Kurdish Crunch

Garen Yegparian
Garen Yegparian

Garen Yegparian


Looks like the Kurds are about to get screwed again, once again affirming their own adage, “The Kurds have no friends.”

Two major developments, and likely lots of other smaller ones, are contributing to this worrisome potentiality.

The September 25 referendum on independence for “Iraqi” Kurdistan turned out 73% of registered voters and they voted in favor to the tune of 93%.

Already on edge because of the very occurrence of the referendum, the four countries which hold sway over Kurdistan have energetically moved to squelch Kurdish hopes. Syria has been, for obvious reasons, the most quiet.

Turkey has come forth with an anti-Kurdish independence and referendum position, hardly a surprise. Yet despite some initial indications to the contrary, Ankara is still allowing Kurdish oil to flow into and through its territory, again no surprise, it is known as “black gold” after all. Erdogan is of course lecturing Erbil about its “mistake” in proceeding with the referendum despite international opposition, and another “no surprise” situation where he is pompously explaining that the Kurds expected to make gains because of the referendum, and instead lost ground.

And literally, they did. Iranian backed Iraqi irregular forces marched into Kirkuk and the Kurdish Peshmerga retreated with only one significant clash. This indicates both Iran’s level of influence in Iraq, since those Shiite forces would not have moved with Tehran’s blessing, and Baghdad’s level of ire and the government’s (PM Haidar Abadi) desperate political need to reassert control, evident in its silence over unofficial forces doing what the government probably lacked the wherewithal to do. There’s an election coming next year in Iraq.

The other major development is the winding down of the ISIS/Daesh campaign. As those religious fanatics are more thoroughly beaten, the relevance of the Kurds in Iraq and Syria decreases. The interest in the Kurds of the major involved, non-proximate powers – U.S., Russia, & some European states – will wane and soon the gentle axes of Ankara, Baghdad, and Damascus may once again swing towards Kurdish necks.

Two interesting positions regarding the Kurds in general and the referendum in particular have emanated from Israel and Russia. Israel is alone among significant powers to opine that it may be time for the Kurds to progress on their long road to statehood. This may simply be a case of the enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend-ism. Israel is certainly at odds with Iran, Iraq, and Syria. But even Turkey, its erstwhile “friend”, now has a very tense relationship. Note the complete concurrence with the states the Kurds are ruled by. It is also especially interesting since Israel and Iran were the agents of U.S. pressure on Iraq in the mid-1970s and armed/supported the Kurdish uprising led by the father, Mustafa Barzani, of the current Kurdish Regional Government’s president, Massoud Barzani. Once each of those three powers got what they wanted, the Kurds were hung out to dry, and Barzani along with his family and closest supporters ended up in the U.S.S.R. (in Baku of all places), plotting, unsuccessfully, to establish Kurdish independence.

Which brings us to Russia. I can not believe the connections established in Mustafa’s day have been allowed to wither. He was known as “the Red Mullah” because of the Soviet connection. It seems to me that it would be in Russia’s interests to support the Kurds. But then once we consider that Syria is a Russian-allied state, Iraq is unstable and subject to Iran, and Iran has been generally friendly with Russia of late, the picture starts to change. Things come into full focus when we consider the Turkey and Russia are in the midst of what can only be described as a rather hot-and-heavy “romantic” (or “extra-marital”) affair while relations between the U.S, and Turkey are probably at their lowest ebb since the establishment of Ataturk’s so-called republic. Why would Russia want to rock that boat?

And where does all this leave Armenians? Artzakh has spoken supportively of the Kurdish referendum. Armenians are generally well treated under Kurdish governance in Iraq and Syria. Instability in the region that helps Kurdish aspirations may also lead to opportunities for restitution from Turkey.

But it can also backfire. The occupation of Kirkuk, the issuance of an arrest warrant by Baghdad for the KRG’s vice-president, and the turmoil created among the Kurds themselves have led to general elections, scheduled for November 1 in Iraqi Kurdistan, being postponed.

I wish I had diplomatic training/experience so I could invent some devious way to turn this mess to Armenians’ advantage. Does anyone have any ideas as to how to proceed? Such initiative could come either from the Diaspora or Yerevan, perhaps both. Let’s get on it.


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  1. Edward Demiraiakian said:

    The first thing that needs to be done is to establish a trade mission and a cousulate in Kurdistan. If not an official Government of Armenia counsulate, than the ARF could open an office in Kirkuk. This would accomplish two things: It will establish and continue the relationship long sparked over a hundred years ago, at the establishment of the “coibun” movement. Second, it would establish commercial and military relations which may come in handy in the future.

  2. henry astarjian said:

    In response to the last paragraph of Garen’s “Kurdish Crunch” article, I would say:
    What benefits Armenia, and Armenian Diaspora is to keep out of it. We have no ax to grind with Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan, or Iraqi Kurds. Hay Tahd is about Western Armenia, not Erbil. So the prudent posture is to keep your nose clean and mouth shut, involvement will only hurt us!

  3. Janapar said:

    Independent Kurdistan and an extensive redrawing of the map of the middle east will never happen.
    This is not like cutting Sudan in half.
    But lets dream. After the Kurds have beaten the regular forces of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey who gets Van?

  4. Ari said:

    In this atmosphere, Armenia should concentrate and resolve the Azeri problem by annexing Artsakh and Nakhichevan. Let the Kurds, Turks and the Iranians take care of each other. As history has shown, none of them have ever been of any use or ever will be to the Armenians. The unknown factor in the mix is the Russians. Hopefully, this time around they will not sell the Armenians to others.

  5. Arshag said:

    There are many good reasons why the right of the Kurds to hold referendum over the future of their autonomous region should be supported. However, in the highly unstable situation of the Middle East, it is clear that every such move can trigger unwanted reactions by their their powerful neighbours. Kurds are good fighters, but they are not known to have good diplomacy throughout their history. Like Armenians who learned it the hard way, they have yet to learn that the West could very easily betray them and leave them in cold.
    Kurds also forget that their real enemy is Turkey and that their only real ally in the region could be the Armenians. Until such time that they have realized this, the Armenians, both the Diaspora and the Homeland, should strengthen their political, military and financial positions, so that when the time comes they can talk from a position of power.

  6. Daniel said:

    ”I wish I had diplomatic training/experience so I could invent some devious way to turn this mess to Armenians’ advantage. Does anyone have any ideas as to how to proceed? Such initiative could come either from the Diaspora or Yerevan, perhaps both. Let’s get on it.”
    You’re so cute Garen. First of all, Armenia has surrendered its foreign policy to Russia and is in no position whatsoever to do anything to turn this mess to Armenians’ advantage. The fact that Armenia was strong armed to join the Eurasian Economic Union (of no economic benefit to Armenia) and that the Armenian Air Force will be under joint command with Russia is proof of this. Second, who cares about the Kurds? Did you forget that they participated in the Genocide and are the ones who moved into our towns and villages?

  7. Dinosaurian said:

    Kurds are also claiming that Dikranagerd, Tblis, Sevan ,van and other regions of western Armenia belongs to them. There new revolutionary map does not include wedtern Armenia and they have no attention of helping Armenians get back there home lands.

  8. Vagharshak Sevulyan said:

    We ( Armenians ) should remember Hamadiye Alay , lots of Kurds was in that military force to keep safe sultan against Russia , same time they also killed Armenians but today Kurds appologize for killings . But time are changed , 1915 during Armenian Genocide lots of Kurds saved Armenians and also married with them , some of them sign paper excepting changing there religion to Islam , but today many many Kurds are waking up and getting baptize became again becaming Christians , also in Western Armenia hundreds may be thousends these type of people that holding businesses , craftsmen , etc etc. We should support them you never know what kind of help to our nations , that some of them before Armenian Genocide 1915 they were Armenians living with Kurds in peace. It is very diffucult openly support them at this time due to politic situtation , but we should keep in mind. There new generations fathers , mothers are married with Armenians to save our people , now our abligetion to help peaceful.
    Sincerely Yours.

    • Momoo said:

      FYI. My grandparents lived to tell what happened and said the Turks gave free rein to Kurds who carried out their barbaric savagry against the Armenians. They raped the won÷n and my grandmother’s youngster sister. Brought her back in a hirse for a last glance and said she is ours now. The family broke down in screams and cries. Then they took the 5 yr old brother and my 12 year old grandmother went looking for him, funding him beheaded by the Tigris River. Grandma said the KURDS were worse than a Turk. They banded the Armenian women and killed the men byt the few that escaped! The TRUTH. Our families will never forget. PERIOD