This week’s Turkish force attack on a Kurdish enclave in Syria brought about new conversations or suggestions of Kurdish independence in certain media quarters. The narrative goes something like this: the Kurds MUST be independent to be safe and protected. And then the talking heads go on to declare them as a distinct entity, a separate nation, etc.
But these pundits are either idiots or completely ignorant or simply have other agendas. And the Kurds are playing into this narrative. Shame on them. The ‘’idea of Kurdistan” is dumb and not worth dying for.
Here are 7 reasons why establishing an “Independent Kurdish state” is stupid. To steal my thunder, its obvious that far from becoming Independent, a Kurdish state would become functionally dependent on its surrounding nations. Thus, the creation of an independent state is counter-productive. To increase dependency via independence is idiotic, is that what everyone wants? Or is it what a few folks want that do NOT share the best interests of the Kurds (and the nations they reside in)?
- Kurdistan will be forever Landlocked: People need to study the geography. This very fundamental to the very concept of nationhood. Look at the map. To receive any commodity via the sea, Kurds would have to depend on surrounding nations. These nations are the very same nations that are hostile to the concept of an independent Kurdish state. Why should they ‘make it easy’ on the Kurds? Oh, I see, I hear it …. If the Kurds are exporting oil, then surely, they can use the same exporting process (relationship(s)) to import goods? No? Baloney!!! They will be charged transit fees for oil and gas, and they will be charged transit fees for imports. It’s a fundamentally idiotic concept. Nations providing access know that the KURDS must use their ports and transit points to export to or import from 3rd party nations. The Kurds will be charged tolls. Oh, and by the way, Kurdistan is a mountainous land without massive quantities of arable land. It is NOT and will never be self-sufficient for food stuffs – so it will depend on its hostile ‘neighbors’ that they just pissed off to declare independence to even eat! It’s ridiculous. Its dumb!!
- Kurdistan is NOT contiguous: One more basic geographical fact, while much of what people refer to as Kurdistan is contiguous, significant portions are also NOT contiguous, i.e. connected. Kurds are geographically splintered. For example, in Syria, before the recent ‘civil war’ with President Bashar al-Assad that began in 2011 most kurds lived in the cities of Damascus and Aleppo, and in three, non-contiguous areas around Kobane, Afrin, and the north-eastern city of Qamishli. Being Kurdish is a tribal way of life, not a geographical reality. Their language while being based on Persian, is not standardized across all enclaves and they have many dialects. Kurds adhere to many different religions and creeds, although the majority are Sunni Muslims. There are pockets of Kurds, not a contiguous nation of Kurds. To give readers an analogy, its like saying because there are Amish in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio, that have a unique way of life, there should be a nation called Amishstan! Kurds live in pockets. One final point on the geography. What we are seeing in the battle for Afrin happening right now is, the Kurds are pushing westward towards the sea (to get their own sea access point, with land they have never historically occupied) and the Turks and Syrians are pushing back. The bloodshed happening today, is fundamentally about the Kurds being landlocked (and always having been landlocked). The Kurds are after all mountain dwelling nomads.
- Kurdistan would have No Economy to speak of and No Exports besides dwindling oil: Last time I checked the Kurds had nothing to export, except oil. And that by the way, oil fields are in Iraqi Kurdistan (which has just been invaded by Iraqi forces i.e. Kurds don’t really own those fields now). So how is Kurdistan a viable nation, if it has nothing but oil to trade? Carpets? Milk from goats? They have literally nothing! And let me remind everyone, that we are on a pathway globally of reducing Carbon based fuels as a commodity. Oil will NOT sustain the Kurds forever! And in case people don’t know Kurds are a migrant community. They migrate from winter to summer. They live in tents, and do not have a stable residential base or indeed a stable economy. Most cash income for Kurds comes from smuggling via their mountainous terrain between surrounding nations; and most recently they are being used as hired guns by regional powers for a fee. While there are for sure some advanced farms in place, most Kurds do not till arable land and build farms in the traditional western sense of agriculture
- Kurdistan would operate as a series of fiefdoms. They are split into myriad political parties and groupings. We have the PUK, KNC, KDP, PKK, YPG … etc. It’s an alphabet soup, and the only thing missing in Kurdistan is KFC, and everyone will be able to eat chicken every day! While some pundits seek to create an independent Kurdistan, others campaign for greater Kurdish autonomy within existing national boundaries. Kurds are simply not a homogeneous, faction free, or plural democratic nation. They operate as a series of disparate tribes. The same families rule Kurdish factions from generation to generation. The same names keep coming up for political leadership, year after year – Barzani’s , Talabanis, etc. Kurdish ‘democracy’ in Turkey or Iraq, is a function of the central state not of Kurdish traditions. If a Kurdish nation is established, there will be factional fighting, and the people (Kurds) will be worse off. The Kurds are not one united nation by any stretch of the imagination. These TV pundits need to travel to all four corners of Kurdistan and they will see this first hand. There have been made deadly fights among various Kurdish factions, most recently with the Kurdish Perhmerga (Rojava) forces taking on the PKK on the border with Syria. Ironically, it is their very existence as part of larger ‘nations’ that guarantees the Kurds some level of freedom and pluralism, and from tearing each other apart.
- Kurds are MORE Persians than Persians: These TV Dumb asses that are preaching Kurdish independence on American TV station panels, have generally one perspective on Kurds – and that is through interactions with Kurds in Iraq (while US forces where there). And they argue that the Kurds have a different language and culture than the surrounding ‘Arabs’ so therefore they feel alienated and isolated. And therefore, they must be granted independence. This again is baloney. The Kurds exist among 4 nations – not one – including Iran and Turkey that are NOT Arabs. Secondly, as an Iranian that has met and spoken with Kurds around the region, it’s very clear to me that their language(s) are all dialects of Persian. If you speak Farsi, you can converse at some level with all Kurds. Interestingly, if you look at Kurdish history and heritage it overlaps significantly with Iranian history. Kurds trace their ancestry to the Medes – that were one of the original tribes living in the Iranian plateau. I am talking for literally thousands of years. Kurds have shared history with all the tribes on the Iranian plateau for over 2000 years. They value and recount Persian Poetry. They weave Persian Carpets. They celebrate Noruz, an Iranian new year tradition (that has been in existence for thousands of years), their cuisine is identical to Persian Cuisine. Even genetically, they are Iranians and not Semites (like Saudi Arabians for example). Just because Americans have interacted with Kurds in Iraq, doesn’t necessarily make them a separate nation in all countries they reside in!
- Kurds don’t have critical mass to do anything. In every state the Kurds reside in, the whole is greater than each piece: Kurdish contribution to their adopted states makes the whole nation much greater than each ethnic piece. For example, Iraq becomes a more significant oil producer with Kurdish region oil production included in their production figures. In Iraq too, Kurdish Peshmerga forces worked with Iraqi military to fight off ISIS. For a relatively small size country “Iraq” this establishes critical mass, and true independence. Better to have Kurds on your side than military from other countries who don’t speak your language!? Better to have Kurds by your side, who in fact participated in voting for the government that the military serves – than to have militaries from distant lands who have no stake in outcomes and who report to non-state actors during a fight. Right?!
- Don’t focus on a tree, look at the forest: The best outcome for Kurds, would be the creation of a new regional union, where in fact Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and ALL the ‘Stans joined together to form something that might resemble the United State or the European Union. Kurdistan would then be part of multiple states, like an “Indian Nation” in the US spread over multiple states (Like Cherokees). The Kurds would then have ‘legal’ functional mobility across borders and remain nomadic without limitations. And this would then allow, for the creation of autonomous regions like the way the United States (for example) has created certain tribal protected areas. They would be able to reinforce their cultural identity via schools, and community centers, while at the same time participate in greater regional affairs.
I see the best analogy that Americans can comprehend by taking the case of the Cherokee tribe of Native Americans. They are spread over multiple states, with borders they (the Cherokees) did not establish. They live on reservations, and have their own functional autonomy, yet they participate in their state’s economy as well as regional and national political, military, governmental missions. Yes, the Cherokee’s are victims to European colonization, just like the Kurds are victims of Europeans drawing artificial straight-line borders in the Middle East. But, given the situation, the Kurds are better off participating in their regional economies and governments than trying to splinter off. Can American’s imagine a country called Cherokee Nation across Kentucky, Tennessee … you name it, with no land access … completely independent of the U.S.A.? Because that is precisely what these TV pundits are suggesting.
I have written extensively about the creation of a regional union – that I have termed the “Median Union” – since many of the people in the region can trace their roots back the Medes tribe that occupied much of the central Asian plateau. Including, and most especially the Kurds who claim they are direct descendants of the Medians.
Bottom-line, an Independent Kurdish state will always need a sugar daddy – will always be dependent. When people make suggestions regarding nationhood; it HAS TO BE a value-added concept. The people MUST become better off as a result or it’s a dumb idea. Right?
It’s simply not a viable state and will therefore be a dependent puppet state. Nominally independent, functionally dependent! Stupid!
Having said all this, it is true that Kurds received harsh treatment at the hands of many governments – especially Turkish authorities for generations. The Turkish government, for example, does not recognize Kurds at all, and refers to them as “Mountain Turks”.
From the perspective of US strategic interests, Kurdish nationalism is problematic. The Iraqi central government and most Iraqis oppose it. The United States has long wished to see a political solution to sectarian conflict in Iraq, with the end-goal being a stable and unified nation. Arming the Kurds, and, in effect, turning them into a proxy force, means arming their vision of an independent Kurdistan and a fractured Iraq. Its dumb.
The Kurdish peshmerga have already used the conflict with IS as an excuse to take control of oil-rich Iraqi regions, which Kurds say is theirs, historically. And they’ve started pumping and selling oil there, a direct confrontation with Iraq’s central government, which runs the oil game. This changed recently, when Iraqi central army forces took over the oil fields.
An independent Kurdistan in one country, might inspire some Kurds to migrate but more likely will inspire ‘independent Kurds’ to fight to enlarge its borders in other states. Governments will likely crack down on Kurdish populations, but in effect the whole region and many countries would be destabilized. The Kurdish Peshmerga would use their new CIA-provided firepower to support their Kurdish neighbors. It will become a multi-generational shit-show. Remember, Iraqi Kurdistan is just one Kurdish homeland. There are 13 million Kurds living in Turkey, 6.5 million in Iran, and 2 million in Syria.
The point is this: Kurdish nationalism is a regional issue that touches a lot of countries, a lot of land, and a lot of people. Using the peshmerga as a proxy force in today’s conflict can have reverberations outward into the broader Middle East and forward into the future. To repeat the point: the best strategic outcome for the Kurds, for the Region and for the globe would be the creation of a Regional Union of ‘stans that provides for Kurdish Autonomy in certain regions – just like the United States has addressed the needs of its Native American population.
The only winners in an “Independent” Kurdistan are those that wish instability, and chaos in the region. It is not good for Kurds themselves, it is not good for the countries in the region, it is not a vision that can propel the whole region forward. Its simply dumb. I ask those same American pundits, how about an Independent Cherokee Nation in the heart of America? (Do most Cherokees even want it? If not, why not?). Or how about an Amishistan across Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana? Its dumb? Why?