This Will be Interesting

The unpredictable flounderings of the United States have opened some opportunities for other leaders who want to make a move. One that I predicted “eventually” appears to be starting “real soon now.”


I wrote: [stderr]

I doubt Turkey is ‘concerned’ as much as frantic – they’ve recently seen their tank forces brutally munched by anti-Syrian-government insurgents using Russian-made ATGMs, now they’re expecting the US will be arming the Kurds to the point where they’ll represent a credible national army. Which is about right. And, the next step after that will be calls for an independent Kurdistan. That won’t be for a while, but the lines that the British and French drew on the map when they carved up the Ottoman Empire: they’re written in crayon.

In a functioning US government, all this would have been vetted through the Secretary of State, but instead the Kurds probably told Jared, “We asked Ivanka and she said it was OK” and Jared said “I’ll let dad know.”

Officials in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region have announced that the northern territory will hold an independence referendum on September 25.

Masoud Barzani, the president of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), announced the vote on Twitter on Wednesday. [al jazeera]

Of course, international diplomacy is what Twitter is for.

There are various interpretations of whether the Kurds are serious, or whether it’s just a maneuver to extract concessions from the Iraqi government, or what. I didn’t manage to find a comment from Turkey’s Erdogan but if I did, it would probably be unprintable anyway. Presumably, this is part of the pay for letting the US build secret bases in what will be independent Kurdistan, and for helping take Mosul back from ISIS. The Kurds have already positioned military and dug in in northeast Syria, so the question will be how much land the independent Kurdistan will claim, whether it includes Mosul, and whether anyone will do anything to stop them.

By the way, in case any of you missed it, Turkey’s bid to join the EU has been indefinitely and quietly shelved [nyt] – that’s probably at least partially why Erdogan has been more overtly assuming a dictator’s role: he no longer has any reason to pretend. If Turkey responds by making a grab at northeastern Syria President Trump will have a dicy diplomatic situation on his little hands – which means he’ll probably have Jared take care of it while he plays a couple more rounds of golf.

So that may be a partial answer to the US’ “regime change” ‘strategy’ for Syria: fragment it (and Iraq) into smaller satrapies. It’s a ‘strategy’ that worked fantastically in Korea and Germany.

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I see nationalism as generally bullshit, but I realize people take it seriously. I am happy for the Kurds that they are finally going to get their homeland back, after having been stomped by the Ottomans back in the 16th century. If there’s any value to nationalism, it’s when a region’s people have had their self-determination taken away by a superior power – so I guess I generally favor more self-determination, which means if we’ve got to have nations, they should be small and non-aggressive.

Anyone want to bet against the proposition that the US will funnel Kurdistan a great deal of money for massive military bases there?


  1. lanir says

    I’m not sure I’m exactly against a US-funded Kurdistan. I don’t really know enough to have an opinion on it currently outside of the general region-wide “Why are we there?” and “Everything there we touch turns out worse than anyone had imagined, even the pessimists.”

    If I’m thinking up reasons why it might not happen I guess the simplest would be that it sounds like the State Department has been gutted. It’s not likely to pull off anything major like this by design. I’m not sure who else out there would be thinking long-term. Defense maybe but I’m not sure they’ve paid their dues recently and this definitely sounds like a “What have you done for paid me lately?” administration.*

    * Yes, some of the above is exaggeration and all of it is speculation. I wish I could say it was pure hyperbole but it seems to be a lot closer to reality than that.

  2. says

    I’m not sure I’m exactly against a US-funded Kurdistan.

    I’m not sure I’m not, either. But I strongly suspect that if there is a US-funded Kurdistan, it will not be for the benefit of the Kurds – they’ll be created as another pawn in the game of empire. If I genuinely thought it was for people’s good, I’d support it. But I’m afraid it’s just more nationalism/tribalism/authoritarianism, with all the military and repression that comes with it.

  3. Siobhan says

    Not gonna lie, I’m mostly interested in the situation to see if the Kurds’ radically egalitarian command structure translates into a similarly egalitarian civilian government, and if it does, whether that structure will survive American cash money. I might have an actual reason to visit the Middle East, if all goes well.

  4. says

    Good point. I hope for the Kurds, but politicians seem to specialize in betraying hopes.

    The one place I want to visit in the middle east is Krak Des Chevaliers (Alamut would be cool, too) – an old crusader castle in Syria. It’ll be a good thing if the castle survives without being bombed too much more, but I am quite sure it will never be safe for an American to go there in my remaining lifetime.

  5. Dunc says

    Some of the guys at my local takeaway are Iraqi Kurds… They seem like a pretty decent bunch, and according to them, about the only thing that Iraqi Kurdistan doesn’t have is its own passports.

  6. Siobhan says


    My limiter isn’t so much political (since Canada’s PR is coated in Teflon and people seem to forget our role in America’s human rights abuses) as it is personal. My existence is a crime in all but Turkey. :/ The Kurds seem considerably less keen on theology and that might be why it’s my only ticket in to the region.

  7. sonofrojblake says

    Turkey’s bid to join the EU has been indefinitely and quietly shelved

    Surely you don’t mean that in last year’s referendum in the UK the “Leave the EU” campaign’s claims that 78 million Turks would definitely soon have the right to come and live and work in the UK were bullshit? Gosh. Who’da thunk?

    There seemed to be a period of about six months several years ago where the prospect of Turkey joining the EU looked realistic. It was brief, fleeting even, and it’s long gone never to return.

  8. says

    Surely you don’t mean that in last year’s referendum in the UK the “Leave the EU” campaign’s claims that 78 million Turks would definitely soon have the right to come and live and work in the UK were bullshit? Gosh. Who’da thunk?

    Yes, it was fake news.