In the wake of World War I, US President Woodrow Wilson’s rhetoric of self-determination encouraged Kurds to believe they were on the cusp of winning a homeland.
The 1920 Treaty of Sévres, promising Kurds eventual autonomy in eastern Turkey and northern Iraq, augmented Kurdish optimism.
albeit on the condition that the largely Kurdish province remain under League mandate for 25 years, Kurdish would be the official language of the region, and that Kurds would administer the province.
Consider international observation of the referendum: The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) asked US national security experts from across the political spectrum to come observe, and offered to pay all their expenses.
The program crafted by the KRG included lots of meetings and cultural events, but only two hours of guided observation in Erbil.
Certainly, Kurds want their own state and they deserve to have one.
But, there’s a difference between recognizing that natural right and romanticizing the reality of Kurdistan today.
Against the backdrop of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Aleppo-like destruction of towns and cities like Cizre, Nusaybin, and Sur, the Kurdish quest for freedom might ultimately trump Turkey’s artificial boundaries, but, it is wrong to conflate all Kurdish regions together in the struggle of just Iraqi Kurdistan.
From a broader Kurdish perspective a cross regions, Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani is a narrow, tribal, provincial leader rather than a national leader. I’ve long argued that Barzani is cynically using nationalism to distract from his own economic failings and political illegitimacy.While it is condescending for outsiders to say that the difficulties inherent in independence should negate freedom or liberty, it’s also irresponsible simply to wave real concerns aside or leave them unaddressed as the Kurds move toward their next step.Back in July, I wrote that an independent Kurdistan would likely be a failed state, perhaps akin to South Sudan or maybe Kosovo.While Kurds winning a country would be a great story, it’s dishonest to cite Saddam Hussein’s massacres of the Kurds without noting that just eight years later Barzani invited Saddam’s elite forces into the Kurdish capital Erbil in order to capture and kill his Kurdish rivals.For Barzani, power and money will always trump nationalism.Clashes between Iraqi government forces and Iraqi Kurds occurred both under the Iraqi monarchy (1921-1958) and the succeeding republic.