Are You Ready? Here’s The Plan…
By Gerald A. Honigman
Saddam needed to be overthrown, for lots of reasons.
It’s better for Iraq and Iraq’s neighbors that he and his genocidal crew are no longer running the show.
It would also have been better if his hanging had come after his trial for the massacre and gassing of hundreds of thousands of Kurds…But it didn’t. And I wouldn’t be too surprised if the enemies of the Kurds--James Baker and the American State Department included--had a hand in the timing to avoid showcasing the plight of the Kurds at the hands of their Arab buddies.
Think of it…a Road Map for the Arabs’ 22nd state is deemed a must, but none is still on the Foggy Folks ' agenda for tens of millions of victimized, truly stateless Kurds.
Now, again, while Saddam’s departure is a plus, keep in mind that the vast majority of those who have lived in his region have never really known indigenous democracy. The all-powerful father figure and/or cruel tyrant has been the norm for leadership for millennia. That, since the rise of Islam, they have had to sometimes butt heads with a powerful religious leadership, the ulema, seeking the same control for itself under a religious guise has also become a fact of life.
The Sunni-Shi’a conflict, now making headlines daily as Arab proponents of the “religion of peace” continue to blow each other apart, has existed for some fourteen centuries, with G_d only knowing how many millions have died in the name of that “holy” schism. Often it pitted Arab against Arab, but not infrequently political or ethnic differences masked themselves in religious overtones…such as a formerly Sunni Arab-conquered Iran reemerging as a powerful Muslim, but Shi’a, Iranian state--the old conflict for hegemony between Nebuchadnezer of Babylon and Cyrus the Great of Iran reincarnated yet again.
Regardless of America’s good and not so good (a la James Baker) intentions, the above are age-old lessons that will outlive America’s presence and intentions in Iraq. The American public is looking for a way out of the mess sooner rather than later, and while the United States can’t just cut and run, it must reevaluate what is and what is not achievable and worthy of American blood and treasure. A very possible Democratic Party win in a few years will surely hasten this…and that win might very likely occur due to the Iraqi quagmire.
As several of us have written before, Iraq is, at minimum, the Yugoslavia of the Middle East--a unified, artificial state that really never should have been sired--created after the collapse of an empire. It was pieced together with populations historically at each others’ throats for yet others’ interests…in this case, those of Arab nationalism and British petroleum politics. An Arab Iraq created out of the Mandate of Mesopotamia for the Brits’ Hashemite Arab nationalist friends needed the oil of the Kurdish north, etc. and so forth.
Further complicating matters, while some of this latter divide was submerged in the era when the Dar ul-Islam was vigorously spreading (not that it has really stopped) and non-Arab populations jumped on its bandwagon (with the Kurdish leader, Salah al-Din, for example, becoming the terror of Christendom), in the modern age of nationalism, those bloody divisions would reemerge…along side, yet apart from, the Sunni-Shi’a problem.
Regardless of the Sunni-Shi’a mess, Arabs made it clear from the getgo that while Islam preached equality among believers, some would be more equal than others. The Mawali, non-Arab converts to Islam rose up against the Arabism of the Damascus-based Umayyad Caliphate over a thousand years ago for this precise reason, and much of the support for the latter’s overthrow by the Abbasids came from Iran’s Khorasan province.
Back to here and now…
While I truly wish it were otherwise and that all groups could forget about their historical grievances, in Iraq’s case--which is at least as bad as that which existed between Serbs, Croats, Muslims, Bosnians, Macedonians, etc. and so forth in Yugoslavia (which the U.S. helped to disintegrate)--the odds of this happening are microscopic.
Since the overthrow of Iraq’s own worse version of Yugoslavia’s glue, Marshal Tito, all hell has broken loose as it did in Yugoslavia. And as in the aftermath of Tito’s death, Iraq’s current predicament was not only predictable but expected by those with any knowledge of the situation.
So, are you ready? Here’s the plan…
It’s based on realities, not pipedreams.
Iran has been preparing to help set up its mirror image to the West, the (Shi’a) Islamic Republic of Iraq. The majority of Iraq’s population, Shi’a Arabs, massacred and suppressed by their Sunni cousins, are now biding their time, planning, and engaging in counter strikes of their own. And with Iran’s support.
Furthermore, when not butchering each other, the one thing both stripes of Muslim Arabs can agree upon is that, with few well-entrenched, historical exceptions (a la Turks, Iranians, and possibly a few others), this region is viewed as purely Arab patrimony. That’s the Arab-Israeli conflict in a nutshell. It's no accident that Arabs call the Persian Gulf the Arabian Gulf.
But that also means that Muslim but non-Arab Kurds (a la Anfal), Muslim but non-Arab black Africans (a la the Sudan), Muslim but non-Arab Berbers, and so forth are only fit to be ruled…not rulers. And forget about the dhimmi Jews, Copts, Assyrians, Christian Lebanese (those not Syrian Arab stooges, that is), and such.
Odds are that a full blown civil war will be coming…and it will almost certainly involve others beyond Iraq’s borders. The prospect of a powerful Shi’a Iran linking up with a Shi’a Iraq and a Shi’a Hizbullah-contolled Lebanon is not very pleasant for Sunnis in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and elsewhere.
The noble idea of a democratic, federated Iraq, granting a large amount of autonomy to its disparate groups, sounded reasonable enough. But it was and is working against all that is written above.
If American attempts fail after the President’s one last modified push that is now being discussed, it must plot a future that yields something beyond simply giving birth to the Iranian mullahs’ twin to the west.
America has provided scores of billions of dollars in armaments and aid to assorted varieties of Arab dictators…including Saddam. It has long been said, for example, that ex-Secretary of State James Baker never met a megalomaniacal Arab despot that he didn’t like. The same could be said for his Democrat counterpart, "Apartheid Israel," ex-President Mr. Peanut.
What is now really needed is a revolution in State Department thought.
Since the above is unlikely, what needs to be substituted is a President and his Defense Department to once again take the lead. It's been done before...
It is time for America to look to the people who, besides the Jews, are its true best friends in that important region…some thirty million stateless Kurds.
The latter, massacred by the hundreds of thousands by Syrian and Iraqi Arabs over the last century alone (with many others killed by Turks and Iranians as well), stood by America and fought and died for the overthrow of Saddam’s regime. This despite having been abandoned by the United States repeatedly in the past, with murderous consequences.
As America has supported numerous Arab despots over the decades with billions of dollars in aid, it must now support a people and cause truly deserving of American generosity and political backing.
The one place where American values, democracy, and so forth has best taken hold is in the Kurdish north. Indeed, reports tell of Arabs--not including the ones Saddam deliberately transplanted there--fleeing to Kurdish lands to avoid being blown up by their own brethren in the south.
The one place where American military bases will probably be welcome in this strategic part of the world (where they increasingly are not) is in Iraqi Kurdistan...like the one America has at Incirlik in Turkey.
This would accomplish a number of things.
First, under the right circumstances, it could help calm the nerves of the Turks. The latter have their own ideas about what to do upon the breakup of Iraq…or even sooner.
Ankara has long pouted over the loss of Mosul and northern Iraq’s Kurdish oil wealth after the Brits manipulated the League of Nations to tie it to its Mesopotamian Mandate gift to its Arab allies in 1925...at the expense of earlier-promised Kurdish independence.
American bases could help insure that the border remains stable…in both directions.
Hopefully, the leftist, militant Kurdish PKK could be convinced, with an independent Kurdish state or secure and highly autonomous Kurdish region as the prize, to avoid problems with the Turks. American forces and Kurdish Peshmerga would have to show Ankara, however, what the alleged “moderate” Abbas refuses to do for Israel…that Kurds are willing to use force even against their own people for the sake of peace with their neighbors. This goes for dealing with jihadist Islamist Kurds as well, notably those associated with Ansar al-Islam.
While one fifth of Turkey’s population of about seventy million is Kurdish and this population is adjacent to Iraqi Kurdistan, it is obviously in the Kurds’ overall best interests to assure their powerful Turkish neighbors (whose armed forces are already amassed on the border, set to pounce) that a peaceful Kurdish state will not be a major headache for them.
Keep in mind that an Israel that can fit almost forty times into Turkey has a similar problem yet is expected to see yet another hostile Arab state (Arabs 22, Kurds 0 ) created in its very backyard. One fifth of Israel’s six to seven million people are Arabs. Why is this not "destabilizing," but mere talk of the birth of an independent Kurdistan constantly gets branded this way?
Stating the obvious, Kurds would help insure peace with their neighbors since it would be their own best guarantee for their sustained independence or secured autonomy.
To add icing to the cake, the oil wealth of the Mesopotamian north--lands historically Kurdish for millennia before either Arabs or Turks ever arrived there--could be shared with the Turks and the Arabs to the south. For the latter, however, this should only occur if the oil wealth of the Shi’a south is also shared.
If, as is likely, Iraq splits apart, despite James Baker’s plans for his Saudi and other Sunni Arab buddies, the Kurds must keep their own oil for their own economic viability, and the Arabs will have to come up with their own arrangements in the south…however that occurs.
If this means that Sunni Arabs in Iraq get no oil, then so be it. They control most of the world’s oil in other states that they rule in the region. And what is Israel to say? Moses took the wrong turn in the desert?
What law dictates that only Arabs or Iranians may own the region’s oil wealth…especially since the oil in Iraq’s north lies undoubtedly in historically Kurdish lands?
As it did with other nations (many or most of whom show little appreciation), America must now vigorously support economically, politically, and so forth a people who have historically stood by America’s side--often to their own detriment.
America must build up a powerful Kurdish military complete with air and armored divisions…again, the way it has repeatedly done for Arabs, Iranians, Turks, and others. This will send a message to our valued allies, the Turks, and both Shi’a and Sunni Arabs to the south to help insure all of their hands off policy. Regarding the latter two, within Iraq itself, neither stripe of Arab has anything good in the long term planned for Kurds. And, again, America’s own bases will also work to insure the Kurds’ own good behavior…not that I really think that this will be a problem.
Finally, the Kurds themselves have to get their own act together. Too often petty differences have divided them to all of their users' and abusers' gain.
The games some Kurds now seem to be playing, for example, with Iran are foolhardy. The latter has the blood of tens of thousands of Kurds on its own hands and has been “friendly” only when it can manipulate Kurds to further its own interests. While America and others have also shamefully so indulged, the move is still an unwise one.
Kurdish leaders must put the future of their people ahead of their own personal struggle to maintain positions of affluence and influence in their own semi-fiefdoms.
We are indeed at a potentially historic moment…and the Kurdish leadership must take heed of this most carefully. Who knows when--or if--another potential opportunity like this will arise?
Upon the breakup of the five century old Ottoman Turkish Empire (which had also gained control of much of Kurdistan) after World War I, the Kurds were promised independence in the new nationalist age.
As we have already discussed, during that earlier unique moment, the dreams of the Kurds were aborted for others’ interests…namely, those of Arabs and the Brits.
Now, some eight decades later, another unique opportunity may be unfolding with the probable demise of the failed artificial state known as Iraq.
As they have shown themselves capable of doing before, Kurdish leaders must now, once again, focus on putting aside selfish interest and keeping their eyes fixed on the big prize…independence, or at minimum secured autonomy, for at least some of their thirty million stateless people.