OSC: Iraqi Kurd official says Kurds unequal US ally

The USG Open Source Center translates an opinion piece from a major Kurdish Iraqi newspaper containing quotes from a Kurdish official about the Kurdish-US relationship. The piece maintains that the alliance is one of convenience on the US side; is not as strong as that between Washington and Kuwait; and may not last if the interests of the two diverge. [This disillusionment may derive from the green light the US has recently given Turkey to bomb Kurdish villages in northern Iraq that are suspected of harboring guerrillas of the Kurdish Workers Party or PKK.]

Iraqi Kurd official says Kurds unequal US ally
Kurdistani Nuwe
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Document Type: OSC Translated Excerpt

Iraqi Kurd official says Kurds unequal US ally

Excerpt from opinion piece by Farid Asasard – fourth in a series of articles – entitled “Kurdish-US- relations between desire and fact with an introduction by the editorial secretary of Kurdistani Nuwe: The fall of the former regime was the basis for Kurdish-US common interests”, carried by Iraqi Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) newspaper Kurdistani Nuwe on 24 January

(Introduction by editor) The alliance or friendship between the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and the USA is often discussed by Kurdish officials and occasionally the Americans indicate that they are friends of the Kurds and support their democratic experience. What is the truth about that friendship and alliance, if it exists? How, and on what criterion and basis of clear interests the Iraqi Kurds are the friends of the USA or the USA is the friend of the Kurds? In which written text, agreement or document has that friendship been recorded? Does the essence of that friendship have an official and strategic basis or is it the outcome of a common perception regarding some of the events in Iraq and having some common interests in Iraq and the region? Does the friendship include moral commitment and obligation regarding the interests of both sides or is it just about the Kurds going along with US interests and adapting themselves to the wishes of the superpower?

How does the Kurdish leadership view the friendship? How confident are they about it and can they rely on it? To what extent is the friendship without a future? What are the long-term conditions of this friendship?

Do the Kurds have other superpowers to rely on for support as regards their rights and political demands in Iraq? Do the Kurds have a strong card to bind the USA to the supposed friendship with the Kurds? What would happen to the Kurds’ political standing if the USA finds other reliable friends in Iraq? Is there a possibility that the USA would one day turn its back on the Kurds and their friendship and at what stage would that take place? Have the Kurds considered the possibility that the US may withdraw its friendship with the Kurds for whatever reason?

The Kurdish leadership needs to have a clear perception of the truth about its relationship with the US in order to have a clear political vision. Would they need to take the friendship to a strategic level and find out how to do that?
What is the Kurdish status in the recently-signed strategic accord between Iraq and the USA? What kind of consideration has been given to us and does the USA view the Kurds within the framework of Iraq or would they be given special treatment?

(Head of Strategic Study Centre Farid Asasard) The Kurds supported the US in its 2003 war against the former regime in Iraq. In fact that war marked a turning point in Kurdish-US relations and the Kurds and the US became allies in that war.

All the Kurdish alliances in the 20th Century ended in defeat for Kurdish interests. This applies to Kurdish alliance with the Kemalists (referring to followers of Turkey’s first President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk) against Greece and Britain up until their alliance with Iran during the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq.

The Kurds in 1990 were exasperated with alliances but decided to take part in the US plan without consulting the US. Thus, the Kurdish-US alliance in the 2003 war was the first in which the Kurds gained something. As much as the alliance was unclear in 2003, it remains so until now. The Kurdish-US alliance resembles an alliance between a mouse and a lion. However, the roots, framework, the path followed and perseverance will show which one is the lion and which one the mouse (as published).
It is possible to overlook the issue and consider the alliance as one between a small nation and a world power, and it is like a card game for the small nation; it will either win well or lose badly. (Passage omitted)

Kurdish-US alliance is not bound by any declared pledge, agreement or written text, which leads to the absence of a framework for clearly identifying common interests. No alliance can exist without common interests, but the issue here is not about common interests because a number of factors, other than common interests, affect and ensure the establishment and persistence of common interests and under certain conditions they could become the basis for the development of these interests, while under different conditions they could destroy them and bring about dramatic changes and wipe off their traces. (Passage omitted)

The Kurds’ immediate interest was in the fall of the former regime, and it was on the basis of the destruction of the former regime that common interests between Kurds and the US are being established. Prior to the fall of the former regime, the US was busy planning the creation of a new Iraq and they had gained experience in that area in Germany, Japan, Greece and Italy. The US strategic planning was for Iraq to spearhead change in the region. The plan, which was put into action after the fall of the regime, was established on the following pillars:

1. A democratic Iraq where power is exercised constitutionally and peacefully with the state of law and protection of human rights, where all the constituents participate in running the country.

2. Consolidation of a progressive economy that could compete at the international level.

3. An Iraq with a peaceful policy in line with US objectives.

The US wanted to present Iraq to the region as a model of a democratic and stable state with a progressive economy. They wanted to turn Iraq into a catalyst for change throughout the region. (Passage omitted)

We are not concerned that the US needs the Kurds at this juncture in Iraq because the Kurds can be an essential element in consolidating US objectives; after all, the US plan is in their interest. However, that is only one aspect of the issue and the other aspect is that the Kurds need the US more than the US needs the Kurds, and the US can find an alternative to the Kurds but the Kurds cannot find an alternative to the US. This means that the US is the source of the Kurds’ strength while the US’s strength comes from within.

It would be useful here to compare the US-Kuwaiti alliance with the Kurdish-US alliance because in both cases the US is the powerful side while the other two are weak, bearing in mind that there is a strategic partnership between the US and Kuwait. However, in addition to being a strategic ally of Kuwait, the US is also the protector of that country. Kuwait’s value to the US is largely in ensuring fuel for its industrial machinery. Therefore, any attack on Kuwait would be considered an attack on the US, and by protecting Kuwait the US is protecting its own interests.

US-Kurdish alliance is well behind US-Kuwaiti alliance. The value of the Kurds to the US lies in that the US needs Kurdish help at this difficult juncture in Iraq and it may not need the Kurds in the way it does now when the difficulties end. An important aspect of the issue is that the Kurds have not considered that the US has special conditions for alliances. As soon as the cold war ended with the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the alliance conditions changed. The only condition set by the US for its allies during the cold war was opposition to communism and in exchange it turned a blind eye on the behaviour and policies of all its allies. Now, with the globalization of democracy and human rights, the removal of boundaries of the transfer of knowledge and raising influence of public opinion, the US is no longer able to turn a blind eye on the shortcomings of its allies and considers it its responsibility to draw their attention to many issues which did not matter in the past.

The growth of Kurdish-US alliance requires the element of need. On the basis of this judgment, there is no hope in any plan for political and economic reform in the region with this administration, which demonstrates much disorder – a reminder of the 19th Century principalities – and has been subjected to all kinds of schemes; with this political system which has not been able to revitalize the administration departments to manage and provide the required services; with the little transparency that exists; with this economic system which is controlled by some families, political parties and groups and has an adverse impact on the freedom of work and service resources. All that leaves no basis for even a limited alliance with the US. The US cannot conceive establishing a strategic alliance with all these drawbacks that exist in the region and the region cannot fulfil the conditions that the US deems essential.

(Description of Source: Al-Sulaymaniyah Kurdistani Nuwe in Kurdish — daily newspaper published by Iraqi Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK))