I was shocked to open my copy of Sunday's Herald-Citizen (Cookeville, TN) and discover an article by Professor Michael Gunter, Professor of History at nertby Tennessee Tech University, with the title: "Sheer Stupidity of U. S. Foreign Policy".
I was intrigued as this is the first article on the Kurds that I have read in years as typically whenever I read anything about them, the writer concentrates on the fact they are a sect of Islam - in my opinion, further proof that not all Muslims are evil.
What do I know about Kurds? Not much. It was fifty or some years ago when three youngsters walked into my employment office in Los Angeles looking for jobs. All three were college graduates, but they were from Iraq and even in those days, employers were reluctant to hire people of the Muslim faith. They had run out of money and had nowhere to sleep. To make a much longer story shorter so that I might get on with the article, after listening to their flight from Iraq and the differences between the Kurdish, Sunni and Shia Islamic sects, I arranged for them to sleep in the attic of the house where our agency was located and found jobs for each of them. They were not engineering jobs, their educational disciplines, but they helped them to get on their feet and established in our country. We were good friends for a number of years and they helped me to get better acquainted with the religion of Islam, a far different perspective than is common place in many areas of our nation.
Here is what Professor Gunter had to say: "Although there can be no doubt that compared to the world today, and in the past, American foreign policy and intelligence, has been motivated by relative honesty and intelligence, currently there are several specifics in that policy that can be characterized as sheer stupidity. The first point has to do with American foreign policy towards the horrific civil war in Syria. Although President Obama's basic instinct not to enter another disastrous Middle Eastern war was sound, his administration's continuing attempt to support increasingly non-existent moderate oppositionists against the Assad regime is at best, based on wishful thinking because with one exception - the Kurds, such moderates in Syria no longer exist.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) - now styling itself as the Islamic State (IS), has largely supplanted the moderates, with the exception of the Kurds, who have been battling the Islamists for more than two years. However, the United States opposes the Kurds because of a misguided belief that they are dividing the moderate opposition by insisting on Kurdish autonomy and probably even more connected to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which is largely in control of the Kurdish areas, but is an off shoot of the Kurdisan Workers Party (PKK) which the U.S. considers to be a terrorist movement. While the PKK link is real and largely explains the PYD's success in fending off ISIS so far, the PYD is also a moderate secular movement and therefore is everything the U.S. should want to support. This is even more so because for more than a year now, Turkey has been pursuing a serious peace process with the PKK. Thus if the U.S. NATO ally, Turkey, is now dealing with the PKK/PYD there is no further reason for the United States to shun it. American foreign policy has simply failed to catch up with the times and thus is shooting itself in the foot.
However, the situation is worse because the United States continues to list the PKK as a terrorist movement. This unfortunate designation hinders the on-going Turkish/PKK peace process. The United States continues to so list the PKK out of its deference to its NATO ally, Turkey, but since Turkey is negotiating with the PKK, the terrorist appellation is no longer appropriate and even hinders the negotiations. If the United States delisted the PKK, Turkey and the European Union (EU) would probably follow suit and the peace process benefit. Instead the United states even continues to denounce falsely such PKK negotiators as Sabri Ok, Remzi Kartal and Adem Uzun. among others as drug king-pins.
This leads to the additional misguided U.S. policy of continuing to list Massoud Barzani, the President of the Kudistan Regional government in Iraq and Jalal Talabani, the other main Iraqi Kurdish leader and now former President of Iraq, as terrorists. The reality of the matter, of course, is that these two Iraqi Kurdish leaders have long been two of the main U.S. supporters in the volatile Middle East. When the U.S. NATO ally, Turkey, failed to support the United States invasion of Iraq in March, 2003, the Iraqi Kurds stepped to the front and did, his supplying the badly sealed Northern front against Saddam Hussain that Turkey was denying. While almost 4,500 American soldiers died in the Iraq war, not a single American soldier has died in the Kurdish controlled areas of Iraq. Yet the Kurds two major leaders are officially listed as terrorists because of the stupidity of the law that lists them so because of their earlier resistance to Saddan Hussein who was then supported by the United States.
The late Nelson Mandela similarly fell afoul of a U.S. terrorist list for many years. However, once the stupid label was lifted, negotiations were able to commence.
The stupidity of American foreign policy is even greater on the Kurdish issue as the United States continues to oppose Iraqi Kurdish independence in favor of a non-existent Iraqi unity. The Iraqi Kurds have done everything they possibly could to make post-Sadam Iraq work, but recent events have shown that the artificially created State is now probably irrevocably split into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish parts. Trying to force Kurdish back into a non-workable situation simply does not make sense. This is particularly so when the other two parts of former Iraq are foes of the United States while the Kurds are practically begging for an American alliance. Indeed to accept the Kurdish offer of alliance would no longer alienate Turkey as that State itself has now officially declared that it would accept Iraqi Kurdish independence on top of the economic and political cooperation that the two have enjoyed now for some time.
I had the pleasure of chatting with the Professor shortly after reading his article and was pleased to learn that he is somewhat of an expert on the Kurds and has a new book in the printing process - if you would be interested in reading more - about a religious people, a people devoted to their homeland and - a friend of the United States.