Arming Kurdistan

YPJ soldiers

It has become very clear that the Kurds are the only force on the ground militarily capable of defeating and crushing Daesh. Yet the United States has continued to enforce a partial weapons embargo against free Kurdistan in thus preventing Israel from arming Kurdistan. It is one thing for the US government not to substantially arm Kurdistan but it is quite another to prevent Israel from substantially arming Kurdistan. Two factors however figure in the US reluctance to substantially arm the Kurds.

First, the US does not want to antagonize Turkey’s Islamist dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan whose regime actively sponsors Daesh and al Qaida in Syria. This means that Erdoğan at least in part successfully prevents the US from substantially arming the only ground forces that successfully fight those very Salafist terrorist groups that Erdoğan’s regime itself sponsors. This is not only objectively absurd but goes against core US interests in the region.

Second, the US is clearly concerned that arms sent to free Kurdistan may be used by the three self-governing Kurdish regions against each other. There is in fact tremendous distrust between the three parties (PYD, KDP and PUK), each of which governs one the three regions. Why is this so? There are two main reasons. Kurdish leaders tend to be pragmatic and sometimes the pragmatism goes too far in rightly or wrongly being regarded as treasonous by rival Kurdish political parties. These major Kurdish political movements have a tragic history of waging wars against each other and are for this reason mutually suspicious of each other. Also the three self-governing Kurdish regions although geographically continuous are differently geographically located which means that each one of the three self-governing Kurdish regions has a unique foreign policy adapted to its own geopolitical needs and unique geostrategic position and situation.

Diplomacy is needed that recognizes that each of the three self-governing Kurdish regions has vital strategic needs that therefore need to be appropriately addressed. Kurdistan needs to be armed in such a way that the three self-governing regions will not ever threaten each other. This means that the American and Israeli process of arming Kurdistan must be parallel to a diplomatic process of strategic dialogue between the three self-governing Kurdish regions.

Israel is most closely aligned with each of the three self-governing Kurdish regions and so Israeli-Kurdish military specialists as appropriately placed in the Kurdish chain of command can serve as an effective security mechanism that can prevent outbreak once more of Kurdish internecine warfare. Israel’s special relationship with Kurdistan which is not only a relationship between governments but also crucially one between the peoples means that Israel is uniquely well positioned to build trust between the three self-governing Kurdish regions. There are in fact existing models and solutions that should be carefully implemented with the consent of all three self-governing Kurdish regions that will thus effectively address the legitimate strategic concerns held by the three self-governing Kurdish regions.

It is however absolutely vital that each of the three self-governing Kurdish regions is armed separately, i.e. as long as they have not seriously and credibly committed to creating a unified, non-partisan Kurdistani military. Also only the PYD self-governing region in Rojava (Western Kurdistan in Syria) should be provided with an air force as long as the KDP and the PUK don’t seriously democratize their societies as the PYD is already seriously doing from below. These are three self-governing regions of the emerging unified free Kurdistan and so the three regions and their respective existing political leaderships are all part of the solution and not just part of the problem. Arming the Kurds should thus be done precisely in a calibrated way that will prevent any future outbreak of Kurdish internecine warfare. It should be possible to build the necessary verification mechanisms in a rather short period of time since these mechanisms would be established precisely so as to accommodate the legitimate strategic concerns of each of the three self-governing Kurdish regions.

The US should seriously arm the ground forces of the three self-governing Kurdish regions with various types of weaponry, yet if America does not wish to very substantially do so directly on a large scale it should certainly not continue to prevent Israel from doing precisely that. As Erdoğan, the Islamist dictator of Turkey strengthens his grip on power – in Turkey therefore increasingly becoming an enemy of the US rather than as once an ally of the US – Kurdistan needs to be thoroughly armed so at to be able to defend itself from any regional threat or combination of regional threats. Kurdish leaders face tremendous challenges and so Kurdistan must critically be enabled to defend itself from surrounding hostile Islamist regimes that are suppressing the strongly pro-democratic Kurdish people.

Due to long having had non-rigged elections and pursuing secularization policies was Kemalist Turkey for decades regarded by many Western strategic thinkers as a model for democratization in countries in the broader Middle East where Islam is the predominant traditional religion. This is no more and it really should be clear to all that Turkey is not and has never been a liberal democracy. The only events that could prevent the Islamist Erdoğan from putting Turkey on the path to becoming a Sunni version of Islamist Iran would be either a pro-democracy revolution, a military coup d’état as ordered by the secularist Turkish military intelligence agency known as the Deep State (Turkish Derin Devlet) or quite realistically even a combination of both.

If a process of democratization, liberalization and secularization could thus be commenced by relatively peacefully removing the Islamist dictatorship from power in Ankara, then this means political issues can be resolved democratically. However, Kurdistan needs to be thoroughly armed so as to be prepared for the prospect that neither a pro-democratic revolution nor a pro-democratic coup d’état will succeed which means that Turkey would be set on the path to becoming a second Iran.

Preparing the process of annulling Turkey’s membership in NATO needs however to commence. There can be no place for an Islamist dictatorship supporting Daesh and al Qaida in a defense alliance of liberal democracies. If neither a pro-democratic revolution nor a pro-democratic military coup d’état would work out then surely the Kurdish people must already be equipped to defend themselves against totalitarian tyranny. The US supports South Korea in every way necessary and so should the US similarly aid Kurdistan in a prudent manner in appropriately addressing Kurdistan’s legitimate strategic needs.

If Erdoğan and his Islamist ruling AK party which is part of the Turkish branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (whose Palestinian branch is Hamas) were to gain full control of the Turkish state and the Turkish military – in Turkey therefore being put on a path to becoming a Sunni version of Islamist Iran in therefore eliminating the political influence of the pro-secularist Turkish military intelligence agency known as the Deep State, then Turkey could become a strategic threat to Israel as well. Therefore the special relationship between Israel and Kurdistan is absolutely vital in making sure that such an existential threat to Israel and the entire region will never appear.

Strengthening Kurdistan in every way necessary should also strengthen and be done within the framework of the triangular strategic relationship between Israel, Kurdistan and the United States of America. If America does not yet want to seriously supply many different types of arms to Kurdistan, then to continue to prevent Israel from doing so directly contravenes the US vital strategic interest of strategically defeating and subsequently destroying Daesh as opposed to merely containing it as has been the de facto outcome so far of US policy towards Daesh.

The Israeli security mechanisms inside the Kurdish chains of command need to be put in place and once Israel is enabled to very substantially arm Kurdistan, then surely there is no reason why not the US and other countries should not do so as well. There are many issues that will need to be addressed including the question of unifying Kurdistan through careful and responsible processes of democratization, liberalization, secularization and crucially return to Kurdish religion. All these strategic inter-Kurdish issues need to be addressed through peaceful and democratic means in respecting the legitimate tactical and strategic regional interests of concern of each of the self-governing regions of free Kurdistan.