“No one will be able to blackmail us,” the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu answered the inflammatory plan proposed by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in which Israel would support the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) against Turkey. Until now, this was one of the most dramatic events in the war of words between former allies Israel and Turkey, surpassed only by the clear declarations of Turkey and Lebanon that the new gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean are casus belli if Israel tries to exploit them. It would be easy to dismiss Lieberman’s words as a weather balloon aimed at checking out Turkey’s reaction, or an attempt to divert Turkey’s attention from the Mediterranean front to its Kurdish backyard. However, a quick look at the Middle East’s map discloses that Kurdish territories—most of them in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq—are roughly halfway between Israel and Azerbaijan, two close allies (see Azerbaijan-Israel: A Shia—Jewish Alliance); an independent Kurdistan will provide several advantages to these two. Moreover, by supporting the PKK, Israel would create an alliance that would open a backdoor into Syria, Iraq and Turkey; though one which is much weaker than the former Israeli alliance with Turkey since the PKK doesn’t rule a territory and is considered a terror organization by several countries, including the United States. The access of Israel to the area is easy. Many Jews now living in Israel (like in Moshav Yardena-Beit Yosef—one of the settlements hinted at in The Cross of Bethlehem) originated in Kurdistan and know the language and culture of the area. This means that plenty of highly specialized Mossad agents would be available. In the rapidly changing Middle East, it seems that Israel is pushing for the split of Iraq and the revival of Kurdistan.
Areas of Majority Kurdish Settlement | Strategic Position in the Middle East
Israel’s Smart Option
Flag of Kurdistan
Lieberman’s proposal is not a foolish plan. Kurds are a significant group in the Middle East, with a population of over thirty million. Up to twenty million live in Turkey, almost eight million in Iran, another seven in Iraq, and almost two in Syria. The rest is scattered in surrounding countries, including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Israel, as well as a substantial European diaspora (3/4 of a million in Germany). An Indo-European people speaking an Iranian language and practicing mainly Sunni Islam, Kurds had several independent principalities and emirates until the 16th century, when they were conquered and split between the Iranian and Ottoman empires. After WWI, the Allies agreed to create several countries within the former boundaries of the Ottoman Empire. The never-ratified Treaty of Sèvres included an independent Kurdistan next to a large Armenia. However, Kemal Atatürk conquered these areas and forced the Allies to accept the renegotiated Treaty of Lausanne and the borders of the Republic of Turkey. This left the Kurds without an independent country. Additional Kurd territories were left within British Iraq and French Syria; these areas remained within those countries after they gained independence. In 1992, following the First Gulf War, the Allies established Iraqi Kurdistan in northern Iraq; this is an autonomous entity inside Iraq with its own local government and parliament. The area contains the sixth largest reserves of oil in the world and is rich in several other minerals and metals. Moreover, there is an oil-pipeline connecting it with Israel.
Between 1935 and 1948, the Mosul–Haifa oil pipeline transported crude oil from the oil fields in Kirkuk, northern Iraq, through Jordan to Haifa. It is marked “H” in maps for its final point: Haifa. The point marked H2 in the map is considered strategic by the IDF since it is the largest plain along the pipeline’s path. As commented in The Cross of Bethlehem, this is the chosen area for opening a second IDF frontline against a ground attack by means of a vertical bypass. This pipeline may become of immense importance in the new geopolitical scenario developing in the Middle East. Israel’s alliance with Azerbaijan is based mainly on common interests in the oil industry. Yet, an independent Kurdistan would further stabilize Israel’s oil supply.
Mosul–Haifa oil pipeline
Aren’t Kurds living in Iraq Iraqis?
As commented on several occasions in this website, Asian countries closely follow the definition of nation-states. “State” is a political and geopolitical entity; “nation” is a cultural and/or ethnic entity. The term “nation-state” implies that the two coincide geographically. The clear exception to this is countries created by colonial masters. Since their artificial creation, most of them suffer from internal political conflicts. Iraq, a conglomerate of Sunni, Shia and Kurd territories is a good example of that. Kurds living there are Iraqi citizens, but they have been systematically discriminated against, and have not renounced their nationalistic desires. The recent creation of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan is proof of this.
The situation in Turkey is not different. Many Kurds opposed their incorporation into Turkey. This has resulted in a long-running separatist conflict. The region saw major Kurdish rebellions in 1920, 1924, 1927, and 1937. Turkey’s Kurdish areas were a closed military area between 1925 and 1965. A guerrilla war took place in the 1980s and 1990s, until the capture of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in 1999. However, in 2004, political violence increased, and the Turkish-Iraqi border region remains tense.
Overall, the situation in Kurdish areas is ripe for Western intervention, as has happened in Libya (see Media Manipulation, Libya and Western Lies) and other places. Does Israel have a chance to establish Kurdistan as a formal independent state (but a de facto colony)? Israel’s best chance would be in Iraqi Kurdistan, which coincidentally has the largest oil reserves among the Kurdish areas. Not only is Iraq weak and controlled by foreign forces, but also the anti-Iraqi sentiment of local Kurds is high following Saddam Hussein’s attack on the Kurd city of Halabja in 1988 with poison gas.
Can Israel break Iraq apart?
Great Mosque in Hewlêr (Erbil) Kurdistan
There is no chance that Israel will try to enforce this agenda militarily. Iraq is too large in size and population for a meek-state to conquer it physically. Yet, we may soon see the implementation of political warfare tools by Israel in Iraq; that was Lieberman’s abovementioned oblique promise. There are antecedents to this. Israel supported Hamas and Hezbollah in their very early stages. They were considered desirable destabilizing forces. Hezbollah was seen as an alternative to the Lebanese government; while Hamas was a counterweight to a mighty PLO-Fatah. Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon promoted these policies. Eventually both played against Israel, but the Zionists have proved time and again of being unable to learn from their errors, thus one may safely assume they may attempt the same strategy in Iraq. Moreover, Mossad already intervened in Iraq in the distant past, when after Israel’s declaration of independence, it practically forced most Iraqi Jews to travel to Israel through a series of thinly disguised “terror attacks” against Jewish targets. During the Baghdad Bombings, Jewish targets were hit between April 1950 and June 1951. Iraqi authorities arrested 28 Jews and 9 Arabs on charges of espionage and illegal arms possession. Some historians assign responsibility for the bombings to anti-Jewish Arab extremists, while others charge a Zionist extremist underground movement of carrying out the attacks in order to encourage Iraqi Jews to immigrate to Israel; in other words, the Mossad. Eventually, two suspected Iraqi Jews were found guilty by an Iraqi court, and were sentenced to death. Another was sentenced to life imprisonment and seventeen more were given long prison sentences. The task now may not be much more difficult than then, considering that a secessionist sentiment already exists within the Iraqi Kurdish population. Israel just needs to successfully apply the “Divide and Conquer” strategy. Here is where Israel can use its fabulous access to Kurdish society, via local Jewish Kurds, or their descendants living nowadays in Israel. Moreover, Israel may have here an unexpected ally.
In the first months of 2012 Iraq remains a highly polarized society. The majority Shiite government recently recognized Asaib Ahl al-Haq—an Iranian-backed militia—as a legitimate political party. In January 2012, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force reportedly said that Iraq—and southern Lebanon—were under Iranian control. This view is supported by the Iraqi National Movement, which represents the majority of Iraqi Sunnis. The party boycotted Parliament for several weeks in late 2011 and early 2012, claiming that the Shiite-dominated government was mercilessly marginalizing Sunnis. In January 2012, Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, fled to the Kurdish region after the government accused him of running a sectarian death squad; in February, a panel of Iraqi judges concluded that “death squads commanded by Mr. Hashimi carried out 150 attacks over six years against religious pilgrims, security officers and political foes.”
Sometimes, the enemy of your enemy is your friend. At other times, the enemy of your enemy is also your enemy. The Middle East being the Middle East, your enemy may be also your best friend. Following the savage Iraqi attack on Iran and the subsequent bloody war between the two, Iran is determined not to allow such a violent venture again. That means gaining political influence in Iraq; this is facilitated by the large Shiite population of Iraq, which now leads the government. However, Iraqi Kurds would prefer independence than to be under the control of another nation-state. Israel and Iran may be—unwillingly—cooperating in a ruthless political warfare to shape Iraq’s future. Its north may be declared Kurdistan and become an ally of Israel and Azerbaijan; its south may become a close ally of Tehran. Strange days in the Middle East.