The Geopolitical Position of the Region
For some reasons the Kurdish-inhabited area is in the centre of interests of various international and local forces. But it should be realized that none of them approaches the Kurdish issue as a single problem. The solution to the problem of United Kurdistan or the whole Kurdish nation isn’t being discussed. There are 4 separate problems and separate approaches to each one of them that are sometimes dramatically different. For example, the USA has principally different approaches to the Kurds that inhabit its ally Turkey and the ones that inhabit Syria which traditionally has anti-American position. For Russia, it’s the Iraqi Kurds under the American influence on one hand and the ones trying to enervate its ally Syria on the other hand. That is to say, none of the sides has (and, as a matter of fact, is not able to have) a single approach to the whole Kurdish issue at this moment. This makes things complicated not only for researchers, but also for the Kurds themselves. As our interests are concentrated on the visions of the establishment of Kurdistan, we’ll primarily refer to Iraqi Kurdistan and its problems.
There are some basis on which the interest frameworks, attitudes and approaches to the Kurdish issue are built up.
- Geographical position and relations with neighbours: The geographical position of Kurdistan is primarily and strategically important for the forces that want to dominate in the region. It’s right in the centre of the most active and troublesome districts of the region. It has upland geographical position that can serve as an outpost if needed in case of military activities against the neighbouring states. The geographical position of the country is also important for the existing and possible future communications. The factor of oil pipelines bears much more importance, as they should either rise in Kurdistan or cross its territory.
- Natural resources: Most of the Iraqi natural resources are found in the territory of Kurdistan. Moreover, Iraqi Kurdistan is the sixth country in the world with its enormous oil reserves. Not to mention abundance of water, metal and other resources needed in agriculture. These are the reasons why the country remains in the centre of attention of the West.
- The West-oriented Kurds and the Russian factor: The Kurdish autonomy on the occupied land of Iraq had some real successes yet in 2003. But the administration of Bush didn’t allow the chaos to deepen in the region at that time and prevented the declaration of independence of Kurdistan and final breakdown of Iraq. But now the situation has changed. It’s becoming more and more beneficial for the USA interests to have an independent Kurdish state outside Iraq. This is firstly a result of the evident West-orientation of the Kurds. It’s remarkable that an independent and autonomous Kurdistan will badly affect the Russian interests. We’ll discuss this a bit later.
Now, we’ll describe the approaches that different sides have to the topic.
The USA and the EU
For almost a century the situation in the Middle East has been being determined by the interests of the Western countries. The actualization and strain of the Kurdish issue in the last decades is firstly a result of the undertakings of Western countries. The simple and deep reasons why the West will seek for Iraqi Kurdistan to become independent should be viewed. This process should only evolve without any dramatic changes (this is mainly a result of the extra-sensibility of the region).
The American reasons for Iraqi Kurdistan to gain independence are the following:
- The fight readiness and American-orientation of the Kurds in the struggle against the ISIS;
- The appeal to destroy the Shia administrative Iraq (the latter has got too close to Iran);
- Independent Kurdistan is a problem for all the states in the region, so it can be used as an additional play card against them all;
- A proper opportunity for border modifications will arise after the ISIS is defeated. The Kurds themselves will help the USA in this;
- The Kurdish state will most likely appear as a new close ally to the USA in the region, like Israel.
The EU interests are limited in providing its own energetic security and stability in the region. The EU thinks that will come true only if an independent Kurdistan is established, since in case of other resolutions the Kurds won’t stop their struggle and the issue will only be disguised.
The Arabic World
The Arabic World having Saudi Arabia and Iraq as leading countries, has always acted as the biggest opponent to the establishment of a Kurdish state. It’s determined by several factors:
- There is a real danger that the independent Kurdish state will become a “New Israel”, a new centre of American values and influence in the region;
- This will result in another de-Arabization of the region, as it will become the third non-Arabic country here;
- The influence of the USA will enormously increase in the region as a result of a new protectorate and combination;
- Recently, the Kurds’ appetite has been too big planning to establish Greater Kurdistan. The Arabs won’t certainly approve this just for sake of the territorial integrity of Syria;
- This can result in the destruction of united Iraq and as a possible consequence, the Shia part of Iraq will pass to Iran. This will be a great defeat for the Arabic Sunni world.
Turkey’s position is more moderate, but at the same time more changeable. The thing is, this issue has two sides for Turkey. On one hand, there are the possible acquirements connected with constructions of pipelines and transportation lines, as well as the possible reduce of the tension among the Kurds in case of having an independent state. On the other hand, it can cause huge problems eventually for Turkey connected with its own Kurdish community that would also want independence. This, of course, will be supported by their independent “brothers”. Moreover, the position of the “lovely” of the USA in the region may be taken from Turkey and given to independent Kurdistan. The Kurdish statehood developing in Iraq makes Turkey completely replaceable (especially for installation of military bases) thus not allowing it to overwhelm the USA. That is to say, in the near future this may be beneficial to Turkey, but eventually it’ll become more and more problematic. The cold relations between the USA and Turkey that have recently reached the historical minimum should not be forgotten to be added.
The interests of Iran and Israel paradoxically correspond to some extent. The existing situation is profitable for both of them and they both desire dramatic changes. If for Israel the problem is the establishment of a non-Arabic force centre and possible ally within the range of Arabic states in the Middle East, for Iran the independent Kurdistan will be the perfect opportunity to destroy Iraq and finally take the Shia regions under its control. The thing is, though there is a certain progress in the Iran-Iraq relations as a result of the policy of the Shia administration in Iraq, Shias and pro-Iranian forces make up a minority here and they can never reach any stable and long-lasting power. This is the reason why the Shia parts of Iraq are much more profitable and predictable for Iran, as united Iraq is considered to be an everlasting problem. Yet, Iran is concerned about the possible expansion of the Kurds towards the Kurdish-inhabited territories in Iran. Besides, if Kurdistan becomes independent, there will emerge a chance of having a new American base at Iran’s own borders. Meanwhile, Kurdistan is also an oil market for Israel, as the Arabic countries refuse to sell oil to Israel because of solidarity. But Kurdistan already does this (though it hasn’t been confirmed officially). Israel is an extreme supporter of the independence of Kurdistan. Iran still hesitates like Turkey, but being more self-confident because of the incomparably passive Kurdish community, it acts much more efficiently. The tendency of getting the best out of any existing chance and worrying about future in the future is too common in Iran. There is another problem in Israel. It’s the highlighted anti-Semitic behaviour of the Kurdish community and their tendencies of solidarity with their Arab brothers. The possible establishment of Kurdistan-Israel relations greatly depends on the fact whether the Kurds will be enough politically mature and diplomatically wiry to differentiate allies and enemies and not to look at things sentimentally.
The Russian Federation and People’s Republic of China
These two force centres mostly act as observers in the political processes concerning Iraqi Kurdistan and show expectant activity. Yet, their interests are opposed. China needs this region to be peaceful as Iraq is the third biggest oil provider of China. So, too much trouble in the region can negatively affect the economy of “Tianxia”. Meanwhile, the Russian side enjoys the instability in the region as it allows Russia to realize its hydrocarbon resources both in East and West. Both united Iraq and independent Kurdistan are potential adversaries for Russia. The latter mainly considers the existing unstable situation in the region acceptable.
|Attitude towards the establishment of
|The Arabic World
All the possible developments will bring about the establishment of independent Kurdistan sooner or later. So, the main problems are the dates and borders of its establishment. Four main schemes can be distinguished. The first two of them are extremely unlikely to happen at this moment.
- Regression – Maintenance of the existing situation or unitarization of Iraq. In this case, Kurdistan will remain within the Iraqi borders.
- Dramatic changes – Establishment of Greater Kurdistan that will include all the Kurdish-inhabited territories, i.e. some parts of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey and Armenia.
3.Local changes that will only result in the establishment of an independent Kurdish statehood within the Iraqi territory.
4.Evolutionary changes – A way of gradual establishment of Kurdistan without any shakes and large-scale wars. This will most likely result in gradual unification and independence of the Kurdish-inhabited territories in Iraq and Syria.
It’s remarkable that with the presence of the ISIS when inter-state borders are blurred and the authorities of the two states cannot operate fully inside their territories, an unprecedented historical opportunity emerges for the realization of the version 4.
Armenia and the Kurds
The Armenian-Kurdish relations depend on whether in which way Kurdistan will gain independence. The Kurds may become our possible allies, as well as possible adversaries. The first is more actual as it depends on the last two possible schemes. In this case Kurdistan may become a natural ally for Armenia against Turkey, our common enemy. The Kurds don’t hide their territorial demands from Turkey and Armenia expects a lot from this. The establishment of Kurdistan will eventually result in stirring of liberation movements of the Kurds inhabiting Turkey and repressing the Azerbaijan segment in here. The movement of the Kurds inside Turkey and the struggle of Kurdistan against Turkey can be perfectly manipulated for Armenia’s benefit through the right foreign policy. The RA has a great number of suggestions for its possible ally. Firstly, it’s connected with the diplomatic relations of the already established and internationally recognized famous state, as well as with the Armenian Diaspora that is famous for its powerful lobbyist mechanisms. The bilateral relations can be put at a completely new level through methodical and professional support and cooperation in educational, economic, security and many other aspects. Acquirement of good and modern armament even with huge amounts of money is a serious problem for the Kurds at this moment. So, Armenia can be a mediator between Kurdistan and Russia, the arms industrial giant, as well as between Kurdistan and the EU countries. The likelihood of the Kurds turning into our enemies in the region is tiny, as it may be a result of the establishment of Greater Kurdistan which is almost impossible at this moment. So, however the events and relations develop in the future, one thing is clear: Armenia needs to review its passive involvement in this region, to exhilarate its communications, studies and connections with the Kurdish community and to plan a new comprehensive policy involving all the capable forces of the country. We need to wait for, to prepare and to be ready for fundamental changes in the region and historical opportunities of benefitting from them.
So, we’ve studied the past, present and future visions of the Kurds, the world’s biggest ethnic unit without a statehood, as well as their connections with us and the international geopolitical position to the issue. All the existing acquirements and obstacles on the way to the biggest problem of the Kurds, that is the establishment of an independent state are, of course, very important, but they are nothing compared to the importance of a united will. The Kurds are doomed to be an integrity of repressed tribes without any rights, as long as they don’t reach the highest ethnographic level, the level of ethnic-consciousness. Only then will the Kurdish issue be coped with, only then will the Kurdish issue be viewed as a single problem. Despite the present severe and ferocious situation, disunity, localisation, split clashes and primitive tribalism, for the first time in history there are favourable conditions for establishing an independent state. Despite frequently overestimating its own forces and exaggerating its national potential, the new generation of the Kurds most likely has enough potentials and resources to succeed in the process of state-establishment. Anyway, everything has been done for this by both the Kurds and other forces. To say it in other words, the historical moment has arrived.
- Mackey, The Reckoning: Iraq and the Legacy of Saddam, 2002.
- Romano, The Kurdish Nationalist Movement, 2006.
- Barth, Principles of Social Organization in Southern Kurdistan, 1953.
- McKiernan, the Kurds, a people in search of their homeland, 2006.
- Human rights watch, 2005 Vol. 17, No. 2(D)
Author: Areg Kochinyan: © All rights are reserved.
Translated by: Yeranuhi Antonyan