The Kurdish tragedy

Dr. Norman Bailey

A Kurd leader's hubris, and US and European pusillanimity, have led to Iranian triumph in Iraq. 

The Greeks had a word for it (as they did for so many things): hubris. Both of the now derailed separatist movements that have created so much controversy over the past weeks, in Iraqi Kurdistan and in Catalonia, were caused by the separatists' own over-confidence; that is, hubris.

Much could be said about the Catalan situation, particularly the excessive police violence unleashed against people waiting peacefully in line to vote and of the lack of judgement of the Catalan opponents of independence, apparently according to polls a majority, in boycotting the vote, instead of simply voting separation down, as their colleagues did in Quebec and Scotland.

But what happens in Catalonia is of only academic interest to Israel. The tragedy which is playing out in the Kurdish region of Iraq is the opposite--a matter of great significance indeed.

Start with the hubris. Ignoring almost universal pleas to cancel or postpone it, the Barzani government in Erbil went ahead with its referendum on independence, despite the fact that for years the KRG has been independent in all but name and created a well-functioning and prosperous political/economic/military entity which was of great help in the fight against Islamic State. Then when Baghdad reacted to the referendum by attacking the Kurdish forces in Kirkuk, which the Kurds had been illegally but peacefully occupying since 2014, the Peshmerga melted away, due to the inter-clan dispute between the Barzanis and the Talabanis. At which point the US government, which could have prevented the Kirkuk disaster simply by telling the Iraqi government to desist, decided to continue the Obama administration's disastrous policy of supporting enemies and abandoning friends by not lifting a finger to assist the Kurds.

 Besides being a moral outrage, the US (and European) attitude is incredibly counterproductive. The best chance of forming a barrier to the Iranian creation of a bridge of client-states between Iran and Lebanon was the resurgence of the Kurds of Iraq and Syria. It was also for Israel the best chance of outflanking its Arab and Persian enemies to the north and east.

 Now all that is history. Those who won were Iran and Iraq, which is under ever-greater Iranian control. That is what the US has achieved through the expenditure of tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars since 2003. Fourteen years and counting.

 As to Israel, perhaps it should have counselled the Kurds to postpone their referendum, but at least it did not abandon them afterwards. Hopefully something can be salvaged from the wreckage, especially now that Massoud Barzani has resigned as KRG president. Perhaps also Israel may be able to play a role in picking up the pieces. Time will tell.

The combination of hubris, disunity and cowardice has severely damaged the Western position in the Middle East and dashed the hopes of thirty or more million Kurds in Iran, iraq, Syria and Turkey. That was worse than a crime; it was a mistake.

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Professor of Economics and National Security, The National Security Studies Center, University of Haifa, and Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft, The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC. He was formerly with the US National Security Council and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The views he expresses are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of "Globes."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 2, 2017

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2017

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