What is Kurdistan?
You might remember it being that part of Iraq that wasn't rocked by civil war during our occupation.
After the ISIS jihadists stormed Mosul, and the Iraqi soldiers threw away their guns and uniforms, when hundreds of thousands of civilians streamed out of the city, where did they go for safety? To Kurdistan.
On Wednesday, the UNHCR estimated that around 320,000 internally displaced people from Mosul have entered Kurdistan, which will only serve to increase the already heavy burden on the Kurdistan Regional Government and on humanitarian organizations operating in the region.This is very ironic, because for most of the last century, Iraqi Kurdistan is the place where war refugees come from.
Pretty much all the attention to recent events have been focused on either the Iraqi government and their incompetent military, and the al-Qaeda-linked ISIS.
What has been mostly ignored is the two groups taking advantage of the situation: Iran and the Kurds.
First of all, consider Iran's involvement.
In a stunning development that threatens to further destabilize the Middle East, Iran has deployed an elite unit of its Revolutionary Guard to help the Iraqi government take on ISIS, the Sunni militant group that has seized several areas in the northern part of the country....Let's be clear what this means: if Iran manages to save the Iraqi government, a government already on friendly terms with Iran, then Iran will be the ultimate power broker in Iraq. The Iraqi government will for all intents be an Iranian puppet.
There is simply no precedent for this situation with these modern nations.
The other group that has that has also been at war with ISIS are the Kurdish people.
The Iraqi government will need them too to win this war.
The Kurds in Syria have been engaged in a very dirty war against ISIS for quit some time.
Following military successes earlier this year against jihadist fighters, an ethnic Kurdish militia that has been carving out a de facto Kurdish state in northeastern Syria is now facing a renewed challenge from a powerful al-Qaida offshoot.ISIS has responded with such atrocities as massacring children and taking 200 villagers hostage.
Recall that Kurd leaders threatened civil war against the Iraqi government in 2007 if they
couldn't take over the city.
The Kurds situation in Iran has once again become violent.
But it's the Kurdish situation in Turkey, where most Kurds live, that has the potential of upsetting the entire region. On one side, the PKK has vowed to fight ISIS, like so many of their Kurdish brothers already have. On the other hand, Kurdish anti-government rioting is rocking southeast Turkey.
To understand the significance of Kurdistan, you have to understand the history.
A very brief history of Kurdistan
"Our movement and people are being destroyed in an unbelievable way, with silence from everyone. We feel, your Excellency, that the United States has a moral and political responsibility towards our people, who have committed themselves to your country's policy."
- Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani's message to Kissinger, 1975
"Promise them anything, give them what they get, and fuck them if they can't take a joke."
- Kissinger to a staff member regarding the Kurds, 1975
The Kurdistan region ("land of the Kurds") extends over an arc of about 600 miles long and 200 miles wide from Luristan in Iran to Malatia in Turkey. The Kurdish people have their own language and their own culture.
No Kurdish sovereign has ever ruled over the entire Kurdistan region, however several have ruled substantial areas, with the golden years around 1000 A.D. Before they were crushed by the Seljuk Turks.
That hasn't stopped the Kurds from fighting for independence. Since long before the Battle of DimDim in 1609, up to present day, the Kurdish people have fought to throw off the shackles imposed by their more powerful neighbors, and lost every time.
In fact the history of fighting hopeless wars is so deep in Kurdish culture that Kurdish fighters are called peshmerga, which literally means "those who confront death".
The closest an independent Kurdistan ever came into being was a few years in early 1920 when Aricle 64 of the Treaty of Sevres was still in play. The Turkish War on Independence nixed that treaty, and Kurdish dreams of independence died with the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.
Well, the dream didn't actually die there. First there had to be bloodshed.
The Turkish government belittled the Kurdish heritage, calling them "mountain Turks". More importantly, the Turks put restrictions on the Kurdish language and religion. This more than anything caused violent resistance, and after each revolt the Turks clamped down even harder on the Kurdish culture. It was a self-reinforcing cycle.
In 1924 the Kurds in Turkey and in northern Iraq revolted and were both brutally crushed. In 1930 they both revolted again, and were again brutally crushed.
In 1936 the Turkish Kurds rebelled again. This time they were so completely destroyed that they wouldn't rise in revolt for another four decades.
"Wherever a Turkish bayonet appears, there is no Kurdish problem."
- Turkish newspaper VAKIT, 1925
The Kurds of Iran had a short-lived Republic of Mahabad in 1946-47, which ended with the president of the republic hanged in the town square by the Iranian Army.
At this point all Kurdish resistance efforts appeared completely hopeless, and there was no more organized resistance anywhere in Kurdistan.
Until the 1961 First Iraq-Kurdish War. It was the biggest, most bloody revolt to date. It didn't end until the 1970 agreement which granted the Kurdish region of Iraq political autonomy.
The Kurds had finally fought someone to a standstill. The price of the Kurds' success was a bloody Baath Party coup that cost of the life of the only Iraqi President that ever cared about the people of Iraq.
It was a glorious victory, but short-lived. The Kurds were coaxed into starting the Second Kurdish-Iraq War just four years later and were completely crushed and the army razed at least 1,400 villages.
"Covert action should not be confused with missionary work."
-- Henry Kissinger, commenting on the US sellout of the Kurds in Iraq in 1975
The Kurdish people are not all the same. Kurds in Iran have been separated from their brethren for centuries because of political boundaries, and thus speak a different dialect. Kurds in Turkey live a different political and economic reality from Kurds in Iraq.
And even within the same country there are divisions.
After the disastrous Second Kurdish-Iraq War, a new political party was formed in Iraq, the leftist PUK, to compete with the dominant conservative KDP.
Everything got more intense when the Iran-Iraq War began in 1980. Both Kurdish groups in Iraq sided with Iran against Saddam's Iraq. In August 1979 Khomeini declared Jihad against the rebellious Kurds of north-western Iran. Around 10,000 died before the revolt was crushed.
The Maoist PKK was founded in Turkey in 1978. At first a political group, it became a paramilitary group and started a widespread revolt against the Turkish government in 1984. This conflict was to last for over 30 years and leave around 80,000 dead and thousands of villages destroyed.
A 2013 cease-fire has calmed the conflict, but not ended it.
Meanwhile in Iraq, things went from bad to worse. At first the Kurdish rebellion against Saddam went smoothly because his forces were barely holding off the Iranian army. But in 1987 the Iranian army wilted, and Saddam turned on the Kurds.
There is some doubt concerning exactly how many Kurds died in this offensive. Estimates range from 50,000 to 182,000 fighters and civilians perished (the higher figure seems more likely). About 2,000 Kurdish villages were burned to the ground.
The most infamous part of the Al-Anfal Campaign was the Halabja poison gas attack of March 16, 1988. Estimates on the number of victims range from several hundred to several thousand.
Rather than condemn the massacres of Kurds, the United States escalated its support for Iraq. It wasn't until after Saddam invaded Kuwait that America cared about the gas attack.
Much like the Second Kurdish-Iraq War, the United States encouraged the Kurds to revolt against Saddam during the Gulf War. Then, once the war was over, the Kurds were tossed aside again and left to their fate against Saddam's army.
It's important to note that until this point, the Shia and Sunni had never had a serious sectarian war in Iraq before. This was the start of Iraq's real troubles.
Fortunately, this was to be the last major fighting between Kurds.
12:57 PM PT: Opinions are flying fast and furious.
1:25 PM PT: This is horrific! It seems random drive-by's of other cars and pedestrians are a favorite of the ISIS.
The gore has been removed from the video, but somehow that makes it even worse.