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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.

Will Syria’s Kurds join with Israel and the U.S.?

kurdnasLogoHiSherkoh Abbas , President of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria (KURDNAS), raised in  a recent Jns.com article the tantalizing prospect of a Kurdish- Israel- US Alliance to complete the work of destroying the Islamic State, “Are Syrian Kurds the missing ingredient in the West’s recipe to defeat Islamic State?” The thoughts expressed in this article reflect a recent conversation the author held with Sherkoh Abbas and Dr. Mordechai Nisan, author of  Minorities in the Middle East: A History of Struggle and Self-Expression.

The Kurds have earned political and military capital in both Iraq and Syria as the most effective boots on the ground combating the extremist Salafism of the Islamic State. This largest non Arab ethnic group in the Middle East has long been denied the promised statehood at the Versailles conference of 1919 that ended the First World War and the Lausanne Treaty of 1923 that established the modern Republic of Turkey.

Nevertheless, the Kurds have been resilient despite numerous tragic setbacks in their history over the past century. The establishment of a no fly zone in northern Iraq under US auspices led to the creation the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and its much praised fighting force, the Peshmerga.

Further, it demonstrated the capabilities of the Kurds to govern themselves, overcoming internal differences and external geo- political threats from a hegemonic Iran and the Ba’athist regime of the late Saddam Hussein. Having vast energy resources helped to fuel the KRG’s development. KRG’s Peshmerga exemplary role in the current battle to retake Mosul from the Islamic State, in coordination with Iraqi national security and US forces, demonstrated its proficiency. Its humanity was demonstrated providing safe havens for Yazidis, Chaldean Christians and other ethnic non Muslim minorities that brought the KRG global recognition and respect.

On the surface the situation in Syrian Kurdistan, while complicated, has the potential for fostering the development of an autonomous Kurdish region extending across northern Syria from the KRG frontier to the Mediterranean, despite the objections of Erdogan’s Turkey.

We only have to look at recent actions by both Russia and the US. Russia and the YPG concluded an arrangement potentially protecting the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in Northwest Syria. Further, Russian meetings with Syrian Kurdish representatives in Moscow have evinced Kremlin interest in a federalized Syria in any agreement to end the seven year civil war with the Assad regime. After WWII, the Russians established a short-lived Kurdish Republic in Mahabad, Iran.  US Army Brig. General (ret.) Ernie Audino in our December 2015 New English Review interview, “No War Against ISIS Without the Kurds”, noted that history:

The well-educated and well-respected Qazi Muhammad was elected to serve as president of the Mahabad Republic, history’s first and only sovereign, Kurdish state. Knowing he needed a capable army to protect the state he requested help from the great Kurdish nationalist, Mustafa Barzani, who showed up with 5,000 of his peshmerga. During this period, a son was born to Barzani who named him, Masud. That son is now Masud Barzani, the current President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.

The U.S. has acted as an umpire between Turkish forces of President Erdogan and Islamist Sunni opposition militia from entering Manbij, liberated by the YPG on the west bank of the Euphrates River.

Moreover, the US sent a message to Ankara that it was backing the YPG led Syrian Democratic Force in the battle to retake the Islamic State administrative capital of Raqqa. The Pentagon has dispatched a US Marine artillery unit. It also alerted a reinforced brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division for possible deployment in Syria.

On the political side of the Syrian Kurdish conundrum there is the daunting task of unifying the tribes, political parties, and the Kurdish National Council.

As Sherkoh Abbas of KURDNAS has pointed out that will require the delinking of the YPG/PYD leadership from outreach and involvement with the PKK, the Assad regime, Iran’s Qods Force, and its proxy, the Iraqi Hashd Shiite Popular Mobilization Force militia. There are indications that the YPG/PYD might consider doing this if there were US, Russian and potentially, Israeli auspices.

Israeli PM Netanyahu, a year and a half ago, issued a statement supporting the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in the region; welcomed by the Kurdish communities.

The benefits would include having a reliable ally in a post Assad Syria with both political and military capacities and a secure source of oil to meet the Jewish nation’s growing domestic and regional demand.

Israel has to take an important step to achieve these desirable results. It has to reach out to both the Syrian Kurds and the Trump Administration to recognize the significant Kurdish role in the final destruction of the Islamic State threatening the security of Israel’s northern Golan frontier.

If that succeeds then both the US and Israel would have an important stable alliance with the largest non Arab ethnic polity in the troubled Middle East.  With the defeat of the Islamic State, that would turn attention to reining in the threat posed by a hegemonic Iran. With the possibility of a triple entente composed of both Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistans, Israel and the US, it raises the future prospect of fostering regime change in Tehran giving rise to the aspirations for autonomy of minorities in Iran- the Kurds, Azeri, Ahwaz and Baluch.

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