A Kurdish homeland will free Israel and rid the Middle East of violent racism and misogyny
Kurds are edging closer to getting their own State. Redrawing national boundaries is not a quick business. But the Kurds are making headway:
Kurdish forces in northern Iraq are claiming their biggest victory yet against Islamic State (IS) militants.
They say they have broken the IS siege of Mount Sinjar, where thousands of Yazidis and other displaced Iraqis have been trapped since August.
IS controls a swathe of Iraq and Syria, where it has declared a caliphate.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s top officer says US air strikes have killed several high-ranking military leaders of IS in Iraq.
Iraqi Kurdish fighters flashed victory signs as they swept across the northern side of Sinjar mountain on Saturday, two days after breaking through to free hundreds of Yazidis trapped there for months by Islamic State fighters.
A Reuters correspondent, who arrived on the mountain late Saturday, witnessed Kurdish and Yazidi fighters celebrating their gains after launching their offensive on Wednesday with heavy U.S. air support.
The Iraqi Kurdish flag fluttered, with its yellow sun, and celebratory gunfire rang out. Little children cheered “Barzani’s party”, in reference to the Kurdish region’s president, Massoud Barzani.
And this is interesting:
With Cuba and North Korea dominating the headlines, Americans may have missed the good news from a corner of the world that has provided very little: Iraq. Kurdish peshmerga fighters have inflicted a series of defeats on Islamic State forces, freeing a broad swath of northern Iraq from the jihadists’ control.
These battlefield victories underline an equally striking change in U.S. policy: Starting in 2015, the U.S. military will be training three brigades of peshmerga and spending more than $350 million equipping them for battle with the fanatics tearing Iraq apart. While the Kurds have been semi-independent since 1991, with their own government, militias and foreign policy, this is the biggest step yet toward Washington allowing them to have a state of their own.
To understand the significance, recall that for the almost the entire Barack Obama presidency, the Kurds and the U.S. have been at odds. In Obama’s first term, the White House asked the highest-ranking Kurd in Iraq’s government, President Jalal Talabani, to resign his post in favor of Iyad Allawi, the secular Arab whose party won the most parliamentary seats in the 2010 election. (Talabani declined.) Obama’s diplomats consistently acceded to the sensitivities of Iraq’s Shiite-led government and refused to send promised equipment and weapons directly to Kurdish fighters. When the Kurds tried to fend for themselves by selling oil on the international market, U.S. diplomats warned oil companies not to purchase it.
But then came the Islamic State. After Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, fell in June to jihadists using vehicles and weapons the U.S. had provided to Iraq’s army, Obama realized that the Kurds are America’s only competent friends left in Iraq. Indeed, last week Kurdish forces finally broke the Islamic State’s siege of Sinjar near the Syrian border.
Palestinians waiting for a State should look on. The Kurds look more deserving.
Richard Engel of NBC News reports:
“Women and men live together and fight together. There are no formal ranks, no organized units, and everyone calls each other ‘comrade’. The Kurds of Kobane are a throwback: progressive idealists in a region that may be descending into medieval darkness.”
Their fighting spirt reminds your writer of the Israelis who fought for their country and redrawn boundaries.
The Middle East order, established after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, has been rocked to its foundations in recent years. One of the results of this is that nations and groups which lost out in the period of ferment that followed the Ottoman collapse now have the distinct sense that history may be about to afford them a second chance.
Most prominent among such peoples are the Kurds. This ancient, non-Semitic Middle Eastern nation of around 40 million people is spread between four Middle Eastern states – Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria.
[Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Zubeyir] Aydar is soft-spoken and precise – a lawyer, not a military man. Born in the town of Siirt, in the Kurdish heartland in southeast Turkey, he fled the country in 1994, and has made his base in Brussels ever since. Our conversation was the first this senior PKK official had conducted with an Israeli publication.
It took place in the [Kurdistan National Congress] offices in the Belgian capital, which are located behind discreet wooden doors in an elegant if slightly shopworn old Brussels house. The Kurdish official’s messages were clear and unambiguous.
First and foremost, he noted the reality of emergent Kurdish self-government: “In the Middle East, a Kurdistan is rising,” Aydar said. “It doesn’t yet have official borders. But it is there, a reality. There is Kurdish authority running all the way from the Iranian border to close to the Mediterranean.”
“It’s possible Syria may collapse,” he continued.
“If it does, the Kurds won’t put it back together. They will rule their own areas. The map of the Middle East may change. Its not written by God; no one asked us when they drew the map. In any case, the Kurds must be ready for all possible developments.”
Aydar also made some fascinating and far-reaching comments about Israel and its place in the region. His tone was one common among Kurds, yet probably without parallel elsewhere in the region.
“There is an Islamic approach toward Israel in the Middle East,” he said. “Before that, there was a leftist point of view. But both of these were based on Arab nationalism. This view was saying that Israel has no place in the Middle East, and Jews have no rights in the Middle East.
“The other nations in the Middle East – Arabs, Turks, Iranians, Kurds – have to accept the existence of Israel in the Mideast. They have to recognize that these people are from the region, and are indigenous people of the region. And whatever rights Arabs have, Israel also has. This nation has the right to live on its own soil.”
Aydar went on to call for “breaking the walls between Kurds and Israelis, and getting to know each other. If we can continue our friendship, both sides will benefit from it. The region needs the Israeli experience.
So it’s important that we develop and further relations – not just as two peoples, but also at the highest levels…
Hurrah for the Kurds!
A tanker delivered a cargo of disputed crude oil from Iraqi Kurdistan’s new pipeline for the first time on Friday in Israel, despite threats by Baghdad to take legal action against any buyer.
The SCF Altai tanker arrived at Israel’s Ashkelon port early on Friday morning, ship tracking and industry sources said. By the evening, the tanker began unloading the Kurdish oil, a source at the port said.
The oil was delivered by pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan for shipment to Israel.
Josh Marshall at TPM is right. This is a big deal.
And in reference to Sarah’s review of Qasim Rashid’s Extremist, it’s worth noting that the overwhelming majority of Iraqi Kurds identify as Muslims and that the Kurdish Regional Government declared that schools will be religiously neutral.
We should all be with the Kurds…