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In the 36ºN parallel, the Provide Comfort

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In
the 60s the Kurdish territory in the north of Iraq achieved a certain degree of
autonomy as a consequence of continuous claims before the national government.
However, the militancy of this people forced in 1975 by the Algiers Agreement (Wikipedia n.d. 2017) to close
the borders between Iran and Iraq to the rebels of both countries. In April
1991 and as a result of the decision of the UN Security Council to establish a
protection zone north of the 36ºN parallel, the Provide Comfort Operation (Ricks, T. E. 2017)
protected the Kurdish population from Saddam Hussein’s attacks after the
uprising that followed to the Gulf War. Following this, an entity separated
from the central government was established, endowed with a regional assembly,
a “federal” government and a unified army (Wikipedia n.d. 2017). This official ruling body
controls the region of Northern Iraq and is called the Kurdistan Regional
Government (KRG) and it has its own military forced, the Peshmergas.Kurdish partiesThe
Kurdish politics in Iraq are defined by the competitive and rivalry relations
between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan (PUK).The
origin of the KDP goes back to the 40s, when clashes between the forces of the
Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani against the Iraqi army, Barzani unified all the
Kurdish factions into a single political party, the KDP, which today is the
largest Kurdish political force. (Wikipedia
n.d. 2017) The internal rivalries in the KDP for the Kurdish leadership
caused a division in the late 60s, unchaining the founding of the PUK in 1975
by Jalal Talabani. Currently, The KDP maintains its strongholds in the
north-western provinces of Erbil and Dohuk, while the PUK is predominant in the
eastern province of Sulaimaniyah bordering Iran (Wikipedia n.d 2017). In my opinion, both parties
are based more on family loyalties than on political ideology. Referendum for IndependenceFocusing aside from the political rivalry between the KDP
and the PUK, the other great element that influences the decision making of the
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is the competition between Turkey and Iran
for influencing the region. It can be affirmed that the KDP, with Masud Barzani
at the head and presiding over the KRG, has strong ties and strategic interests
with Turkey, and has promoted the independence referendum of September 25;
while the PUK has the backing of Iran and is divided over an independence from
Iraq. The possible declaration of independence, in addition to the traditional
Kurdish region in northern Iraq, would include what are known as disputed
territories, which are those that the Peshmergas took in their defence and
fight against ISIS and that have traditionally not belonged to Kurdistan.On June 7, 2017 Masud Barzani announced the celebration
of an independence referendum in the areas of Iraq controlled by the KRG on
September 25, 2017 (Divan, K. 2017). The electoral response was vigorously yes
(Chulov, M. 2017).Most of the international reactions before and after
the referendum were opposing the referendum, and once celebrated, the result
was not recognized. The central government of Iraq declared it unconstitutional
(Editorial Staff The Baghdad Post 2017), the Iraqi parliament voted in favour
of allowing the prime minister to take all possible measures to preserve the
unity of Iraq (Rasheed, A., & Jalabi, R. 2017), and the Iraqi Supreme Court
ordered its suspension (Editorial Staff Al Jazeera 2017).Turkey expressed its concern and its desire to cancel
the referendum prior to its realization describing it as historical error
(Butler, D. 2017) and linking the future of the Kurds to a united Iraq (Butler,
D. 2017) After the celebration of this, Turkey threatened to suspend all
economic relations, and as a power display, the day after the vote, military
maneuvers on the Iraqi border were joined by Iraqi and troops (Butler, D. 2017).
While Iran is the country that most strongly has expressed its opposition to an
independent Kurdistan in Iraq, putting on the table the most assertive threats
(Saleem, Z. 2017), carrying out military maneuvers on the border, and closing
the airspace to flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan.The responses of the United States (Chmaytelli, M.
2017) and Russia (Editorial Staff Ekurd Daily 2017), each in its own way, have
focused on prioritizing the unity of Iraq as an essential value, in which the
issue of Kurdish independence does not distract from other priorities,
fundamentally the fight against the Islamic State. While Russia has been more
diplomatic, affirming Putin that they would respect international law (Goran,
B. 2017) (nobody can ignore that this Russian moderation is due to the
possibility of important economic agreements in the energy sector between Erbil
and Moscow) (Barmin, Y. 2017). For its part, the United States has threatened
to cut economic and military aid to the Iraqi Kurds (Harris, B. 2017).Finally, the UN made clear its disagreement with the
referendum when it was announced, stating that it would not play any kind of
role in it (Salaheddin, S. 2017).  SYRIAN KURDISTANEfforts made by the Syrian
presidentsThroughout history, Kurds were deprived from a
Syrian citizenship until the late 70s. Most Syrian presidents preferred to
encourage the Kurds to unite their efforts to those of the Turkish and Iraqi
Kurds, shifting the issue in this way away from Syria. In any case, the Kurdish
autonomy of Iraq alarmed Syria, which feared that it would spread to its
territory. (Wikipedia n.d. 2017)In the present, Rojava, the Kurdish
area of Syria has been under the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its
armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) since 2012, and they have
established several autonomous administrations known as cantons.
They are represented in the parliament, the Kurdish language is not forbidden
in the country and they coexist peacefully with the Arabs. All of these is
thanks to its latest president Bashar al-Assad.Kurdish
Democratic Union Party (PYD) ‘s goal In 1998, the Syrian government
banned all Kurdish political parties and organizations, including the PKK and
PUK. As a result, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) was founded five years
later by the Syrian Kurds (Wikipedia n.d. 2017).The now leader of PYD, Salih
Muslim, has stated multiple times that they are not seeking an independent
region in Syria, but to turn Syria into a democracy with equal rights for all
its citizens. As for now, a civil war has been striking the Syrian Arab
Republic for six years and the battle is not over yet, not by a long shot
(Rudaw 2017).  IRANI KURDISTANIndependent Republic of Kurdistan (Republic of Mahabad)In January
1946, as a result of political movements after the Second World War, the
Iranian Kurds, with the support of the Soviet Union and in Iranian territory, proclaimed
the independence of the Republic of Kurdistan with capital in the city of
Mahabad (Mufid, A. 2011). This new republic did not reach the year of life, and
in December 1946, it was integrated into Iran again as a result of internal
Kurdish divisions, the limited Soviet support and pressure from Western
countries in what was already configured as the Cold War. As of today, the
Republic of Kurdistan, with capital in Mahadab, has been the only independent
Kurdish State in history (Wikipedia n.d. 2017).The Algiers AgreementThe use of the
Kurds by different governments to confront each other is a common constant in
Kurdish history, with the result of violent clashes between themselves. Many
Iranian Kurds were killed in Iraq by the Kurdish Masud Barzani of the KDP. It
was in 1975, after the signing of the Algiers Agreement between Iran and Iraq,
that the Iraqi border was closed, helping to stop the Kurdish factions from
fighting each other and being used by both governments. But in practice that frontier
has been very permeable. During the war between Iran and Iraq (1980-1988) both
states strengthened the Kurdish minority of the enemy state while repressing
their own.Country’s strategyThe Kurds in Iran represents the second largest
ethnic minority in the country (first being the Azeric), with an estimated
total of between 7 and 9 million people, a little less than 40% of the total
Kurdish population in the Middle East (Yildiz, K., & Taysi, T. 2007). They are concentrated mainly in the Western
provinces of Iran that are neighbouring Iraq and Turkey.When speaking about the Iraqi Kurdish political
parties in previous pages, it was commented that it is the PUK that keeps
strong ties with Iran. However, Iran has also known how to cultivate its
relations with Masud Barzani, leader of the KDP and president of the KRG. It is
part of the Iranian strategy to get along with both rival parties in order to
gain an indispensable role, either to mediate in disputes or to take advantage
of the rivalries between both parties according to their interests; and on the
part of Barzani and the KDP to take advantage of the opportunities and maintain
a balance between Turkey and Iran that may be beneficial for a future independence
(Iddon, P. 2017).  TURKISH KURDISTANPKK’s GoalTraditionally,
Turkey has opposed the Kurdish people in its entirety and specially after the
foundation of PKK.  It
was founded by a dozen of students in 1978, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) made
the armed struggle the axis of its struggle against “the Turkish
colonizing state” (Editorial Staff Le Monde 1998) and it wanted a
Kurdish-Turkish federation without modifying borders. Turkey’s lack of
experience in anti-guerrilla warfare and the methods it employed in the region:
towns and villages emptied of population, assassinations, tortures, prohibition
of peaceful manifestations, etc., which strengthened PKK until 1992. From that
moment, the government concentrated its repressive activity while the PKK
strengthened its Marxist and nationalist ideology. Their violent methods in the
region, and particularly in Europe, made them lose part of the popular support.
Consequently, it opted for a change of strategy: To increase its diplomatic
activities and initiatives. These were successful given that they contributed
to draw the attention of international justice organization such as Amnesty
International, they increased the isolation of Turkey and they attained the
adhesion of the European Union with the Kurdish cause (Wikipedia n.d.
2017). Turkey’s view in the present In
Turkey today, we should not be surprised to see that the main commercial
partner of the Kurdistan Regional Government is precisely Turkey, maintaining
strong ties of cooperation with Iraqi Kurdistan not only in economic but also
strategic issues. The
Turkish Government has changed its perception of the Kurdish question in Turkey
in the last 10 years, arriving at the conclusion that by only using military
aid will never solve the problem. To prevent the secession of the Turkish
Kurds, the plan is to integrate them into the country’s national politics,
allowing them to create their own political parties, running for national
elections, and facilitating Kurdish cultural expressions. Thus, in March 2013,
Turkey and the PKK agreed on a ceasefire and the initiation of peace talks (Editorial
Staff BBC 2013). The decline of military power in Turkish politics in recent years
has meant that the Kurdish problem in Turkey has begun to be seen more as a
problem of political struggle between parties than as a threat of security and
internal integrity for the Turkish state. This
change of perception of the Kurdish-Turkish problem has meant that Turkey does not
see as a serious threat the possible independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, making it
a strategic ally as an alternative supplier of oil and a better partner for the
control of the Turkish borders with Iraq. One
of the main concerns of the Turkish Government today is everything that can
happen in Syria, especially what can affect its borders. The Kurds of Syria,
supported by the United States, are playing a good role in their fight against ISIS,
controlling more and more areas of northern Syria. The fact that the Syrian
Kurds consolidate a certain autonomy could allow the Turkish Kurds associated
with the PKK, not happy with the Government of Ankara, to have a sanctuary from
which to plan and direct their future actions against Turkey. In this sense,
the Erdogan government directly links the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the
main Kurdish group in northern Syria, to the Turkish PKK as a subsidiary of
this (Editorial Staff BBC 2016). This link between the PKK and the PYD, on
which the Turkish government insists is a non-trivial and non-innocent issue at
international level, since the PKK is recognized as a terrorist group by the
European Union and the United States. Country’s strategyTurkey’s
strategy is clear, try to weaken the Syrian Kurds to the maximum, using direct
military action if necessary (Hanna, J., Sariyuce, I., & Blau, M. 2016).
The interesting thing is that in this effort to contain the Syrian Kurds, the
Government of Ankara has found an ally in the Kurds of Iraq. This is where the
traditional Kurdish rivalry and division is seen: the Kurdistan Regional
Government sees the PYD as a possible political rival in the future and
therefore would be more interested in a region in northern Syria controlled by
like-minded Kurds. In fact, there are many armed confrontations between Syrian
and Iraqi Kurdish groups for the control of territory on the Syrian-Iraqi
border (Editorial Staff Al Jazeera 2017).

 

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