American Herald Tribune | DAVID MACILWAIN: Every so often something comes along that makes things drop into place, where previously the picture was confused and contradictory. Some small but critical piece of information, or testimony from a particular source whose credentials are known and reliable can be that something.
When Kurds in Northern Iraq were swept up by the lure of “independence and self-determination in a Free Kurdistan” offered to them by Masoud Barzani, few of those who voted questioned whether such a state could actually exist, or whether Barzani had the power or right to offer it. There was an unspoken assumption that such a state was their right, a democratic right, like the right to vote or the right to fair treatment under the law.
So when the Iraqi government refused to accept the Kurds’ expressed desire for independence from Baghdad there was widespread disbelief and protests, and sympathetic solidarity from the supporters of “democracy and human rights” around the Western world. Western leaders however, with notable exceptions, were not so keen to champion the supposed rights of an ethnic group they had mixed feelings about; such support comes with conditions attached.
But there is more to this split in opinion on “the Kurdish Project” than meets the eye, coming down to some fundamental questions about “democracy” and racism. It is not the case, as its supporters might venture, that the general opposition of governments to independence movements is only based on vested interests and threats to their power.
In reflecting on this question, not just with Kurdistan but with other similar separatist movements currently on the boil such as in Catalonia and Donbass, one man’s voice has been enlightening for me. While Bernard-Henri Levy’s views on most other matters would likely not be shared by many of those in the West who are standing with the flag-waving crowds in Erbil or Barcelona, his support for a free Kurdish state puts them on the same platform.
Writing in the Tablet magazine, Levy reveals not only the basis and depth of his support for “a second Israel” on the borders of Iran, but the extent of his malign influence over Western leaders, exerted in personal meetings as well as through his own political propaganda films. This is how he frames the situation for the Kurds:
“What has just transpired in Iraqi Kurdistan is heartbreaking.
Here is a people who, for decades, have been fighting every form of tyranny that the terrible 20th century spawned in that part of the world.
Here is a small but great people who, in the very midst of the complex Middle East, embody an exceptional strain of enlightened Islam that is open to universal values, welcoming to minorities, and inclined toward secularity and democracy.
Here are men and women who, while the rest of the world gaped at the flood tide of the Islamic State as it rose in the summer of 2014, stood firm along a thousand-kilometer front where I had the privilege of filming them as they built a human rampart that spared the planet a worsening of the epidemic of deadly attacks that ISIS had unleashed.
Two years later, when the time came to finish off the Caliphate, it was these same battalions who engaged the front lines of the Islamic State—this, too, my crew and I filmed; it was these same Peshmerga fighters who escorted back to their villages the first Christians to return to the Plain of Nineveh; and it was these same brave fighters who forced open the gates of Mosul for the Iraqi army.
It is at this moment that their long-time leader, President Masoud Barzani, concluding that the ordeal has gone on long enough and believing that his Peshmerga have done more than their share to secure the victory over barbarity, decides that it is time for the Kurds to pause and catch their breath; and seeing light at the end of the long tunnel, he takes the initiative of calling for a referendum of self-determination.”
So where should “supporters of freedom and democracy” be standing on this issue, whose cause Levy makes so appealing? BHL’s credentials are barely disputed, but not as an impartial observer of Arab or Islamic affairs, nor as an exponent of “Liberte´ Fraternite´ et Egalite´.” As with so many avowed Zionists in the Jewish Diaspora, Bernard-Henri Levy’s support for the inherently racist and exceptionalist “Israel Project” puts him quite at odds with such social and egalitarian values.
But BHL’s support for the fanciful “free and democratic Kurdistan”, as contradictory and disingenuous as the “Jewish and democratic State of Israel”, also betrays Israel’s continuing pursuit of its mostly covert agenda and presence in Iraq.
The remarkable resolution of the crisis caused by Barzani’s provocative referendum, that saw the retreat of some Peshmerga forces from a confrontation over Kurdish-occupied Kirkuk, should have been welcomed by all – whether in Iraq and Syria, or in Western capitals. The hastily-negotiated peace agreement between the Talibani Kurds and Baghdad, which reflected the will of the majority of all Iraqis living in the area now stands as an example that true supporters of democracy in the West should consider.
The Iraqi national government’s moves towards reconfirming Iraqi sovereignty over its current international borders, that will grant equal rights to all Iraqis, whether Shia’s sympathetic to Iran, Sunnis sympathetic to Saudi Arabia, or Kurds sympathetic to the US and Israel, have in fact been endorsed by the UN, though it hardly had a choice.
Levy doesn’t quite see it like that:
“And now we have a new model, the Kirkuk model, which, alas, raises the spirit of capitulation to a new and unparalleled refinement: By immediately condemning the very principle of the referendum, the West adopted, right out of the gate, the aggressors’ point of view. Unceasing insistence on the unity and sovereignty of Iraq—a state that everyone knows has always been fictitious and that today is, to repeat, a puppet of Iran—transformed the Iraqi-Iranian Blitzkrieg into a police action aimed at maintaining order and falling well within the prerogatives of a state.”
On the centenary of the politically misaligned Sykes-Picot agreement, those lines in the desert still apply, and still have validity in the face of the scheming foreign powers who have invaded Iraq and Syria on false pretexts and in pursuit of illegitimate goals. The drawing of the borders of Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Jordan through sparsely inhabited territory had one great merit – it didn’t disturb the ancient fabric of ethnicities and religions that underlay centuries of peaceful coexistence. The nationalist governments in Syria and Iraq then sought to maintain and develop those societies, after throwing off their European overlords.
While the Ba’athist governments of Syria and Iraq could hardly be called ‘democracies’, their socialist basis made them fairer and more stable societies than many Western states with democratically elected governments. The most acute comparison must be with the so-called “only democracy in the Middle East” – Israel – where the indigenous Palestinian population is exiled or effectively excluded from any control over the foreign-supported power occupying its land. It is a “democracy” only for Jews.
Bernard-Henri Levy would do well to look closer to home, and champion the cause of that other “superfluous people” aspiring for a true state of their own. As with his Kurdistan, that State of Palestine would include a fair share of the natural resources of the country, including water and offshore gas reserves, as well as the freedom to choose its friends and defend itself against its enemies.
And we would do well to look more closely at who exactly those Kurdish Peshmerga that BHL lionises are. Wikipedia provides this insight:
(In 2003) – The Peshmerga linked up with the CIA’s Special Activities Division (SAD) and the U.S. Military’s 10th Special Forces Group and prepared the battle space for conventional U.S. Military forces throughout Iraq. The first step was evicting the Ansar Al Islam from their enclave around the village of Biyara. This battle happened prior to the invasion in February 2003 and was carried out with officers from SAD and the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group. Most Ansar al-Islam fighters were killed during this operation, but some escaped to Iran and later regrouped in Iraq as the Ansar al-Sunnah.