Iran/North Korea – Analysis: How the issue of North Korea serves Iran’s interests (21 Sep 17) – After US President Donald Trump criticized Iran for violating the ‘spirit’ of the nuclear agreement, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei retorted on the 17 Sep 17 by saying that Iran would strongly respond to any “wrong move” made by the United States against Tehran’s nuclear deal with major world powers. This is a well-known tactic known as “forward escape” used by the Iranian regime as it starts talking tough when left with no option to wiggle out of a crisis. On the eve of the UN General Assembly, the dangerous actions of the Iranian and North Korean regimes constituted the most clear and serious issues for US President Donald Trump. Although the effects of Obama’s politics on Iran still influence the minds of many and some European policies do not appear to look beyond economic benefits on this issue, there should be no doubt that there is a definite shift in the policies of The White House against the Iranian regime. The Iranian regime has been wooing Europe to keep the JCPOA alive which seems riddled with shortcomings and pitfalls that undermine the desired solutions.
Iran’s suspected role in weaponising N. Korea
An article appearing in a newspaper linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards titled, ‘The futile wait for a decisive message from Europe to the United States,’ attacks Rouhani's positions by writing, “why do our government officials tend to place impediments in their own way and unwittingly mislead public opinion by using dubious phraseology? If you wanted Europe to play the role of a message transmitter for you, then you should know it is not playing to your tune at all.’’ Due to the political situation, it was said that Trump’s speech at the United Nations focused on the three main themes — North Korea, Iran and Syria. Again, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster at a White House press briefing on Friday 15 said: “We expect that Iran’s destabilizing behaviour, including its violation of the sovereignty of nations across the Middle East, to be a major focus (of the speech),” McMaster told reporters. McMaster was joined at the podium by US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, and the two detailed Trump’s plans. The president later addressed the UN on the 19 Sep 17. “It is a new day at the UN,” Haley said. “The UN has shifted over the past several months — it’s not just about talking, it’s about action.”
OPINION: North Korean nukes and the Iranian nexus
In response to a question about international diplomatic efforts to resolve the ongoing conflict in Syria, Haley emphasized that after the defeat of ISIS, “Iran is not going to be in charge” of the country. “Iran is not going to have any sort of leadership in that situation from where they can do more harm,” she added. North Korea's dangerous actions promote the interest of the Iranian regime, and it is necessary to adopt a wise policy. It seems highly likely that the Iranian regime has been helping and inciting the Korean dictator to follow a dangerous path in order to divert international pressure from itself and cause confusion by creating a new crisis. Sources in The Sunday Telegraph state that North Korea has not made its technological progress alone. A British minister has said that although North Korean scientists are quite capable, it is obvious that they did not accomplish the recent advancements without external support. Another source in the British Foreign Office has stressed that it is beyond the pale of reason for North Korea to achieve all this success from nowhere. While Iran is among the list of countries suspected of helping North Korea, some experts suspect Russian involvement. Last week, British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said: “Right now, we are investigating how a country can achieve such a high level of technology,” said Boris Johnson. “We are examining the possibility that other countries have played a role in this progress. The nuclear countries have inadvertently or deliberately helped them,” Johnson added. The threat of fundamentalism and terrorism is a major threat to the contemporary world. The main focus of this threat lies in Iran. Without a rigorous policy against the terrorist and destabilizing activities of Iran’s clerical regime, the campaign against terrorism would remain handicapped. Top officials of the Iranian regime have repeatedly and emphatically said that if they do not fight the enemy in Syria and Iraq, they will have to fight it in Kermanshah, Khuzestan and Tehran! This statement exemplifies the astuteness of the Iranian regime's strategy, which is based on the doctrine of exporting terrorism and crises abroad since 1980.
Unlike the hidden nuclear activities program, which was intended to deceive the international community in the name of peaceful purposes, Iran does not hide its destabilizing activities. The presence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and militias and their involvement in the Syria-Iraq war confirm this fact. A decisive policy needs to be formulated to stop the Iranian regime from exporting terror and crises. The president of the United States at the United Nations General Assembly on the 19 Sep 17 classified Iran as a ‘rogue’ nation, which while threatening the world, is putting pressure on its own people. He said that we want the Iranian government to respect the rights of its people and that the Iranian people are looking for a change.
Also read: Nuclear deal allows Iran to become the next ‘North Korea,’ US envoy warns
Trump added that the world cannot allow the “murderous regime” to continue its destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles. This is a speech that will undoubtedly be welcomed by the Iranian people. The European governments should also welcome this speech and change their policies in relation to the Iranian regime. Iran’s opposition leader Maryam Rajavi has welcomed the US president’s call on the need for change in Iran. She urged the need to make amends to the catastrophic policy of the US by recognizing the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) as the only democratic alternative to the theocratic and terrorist dictatorship.
Iraq – Two suicide bombers killed at least three people and wounded 34 on the 19 Sep17 in a northern Iraq restaurant frequented by militiamen battling the Islamic State group, security sources said. The twin bombings came just five days after a gun and bomb attack on a restaurant and nearby checkpoint in southern Iraq killed 84 people, the deadliest assault claimed by the jihadists since their defeat in second city Mosul in Jul 17. The bombers struck in the town of Hajaj, in Salaheddin province between the cities of Tikrit and Baiji. "Two attackers detonated their explosive belts in a restaurant in Hajaj, killing three people and wounding 34," interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan said in a statement. "A third assailant was shot dead by the security forces." A police lieutenant colonel said the restaurant was frequented by members of the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation), a paramilitary force mainly composed of Iran-trained militias which has played a major role in the fight back against IS. There was no immediate claim for the bombing.
Iraq/’Hezbollah Nujaba’: The Iraqi Militia Helping Iran Carve a Road to Damascus (al-Arabiya English (23 Sep 17) – In late May, an Iraqi cleric called Akram Kaabi visited militia fighters in a desolate Iraqi town near the Syrian border. Kaabi, who heads a Shiite Muslim militia named Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, was decked out in a camouflage uniform and led the fighters in prayer on mats laid on the dusty ground. A video of the session showed heavily armed militiamen standing guard. The event took place in Qayrawan, a town the Nujaba militia had seized back from ISIS, the radical Sunni Muslim group. Nujaba, whose name means ‘the Virtuous,’ have also fought across the border in Syria, where they have lent support to President Bashar al-Assad in the fight against ISIS and others. The Nujaba group, which has about 10,000 fighters, is now one of the most important militias in Iraq. Though made up of Iraqis, it is loyal to Iran and is helping Tehran create a supply route through Iraq to Damascus, according to Iraqi lawmaker Shakhwan Abdullah, retired Lebanese general Elias Farhat, and other current and former officials in Iraq. The route will run through a string of small cities including Qayrawan. To open it up, Iranian-backed militias are pushing into southeast Syria near the border with Iraq, where US forces are based. The Nujaba militia is one example of the way Iran is seeking to expand its Shiite influence in Iraq and across the wider region. In the 1980s, Shiite-dominated Iran was at war with Iraq, where Sunni Muslims held power despite being a minority of the population. But after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Shiite majority in Iraq took control of the government. Since then, ties between the Shiite-led governments in Tehran and Baghdad have become stronger, and Iran has acquired growing influence in Iraq. Iranian money and religious backing are now key to the Iraqi government’s power. Kaabi has repeatedly said that Nujaba is allied with Iran. Last autumn, he said his group follows “Velayat-e Faqih,” or Guardianship of the Jurist, the ideological cornerstone of Iran's theocratic system of government, according to the Iranian Tasnim news agency. Current and former Iraqi officials told Reuters they worry Nujaba will help Iran make a decisive strategic breakthrough. “If Iran can open this road they will have access through Iraq and Syria all the way to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” said Farhat, the retired Lebanese army general. Iran, which backs Syria’s Assad, has stated that it wants to see its influence extend through Iraq to its allies in Damascus and beyond to Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group in Lebanon it has long supported. A security adviser who works with a number of governments in the Middle East said Iran needs road access to Damascus to supply the conflict in Syria. “There is a very high cost for air transport for the militias. Troops and small supplies are easy to transport but it's hard to load heavy weapons on airplanes,” said the adviser, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject. “The goal is to open a road on both sides for logistics … They want to bring in artillery, rockets and heavy equipment like bulldozers," the adviser said. In Iraq, the Nujaba fights under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which encompass tens of thousands of Shiite militiamen. Last year Iraq’s parliament passed a law that put these fighters under the control of the Iraqi government. But current and former officials in Iraq and militia members say many of the militias have been armed and trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. A representative at an Iranian Revolutionary Guards office in Tehran declined to comment on the Nujaba militia. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other senior Iraqi officials have not spoken out in public about Nujaba or the new road. But some players within Iraq’s governing coalition want to distance Iraq from Iran. Ayad Allawi, a vice president, is Shiite, but he has a nationalist outlook and wants to prevent the conflict in Syria from spilling over further into Iraq. He said in an interview: “The government of Iraq should prevent them (Shiite militias) from going to Syria. We are not supposed to supply fighting people to support a dictatorship in Syria.” Asked to comment on Iran-backed militias moving into southeast Syria near where American forces are based, US Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting ISIS, said: “The Coalition reserves the right to protect itself and its vetted Syrian partners against any threat.” A US State Department official said: “The United States remains deeply concerned about the Iranian regime’s malign activities across the Middle East which undermine regional stability, security and prosperity.” The current route that Iran is pushing to open through Iraq was not its first choice. Soon after Iran became involved in the Syria conflict in 2011, the Iranians attempted to open a logistical supply line through the Kurdish region of northern Iraq to Syria, lawmaker Abdullah, who is a member of the Iraqi parliament’s security and defence committee, told Reuters. But Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, resisted the move, said Abdullah, who is a member of Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The new route bypasses the Kurdish region but could still destabilise the country, according to Abdullah. “All the groups in Iraq other than Shiite will be under threat if Iran can make this road,” Abdullah said. “Sunnis will be displaced. The Kurdistan region will be under threat and Christians will be under threat.”
The United States has long held that Kaabi was fighting for Iran even before he became leader of the Nujaba. In 2008, when Kaabi was involved with another militia, the US Treasury designated him an individual who threatened the peace and stability of Iraq. The United States blocked any assets Kaabi may have had under US jurisdiction and prohibited US citizens from dealing with him. Kaabi later formed his own militia, and during the Syria conflict Nujaba gelled as a fighting force. The group initially marshalled fighters in 2013 to defend Sayeda Zeinab, a shrine south of Damascus that is revered by Shiite. Nujaba was then drawn deep into the conflict against ISIS, also known by the Arabic acronym Da’esh. “Da’esh became an opportunity for many of these people. When Da’esh came, they became needed," said an Iraqi former senior government official. "They flourished and expanded the group: more arms, more money, more people. The money was coming from Iran.” Hashim al-Moussawi, spokesman for Nujaba, said: “We couldn’t find any support for Iraq from America or Arab or Islamic countries, except Iran. Iran supported Iraq with arms and advisers.” Some members of the Nujaba militia fight because of their strong religious beliefs, but many are poor Shiite from the southern region of Iraq tempted by payments of up to $1,500 per month from Iran, according to the security adviser. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards representative said Iran’s link with the Nujaba was not an issue he could discuss. Those Nujaba fighters who have training are sent to Damascus on direct flights from Baghdad or Najaf, according to the security adviser. Others head for three-month training courses in southern Iraq which focus on the use of heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles. Some train with Hezbollah in Lebanon and then cross by land into Syria, according to the security adviser; in Iran there is specialized training in de-mining, communication and operating drones. Kaabi has said that the group has Yasir drones, an Iranian copy of the Boeing ScanEagle, used for reconnaissance. The Nujaba spokesman declined to comment on training, saying it was a confidential military issue.
Iranian funds have allowed Nujaba to start its own satellite television station, called Al Nujaba TV, according to the security adviser. It broadcasts slickly edited combat footage, news shows and martial songs rallying supporters. In 2014, the Nujaba released a song dedicated to Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, the branch of the group that oversees operations outside Iran's borders. The video praises Soleimani for fighting the American military and ISIS, and is interspersed with images of Nujaba fighters firing machine guns. Photos and videos posted on hard-line Iranian news sites and Nujaba’s website show Soleimani and Kaabi at what the websites say are frontline positions in Syria. Reuters was unable to confirm the locations. Videos posted online in 2016 show Nujaba military parades around Aleppo, featuring armoured personnel carriers, anti-tank rockets and pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns. Other clips show Nujaba members engaged in street fighting in southern Aleppo. The Nujaba spokesman said around 500 Nujaba fighters have been killed in combat between Syria and Iraq. The war dead are memorialised in online postings, and last April the militia group posted a large billboard praising its martyrs near the gate of Baghdad University. After Nujaba’s efforts in Aleppo, Kaabi was invited for a high-profile visit to Iran. He was interviewed on prime-time TV and met with top officials including parliament speaker Ali Larijani and former Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsen Rezaie. He also met Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in a separate visit.
The group is already looking beyond the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. In March, it announced the formation of a “Golan” brigade to push Israel out of the Golan Heights, which Israel has occupied since 1981. The move “sharpens the threat posed by the presence of Iran and Hezbollah in Syria in general, and on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights in particular,” Israeli intelligence minister Israel Katz told the Jerusalem Post after the announcement. A key question for both Iraq and Syria is what happens with the Nujaba and similar Shiite militia groups if, as seems likely, ISIS is pushed out of both countries. Iran's Khamenei said in late June that no attempts should be made to weaken Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces. “The objection of the Americans to (the PMF) is that they want Iraq to lose an important component of its power,” Khamenei said in a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in Tehran, according to a report posted on Khamenei’s official website. “Don’t trust the Americans under any circumstances.” Tensions between Iran and the United States are reflected in confrontations between US forces and Iranian-backed militias in the border areas of Syria and Iraq. In mid-May, the United States bombed a convoy of what it said were pro-Syrian government fighters moving near a US base in al Tanf in southern Syria. Iranian news and militia websites reported Shiite militia fighters allied with Iran moved into the area at the time. The United States targeted forces in the same area twice more in June and also downed an armed drone in southeast Syria. The drone was most likely made by Iran, a US official said. It fired on Syrian forces being trained by the United States. In mid-June, Nujaba fighters deployed in southeast Syria with trucks armed with heavy machine guns, according to reports on the Nujaba site and Iranian news sites. The group posted photographs online of their convoys on highways near the Iraqi border. "The Americans and Shiite fighters are within artillery range of each other now in Syria,” the international security adviser said. As Iran’s goal of forging a land route through Iraq to Syria edges nearer, Shiite allies are showing new assertiveness. In early August Kaabi sent a letter, published on Nujaba’s website, to the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, expressing pan-Shiite solidarity. “Our fate and future are the same,” Kaabi said, declaring that they were waging the same war but on “different battlefields.” He added: “We announce our complete solidarity and support with your loud cry against the oppressive Zionist regime.”
Iraq/Da’esh – Islamic State group fighters seized areas around Ramadi, west of Baghdad, on the 27 Sep 17 in an apparent attempt at a diversion from offensives on its last Iraqi footholds but were swiftly defeated, security sources said. The jihadist infiltrators briefly occupied three areas near the city, which is the capital of mainly Sunni Arab Anbar province, long a bastion of insurgency, the sources said. But after several hours of heavy fighting in which there were deaths on both sides, all three areas were retaken. "The security forces and the tribes retook control of the Al-Tash, Majr and Kilometre Seven districts," provincial police chief Major General Hadi Razij Kassar told reporters. "All the Da’esh members were killed," he added, using an Arabic acronym for IS. The operation was likely to have been an attempt to divert the security forces from an offensive they launched last week against the jihadists' last two footholds in Iraq, one of them a series of towns further up the Euphrates Valley from Ramadi. A general who asked not to be identified said government forces had killed 20 jihadists. A military source in Ramadi hospital said two security personnel were killed and 18 civilians wounded. "A curfew has been imposed on the city of Ramadi and its surroundings to prevent any security breaches," the general said. Troops and paramilitaries retook full control of Ramadi from IS in Feb 16 but are still battling to clear the jihadists from elsewhere in Anbar province. Last week saw the launch of twin offensives against the jihadists in the Euphrates Valley near the Syrian border and around the northern town of Hawija. IS is now under attack in all of its remaining bastions in both the Iraqi and the Syrian arms of the so-called caliphate it declared in 2014. Since the jihadists' defeat in Iraq's second city Mosul in Jul 17 after a nine-month offensive, the territory they still hold has dwindled fast, with stronghold after stronghold coming under assault on both sides of the border. Their onetime Syrian bastion Raqa, long a byword for gruesome atrocities, including public executions, is now on the verge of falling to US-backed fighters. IS is also under attack by Russian-backed Syrian government forces around the eastern city of Deir Ezzor and in the central provinces of Hama and Homs. In Iraq, troops and paramilitaries have retaken the town of Sharqat in their drive on Hawija. They have also recaptured a string of villages around the town of Anna in their push up the Euphrates Valley towards the Syrian border.
Israel/United States – Israel and U.S. officials on the 18 Sep 17 inaugurated the first permanent American military base in the country, which will house dozens of U.S. troops and a missile defence system. The base will be located within the Israel Defence Forces Air Defence School in southern Israel, near Beersheba, Defence News reported. The facility will include a barracks and several other buildings for U.S. troops to be stationed in the country, as well as systems to identify and intercept various aerial threats. It will operate under Israeli military directives. Israeli Air Force Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich said the base is largely to serve as “a joint Israeli and American effort to sustain and enhance our defensive capabilities,” and will not bring operational changes such as training or exercises. “It's a message that says Israel is better prepared. It's a message that says Israel is improving the response to threats,” Haimovich, the commander of Israel's aerial defence, told The Associated Press. The Pentagon already operates an independent facility nearby in the Negev Desert. The facility is used only by Americans and is meant to detect and warn of a possible ballistic missile attack from Iran. Israel has been increasingly concerned with Iran's development of long-range missiles and considers the country to be its greatest threat.
Israel/Da’esh – Israel said on the 28 Sep 17 it had thwarted a plan by two Israeli Arabs with Islamic State sympathies to mount an attack at a contested Jerusalem holy site where a July gun ambush set off a wave of violence. The Shin Bet security service described the suspects, aged 26 and 16, as residents of the same Israeli Arab town as three gunmen who on July 14 killed two police guards at a gate to Al-Aqsa mosque compound and were then shot dead. Four Palestinians were killed during ensuing confrontations with Israeli security forces and a Palestinian stabbed three Israeli settlers to death. The two suspects taken into custody this month “support the Islamic State terrorist group’s murderous ideology and the terrorist attack was meant to be carried out in expression of this”, the Shin Bet said in its statement on the 28 Sep 17. It said they had two pistols. “They planned a gun attack at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem similar to what transpired on July 14,” it said without elaborating.
Kurdistan/A Kurdish state: Reality or utopia? (24 Sep 17) – Sheikh Ubaydullah al-Nahri, a prominent religious and tribal leader who is known as the grandfather of Kurdish nationalism, in 1880 established the Kurdish League, an alliance of 200 tribes, and launched a revolt in the Ottoman-Persian border area. He wrote letters to the tsar of Russia and the British government seeking help to establish a Kurdish state, arguing that Kurds were a separate people oppressed by the Turks and Persians. His revolt united the two rival empires that crushed his movement. His tribal allies abandoned him because, while they respected his religious leadership, they did not share his nationalist beliefs. The Kurdish issue has found its way back into the headlines in recent years as a result of the wars in Iraq and the conflict between Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish government. More recently the assault by the Islamic State (ISIS) in northern Iraq and in Syria has led to US military involvement against ISIS and to more media coverage. Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani announced a referendum, asking Iraqi Kurds to vote on an independent state. Today, with Iraq and Syria facing terrorism and proxy wars, the establishment of a Kurdish state could be a major development emerging from the regional chaos. Such a development could have long-term consequences for the Kurds, their neighbours and beyond. As always, there are great opportunities and serious dangers. Barzani has turned down calls from Washington, Baghdad, Ankara, Tehran and many other countries to cancel or delay the vote. Baghdad said the referendum is illegal. Its neighbours with large Kurdish populations see it as a threat to their stability and Washington and some of its allies see it as diverting attention from the war on ISIS. It was not clear whether Barzani would move towards independence if most Kurds vote for it as expected or whether he plans to use the vote to strengthen his bargaining power with Baghdad and neighbouring countries. Among the factors favouring the creation of a Kurdish state is the Iraqi Kurds’ historic ability to create institutions, effectively administer their region and develop it. They have shown political acumen. In the past, internal divisions and overplaying their hand were disastrous for Kurdish aspirations. Some of the divisions remain apparent today but many experts said a clear majority will support independence. Attracted by the region’s stability, foreign investors have flocked to the area. The economy, relative to the rest of Iraq, appears to be thriving. The weakening of the Iraqi state and ongoing sectarian conflicts in Arab Iraq and other changes on the ground have presented the Kurds with a great opportunity to fulfil their dream of independence. They were also able to maintain friendly ties with their neighbours, especially Turkey and Iran, which historically viewed the idea of Kurdish statehood with suspicion and hostility. The KRG has reached out to governments and businesses outside the region. Public opinion polls indicate that most Iraqi Kurds favour self-determination. Most Kurds appear to have adopted a strong nationalist identity while many of their neighbours are reverting to older religious, sectarian, regional and tribal affiliations. Supporters of independence argue that the presence of “reformist” governments in Turkey and Iran and the geo-political developments in Syria and Iraq favour their argument. Turkey, some argue, needs to diversify its energy resources and is supporting Kurdish exploration and export efforts. Its economic and geopolitical interests will require its acceptance if not its support of the idea of a Kurdish state. Some argue that the international political environment is sympathetic to Kurdish aspirations. If the Kurds maintain peace and stability in their own region, they said, the United States might be consider recognising their independence. Many Kurds and Americans argue that the Kurds are potentially the most reliable US allies and partners in the region. Kurds say that, if they control the oil and gas resources of the Kurdish territories, Kirkuk and the disputed areas, they will have an economically self-sufficient and viable state. The KRG was exporting, via Turkey, 200,000-300,000 barrels of oil a day. There are some in Baghdad who say, “Let the Kurds go their way if that is their wish” but they cannot take Kirkuk and other disputed areas in Diyala and Nineveh provinces. These areas, they argue, are not part of the historical Iraqi Kurdistan and include many other ethnic groups such as the Turkmen and Arabs who do not share the Kurds’ nationalist aspirations. The emergence of an independent Kurdish state will continue to face serious hurdles and obstacles. There is the problem of its neighbours. The Kurds live in a very rough neighbourhood. Iran and Turkey have much larger Kurdish populations than Iraq and, being concerned about their own territorial integrity, are not likely to support such a state unless they can control it. A Kurdish state would embolden their own Kurds and encourage them to seek independence or a federal arrangement. Kurds in those countries would say: “If 5 million of our brothers and sisters in Iraq can have a state of their own, why couldn’t 20 million-23 million Turkish Kurds and 10 million-11 million Iranian Kurds have their own state?” Some experts say that such an outcome is likely to lead to more violence between Arabs and Kurds, Turkmen and Kurds and Sunnis and Shias. If the Kurds retain control over Kirkuk and the rich oil and gas field in the disputed areas, this would mean that the Sunni area would be energy poor. It would be highly unlikely that they would accept such an outcome. In addition, there will be battles over borders, water and other resources, leading to much bloodletting, ethnic cleansing and further interference by foreign fighters. Furthermore, the Kurdish state will be landlocked and forced to rely on Turkey or Iran for exports and imports, which is likely to increase its dependence on these states. In addition, the Kurds hope to receive international support, especially from the United States, whose policies have strengthened Kurdish autonomy. Yet while the United States supported a weak and decentralised Iraq, it still favours a unified federal Iraq. If Iraq breaks up, the threats multiply, endangering regional allies and Europeans ones as well. US interests are likely to be affected. The United States appears to be trying to get the Kurds, the Shias and the Sunnis to maintain the unity of Iraq while giving a great deal of autonomy to the various communities. Kurdish history has shown that, while nationalist sentiments, common characteristics and aspirations are strong among Kurds in neighbouring countries, cooperation will be more difficult to achieve than it is in one country. The Kurds are not only separated by borders but by the complex influences to which they have been subjected to after living so long in different countries. During a recent conversation, a prominent Kurdish leader admitted that while “I dream of independence and believe that we, like any other nation, have the right to a state of our own, I am not sure this is our best option at this time. It may be better for us to reach an agreement with Baghdad where we hold strong cards than coming under the tutelage of Turkey or Iran. “The least bad option may come from an agreement reached between Iraqi Arabs and Iraqi Kurds in a spirit of dialogue and understanding and not as an imposed solution. This agreement, however, must recognise our rights and international guarantees might help to ensure its success but we have to keep our options open, including our right to self-determination.” In the end, the Kurdish genie is out of the bottle and no one is going to be able to put it back. The Kurdish issue is likely to remain one of the major one facing the region in the 21st century.
Edmund Ghareeb is an academic and an expert on Middle Eastern affairs and on US relations with the region.
This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.