendum, it was time to put the aspirations of the ‘good Kurds’ back in the bottle neck, the USA blinked to allow the Iraqi forces (overseen by Iran) to take roughly one third of the Kurdish territories known as the disputed areas between Baghdad and Erbil including the oil rich Kirkuk, and deposing its Kurdish American governor. Here we go again, after the great sacrifices the Kurds of Syria made in alliance with the USA in the fight against ISIS, the US President in an ever destabilizing decision abruptly ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Syria leaving the Kurds in the lurch again. As the news reports confirmed today that the Turkey already bolstering its troops on the border with Syria, specifically to the north of the areas controlled by the Syrian Kurds, east of Euphrates River. Earlier in the course of bringing down the Democratic Republic of Kurdistan (better known as the Republic of Mahabad 1945-1946, while the Shah of Iran was negotiating an oil deal with the then USSR to withdraw support from the fledgling republic, the then American ambassador George Allen was at the war front along side the Iranian troops .

How many times the Kurds have to be betrayed at the critical moment in their alliance with the USA before they learn their lesson! Aside form leaders, the time has come for the peoples of America and Kurdistan to have their say in alliances before the issues become disasters´-or-war and peace decisions! Where are the Kurdish friends? Truly, the Kurds have no friends but mountains! The time has come for a pan-Kurdish policy on both sides-;- that is to end the US duplicity of policy visa vie the Kurds on the one hand, and on the other, for the Kurds to unify their voices, an ally to part of Kurdistan must be an ally to the others. By the same token, an enemy to one part of Kurdistan must be seen by all Kurds as an enemy to all Kurds. The time has come for a pan Kurdish policy that all will uphold, and head for the long road ahead to realize Kurdish aspirations and goals. Kurds are not the only people who refuse to live in the shadow of others, and they are not the only people who fought their way to have a place under the sun. Being on the higher moral ground, the Kurdish will is stronger than to be crushed!

(2) Isolationists´-or-Mercenaries!
Democracy is a process expressing the will of the American people. This will is represented and expressed in the laws legislated by the congress. Thus, government institutions are mechanisms to carry out the will of the people and protect their best interests. It follows that Executive, legislature and judiciary branches exhibit the collective will of the people, not the executive branch alone. The President alone should not decide on contentious questions´-or-their constitutionality, hence ignoring the better collective judgment of the people. If we further examine the three branches of the government, only the Congress and the President express the will of the people as expressed in elections every four years. The Justices of the Supreme Court are scholars with proven skills and capabilities as ‘certified by the Executive and Legislative branches. Then it remains the President vs. the Congress: the judgment of one person vs. the collective judgment of the congress. Despite the system of check and balance, it is obvious that much of the power is concentrated in the hands of the president, instead of being the other way around. I believe the time has come for the constitutional scholars and the Supreme Court to take a hard look at what is the country is going through right at this time-;- from the border wall to the troop withdrawal and every thing in between.

President Trump is facing a myriad of issues that bring his judgment into question. The most recent one is his abrupt decision to pull out of Syria, destabilizing the entire region and leaving staunch US allies preys to their enemies. This in particular leaves the Kurds of Syria in the lurch. They did the most footwork in the fight against ISIS. There is no power vacuum in international relations, you step aside, and your enemies for sure will step in. Does the President really understand what US allies are going through right now in the Middle East? Putin and Khamanie are definitely dancing to the tunes of winners while Erdoğ-;-an is jumping for joy to pay the Kurds a blow, his arch enemies and for what they did to his extremist friends. While US allies: Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iraq are scrambling to do their parts of damage control. And the Kurds are still trying to make sense of what to do next.

The cost of President Trump’s unpredictability is high. Uncertainty in foreign policy abroad and chaos domestically as more and more people and resources are diverted to deal with his rash decisions. Is he moving toward failed isolationism of the post WW1?´-or-is it that in his quest for his quest for economic advantage, he is jeopardizing the national interests with allies and enemies alike, while along the way he is adding insult to injury by asking allies to pay for mutual defense arrangements. The US military is a volunteer, principled and highly professional, and works to not only defend US national and economic interests but also American values of democracy, freedom and human rights. The opposition to withdraw from Syria including General Mattis and McGurk’s resignations are a rejection of isolationist trends and -convert-ing the US military into mercenaries (defend others for pay).

President Franklin Roosevelt once said: “…if we face the choice of profits [from munitions exports]´-or-peace, the nation will answer-must answer-we choose peace” The time has come for the US foreign policy to rebound and make America proud again. And the Kurdish sun, despite the current clouds, will no doubt shine again.

Mickey Z., Kissinger to Kurds: F*ck ‘em if they can’t take a joke!, World News Trust,
Dec. 2, 2016

Sarah El-Deeb, December 24 2018, Turks push troops to town held by Kurds in north Syria, independent

Eagleton, William, the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad, 1963, P

Modern Discussion