No respite for Syrians and Kurds

Friday 07/08/2015

If one plays devil’s advocate, one can find just as many reasons sustaining a coun­terargument, that along with the deal signed between the P5+1 regarding Iran’s nuclear aspirations in return for the West lifting sanctions on Iran, both Washington and Tehran made concessions. Washington’s concession could have been to allow Iran a free hand in Syria and Lebanon in return for Iran promising to lay off enriched uranium for a decade, for exam­ple.

Indeed, all reasons can be raised in equal fervour from one side and the other with equal justification. Of course local politicians have a hard time accepting that they and their country can be so easily bought and sold. But that is the price to pay when people place the national interest of countries ahead of their own.

Most politicians in the Middle East believe the world revolves around them or at least should. Western powers will put their interests first and will not hesitate to stab in the back anyone in the way.

Unfortunately for them not all countries are created equal in the eyes of the United States. Some are more important than others. Kuwait, for example, was important for the Bush administration because it was rich in oil and merited a full invasion to liberate it from Saddam Hussein. On the other hand Somalia, which is a poor country, was dropped like a hot potato.

Iraq is important for the United States because of its oil and other resources while Lebanon and Syria count for little.

Tiny Lebanon, while pro- American in principle, does not appear very high on the US radar. Syria became so irritating to US policymakers that Washington turned its back on Damascus, recalled its ambassador and life continued in the Middle East pretty much without Syria, as far as the United States was concerned.

If it is still uncertain that such a deal was reached between Washington and Tehran, what appears more certain is a deal reached between Ankara and Washington, giving the Turks a free hand in dealing with the Kurds.

What made this obvious was that the same day that Turkish warplanes bombed Islamic State (ISIS) positions in Syria, they also went into action against Kurdish forces, who, ironically enough, have been fighting ISIS.

It seems very likely that part of the price for Turkey to join the fight against the jihadists was to sell out the Kurds once more.

History has not been kind to the Kurds and neither has geography, for that matter. The Kurds are scattered across Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. If indeed Washington turned its back on them, it would have been a repetition of history.

US President Woodrow Wilson promised the Kurds a state at the close of World War I. The Kurds remained faithful to their word and supported the Allies in the conflict. Then again in hopes of convincing the Western powers to grant them an independent state they supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003. There is no formal “Kurdistan”.

The conflict ripping through the Middle East today, if indeed it is a single conflict or rather numerous conflicts rolled into one, is far from over, and when the dust settles and the bullets stop flying it will be interesting to see if the map of the region changes.