Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The US and/vs. the Kurds

A nice summary of the information last 30 years.
The Beginning:
Foreign Policy In Focus | The United States and the Kurds: A Brief History
At the 1919 Versailles Conference, in which the victorious allies of World War I were carving up the remnants of the Ottoman Empire, President Woodrow Wilson unsuccessfully pushed for the establishment of an independent Kurdistan. Since that time, however, U.S. policy toward the Kurds has been far less supportive and often cynically opportunistic.

For example, in the mid-1970s, in conjunction with the dictatorial Shah of Iran, the United States goaded Iraqi Kurds into launching an armed uprising against the then left-leaning Iraqi government with the promise of continued military support. However, the United States abandoned them precipitously as part of an agreement with the Baghdad regime for a territorial compromise favorable to Iran regarding the Shatt al-Arab waterway.

The Middle:
Foreign Policy In Focus | The United States and the Kurds: A Brief History
The March 1988 Iraqi attacks on the Kurdish town of Halabja--where Iraq government forces massacred upwards to 5,000 civilians by gassing them with chemical weapons--was downplayed by the Reagan administration, even to the point of leaking phony intelligence claiming that Iran, then the preferred American enemy, was actually responsible. The Halabja tragedy was not an isolated incident, as U.S. officials were well aware at the time. UN reports in 1986 and 1987 documented Iraq's use of chemical weapons, which were confirmed both by investigations from the CIA and from U.S. embassy staff who visited Iraqi Kurdish refugees in Turkey. However, not only was the United States not particularly concerned about the ongoing repression and the use of chemical weapons, the United States actually was supporting the Iraqi government's procurement efforts of materials necessary for the development of such an arsenal

And Now:
Foreign Policy In Focus | The United States and the Kurds: A Brief History
In terms of regional security, the most dangerous policy of the U.S.-backed Kurdish Regional Government has been its decision to allow its territory to become a base for separatist guerrillas to launch attacks against neighboring countries.

Iraqi Kurdistan has become the base of an Iranian Kurdish group known as PEJAK, which has launched frequent cross-border raids into Iran, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Iranians. Unlike the more conciliatory line taken by the traditional Iranian Kurdish opposition groups, PEJAK has been inspired by the quasi-independent status provided their brethren in Iraq to take a much harder line toward the Teheran government. There have been numerous reports that the U.S. government has provided equipment, training, and targeting information for PEJAK guerrillas. In retaliation, Iran has shelled and launched small-scale incursions into Iraqi territory against suspected guerrillas, actions strongly condemned by the United States.

What can be done?
Foreign Policy In Focus | The United States and the Kurds: A Brief History
On the Turkish side of the conflict, the United States should pressure the Turks--save for the right of hot pursuit--to honor Iraqi sovereignty and cease their attacks against suspected PKK targets inside Iraqi territory. Following the October 21 cross-border raid by PKK guerrillas, resulting in the deaths of 12 Turkish soldiers and the kidnapping of eight others, the United States condemned the attack but also called on Turkey to show restraint. However, given the strong bipartisan support given to Israel for its massive military onslaught against Lebanon following a cross-border raid by Hezbollah guerrillas which resulted in the deaths of three Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of two others, Turkey may have little reason to take Washington's pleas seriously. Any pressure on the Turkish government, which is dependent on the United States for much of its arms imports and foreign military training, to refrain from attacking neighboring countries must therefore be part of a broader critical re-evaluation of U.S. support for comparable actions by Israel and other allies.

The United States should also pressure Turkey to more carefully calibrate its counter-insurgency operations inside their country (and anywhere else) so to minimize civilian casualties. Indeed, such "collateral damage" has proven to be one of greatest recruitment tools for insurgencies. The United States should also encourage the Turkish government to offer amnesty to Kurdish nationalists willing to put down their arms, more fully recognize Kurdish civil and cultural rights, and allow the country's Kurdish minority to advance their concerns nonviolently without fear of repression. Given the widespread civilian casualties resulting from U.S. counter-insurgency operations in Iraq and U.S. rejections of amnesty and other political compromises with Iraqi insurgents, the Turks may again have reason to reject such advice. As a result, these needed efforts to alter Turkish policies must be concomitant with a critical re-evaluation of U.S. counter-insurgency policy in Iraq and elsewhere.

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