Time for the Kurds to reject their calls to glory

Friday 20/11/2015
Kurds need to wake up

What fate could be more terrifying for any people than to be warmly embraced by the policymakers and pundits of the United States?
Like a spoiled baby, Washing­ton’s best and brightest eagerly embrace a shiny new cause, whether it is saving South Vietnam from communism, creating a unit­ed, modern state in Afghanistan or bringing the blessings of human rights and democracy American-style to Iraq, Libya and Syria.
Now the Kurds are being se­duced by this familiar siren song along the path to chaos, confusion and utter destruction. Their own realistic long-term interests should be clear — to make their separate peace arrangements with the powerful states of Iran and Turkey while continuing to cooperate with the frail government of Iraq.
But this is not the song the Kurds and their leaders want to hear. They believe the United States, backed by Britain and Isra­el, will build them up as a mighty warrior bastion for the West. Their fair-weather friends in the think-tanks and media of Washington have been eagerly singing their praises.
Now the strategic “geniuses” (in their own imagination) of Wash­ington imagine they can build the Kurds into a mighty regional power. And who will train and arm these new forces and create this miracle?
Why the same military gurus who made the Iraqi regular army of the past decade, the secular Syrian opposition, the Afghan National Army and Ukraine’s hapless new army and police.
Instead, the Kurds must be raised up to become the “new Is­rael” to drive fear into the hearts of the Islamic State (ISIS), Iran, Syria and Turkey alike.
This ludicrous conception reveals Washington “experts’” woeful ignorance of the most basic elements of regional history, poli­tics and plain common sense.
Turkey lost more than 5,000 soldiers fighting a ferocious Kurd­ish guerrilla movement. It will not permit the rise of such a supra-na­tional Kurdish state transcending the current borders of the region.
Iran and Syria are united in their opposition to the idea. The Iraqi government will not dare to sneeze without getting approval from Tehran and has no love for the Kurds anyway.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, too, remains loyal to Moscow’s traditional allies in the region and is understandably op­posed to smashing up even more established state structures in the neighbourhood. America’s feverish bouts of nation-building enthusi­asm (they never last for long) leave him cold.
All this means is that the “friends” who are championing the Kurds in Washington are not friends at all: They are destructive demons encouraging their new favourites to go charging madly over the edge of a cliff.
The Kurds remain deeply di­vided between their traditionally warring clan groupings.
Their own leaders make no secret about their well-founded fears of risking send­ing their forces to operate deep inside Sunni territories in either Syria or Iraq where they would certainly provoke fierce hostility.
They would be no match for Tur­key, Iran or a Syrian army backed by Russian air power if they dared to tackle any of them on their own. Yet any attempt at creating a new transnational superstate would provoke all those powers and re­sult in a catastrophe for the Kurds.
The Kurds are brave and warrior-like. But as Sun Tzu taught, the height of wisdom and strategy is to resist the siren calls to war when that war is inevitably lost before it can even begin. (The history of my native Ireland is drenched in the blood of brave and benighted young heroes slaughtered as teen­agers because they could not learn that lesson.)
The past 14 years have seen one bloodbath after another across the Middle East triggered by reckless and unsustainable US policies. Yet American policymakers have learned nothing. The Kurds need to wake up and recognise the fatal consequences of trusting in their new friends.