In 1967 the nation of Israel was facing invasion from every direction. The Egyptian led United Arab Republic had united the entire Middle East with promises of destroying Israel.
Much was at stake. The most obvious being the welfare of the State of Israel. Just as important however was the hegemony of Nasser’s UAR and what he had planned for all of Arabia. Nasser was also fully in bed with the Soviet Union. A middle east under the control of the UAR was a middle east under the control of the USSR.
The tiny nation of Israel provided the perfect regional power check to multiple enemies. Despite their size they were able to counter Nasser’s Arab socialist plans and ultimately Soviet designs and aspirations for the entire Middle East.
2014 Kurdistan has the opportunity to become 1967 Israel. Israel provided a power check to the UAR and socialism while also countering Soviet interests. Kurdistan has the opportunity to counter militant Islamists, Syria, Iran, and Turkey. Why are we not pushing for Kurdistan to claim self determination? Why are we not capitalizing on the historic cooperation between the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds at the defense of Kobane? The Syrian/Iraqi border in the North is already non existent. Now is the time for the Kurds to take what is theirs.
What’s standing in the way? Iran and Turkey have been using the Kurds as leverage against each other for quite some time. Before we get into that let’s take a look at the Kurdish players involved in both Iraq and Syria.
In Iraq - Iraq has a federalized system of government. Each region assumes governmental responsibilities for their territory but are ultimately subservient to Baghdad. Baghdad also handles all international affairs.
The KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) is the governing body of Kurdistan. It has two main political parties that dominate the government. The KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) and the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan). The Peshmerga are the national defense force of Kurdistan...the army. They’re under the direct control of the KRG.
In Syria - The PYD (Democratic Union Party) is the dominant Kurdish governing force in Kurdish Syria. Their power grew during the Syrian civil war. As Assad struggled to contain the Sunni rebels in the south the PYD seized control of Kurdish lands in the North. The YPG (People’s Protection Units) is the PYD’s defense force...their army.
The PYD, and by extension the YPG, is an affiliate of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party). The PKK is a militant group that has been engaged in armed conflict with Turkey. They’re also designated as a terrorist group.
Looking at all of those political divisions spread across multiple countries it’s easy to see how the Kurds are manipulated and divided. The PUK in Iraq was actually first started in Damascus, Syria. Hafiz al-Assad personally supported both the PUK and the PKK. It’s of no surprise at all that Iran has a relationship with both the PUK and PKK. They use that relationship as leverage against Turkey. To counter that the Turks have cultivated a strong relationship with the KDP in Iraq. They in turn use that relationship to pressure both Iran and Iraq. This foreign coercion needs to be stopped.
If the United States and the west truly want to change the region for the better they need to pursue a strategy that actually makes sense. A strategy that doesn’t involve arming or training our enemies. We don’t have to choose between evils. Why are we training Iraqis and arming “moderate” rebels in Syria? Increasing the capability of the Iraqi army helps Iran. Arming the Islamists in Syria increases the likelihood that radical groups will get more sophisticated weaponry. Iran gains on one end and anarchy looms on the other.
There is no outside military solution here. The only strategy should be to redirect United States influence toward encouraging full Kurdish independence. Once that happens we can deal with the Kurds directly. Supplying them with arms, training, and economic support. An independent Kurdistan with the full backing of the United States government could provide the regional power check in 2014 that Israel provided in 1967.