By Dr. Mordechai Kedar
Israel, October 23, 2017
The Kurdish people have an inalienable right to their own national homeland just as other nations do. The Kurds are the largest ethnic entity in the world, numbering some 30 million people, which does not have a state of its own.
Over three years ago, I declared – here on Arutz Sheva – that the world is obligated to see to it that historic justice is granted the Kurds by supporting their dream of being a free nation in their own land.
A referendum was held last month among the Iraqi Kurds over whether or not they should declare independence, while in the background threats emanating from Turkey, Iran, the Iraqi government and even Bashar Assad could be discerned.
Joining them were other countries, including the USA and Europe, all of them warning the Kurds – and especially their leader, Masoud Barzani – not to attempt a one-sided declaration of independence. The neighboring countries fear a snowball effect on other minorities in their own countries, including their resident Kurds. More distant countries fear another war in the oil-rich regions such as northern Iraq, which could lead to a much wider conflict.
The referendum showed that a vast majority, over 90% of those voting, support independence. This resulted in Masoud Barzani, head of the Kurdish region, acquiring the ability to wield powerful leverage against the Iraqi government, which was naturally unnerved by the results and tried its best to convince Barazani not to declare independence.
The two main issues in the dialogue between Barzani and the Iraqi regime are:
- Delineating the borders of the Kurdish region and whether the oil fields and the nearby city of Kirkuk are within those borders and
- What happens to the oil that flows under the ground in the Kurdish region – are the profits Iraqi or do they belong to the Kurds?
Except that Barzani is not the only Kurdish actor on the stage. Jilal Talabani, his rival, did not support the hopes for Kurdish independence espoused by Barzani, and was of the opinion that the Kurds must remain within the national framework of Iraqi sovereignty. He was once the Iraqi president – mainly a ceremonial post – from 2005 to 2014, and died in Germany two weeks ago, on October 3, 2017.
The differences between Barzani and Talabani are nothing new. In fact, the two families have been at odds for decades, and in the second half of the twentieth century there were actual battles between the two, involving weapons and resulting in dead and wounded.
The Iraqi regime knew this well and took advantage of it by forming a coalition of one side against the other. The factionalism of the Kurds prevented them from forming a united stand and the neighboring states – Turkey, Iran and Syria – knew how to make use of this factionalism for their own ends.
This week, the dispute led to facts on the ground: The Iraqi army, supported by Shiite militias, moved towards Kirkuk and the Kurdish Peshmerga fighting force left the city without doing battle. Within two days the Iraqis took over the city and its adjacent oil field without resorting to violence, neutralizing an important part of the leverage Masoud Barzani was hoping to wield during negotiations with the Iraqi government.
It seems that the Pershmega are not united and reflect the ongoing internal dispute among the Kurds. Some listen to Barzani’s orders and others act under the influence of Talabani. The forces guarding Kirkuk were under the sway of Talabani and gave up in the struggle against the Iraqi army’s takeover, to Barzani’s dismay. The internal strife among the Kurds distances them from their dream of independence, a dream that will only move farther away for as long as they cannot agree on its parameters.
The Kurds expected the world, headed by the US, to stand behind them once ISIS was defeated, remembering their large contribution to that defeat and supporting their demand for independence. These hopes were dashed very quickly when the official American stand turned out to be that “we have no intention of interfering in internal Iraqi affairs” – that is, the US will not support the Kurdish demand for independence led by Masoud Barzani, this despite the referendum and their historic rights.
It is possible that the American stand is based on Talabani’s approach, one which saw no need –certainly not an immediate one – for declaring independence and preferred that the Kurds integrate into the Iraqi state for good. Naturally, Talabani’s loyalty to the Iraqi regime is explained by rumors of bribery, jobs and other favors he and his men received from Iraq and Iran.
Conclusions Israel must draw from the Kurdish saga
For the last several years, and particularly since the signing of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers, there has been a discernible warming of relations between Israel and the Arab nations who feel threatened by Iran. Those include Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Kuwait, Egypt and Jordan.
Because all these countries fear Iran as much as, and possibly more, than Israel does.
The answer is simple: What happened to the Kurds will happen to Israel. The Kurds fought ISIS, sacrificed their soldiers and people, and were thrown to the wolves once they were not needed. That is exactly what the world’s nations will do to Israel once it extricates them from the Iranian problem. Why not? The immediate interests of each and every country and not the moral rights of the Kurds and the Israelis are what makes the world go round.
For this reason, Israel would do well not to give up its lands for a piece of paper with the word “peace” stamped on it, because that paper can easily fly away in the desert wind while the worlds on it fade in the blazing Middle Eastern sun. (AMEN)
As soon as the Sinai became Jihadistan and began fighting Egypt, the weapons smuggling from Sinai to Gaza ceased abruptly. In sum, the peace between Israel and Egypt exists for as long as it suits Egyptian interests.
The second proof is the peace with Jordan, based on Yitzchak Rabin and King Hussein’s shared interest in preventing a Palestinian state from being established. This common interest created wide-ranging cooperation between the two countries. Hussein’s son, Abdullah II, changed his father’s policies and is a strong backer of the idea of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria whose capital is East Jerusalem .
The clear conclusion from the Kurdish, Egyptian and Jordanian situations is that Israel must not jeopardize its existence, security and interests by placing them in bankrupt Arab insurance companies.
Israel absolutely must strengthen its position in the Land of Israel, create local governing emirates for the powerful Arab families in urban Judea and Samaria while battening down Israeli control of the rural areas. No peace treaty can give Israel a lasting insurance policy, and the faster Israel and the world internalize this truth the better.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar
Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. Thoroughly familiar with Arab media in real time, he is frequently interviewed on the various news programs in Israel
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