Kurdish Peshmerga vehicles rush to the front line at Altun Kupri after clashes with Iraqi security forces last Friday..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel was the only Western country to step forward and support the Kurds during their referendum for independence on September 25. The only Western voice. And now Israel is diplomatically engaging with many Western countries in an effort to convince them to step forward and defend the Kurds who, since the referendum, have become the target of vicious and frequent attacks by Iraqi and Turkish forces.
Just last week Iraq wrestled the strategic and oil rich region of Kirkuk from the Kurds. That is a major blow on two fronts – it diminishes territory under Kurdish domain and it hits the Kurds significantly in the pocketbook. The entire operation seems to have been planned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. It looks like more than Kirkuk fell. There are reports that the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) is now, in the aftermath, a shadow of its former self.
Iraq’s leadership has made its point of view very clear, and has even drawn a parallel with Israel. Just days before the election, Iraqi leadership publicly and insistently declared it will not allow the establishment of a Kurdish state. Iraq’s disfavor with the Kurds is no secret.
The office of Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki released a statement divulging the substance of his meeting with US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman, which focused on the Kurdish situation.
Maliki’s message was as threatening as it was clear: “We will not allow the creation of a second Israel in the north of Iraq.”
While the parallel might not be obvious to all, it is glaringly obvious to those in the region. Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon – all see the Kurds as another Israel because in their eyes the Kurds, like Israel, are outsiders. They do not belong.
They are interlopers. History is irrelevant.
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It does not matter how many centuries the Kurds have been there, they do not belong.
The reason Israel is defending the Kurds, on the other hand, should be obvious to all.
Israel is giving moral support to the Kurds. The Kurds are about to be massacred – without help they will be wiped out. They cannot run and they cannot assimilate. They are different and no one wants them. Yes, in many ways the Kurds are very similar to Jews.
Because they know the fate that awaits them, because they understand the outcome if they lose, the Kurds will fight to the death. They will fight to defend their homes and to protect their families from being defiled, tortured, brutalized and murdered. There is no more powerful motivation for Kurdish fighters than the reality that awaits them.
For decades there has been strong interaction and binding ties between Israel and the Kurds. Most of those ties were clandestine in nature. Israel did not advertise that it helped train the Kurds, and neither did the Kurds. Israel helped the Kurds in business and in trade, and bought their oil.
Israel came through for the Kurds. The United States did not. The US engaged with the Kurds by making promises and then retracting them. Only now, over the past few months, has the US been able to rebuild a sense of trust with the Kurds.
And there should be trust; the Kurds are one of the most pro-Western groups in the region. They are the sworn enemy of radical Islam and that alone makes them perfect partners for Israel and the US. While Israel has known it for a long time, the US is only now buying into the ancient proverb: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The fact that Kurds are so despised by Iran, Islamic State and al-Qaida makes them a friend to both Israel and the US – little else matters.
There is one more essential reason for Israeli support of the Kurds. Moral, political and diplomatic altruism aside, this reason eclipses all others – it is a matter of national significance. The Kurds are a strategic asset for Israel. They are closely situated in a region inhabited by Israel’s most dangerous enemies. Having assets embedded among the Kurds, using their knowledge of the area and language skills, is of great benefit for Israel. The safety and security of the Kurds has a direct impact on the safety of Israel.
Maybe the Kurdish referendum really was a mistake. The United States and United Nations certainly thought so. But the Kurds voted 92% in favor of independence.
The 8% who voted against were Sunni and Shi’ite minorities living in the region who had the right to vote, but have absolutely no allegiance to the Kurds.
Here’s a warning: if the international community does not step in and put a stop to Iran, Iraq and Turkey’s nefarious intentions, there is a very strong possibility of an organized, brutal massacre of Kurds in the region.
The author is a political commentator.He hosts the TV show Thinking Out Loud on JBS TV. Follow him on Twitter @Micah-Halpern.
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