New Policy for Kurdistan

Mustafa Barzani (1903-1979), the first leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Israel’s oldest ally in the Middle East.

There are so far two self-governing Kurdish states, one in Rojava (Western Kurdistan) within the borders of Syria and one in Bashur (Southern Kurdistan) within the borders of Iraq and the latter is officially known as the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). These two states are de facto independent yet not internationally recognized as independent states and due to this lack of international recognition the Obama administration has enforced a de facto weapons embargo against Kurdistan while providing vital air support for the military ground forces of the two Kurdish states in their defensive war against Daesh. Although this US policy may seem paradoxical, this is due to the US government seeking a return to the borders of status quo ante bellum, meaning the arbitrary colonial borders drawn by France and the United Kingdom, then global colonial powers.

It is peculiar that the Obama administration which regards itself as the first “post-colonial” US administration does not recognize that these antiquated borders are part of the problem and not the solution. Also the Daesh genocide against the Yezidis could have been prevented had the US intervened militarily one day earlier rather than one day too late. The United States should reassess its Kurdistan policy and recognize its complicity in failing to prevent the two genocides against the Kurds; the Anfal genocide by Saddam Hussein and particularly so in 1988 and more recently by Daesh in particularly targeting the Yezidis in 2014.

This is a double failure of US policy as genocide prevention should indeed be a core consideration in US military decision-making. The US government should officially acknowledge this double failure and also anchor the establishment of Kurdish independence as a core objective of US Middle East policy. The Kurdish people are victims of imperialist colonial borders that have lost all relevance and the United States government should side with the people of Kurdistan who along with the people of Israel are the two most pro-American peoples in the world.

Israel and the organized American Jewish community have for decades already performed the vital role of advocates for and go-betweens in the US-Kurdistan relationship with Israeli diplomats and Diaspora Jewish advocates quietly arguing and pushing for Kurdish security and Kurdish self-determination. However, the US government needs to acknowledge that new borders in the Middle East will need to be drawn in accordance with the respective wishes of the local inhabitants.

While the people of Kurdistan and the two Kurdish states and governments deserve the wholehearted support of the free world including from the United States of America; the leaders of the various political parties of Kurdistan need to draw up a realistic plan for political unification of the two Kurdish states by means of democratization, liberalization and secularization. The people of Kurdistan are ready for liberal democracy and Kurdish independence also requires serious and determined implementation of liberal democracy in Kurdistan.

Liberal democracy is not something that can wait until after Kurdish independence is achieved but rather independence and international legitimacy should be achieved precisely through democratization, liberalization and secularization. Yet, successful democratization in most Muslim countries requires a policy of zero-tolerance towards all forms of Islamism, a form of Muslim extremism seeking a global religious dictatorship. Any Islamist organization should be automatically illegal by law in every country and Islamism needs to be marginalized and stigmatized worldwide as the extremist, totalitarian political movement that it really is.

The Israeli-Kurdistani relationship was born in the mid-20th century out of very strong mutual sympathies and shared geostrategic interests between Israelis and Kurds but also through tribal ties between Kurdish rabbinic Jews who had immigrated to Israel and their Muslim tribal kin in Iraqi Kurdistan whose rabbinically Jewish ancestors had been involuntarily Islamized. The blood ties and common ancestry between the Jewish Barzanis in Israel and the Muslim Barzanis in Iraqi Kurdistan thus remains part of the strong foundation upon which the Israeli-KDP relationship was built, KDP being the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Israel’s oldest ally in the Middle East.

While some Kurdish clans are indeed descendants of involuntarily Islamized rabbinic Jews, most Muslim Kurds are descended from involuntarily Islamized descendants of Kurdish religion, namely Yezidism, Yarsanism and Alevi-Bektashi; all of which are prominent denominations of Median Crypto-Judaism in the Middle East. This was not yet understood by the Israeli government when its alliances with KDP and later PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) were formed in the course of the 20th century.

Awareness of the reality of the Kurdish people being a Crypto-Jewish people has further strengthened the relationship between Israel and Kurdistan and has not least enhanced the trust between the sides in an Anti-Israel region where Anti-Jewish suspicions are the norm with Jews being near automatically cast as dangerous, parasitic, evil, psychopathic and genetically alien. The increasing knowledge and awareness regarding the Jewish roots of Kurdish religion has crucially also contributed to enabling the formation of the alliance between the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) and the State of Israel. PYD (Democratic Union Party) is part of the PKK movement and has established and currently governs the self-governing Kurdish state in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) and has  become particularly closely aligned with the State of Israel.

The political parties and governments of Kurdistan need to educate their peoples about Kurdish religion, about the history of religion in Kurdistan and about the fact that Kurdish religion is made up of three major denominations of Median Crypto-Judaism. Kurds whose ancestors had been involuntarily Islamized therefore need to be welcomed back home into Kurdish religion. The two Kurdish governments need to do everything that is possible in a secular state to educate all Kurds about their shared Kurdish religious heritage and encourage patriotic Kurds to return to their own Kurdish religion and especially so Kurdish youth.

While it is very appropriate indeed that a Kurdish clan, tribe or community returns to the denomination that their ancestors once belonged to, whether that is Yezidism, Yarsanism, Alevi-Bektashi, Rabbinic Judaism or possibly even Karaite Judaism, there should be a smorgasbord of different denominations available for those individual Kurds particularly in urban or Diaspora contexts wishing to make more personalized choices and themselves choose which denomination that they would wish to return to. While Bektashism (namely the Bektashi Order) and part of Yarsanism do welcome new converts and religious returnees, the caste-based Yezidism rather needs to create a new religious caste for nominally Muslim Kurds either wishing to return to Yezidism or preferring Yezidism to return to another denomination of Median Crypto-Judaism.

Geographic isolation between Kurdistan and Israel – and Kurdistan being landlocked have historically limited the scope of bilateral cooperation between Israel and Kurdistan and still limits the way that Israel is positioned to aid Kurdistan and Kurdish military forces. However, bilateral cooperation needs to be advanced as much as practically possible without recourse to historically counter-productive exaggerated “secrecy”. The Israel-Kurdistan relationship is anything but secret and to pretend that it is still secret is unfortunately a mere public exercise in hypocrisy. Considering the history of abandonment by the neighbors of Kurdistan and global great powers alike, many Kurds still incorrectly claim that “the Kurds have no friends but the mountains”.

Tevel (the Political Action and Liaison Department) is part of the Mossad and includes the Mossad’s own diplomatic service which also maintains diplomatic representation offices in both Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) and Bashur (Iraqi Kurdistan) and these offices could easily be upgraded into regular Israeli consulates once Israel’s Kurdish partners so prefer. However, this is the first time in history that Israel is allied with most of the Kurdish movement in all four parts of Kurdistan and since the PKK no longer spreads anti-Israel propaganda as it tragically did when it was allied with Ba’athist Syria this change has helped enable the formation of the Israel-PKK alliance.

While Israel has a fundamental responsibility to aid Kurdish movements that are friendly towards the Jewish state; Israel has obviously no moral responsibility whatsoever to aid or even to take into consideration any organization of any ethnic background that is hostile to Israel. The PKK movement has however undergone a very substantial process of de-radicalization and profound democratization and so the designation as terrorist needs to be removed from all organizations in the PKK movement as it has been rather transformed into a major counter-terrorism force in the war against Daesh.

The Israel-Kurdistan relationship was not historically founded on the fact that rabbinic Jews and Kurds are two distinctive Jewish peoples; however the awareness of this historical fact certainly obliges Israel and Kurdistan to gradually pursue optimal mutual military integration. Once Kurdistan is free, liberal-democratic and mostly returned to Kurdish religion (Median Judaism), Kurdistan should become eligible to freely join a liberal-democratic Federal Israel that would politically unite Para-Jewish peoples/lands in the region and worldwide (such as Druzistan and Alawistan) with Israel. The processes of accession to and integration towards a Federal Israel will however necessarily need to be gradual over the years and completely voluntary on the model of the European Union’s own processes of accession and integration.

While people-to-people relations and economic cooperation are very important; military cooperation needs to be advanced in new and ground-breaking ways. Kurdistan needs to be built up into a unified military giant like Israel – and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are well positioned to aid and train in building up the currently mostly low tech Kurdish military forces into a formidable and unified high tech army with an advanced air force. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraqi Kurdistan is due to its own relative military weakness in comparison with Iran’s well-equipped and technologically relatively advanced military forces constantly concerned about the Iranian threat, something which has very much contributed to keeping the KRGs relationship with Israel nominally secretive.

The solution is therefore for Kurdistan to develop its own defense industry and technological knowhow will therefore need to be transferred from Israel and other countries. The Israeli defense industry could even establish its own local production plants in Kurdistan and defense industries from other friendly countries should be invited to do so as well. An Israeli military airbase could be established in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) with US coordination if the government of Rojava so wishes. This would immensely strengthen not only Rojava but also the strategic military posture of the KRG towards Iran which will therefore be much less inclined to invade Bashur (Iraqi Kurdistan).

Also, the Iranian regime has lost nearly all public support among its own population and so the peoples of Iran are ready for a revolution, the only question being precisely what will ignite a revolution in Iran. An Israeli strategic military operation against the Iranian nuclear weapons program may quite possibly become what will trigger a spontaneous revolution in Iran which will provide opportunities for the establishment of a third self-governing Kurdish state, this time in Rojhelat (Eastern Kurdistan) within the current international borders of Iran.

The war against Daesh could be relatively easily won once the United States makes a strategic decision to supply Jordan and Kurdistan with weaponry funded by the Gulf monarchies for the specific purpose of completing this essential task. It is abundantly clear that neither the Syrian and Iraqi militaries, nor the various forces commanded by Iran in Syria and Iraq are capable of defeating Daesh. The Shia-dominated Iraqi military does not feel welcome in the Sunni areas of central Iraq and the Syrian military is defending a completely illegitimate regime that does not even promote Alawite interests.

Indeed, the Israel-Jordan-Kurdistan axis is very much up to the task with highly motivated and very determined military forces. However, American supply of advanced weaponry to Kurdistan with extensive funding from Gulf states is vital precisely as America is yes the indispensable nation without which the international system simply does not function. The attempted but failed isolationism of the Obama administration has instead spawned multiple forms of neo-imperialism around the world.

There needs to be a sustainable process of credible nation building in place whereby Kurdistan is supplied, funded and internationally recognized as it unifies both politically and militarily while responsibly promoting democratization, liberalization, secularization as well as return to indigenous Kurdish religion by means of educating the general public in Kurdistan about the particularly rich heritage that is Kurdish religion.

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