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 The US failed policy towards the Kurds

 Opinion — Analysis
  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author

 


The US failed policy towards the Kurds  15.12.2011   
By Dr. Aland Mizell
ekurd.net     

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December 15, 2011

With the ongoing uprising in the Middle East, the United States needs to devise a new approach to its foreign policy in the region. The US has lost its credibility there, yet America needs to influence the new merging political order in the area. The US Administration has decided that Turkey will be America’s primary bridge to the Middle East, that Turkey’s rising Islamic power will be the leader that can help to restore the negative image of America in the Middle East, and that Turkey can engage Iran, Syria, as well as Israel and Palestine, both engaged in their own conflict.

But Americans fail to understand that the reason Turkey is popular in the Arab world is because Turkey did not allow America to use its bases during the second Iraq War and has taken a stand against Israel regarding the Palestinian issue. If Erdogan’s administration would have allowed the US to use an air base in Turkey to attack Iraq, Erdogan would not be very popular today in the Middle East and in the Muslim world. America should realize that countries do not buy friendships, and they should not betray their loyal friends either. No matter how hard America tries to be friends with Muslim people in the region, they will not trust America. Instead, they will accept American money but still hate America and never consider it a trustworthy ally.

The Kurdish Region is a potential base for US power in the region. The US has two allies in that area to really rely on; one is Israel, and the other one is the Kurds. The Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Islamic policymakers should be a big concern. The Kurds could cause problems for the US government when it is dealing with the neighboring countries. It is vitally important for Washington to know that the stability of Iraq and the Middle East depends in part on the Kurds. In addition, the US owes the Kurdish people. When the US’s longest ally in that part of the world turned its back and did not support its former partner at a critical time, the Kurds did despite many past betrayals resulting from American policy. The US government sees the Kurdish government as a friend but not as significant as the Turkish government, so it is important for the Kurdish government to improve relations with other countries.

The Arab Spring’s occurring next to Turkey and America’s imminent withdrawal from Iraq have already made Turkey hasten its hand to make some policy changes about how to fill the power vacuum in Iraq after the American military has left. Turkey sees this as an opportunity and will seize it by helping the US transfer Predator unmanned aerial vehicles to Turkey, so that Turkey can continue to monitor PKK activities. America’s concern after they leave is that Iran and Syria could mingle in Iraq’s domestic policy and so, before they leave the region, they want to have a regime change in both countries. Syria will be first, and next is Iran. Because Iran is not happy with Turkey’s stand against Syria and what it perceives to be a pro-America posture, if Iran’s and Syria’s current regimes continue, their existence will have a very bad impact on Turkey’s domestic politics. Also, Syria will use the PKK card against Turkey, and Iran could do the same.

The US is not concerned about human rights for the Kurdish minority in Turkey but rather it is concerned more about its national interests and the balance of power in the region. That is why the international community has never treated Kurdish issues seriously or as main concerns, but rather they used the Kurdish question as a card in their foreign policy. They did not treat the Kurdish question as important in the Palestinian issue mainly because Arab and Muslim countries stand for Palestinians and lobby the West for the creation of a Palestinian state. The US and the international public have so far been oblivious to operations against the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK),
www.ekurd.net operations carried out in Turkey by the Turkish government and ordered by Gulenists’ leader. Under the guise of fighting terrorism, the Turkish government is using the police, the Judiciary, and media to penalize all civic activism that supports rights demanded by the Kurdish citizens in Turkey. The KCK operations in particular have been deployed to go after legitimate activists whom Ankara has besmeared by saying they are the urban offshoot of the PKK.

The repression of the Kurdish democratically-elected party, the Peace and Democratic Party (BDP), also spreads fear amongst activists to silence public dissent and normalize the arbitrary arrest of citizens. Yet America is silent about the jailing of thousands of Kurdish politicians, intellectuals, writers, and media. One could ask, “Will it be possible to create a democratic and peaceful solution using the same old political culture and adhering to the failed polices of the past?”

America is well aware of Turkey’s rising Islamic power in the world and especially in the Middle East. As a result of that, the American government is careful in pressuring Turkey on the Kurdish problem. Whether in Turkey, Iraq, or Syria, Washington believes the problems of the Kurds must be solved by negotiation between those countries, not by a US imposed solution. Peace will not happen under the conditions of public fear, paranoia, distortion, and discrimination caused by the current policy. It is interesting to see that even in the recent past such a policy from Turkey, Iran, and Syria has been based on oppression, injustice, and cruel treatment.

Turkey is pivotal to the US’s and the EU’s interests in the region including protecting and transferring energy markets, balancing Russian influence in Central Asia, securing the Caucus’s stability, and also acting as the role model of a moderate Islamic alternative. Turkey has reoriented its policy toward Kurdistan and is improving its relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The US government should secure the disputed area under the Kurdish authority or Kurdistan and also should help the KRG to obtain advanced defensive force weapons. Further, it is wrong for the US government to treat Kurds from Turkey who live in the US or in Europe as if they were associated with the PKK, just because they are not supportive of the Gulenists and Gulen’s ideology. It was the US government, in fact, that categorized the PKK as a terrorist organization. Years ago Turkish and US relations could have been described as a disaster. But today Turkish and American relations are very good. What caused the 180-degree change in relations? US President Obama announced that the US troops would come home at the end of the year as scheduled. Vice President Biden visited Turkey, met President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan, and talked about ways of cooperating against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the uprisings in the Middle East in specifically Syria and Iran.

The United States’ foreign policy cannot ignore the Kurdish issue as it applies to the Middle East. The Kurdish people are an integral part of the Middle East, with the Kurds living in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Seemingly the ill-fated Kurds fall prey to various nation states’ exploiting them for those countries’ own national interests, political rivalries, natural resources and strategic ambitions. Mostly contiguous countries offer a political carrot of support for the Kurds’ long-standing aspiration of having an autonomous homeland. Contributing their military fierceness, manpower, geographical bases and arms, the peshmergas (those who fight to the death) side with the regime that offers the most hope for an alliance to accomplish their ends of maintaining their identity, if not a nation. Iraq, Iran, Syria, Russia, Turkey, and the United States have used the Kurdish card to defend, attack, secure resources, reciprocate, and manipulate allies and foes alike. Most recently Turkey has used the Kurds as a gesture to show an improved human rights record for accession into the European Union.

The Kurds, however, remain an accomplice in their plight in their parochial tribalism, hypocritical use of a shared religion, corrupt leaders, and shifting allegiances. Without clear national goals and a leadership that inspires solidarity, the Kurds continue to be subjected to the ploys of states. Yet, globalization and a Diaspora have called world attention to the cruelty and injustices they have suffered, but they themselves must rise to reject the victimization and raise up leaders with integrity and vision. With the help of transnational agencies, non-governmental organizations, and scholars capturing their tragic past, the external forces may yet help to ameliorate their suffering. Then the internal and external players will cease to use the Kurdish card against the Kurds in their foreign policies.

Turkey’s policy of “zero problem with neighbors” is a double game. On the whole, America, Turkey, Syria and Europe play the same game. The Erdogan administration is friendly towards its neighboring regimes, yet behind its back it supports enemies of these regimes. Turkey knows that the main obstacle for Turkey’s continuing to become a superpower in the region is the PKK, and that Syria and Iran supported the PKK to influence Turkey’s domestic politics. However, even though today the world focuses its attention on Iran, in the future Turkey will be the region’s biggest player and it will challenge American interests in the region. America will then have a relation with Iran even though they are foes today. Iran’s regime will change because Turkey does not want Iran to have nuclear power nor does it want Iran to be a superpower and particularly not to include Saudi Arabia in its nexus. Because Iran adheres to the Shia religion, and most Muslims are Sunni, these Muslims treat Shia as non-Muslims and therefore do not consider Iranians as brothers.

It is true that the Kurdish issue has always been a factor for America and its allies, but never has it moved to the top of the agenda of Western powers because of the absence of Kurdish lobbyists in the West. The Kurdish question will be important in the near future and the West will continue to use the Kurdish card in its foreign policy. It is up to the Kurdish leaders to let Western powers use or not use the card. For a long time the classic American foreign policy was based on the notion that there can be no stability unless the nations are balanced against each other. However, neither the US nor the EU has any real plans for the Kurds as a nation because Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria are important for the West, and so the US will completely ignore the Kurdish question. Probably the US will somehow support the KRG as a way to maintain the balance and to keep the Kurds from causing a problem, so that Iraq does not fall apart. The EU and the US always address issues based on individual countries and their commonly defined policy. The US sees the Kurdish region in Iraq as a sort of friend and ally like that region sees Turkey. Given its interest in Middle Eastern security and stability as well as democratic rule and human rights, America should keep its promise to the Kurds. The Kurds supported the US during both Iraqi wars when other countries like Turkey did not. In my view, as of now, the US does not support the independence of the Kurds in Iraq because it fears it may lead other countries such as Turkey, Iran, and the Arab countries, all of whom are against Kurdish independence, to sour their relations with the US, because these nations believe that such a move would cause other Kurds to demand independence. The Kurdish question does not hold much importance for the national security of the US or for the democratic process in the Middle East; that is why America and the EU put the PKK on their terrorist list and give all kinds of logistical support to combat the PKK anywhere it appears. Historically, the US policy toward the Kurds in Iraq has been inconsistent and it has used the Kurds as a tool for its national interest. The question is that, if Iraq fails to unify, what kind of policy should the US follow toward the Kurds? Or if Turkey becomes a superpower in the region, what kind of policy will the US devise? As of now, the Islamic administration does not have good relations with Israel, and the Prime Minister of Turkey accused Israel of engaging in “state terrorism.” Most assuredly there are people in the US who still have great support for the Kurds because of the Kurds’ difficult past.

America should find a way to help Turkey to solve the Kurdish problems, and the peace negotiations must include the PKK, or peace will not happen. America in Afghanistan wanted the Taliban to be part of Afghanistan political system. America should pressure Turkey to stop its campaign of distortion against the BDP party and it should treat the BDP as democratically elected by the Kurdish people and should respect the will of the majority.

Dr. Aland Mizell is with the University of Mindanao School of Social Science, President of the MCI and a regular contributor to the Kurdish Media. You may reach the author via email at: [email protected]

Copyright © 2011 ekurd.net
 

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  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author

 
 

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