On Wednesday, the Kurdistan Regional Government issued a statement proposing a ceasefire “in order to prevent further violence and clashes,” as “continued fighting does not lead any side to victory, but it will drive the country towards disarray and chaos.” The government statement added that “Attacks and confrontations between Iraqi and Peshmerga forces that started on 16 October […] could lead to a continuous bloodshed.”
The Kurds have been abandoned yet another time by their Western allies, most notably the Trump administration. After decades paved by Kurdish enthusiastic loyalty to the West that was routinely followed with cowardly betrayal by the same Western powers, why would the only democratic nation in that part of the region have expected anything but more betrayal?
The Iraqi Kurds have fought alongside US troops against ISIS, proving to be far better soldiers than the laughable Iraqi national army American experts had been developing since 2005 or so. When those Iraqi troops dropped their weapons and ran, the Kurds held ground and eventually pushed ISIS out. In 2014, the Kurds established their control over oil-rich Kirkuk, then moved on in September this year to hold a democratic referendum on independence – which resulted in a resounding yes.
Former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker suggested that the Trump Administration’s urgent warnings against Kurdish independence convinced the Iranian-backed militias and the Iraqi government they had a green light from Washington to invade Kurdistan without fear of American intervention. US criticism “may have emboldened Baghdad to take a harsher posture than it otherwise would,” Crocker said.
What followed was a show of brute aggression on the part of Iraqi Kurdistan’s three enemies: the government in Baghdad, Iran, and Turkey. All three collaborated to launch a military attack by the Iraqi army and Iranian militias inside the most prosperous and democratic part of Iraq, in a campaign to seize territory from the Kurds, with the prized jewel being Kirkuk.
Western media are reporting this week that the Iran-backed Iraqi government’s aim is to “take back” Kirkuk from the Kurds. But the entire area was never part of Arab Iraq. The Iraqi Baath party under Saddam Hussein engaged in active expulsions of non-Arabs from the area starting in the mid-1970s. In 1978 and 1979, 600 Kurdish villages were burned down to the ground and an estimated 200,000 Kurds were expelled to the other parts of the country.
Saddam’s Arabization campaigns in northern Iraq exiled the indigenous people – Kurds, Yezidis, Assyrians, Shabaks, Armenians, Turkmen, Mandeans – and replacing them with hundreds of thousands of Arab colonialists, in order to shift the demographics of Northern Iraq and establish an Arab domination.
The entire “civilized West” stood by all those decades, watching generations of ethnic Kurds being gassed, bombed, tortured, expelled. Today, the same Western powers, including Israel, are looking on as the Kurdish government is being forced to capitulate to the invading Iraqi Arabs, and seek negotiations for an autonomous status within Iraq.
While the US has stood by, offering no political support for Kurdish independence and, in fact, urging the preservation of the Iraqi state’s integrity, only Israel openly supported Kurdish independence, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September dubbed “the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own.” He also said “the Kurds have been and will continue to be reliable and long-term allies of Israel since they are, like us, a minority group in the region.”
It should be noted that, according to a 2015 Financial Times report, Israel gets three-quarters of its oil imports from Iraqi Kurdistan.
There have also been reports over the years, especially since the US invasion of Iraq, that Israel was providing military support to the Kurds. In 2004, the New Yorker Magazine reported that Israeli military and intelligence operatives are active in the Kurdish parts of Iran, Syria and Iraq, providing training for commando units and running covert operations. Israel denied the report. In 2006, BBC reported that Israeli experts were dispatched to Iraqi Kurdistan to provide training to the Peshmerga. Kurdish officials refused to comment, Israel denied the entire story.
Fox News’ Michael Pregent points an accusing finger at Brett McGurk, President Trump’s special envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, who held the same position in the Obama administration. “McGurk told US officials and Iraq, Turkey and Iran that he could convince the Kurds not to hold their independence referendum,” Pregent wrote this week. “He told US and Kurdish officials that he could stop Baghdad from using military force against the Kurds. He failed on both accounts.”