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Tags: kurds | peshmerga | manafort | referendum | independence | vote

On Kurdish Independence, Manafort on Right Side of History

On Kurdish Independence, Manafort on Right Side of History
Female members of a Kurdish Peshmerga battalion queue inside a polling station as they wait to cast their vote in the Kurdish independence referendum in Arbil, on September 25, 2017. (Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)

Henry Seggerman By Thursday, 28 September 2017 09:43 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

It may be correct to assume Paul Manafort picks his campaign consultancy clients based on his fee, election winnability, and the publicity effect, rather than an ideological match with his client. If that’s the case, then any merit in his work on Monday’s Kurdish referendum is a coincidence, rather than idealism on his part. With 92 percent “Yes” vote in the referendum, it was certainly a winnable campaign for him.

The UN, U.S., U.K., China, Germany, Spain, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria in unison all condemned or obliquely criticized the Kurdish referendum. Such an unprecedented consensus is both surprising and suspicious to me. But it’s no surprise to anybody that pesky Kosovo, Quebec, and Catalonia all came out in support of it.

I’ve never understood how arrogant Western powers determine which separatist movements will be supported, and which will be condemned. The Czech-Slovak split, East Timor, Kosovo, Eritrea, and South Sudan all were supported — and look what a disaster the last two became. Meanwhile, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk were condemned. Support nearly always involves replaying the “legitimate rights to self-determination” tape, while with condemnation, it’s “terrorism” or “foreign domination.” In truth, the motives are almost always geopolitical, even neo-colonial, about solidifying spheres of influence and control, and have little to do with any kind of legitimate rights. Greater Kurdistan is just far too inconvenient for its neighbors and many big countries.

After Saddam gassed to death 5,000 Kurds at Halabja, Bush Senior’s 1992 “Provide Comfort” No-Fly Zone surely rekindled the Kurds’ long-felt aspirations for a free, independent Kurdistan. And Kurdish Peshmerga played an important role in overthrowing Saddam when Bush Junior invaded. Iraq’s 2005 Constitution recognized the Kurdish Region as Iraq’s only autonomous region. Iraqi Kurdistan has basically enjoyed de facto independence for decades already, and the U.S. has enabled this all along.

However, convulsive sectarianism plagued “postwar” Iraq due to the sheer incompetence of Bush Junior’s non-exercise in nation-building. In essence, he fired the Sunni Baaths, then the popular vote empowered an Iran-leaning Shia majority. So, the Baathists morphed into Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, then morphed into the Sunni Awakening, then morphed back into ISIL. Slicing off the Kurdish Region officially would just further destabilize a failed state created by U.S. ineptitude. No matter what happens with ISIL, history indicates secession of the Kurdish region will lead to similar aggressive demands from Sunnis disenfranchised by Shia-dominated Iraq.

If there were ever a ticker-tape parade for Mideast military heroes, it would have to be for the Kurdish Peshmerga and Syrian YPG (People’s Protection Units). In Iraq, they rescued 50,000 Yazidis doomed to rape or extermination by ISIL and liberated the Mosul Dam. In Syria, they overran ISIL’s Yaarabiyah and ended the siege of Kobani. Last December, the head of U.S. “Inherent Resolve” forces there said the YPG-led SDF was the only armed force capable of retaking ISIL’s headquarters Raqqa, and U.S. Special Ops even wore YPG patches. And today, ISIL has been chased out of 90 percent of Raqqa, and only a few hundred suicidal fighters remain in their hidey-holes. Did I mention Peshmerga/YPG’s courageous women fighters?

After years of persecution, once Syria descended into chaos, Kurds declared self-rule in the northern Rojava region. Assad bombed Aleppo, Homs, and Hama into the Stone Age, slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Sunnis, to keep those cities, but Tuesday his government announced it is willing to sanction Rojava’s self-rule officially. Perhaps Assad just realized his beleaguered forces had no taste to tangle with the YPG. Attention Paul Manafort: referendum on complete Rojava independence coming soon.

Turkey howled in protest when U.S. Special Ops were seen wearing those YPG patches. No surprise from a regime condemned by The European Court of Human Rights for “systematic executions of Kurdish civilians, torturing, forced displacements, destroyed villages, arbitrary arrests, murdered and disappeared Kurdish journalists, activists and politicians.” If you speak Kurdish in Turkey, you might wind up in jail. Remember the 1.5 million Armenians Turkey claims mysteriously succumbed to head colds? The irony is that that same Armenian-majority region today is Kurdish-majority. Maybe Erdogan should take a page from Assad and let go of it. Ending all the bad press on his repression of the Kurds might finally get him past EU’s exclusionary velvet rope.

On Monday, Iran, petrified by the referendum just like Syria was, blocked all air travel to and from Iraq’s Kurdish region. That’s because Khamenei knows that soon after his predecessor Khomeini came into power, Iran destroyed scores of Kurdish towns and villages, killed 10,000 Kurds, and sentenced 1,000 more to be executed. Hundreds of Kurdish activists rot in Iran’s hideous prisons today, often on Looney Tunes charges like “enmity against God” or “corruption on Earth.” You can’t make this stuff up. “Gozineh” regime loyalty oaths make government jobs impossible for Kurds. Kurds are not permitted to name their newborns certain Kurdish names. Iran’s spies even assassinate Iranian political threats in foreign countries, just like Axis of Evil buddy Kim Jong-un does.

Will a free, independent Kurdistan be democratic? Probably not. If independent Kurdistan suddenly appeared tomorrow with Massoud Barzani in charge, would he finally permit elections? Probably not. Will Kurdistan prosper economically with oil below $100? Not for a long time. Nevertheless, in the aftermath of the 92 percent referendum win for Mr. Manafort, Peshmerga and YPG battlefield victories over ISIL, and Assad handing over the keys to Rojava to the Kurds, it is an idea worthy of more serious consideration today than at any time in recent memory.

Henry Seggerman managed Korea International Investment Fund, the oldest South Korean hedge fund, from 2001 until 2014. He is a regular columnist for the Korea Times, and has also been a guest speaker, written for, or been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Bloomberg Television, Reuters, and FinanceAsia — covering not only North and South Korea, but also Asia, as well as U.S. politics. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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If there were ever a ticker-tape parade for Mideast military heroes, it would have to be for the Kurdish Peshmerga and Syrian YPG (People’s Protection Units).
kurds, peshmerga, manafort, referendum, independence, vote
Thursday, 28 September 2017 09:43 AM
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