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  • The Kurds and the Israelis are our only allies in the middle east.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th September 2014 (All posts by )

    The growth of the terrorist state ISIS has taken all the attention lately. This is just a resurgence of al Qeada in the vacuum left by Obama’s withdrawal of all US troops. Maybe, if we had kept a significant force in Iraq, something could be saved of all we bought at such terrible cost. Now, it is too late.

    We do have allies worth helping but they are not in the Iraqi government. It is Shia dominated and dependent on Iran for support. They have alienated the Sunnis and the growth of ISIS is the result. We still have the Kurds as allies and they know we were their only hope in 1993. Jay Garner did a great job working with them once we decided to protect them after the First Gulf War. I have never understood why he was dismissed by George W Bush.

    The Kurds have been an embarrassment for us for decades in the middle east because they occupy parts of three nations, two of which were at one time our allies.

    contemporarykurdistanmap2005

    Kurdistan includes parts of Iraq, Turkey and Iran. They have never had a modern nation and the neighbors are enemies. Only the mountains have protected them. Now, it is time we did something. Iran is certainly no friend. Iraq has dissolved and it is time to allow it to be broken up into the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish provinces it should be. Turkey is increasingly Islamist and has not been an ally at least since 2003 when they blocked our 4th Infantry Division from invading Iraq from the north.

    The 4th was initially ordered to deploy in January 2003 before the war began, but did not arrive in Kuwait until late March. The delay was caused by the inability of the United States and Turkey to reach an agreement over using Turkish military bases to gain access to northern Iraq, where the division was originally planned to be located. Units from the division began crossing into Iraq on April 12, 2003.

    The Kurds know this is their opportunity and Dexter Filkins’ piece in the New Yorker makes this clear.

    The incursion of ISIS presents the Kurds with both opportunity and risk. In June, the ISIS army swept out of the Syrian desert and into Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. As the Islamist forces took control, Iraqi Army soldiers fled, setting off a military collapse through the region. The Kurds, taking advantage of the chaos, seized huge tracts of territory that had been claimed by both Kurdistan and the government in Baghdad. With the newly acquired land, the political climate for independence seemed promising. The region was also finding new economic strength; vast reserves of oil have been discovered there in the past decade. In July, President Barzani asked the Kurdish parliament to begin preparations for a vote on self-rule. “The time has come to decide our fate, and we should not wait for other people to decide it for us,” Barzani said.

    The Kurds were surprised and routed by ISIS mostly due to limited weapons and ammunition. We could supply the deficit but Obama seems to be oblivious to the true situation. The Iraqi Army will not fight, a characteristic of all Arab armies. To the degree that the Iraqi army is Shia led, the Sunni Arabs will not cooperate or will join the enemy.

    The present situation in Kurdistan is desperate.

    Erbil has changed a lot since I was there last. In early 2013, on my way into Syrian Kurdistan, I had stopped off in the city for a few days to make preparations. Then, the city had the feel of a boom town – shopping malls springing up across the skyline, brand new SUVs on the road, Exxon Mobil and Total were coming to town. It was the safest part of Iraq, an official of the Kurdish Regional Government had told me proudly over dinner in a garden restaurant.

    A new kind of Middle East city.

    What a difference a year makes. Now, Erbil is a city under siege. The closest lines of the Islamic State (IS) forces are 45 kilometers away. At the distant frontlines, IS (formerly ISIS) is dug in, its vehicles visible, waiting and glowering in the desert heat. The Kurdish Peshmerga forces are a few hundred meters away in positions hastily cut out of the sand to face the advancing jihadi fighters.

    The problem and a solution are both clear. Obama is not serious about doing anything in Iraq or Syria and the Kurds may have to fend for themselves. Interesting enough, there are Jewish Kurds. Israel may have more at stake here than we do.

    The phrase “Kurds have no friends but the mountains” was coined by Mullah Mustafa Barzani, the great and undisputed leader of the Kurdish people who fought all his life for Kurdish independence, and who was the first leader of the Kurdish autonomous region. His son, Massoud Barzani, is the current president of Iraqi Kurdistan. Other family members hold key positions in the government.

    Barzani1Barzani

    Perhaps the Israelis and Kurds can work out an alliance. The US, under Obama, is untrustworthy. We will see what happens.

    The Yazidi minority we hear about in the news is not the only Kurdish minority. The Jews of Kurdistan, for example, maintained the traditions of ancient Judaism from the days of the Babylonian exile and the First Temple: they carried on the tradition of teaching the Oral Torah, and Aramaic remained the principal tongue of some in the Jewish Kurdish community since the Talmudic period. They preserved the legacy of the last prophets — whose grave markers constituted a significant part of community life — including the tomb of the prophet Jonah in Mosul, the prophet Nahum in Elkosh and the prophet Daniel in Kirkuk. When the vast majority of Kurdish Jews immigrated to Israel and adopted Hebrew as their first language, Aramaic ceased to exist as a living, spoken language. Although our grandparents’ generation still speaks it, along with a few Christian communities in Kurdistan, Aramaic has been declared a dead language by the academic world.

    Israel might be an answer to the Kurds’ dilemma. I don’t think we are, except for supplying materials which we should have been doing all along.

    Posted in History, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Military Affairs, Terrorism | 21 Comments »

    Maybe I was hasty about Egypt

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 6th March 2011 (All posts by )

    Two weeks ago, I posted a pessimistic piece about Egypt post Mubarak. Now, Austin Bay has posted a pretty optimistic piece that may be better informed than mine. I hope so.

    My fear was stated here:

    “One of the most publicized figures outside Egypt in this story the last few weeks is a Google executive who is Egyptian.

    One of the western media’s favorite Egyptian rebels is Google executive Wael Ghonim. No surprise there: if you had to choose among radical clerics like al-Qaradawi, hooligans like those who assaulted Lara Logan, and a suave, Westernized Google exec, whom would you want to interview? Ghonim was present on Friday and intended to address the crowd, but he was barred from the platform by al-Qaradawi’s security. He left the stage in distress, “his face hidden by an Egyptian flag.” Is Ghonim Egypt’s Kerensky? Well, at least Kerensky got to rule for a while.”

    I went on to say:

    Ghonim is one more proof, as if we needed any more, that brilliance in another field is no guarantee of common sense in politics, especially revolutionary politics. We are now about to move to the next stage, which in the French Revolution ended with the Terror. In Iran, it still goes on.

    Austin Bay has the advantage of two more weeks of observation of the rapidly evolving situation. He quotes Haaretz, a rather left wing Israeli newspaper that is more hopeful. Hope is not a policy but Israelis are far more interested in the situation in Egypt than we are. They have to be as they share a border.

    The revolution in Egypt is far from over. The popular uprising may have succeeded in ousting president Hosni Mubarak and most of his top associates, but the young people who led the protests at Tahrir Square are certainly not resting on their laurels.

    Tens of thousands returned to the square on Friday, this time demanding to shut down the internal security authority, Amn al-Dawla. By yesterday, dozens of young people had already taken over the headquarters of the organization, notorious for terrorizing Egyptian citizens under Mubarak’s rule. The takeover was prompted by fears that organization officials were destroying evidence of their involvement in torture and other human rights violations.

    This may be good news but I keep going back to the French Revolution, which set the standards for all revolutions to come.

    Until the election, both Israeli and international observers agree Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, remains the key authority in Cairo. The mission facing Tantawi and his generals is to take Egypt safely through a transition period that will culminate with the establishment of civilian and democratic rule. The army is maneuvering between the establishment it knows well and the street, a new and not yet entirely familiar player.

    The Army is the best hope for Egypt, as it has been for Turkey. A key factor in our failure to do better in Afghanistan is the fact that a crude and stupid Congressional reaction to the news that Pakistan had a nuclear bomb was to cut off all contact between Pakistan’s army and ours. That was nearly fatal as there are few ties between Pakistani officers and the US army, which are usually established as junior officers. These contacts were abolished by a Congress that knows little about foreign relations, especially those not published in the New York Times.

    If we finally have to leave Afghanistan under unsatisfactory conditions, much of the failure should be attributed to Congress and its crude attempts to manage US policy it knows little about.

    The following is good news, if true.

    The Muslim Brotherhood, meanwhile, is seen as the opposition body most prepared for a general election, but the chances it will seize power are seen by Egyptians as slim. Most observers believe that the Brotherhood will assume a similar position to the ultra-Orthodox parties in Israel, influencing the government but not leading it.

    Just keep remembering that the Kerensky government thought it had the Bolsheviks under control in 1917. Bay is still optimistic for another unusual reason.

    The article argues that “the real power belongs to the young people [in Egypt] who managed to change political reality.” Media in Israel are missing “the generational shift taking place in Egypt and perhaps the entire Arab world.”

    Sex, drugs, and rock and roll– now that’s a universal language. Al Qaeda doesn’t rock and roll. A burka is not sexy. On the twitter-connected Arab street, these may be Al Qaeda’s fatal social flaws. I don’t know what Al Qaeda’s drug policy is (probably pro-hashish), but I know its alcohol policy. Hence one of the most important socio-cultural quips of the first decade of the 21st century: “Democracy, whiskey, sexy.”

    But once again back to Haaretz, this time on the Muslim Brotherhood. Yes, it will be a factor but “the chances it will seize power are seen by Egyptians as slim. Most observers believe that the Brotherhood will assume a similar position to the ultra-Orthodox parties in Israel, influencing the government but not leading it.” Interesting analogy. Remember, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is factionalized — but so are ultra-Orthodox Israeli parties.

    We will see. I hope he is right. Unfortunately, Turkey is slipping into Islamist hands as the AKP party continues to arrest army officers on phony charges.

    Here are Annie and her mother in an Istanbul restaurant. Everybody spoke English and were more than courteous.

    I have tried to explain to my daughter Annie how the friendly Turks, who did so much to make her visit to Istanbul pleasant, want to arrest large numbers of Army officers, like the one who gave her a tour of the Scutari Barracks, a major Army headquarters.

    This officer is a major, spoke English perfectly and gave her a tour.

    I guess I will have to do a post on the history of Turkey for her. She certainly wouldn’t learn anything about it in college. She was 14 when those photos were taken. I wonder if the Turks would be as friendly now. I suspect they are because we were in Istanbul, the westernized and secular part of Turkey.

    I hope Egypt will learn a lesson from Ataturk, who is still revered in Turkey, at least modern Turkey.

    UPDATE: I am not at all surprised by this. If Gadafi can hold out in Tripoli, I could see Egypt carve off the eastern section as it has the largest Libyan oil fields and the lowest population. The Libyans might choose to be Egyptians if necessary.

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Civil Society, Islam, Israel, Middle East | 3 Comments »