Kurdistan Independence: “Are We There Yet”

What will it take to prompt the Trump Administration to recognize an independent Kurdistan?

For the past decade, we have extensively documented the practical, political, historical, legal, military cultural, economic, social and religious reason why America Must Recognize Kurdistan.

Yet, some argue that this approach to defeating global-Jihad isn’t yet timely, ignoring Kurds being overcome repeatedly by hostile neighbors such as Iran (following the fall of Kirkuk) and Turkey (which claims a military assault on Afrin—a key cross-road site in Syria—is imminent)

We thought we had dodged a Thanksgiving-weekend bullet when we launched a social-media counterattack on November 24th after Turkey’s Foreign Minister's announcement that Trump vowed to stop arming anti-Islamic State Syrian Kurds following Trump’s conversation with Turkey’s Islamist President Erdogan.

On November 27th, it was announced that America would continue to support the Syrian Kurds.

Nevertheless, anything short of full recognition—as only Israel proffered to the Kurdistan Regional Government leading up to the September 25th Referendum—will continue to subject America to Turkey’s extortion (such as threatening to withdraw from NATO) and Iran’s hegemony (such as expanding its military activities throughout the region).

Indeed, further procrastination raises the question as to whether America envisions retaining a military presence in the Middle East post-ISIS, or relinquishing it's hard-won assets and influence, to be divied-up between Russia, Iran and Turkey.

After an initial tough tone towards Russia, and the announcement of a plan to counter Iran's IRGC, the Trump administration's policies have had in practice, a disastrous effect on its objectives.

The recent bungling of the joint Iraqi-Iranian assault on the Kurdistan Region, a loyal ally that shares American democratic and pluralistic values, was a slap in the face to a developing national entity that sacrificed life and resources to execute America's war against ISIS. The Iraqi Kurds are now in a state of shock at being abandoned by their ally in favor of a radical Iraqi Shiite regime that is already under the thumb of the very Iran that Trump announced he was going to push back.

But the cynical American use and disposal of Kurds doesn't stop in Iraq. Like their brothers in Iraq, the Syrian Kurds sacrificed their own goals and their soldiers lives en masse, all to do the dirty work that America ordered, to rid Syria of the Islamic State. 

What did they receive in return? America kissing up to the vicious Turkish Islamic Brotherhood dictatorship of Erdogan, who has already curtailed democracy and freedom in his country, arrested thousands, virtually eliminated the Kurdish HDP party after its election success, has repeatedly threatened the US including locking down the Incirlik Air Base with American personnel, planes and nuclear weapons within, and has just recently negotiated with NATO's nemesis, Russia, to buy the sophisticated S-400 missile defense system!

The Sykes-Picot agreement a century ago, condescendingly and ruthlessly split up the four Kurdish territories and put the Kurds "in their place". What is happening now, under the nose of an American government that befriended and assisted the Kurds until the defeat of ISIS in Iraq, is the selling out of the Kurds, at a loss of influence and strategic interests, to regimes whose interests are, to a large degree,  in opposition to American interests: Russia, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.

The ripple-effect of this horrendous policy failure and abandonment of democratic pluralistic Kurdish allies, is now being felt in greatly increased Iranian hegemony extending to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and the Gulf states. Lebanon's Hariri, no friend of Israel, has been pushed to resign and condemn the militant missile-wielding Iran-sponsored Hezbollah despite their threats on his life, in a plea for America and the West to wake-up!

If nothing else, Trump should aspire to avoid validation of self-fulfilling prophesies of neo-isolationists from both political parties, that America shouldn’t have invaded Iraq after 9-11, followed by involvement in the Syrian civil war.

American operations in Iraq have stabilized it only so long as they maintained a strong presence and joint operations. Upon leaving, such as Obama's withdrawal, the situation declined precipitously. Despite Trumps plan to restrain Iran and the IRGC two days earlier, the US acquiescence to the October 16 violent Iraqi invasion of America's ally, the Kurdish Region, sent a message to Iran that countermanded in a second, the entire effect of Trump's plan.

Iraq, Assad, Iran and yes, Turkey, are never going to be true allies of America, because they don't share its values. The fact is that they fit much better in the Russian camp, where anyway they are all headed. There's no point in America trying to "date" Russia's girlfriends.

An independent Kurdistan was extant in 1000 B.C.E., flourished in 1000 C.E., was mandated to be re-established 100 years ago, and was to have had its independence confirmed electorally (as per the Iraqi Constitution) 10 years ago.

The Kurds don’t want help from boots-on-the-ground and/or nation-building, for they have demonstrated the unique ability to supply to do both effectively. The alternative is a Middle East that is carved-up between Turkey and Iran, empowering Russia.

America will not be able to lead and influence the Middle East unless Israel and the GCC strongly support an independent Kurdistan, and together form a strategic block to counter the Russian-Syria/Assad-Iran/Hezbollah axis. In the meantime, Iran will continue to appropriate critical resources (oil, water, minerals, etc.) from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen to finance its terror machine. 

After a tremendous expenditure of human, financial and ideological resources - the United States is poised to be excluded from Syria and Iraq, and be replaced by the free world's most treacherous enemy, Iran - even as Trump's staff is busy developing a Syrian strategy for the post-ISIS era. 

It is time to realize that bigger is not necessarily better. It is time to realize that no matter how much aid or strong presence you have in a foreign country, if that country doesn't share your values, it is a waste of time, and your influence will cease the moment you leave.

The only ally in the Middle East, aside from Israel, that shares America's democratic and pluralistic values, is the Kurdish people: in Iraq, in Syria and yes, also in the sorely neglected and abused Kurdish communities of Turkey and Iran.

Only by supporting the Kurdish autonomies and future statehood, arming and providing financial assistance in developing their economies, can the US create safe zones for refugees and create a solid  foundation to influence and bring peace to the region.

It's time for America to choose its allies, not inherit them by default. The Kurds, like Israel, are such an ally. They should not be left waiting for Godot.


This article constitutes the policy of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, which Sherkoh Abbas serves as its President. Ben-Zion Cassouto is director of the Israel-Kurdistan NGO "Fostering Friendship, Cooperation and Diplomatic Relations”. Robert Sklaroff is a physician-activist.​