Kurdistan Rising?

I would imagine that those of us who support independence for Wales are broadly sympathetic to the aspirations of other stateless nations. With an overall population of some 35 million people, the largest of these nations is Kurdistan.

I've just been reading a book on Kurdistan which I think is worth a recommendation. It's freely available online, just click the image:

     

While making it clear that the choice of how the Kurdish territories are governed—whether as autononous parts of the current states or independent, and whether independent as one greater Kurdistan or as a confederation of independent Kurdish states—is ultimately a matter for those who live there, the author does seem broadly sympathetic to Kurdish aspirations to govern themselves. But, equally, he does not have a rosy-eyed view of the Kurds. He is well aware of the corruption, nepotism and autocracy of the leaders of the main players and identifies what would need to be addressed in order for Kurdistan to emerge as a successful independent country ... or countries. It's a useful checklist. If I take issue with anything it would be that, as might be expected from an American perspective, he is rather too suspicious of publicly-owned, as opposed to private enterprise institutions.

As I've said before, and I'm sure will say many times again, we need to learn lessons from how other nations move towards independence. Of course, the situation in other European nations is going to be of more immediate relevance to us, but one parallel that stuck me was how much of the political situation in Iraqi Kurdistan is based on tribal/family loyalty and the patronage which stems from it. The way you get on in life depends on whether you align yourself with the Barzani family (finding political form in the PDK/KDP) or the Talabani family (finding political form in the PUK) ... depending on which part of the country you live in. It might not be stretching things too far to say that how you get on in Wales depends on political patronage ... at least to a greater degree than is healthy.

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Clearly what is happening on the ground in Syria, Iraq and Turkey is very much in the news. I would repeat that it is easy for us, and the West in general, to say that we oppose Islamic State. In principle, I have no objection to us being involved in the fight against them. But it is not only a question of who and what we are fighting against, we also need to decide who and what we fighting for. We have messed up Iraq, Libya and Syria by being eager to go in to get rid of regimes we don't like, but wash our hands of the responsibility to replace what we smashed with something better.

I wrote at some length on the subject in this post last November. I won't repeat it here but, to me, it is clear that Iraq was given an opportunity to work as a unified state, but proved beyond doubt that it can't. The only viable solution is now to break it up. However if Iraqi Kurdistan does become independent (as now looks quite likely) the situation would become even more intolerable for Sunni Arabs in the remainder of Iraq, because it would be even more Shi'a-dominated than it is now. This mistreatment was, in the main, why Islamic State was able to gain such a foothold in the western part of Iraq and (as an exact mirror image, for the Shi'ite Bashar al-Assad was hardly renowned for his concern for the Sunni Arab majority) in the eastern part of Syria ... although he treated the Kurds in northern Syria even more badly. We therefore need to be open to the possibility of a new Sunni Arab state in western Iraq and eastern Syria.

I believe that our governments should change their previous policy of trying to sort out the mess we've made in that part of the world by sticking rigidly to the arbitrary boundaries we imposed a century ago. We should explicity support the Kurds in their desire to govern themselves, and we should arm them properly. After all, if we bend over backwards to arm the repressive Saudi regime, there can surely be no objection to arming a Kurdistan that seems much more willing to become a country that is inclusive of minorities and tolerant of diversity.

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7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thoughtful as ever. Assad is Alawite not Shia, however.

Anonymous said...

Building a nation can be a complex matter. Easier when there is no history of nationhood. Excessively complex when there is a historical case of failed statehood.

Wales is an example of the latter. A state that failed. A state that failed repeatedly. And a state where the populous looked and longed for their closest neighbour to come and help maintain some form of law and order.

To build a state takes time, patience and overseas money. Trust has to be built up. And the end result has to be something worthwhile, something worth the enormous cost.

I don't see ever see Wales as an independent state.

Wales


MH said...

Although there are some differences between the Alawites and "mainstream" Shi'a Islam, I think you're splitting hairs, 10:53. It's a bit like saying that someone is a baptist but not a protestant. I'll go along with Wiki's one-line definition that they: "follow the Twelver school of Shia Islam but with syncretistic elements."

The critical thing is that al-Assad gets support from Shi'a Iran (and more locally Hezbollah, who are also backed by Iran). So in the broad Sunni/Shi'a conflict, the Assad regime is definitely seen as Shi'a.

As an aside, the Assad regime is also backed by Russia. Putin's intervention was a game-changer for the West, because it meant that Assad could not be overthrown by military means. In contrast to the West, who only identified what they were fighting against, Russia knew who and what they were fighting for. They support the Assad regime because they want to maintain their military bases at Latakia and Tartus.

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No comment necessary, 11:22.

Anonymous said...

With Putin's threats to NATO, getting rid of Assad would be a good way of getting rid of the Russian bases.

MH said...

No doubt it would, 15:35. And that's exactly why Putin intervened.

But wouldn't the UK government do exactly the same if a civil war in, say, Cyprus looked like it might result in the UK losing its military bases there? We would be talking about "upholding the legitimate elected government of Cyprus" in just the same way as Putin talks about "upholding the legitimate elected government of Syria".

Anonymous said...

MH 11.56.
I have lived an worked in the Middle East for years. If you were to suggest to an Alawite that he is Shia or suggest to a Shia that Alawites are Shia, more than hairs would be split, I can assure you. Also, please don't quote Wiki, it adds little to your credibility.

MH said...

You might have a solution to the war, 06:41. Get in touch with Tehran to tell them that the Alawites object to being thought of as Shi'a, and I'm sure the flow of money and arms from Iran will dry up. One faction dealt with. Nobel Peace Prize on its way.

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