The Case for Kurdistan

The West must support Kurdish independence to right the wrongs of the past and create stability in the Middle East

Historically speaking, post-colonial states suffer from the need to create a legitimate and accepted socio-political sphere for its populace in an effort to re-address the problems caused by imposed borders and a relatively new outline of state formation.Straddling the borders where Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria converge in the Middle East, the Kurds constitute the largest number of people in the world without their own independent sovereign state. Long a suppressed minority, the wars against Saddam Hussein in 1991 and 2003 resulted in the creation of a semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in a federal Republic of Iraq. The KRG has inspired the Kurds elsewhere to seek cultural, social, and even political autonomy, if not independence. Kurdish history has seen many nationalist movements, but a fully independent sovereign state has yet to come to fruition and be recognised by the United Nations and other nation-states.

The Kurds have occupied the same mountainous region for thousands of years. The fact that a Kurdish state does not exist is basically an accident of modern history, made almost t 100 years ago. An independent sovereign state would right the 1922 wrong in which a British and French diplomat synthetically carved out modern states from the defeated Ottoman Empire. In the Kurds’ case, the lack of statehood appears not quite logical. Independence or autonomy for the Kurds, which had been on the agenda in 1921, somehow disappeared from the agenda in 1922, so there was to be no Kurdistan: it was a non-decision of 1922, that was, in effect, a decision.

In past few years, Kurdistan has rapidly become a symbol of hope in terms of economic prosperity, equality, security and safety. Many believe that an independent Kurdistan is now more feasible than ever. The United Kingdom and the United States should take hold of this historic occasion to support a new and strong ally in the Middle East. Recent events inside Iraq and Syria have strengthened the moral and strategic arguments for an independent, sovereign Kurdistan.

As Iraq heads toward an uncertain future, a newly independent Kurdistan would quickly become one of the best British and American allies in the Middle East. The country would be what Jordan is to the West, a strong official partner in the region, but also a popular partner; similar to what the U.S. has with the Israel. In fact, Kurdistan already has public support from Israel as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was of the only leaders so far call foe independence. The U.K. and U.S. would be wise to grasp this extraordinary prospect and provide its diplomatic muscle to the Kurdish cause. On the other hand, there are also moral arguments to be made from this situation. From cultural repression to the chemical weapons campaign in the 1980s, the Kurds have suffered for decades as unwanted outsiders at the hands of the Baghdad elite.

At present, the Kurds have a military known as the Peshmerga (those who face death) with a civilian commander-in-chief and modern state institutions. In the last 10 years, Kurdistan has attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment with Oil & Gas leading the economic boom, and is pretty much the only place in Iraq where Westerners and others from Iraq actually feel secure.

Its army has women fighting in the front line. Women are not seen as second class citizens and are part of the workforce both in public and private sector. The KRG has outlawed Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and forced and underage marriages. It is the closest you will get to a Western Europe state in the region in terms of socially liberally and progressive policies. Unfortunately, corruption, nepotism and freedom of the press have a long way to catch up in terms of Western standards, but relatively speaking, Kurdistan is progressing further than its neighbours in the region.

Given the circumstances in Iraq today, most sane and rational people know this 100 year experiment is over. The U.S. and U.K. failed miserably in the 2003 invasion Iraq. However, for reasons no one can explain, both governments’ policy is to keep Iraq unified and no allow the Kurds to break away. This policy will bite them back hard in the future. The Kurds might have support the 2003 invasion and along with some Shias, but the reality is the Kurds never really wanted to be part of Iraq in the first place. In fact, if anything, Kurdistan became an example of what all of Iraq should have looked like after the initial invasion as the America’s neo-conservatives prophesised. Instead, the Americans ignored the peaceful and prospers Kurdistan region and gave its full attention and tax payers’ dollars to Baghdad. The U.S. gave Iraq $17 billion in military aid and the majority of that went into the hands of the Islamic State or ISIS.

President Barzani of the Kurdistan Region recently announced that parliament will put together a referendum. Without doubt, it will probably be 99% in favour of independence. It is in the best interest of the region and the West to support an independent Kurdistan to at least give the people of Kurdistan what they’re owed and right the wrongs of history.