Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Israel's friend in Erbil

Citadel of Hewlêr (Erbil), Iraqi Kurdistan
Iran's Foreign Ministry recently criticized the Kurdish president for calling for an independent Kurdish state in Iraqi Kurdistan. Israel's premier Benjamin Netanyahu on the other hand endorsed the idea.

Turkey is also against the idea. It has made a historic move in May when it began to export independently oil from Iraqi Kurdistan to international markets. A move that deeply frustrated Nouri al-Maliki's government in Baghdad.

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc downplayed Israeli Prime Ministers call for an independent Kurdish state when he said, "There is no doubt that Netanyahu represents his government … but the fact that he made this comment does not mean that it is going to come true. There is a state in Iraq with its constitution."

Wadie Abu Nassar a former Israeli political science lecturer explained the reasoning behind Netanyahu's support of Kurdish independence. He said it's "an attempt by Netanyahu to deliver the message that Israel is able to play in the backyards of regional powerhouses Turkey and Iran."

Israel has long had relations with the Barzani clan in Iraqi Kurdistan who they supported in the 1960's and 1970's when the Iraqi Kurds were fighting against the Baath in Baghdad. They were betrayed when the last Shah of Iran opted to stop the support him and the United States were giving to the Kurdish fighters they had helped to fight the Baath in order for him to make a deal with Iraq over the border disputes they would later fight a brutal war over.

Abu Nassar points out that Israel was unable to strengthen these connections with the Kurds to make a strong strategic alliance when Iraq was ruled by Saddam Hussein. "But after the 2003 US occupation," he reminds us, "the Americans seemed to have indirectly contributed to strengthening relations between Israel and the Kurds of northern Iraq. Since then, we have been hearing about commercial and security relations between Israel and the Kurdish region."

Nassar also makes clear that an independent Kurdish state in Iraqi Kurdistan will eventually "also demand the inclusion of other parts of Syria, Iran and Turkey." (Middle East Eye, June 30 2014)


Nader Uskowi said...

The party having the final say on the future of Iraqi Kurds is not Israel, Iran, Turkey or the U.S. But the Kurdish people themselves. They need to make a hard calculation if declaring an independent Kurdistan at this time is in their interest. Of course all the foreign actors, especially those mentioned here, will want to push their own agendas on the Kurds, as they have done so for decades, and they will continue doing so, but at the end of the day we need to respect the principle of self determination for the Kurds.

There are lesser independent countries in existence, and denying the Kurds that right does not make any sense. One can argue that the independence declaration is not in their interest, but linking their independence aspiration to the Israelis or other foreign powers is a stretch and flatly unfair.

Paul Iddon said...

This short pieces intention wasn't to say this. On the contrary. I completely agree that Kurdish self-determination must be respected, especially if reached by a democratic referendum.

I was just trying to illustrate the diverging geopolitical interests at play here because I think they are important.

Anonymous said...

They can have their independence from Iraqi control. But they better forget about splitting Kurdestan from Iran. That will only happen over our dead bodies.

Anonymous said...

" But they better forget about splitting Kurdestan from Iran. That will only happen over our dead bodies."

what's the downside?

Anonymous said...

There is no country by the name of Kurdistan it has been alway IRAN ..