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A Middle East Grand Bargain Must Create Kurdistan by Sherkoh Abbas and Robert Sklaroff

President Trump’s itinerary during his first overseas trip revealed both his goal and its attendant strategy—although it remains officially unstated—as he tries to fashion a durable end to the Syrian civil war and the birth of a restructured region.

In the process of touching-base with the nerve-centers of each of the three major Middle East religions, he attempted to eliminate the Islamic State without empowering Iran.

Conspiratorial Liberals yelp when he recruits Russia, and acolytes of the Obama Administration condemn his having maneuvered around Tehran.

But he must defang the ayatollahs, lest they ally with North Korean missile-rattlers and threaten World War III.

This is why he keeps an armada in the Gulf, while maintaining a beefed-up presence in the Sea of Japan and encouraging Beijing to block Pyongyang from nuke-testing, for he must stretch the depleted military in theaters a half-globe apart until it has been rebuilt.

And that’s why he has embedded Americans with Kurdish forces attacking Raqqa, for it is impossible to be a “player” without having placed pieces onto the board.Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the U.S. national security adviser, was triggered to inform Turkey on May 1st  that the Kurds were to receive heavy machine guns, mortars, anti-tank weapons, and armored cars after the Turks had lethally-bombed Kurdish forces in northeast Syria the prior Tuesday. That reflected autocrat Erdo?an having again  “distracted”  world attention from targeting the primary target, the Islamic State.

Accommodating this major reconfiguration of regional forces, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia saw no need to arm the Syrian Kurds, but said Moscow would maintain working contacts with them.

Secretary of Defense James “Jim” Mattis had decided to arm the Kurds directly rather than via any regional country, finally reversing Obama’s following-from-behind intransigent passivity.

He is implementing key aphorisms derived from his storied career defending America.

Indeed, Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) recognized arming the Kurds constitutes “an immense milestone.”

In the process, Mattis has recognized The Road to Defeating the Islamic State Runs through Kurdistan, an essay—illustrated by a settlement-map—that succinctly details the historic, military, economic, religious and political implications of this overdue stance.

Visiting Trump in this charged atmosphere, Erdo?an chose the wrong time to be bellicose against Israel and America.  His post-referendum dictatorial effort to promote Jihad was again manifest through two decrees; one that expelled more than 4,000 civil servants and another that banned television dating programs.

That these actions were  not being well-received. That was reflected in the fact that the latter two hyperlinks [al-Monitor and Aljazeera] are from Arab websites, suggesting welcome-recognition of a tilt toward inter-alia the Sunni Gulf states, plus Qatar, the locale of a major American military presence over NATO-aligned Ankara ,which is increasingly aligning with Iran against the potential for Kurds to achieve independence.

That  would serve as the culmination of battle-plans we have proposed for almost a decade.  In 2008, we identified  Kurds as  an “invisible people”  and   advocated confronting the major source of global terrorism,The Road to Iran Runs through Kurdistan – and Starts in Syria. In 2015, we showed why the United States cannot evade this trouble-spot,[The Pathway to Defeating ISIS Runs Though Kurdistan – And Starts in America. In 2013, we  concluded The Kurds can lead a reconstituted  Syria, at peace with all of her neighbors.  In 2014, we suggested NATO Must Help the Kurds Now.

That is  why Kurds are seeking recognition of their enormous military sacrifice and their unique political feat, noting their carefully-constructed federal system in Rojava;  the area of Northern Syria comprised of four self-governing cantons.

Resolving vague territorial claims would yield a regional Diaspora in Turkey, Iran, and Russia, although Stalin purged much of the USSR-population a half-century ago.

Recognizing that Russia has unilaterally created safe-zones, and buzzed American jets near Alaska and Crimea, it will remain vital to coordinate militaries functioning in close-quarters, to ensure spheres of influence do not inadvertently trigger  conflict.

If America retracts support for anti-Islamist Kurds, Erdo?an will be free to promote his brand of Muslim Brotherhood ideology; the dangerous ramifications of which have been explored [Islamophobia: Thought Crime of the Totalitarian Future].

NATO can reassure Turkey that creation of an independent Kurdistan south of its border, joining with the federated section of northern Iraq, will remove inordinate fears that secession-agitation will persist on its eastern reaches.

Turkey needs to accept this type of endpoint, for its military killed six members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in air strikes in northern Iraq .

What really irks Erdo?an is that “U.S. arming Syrian Kurds shattered Turkey’s Ottoman Empire ambitions. ” Both  America and Turkey will face a de-facto proxy-war unless Erdogan heeds the more conciliatory tone struck by his Prime Minister.

The schism between the United States and Turkey was illustrated during their press  event.  These leaders deemed different entities as “terroristic”.  Trump cited PKK; whereas Erdo?an cited YPG/PYD .

This perhaps explains the anguish expressed by Turkish security guards, when they beatprotesters—primarily Kurds and Armenian outside t their D.C. embassy .

We suggest the following blueprint should be followed to prompt Moscow to help oust Iran from Syria . It would allow the Kurdish-plurality in northwestern Syria to extend its governance to the Mediterranean Sea, blocking Turkey from expansionist temptations.

The multi-front war against Islamists is recognized by Western leaders such as US Senator Ted Cruz (R, Texas) and globally Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—to have supplanted the Cold War paradigm of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Perhaps the ultimate method to illustrate the wisdom of this approach is to discount an oppositional paradigm, such as the false claim that American involvement in Syria would merely be a manifestation of Western Imperialism in Rojava.

Instead, America should  implement Point 12  of Woodrow Wilson’s 14-Point Plan that advocated establishing Kurdistan more than a century ago.

At  long last, America Must Recognize Kurdistan  by serving as midwife for a new country [assuming this is the electoral outcome of the originally scheduled September 25 plebiscite sponsored by the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq. That  would assist in finally defeating  the Islamic State.  This would offer immediate and long-term geo-political  dividends.

ABOUT SHERKOH ABBAS

Sherkoh Abbas is President of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria.

ABOUT ROBERT SKLAROFF

Robert Sklaroff is a physician-activist and supporter of Kurdish self-determination.

This article constitutes the policy of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, conveyed to America and to the world, representing the Kurds of Syria.

RELATED ARTICLE: Netanyahu, the First World Leader to Endorse Independent Kurdistan, Hits Back at Erdogan for Supporting Hamas

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Winning Life’s Lottery

I realize that it may be a bit un-cool to dwell too much on one’s own life experiences, but I have a point to make and I hope that I will be forgiven for doing so.

I was born in 1933, in St. Louis County, Missouri, in the midst of the Great Depression.  My parents, both of whom came from generations of farm families, had sixth grade educations.  Farming was a matter of hard dawn-to-dusk labor, so when children had learned to read, write, and “do their sums,” they were expected to leave school to carry their share of the workload.

When my parents married in 1929 they decided to purchase a small farm, but they had no money and the banks had no money to lend, so their only alternative was to become sharecroppers, giving a 1/3 share of their crops to our landlord in lieu of rent.  Sharecropping provided our family with a subsistence, but little else.  Nearly all of the food on our table was either from our vegetable garden, from farm animals… chicken, turkey, beef and pork… or the rabbits, squirrels, ducks, geese, and catfish that my father brought home from his frequent forays into our local forests and rivers.  Whatever butter and eggs we didn’t need for our own table was taken to South St. Louis every Saturday and sold to regular customers, door-to-door.  But then, when war clouds gathered over Europe and the Pacific in the late 1930s my father took a job as a pick-and-shovel ditch-digger at 67½ cents an hour, helping to build a new munitions plant under construction at Weldon Spring, Missouri.

My older sister and I attended a small one-room brick schoolhouse at Harvester, Missouri, three miles from our home, but when my father decided to give up farming for good in 1941 to work in the defense plants, we left our little red brick schoolhouse and moved to St. Charles, a suburb of St. Louis, where we were enrolled at a Lutheran parochial school.  And when we completed our primary school education we attended St. Charles High School, a public high school.

I was not a good student and had little interest in high school.  However, my parents insisted that if we wanted to get a good job, we had to have a high school diploma.  It was the only thing they ever said on the subject.  Attending a college or university was never a consideration, so during my four-year high school career I successfully avoided all subject matter related to mathematics and the sciences.  I graduated in June 1951, with a GPA of just under 2.0, a C-minus average.

After graduation I took a job as a “grease monkey,” tow truck driver, and mechanics helper at a local automobile dealership, and months later I went to work as an assembly line riveter at McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, a major manufacturer of jet fighter planes for the U.S. military.

Then, in July 1953, I received a letter from the president of the United States; it began with the word “Greetings.”  I was drafted into the U.S. Army on August 12, 1953, and was trained as a Field Artillery Operations and Intelligence (O&I) Specialist.  After completing my basic training and my O&I training I was sent to West Germany for seventeen months as a member of the post-World War II occupation forces.  Upon being honorably discharged in June 1955, I returned to McDonnell Aircraft where I worked as a Production Control Expediter for eighteen months.

During that time, as therapy for an injury to my left knee, the result of a “friendly fire” incident during basic training, I took a second job as a ballroom dancing instructor in St. Louis.  Those two jobs kept me fully occupied for at least fifteen hours each day, five days a week.  However, my injury prevented me from adequately performing my day job, so I took a job selling sewing machines and vacuum cleaners in the housing projects of St. Louis.  My sales territory included the infamous Prewitt-Igo housing project where it was absolutely foolhardy for a white man to enter without an armed escort… let alone attempt to repossess a sewing machine or a vacuum cleaner from a black family who’d failed to make their monthly payments.

Finally, in December 1956, I took a job as a draftsman for Laclede-Christy Corporation, a major refractory manufacturer in South St. Louis.  My job was to design open-pit strip mines on leases in Missouri and Illinois, and to assist the company surveyor in laying out prospecting plans for our drilling crews.  It was during the nearly two years that I worked for Laclede-Christy that I developed an interest in surveying, mining engineering, and geology.

In February 1957, I married my ballroom dancing partner, with whom I’d earned an all-St. Louis ballroom championship.  However, being unable to afford the rent for a house or an apartment of our own, we were forced to move in with my parents.  But then, as the economic recession of 1957-58 worsened, I learned that my job at Laclede-Christy was to be phased out.  It was then that I made the decision to “escape” into college, to enroll as a full-time student at the University of Missouri College of Engineering.  It was something that my supervisors at Laclede Christy had urged me to do, but I had little or no high school background in science and mathematics.  So, during the 1957-58 school year I took two evening courses in Intermediate Algebra at Washington University (St. Louis)… just to see if I could handle college-level mathematics.

In two semesters of Algebra I earned two Cs.  So in August 1958, armed with nothing but my two Cs and an abundance of hope and determination, I enrolled at the University of Missouri.  Since I had no money and no background for the study of engineering, I look back on that decision as the most courageous thing I’ve ever done.  After selling everything we owned, except for our clothing and our 1953 Ford, I went to the local Goodwill store and purchased three rooms of kitchen, bedroom, and living room furniture off the junk pile in the alley behind the store for a total of fifty dollars.  It was not good furniture; it was on the junk pile for good reason.

In early November, 1957, we were blessed with the birth of a beautiful baby boy who was ten months old in August 1958 when we loaded all of our belongings, including our fifty dollars worth of junk furniture, into a U-Haul trailer and moved into a dilapidated three-room tar-paper shack in Columbia, Missouri, just across the road from the Missouri Tigers football stadium.

Our only regular income was the $125 I received each month under the Korean G.I. Bill… $27 of which paid our monthly rent.  The remainder of our income, earmarked for the next semester’s tuition and books, gasoline, utilities, and insurance, left us with a food budget of only sixty cents a day.  After we’d purchased milk and other supplies for the baby we were able to afford only beans, spaghetti, and an occasional bottle of ketchup to mitigate the blandness of our starchy diet.

But the biggest shock of all was the difficulty of the course work.  I was a 25-year-old veteran with a wife and child to support, and I found myself competing for grades against seventeen and eighteen-year-olds with four years of engineering prep in their high school careers.  I attended class every day, I studied very hard, and I completed every homework assignment.  Yet, when mid-term grades were posted during my first semester, I found that I was failing every course.

With no alternative, I developed a radical new study regimen.  I was in class at 7:40 every morning and completed my lectures by noon.  By 1:00 PM I was home, hitting the books, and I refused to turn the page in a textbook until I thoroughly comprehended everything on that page.  I was up every morning at 6:00 AM and I studied for fourteen hours a day, every day of the week.  It worked.  At the end of my freshman year I found that, not only had I turned those Fs around, I was named to the Dean’s Honor Roll.

Our second child was born in January 1960, after which my wife took a night-shift job at the University Medical Center.  Each night at 10:00 PM I’d load our sleeping children into the back seat of our Ford and drive my wife to the medical center in time for her 10:30 PM shift.  After driving home, I’d return our children to their beds and resume studying until 2:30 or 3:00 AM.  After a few hours sleep I was up again at 6:00 AM, changing diapers and feeding the children.  And after dropping the boys off at our babysitter’s home, I’d pick up my wife at 7:00 AM and drive her home so that she could get eight hours sleep.  I was in class at 7:40 AM, and when I’d completed my morning lecturers I’d return home to repeat my 14-hour study regimen.

It was our daily routine, and it was brutal.  When I entered the university in August 1958 I was 6 ft. tall and weighed 153 lb., but when I graduated four years later, in June 1962, I was still 6 ft. tall but I weighed only 116 lb.  But I have no regrets.  During my junior year I was elected to Chi Epsilon, National Scholastic Honor Fraternity; in 2001 I was elected to the Civil Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni; and in 2012 I was named an Honorary Knight of St. Patrick, receiving the Missouri Honor Award for Distinguished Service in Engineering.

During my junior and senior years we had a neighbor with three small children whose husband was serving a long prison sentence.  And although she was on the public dole, her in-laws often delivered supplies of freshly-butchered beef and pork from their farm… which she promptly tossed into our neighborhood garbage pails because, as she explained, she didn’t like “that old country meat.”  When I returned to the university for my 20th class reunion in 1982, our former landlord reminded me that he and his wife had often seen me rooting through those garbage pails with a flashlight, late at night, digging out food with which to feed my family.  It was such a painful experience that I had apparently washed it from my memory.

As we drove away that day, my eldest son said, “Dad!  You fed us out of garbage cans?”  To which I replied, “Yes, Mark, I did.  I did whatever I had to do.”

Those were difficult, character-building years.  But now, after more than fifty years of unlimited opportunity and exciting challenge, Barack Obama informs me that I’ve played no role in any of that… that I’ve arrived at this stage of my life because I’ve “won life’s lottery.”  I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if I hadn’t purchased that lottery ticket.