By Tim Black
And so, once again, it looks as if regional and international powers are set on betraying the Kurds.
It’s a familiar narrative. Think back to the Treaty of Sevres in 1920, for example. Then, in the aftermath of the First World War, the Great Powers, busily dividing up their Middle Eastern spoils, promised the long country-less Kurds a small nation in what was Turkey. But Turkey had other ideas. So, reborn as a nationalist, secular state under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey promptly took back what would have been Kurdistan. And what did Britain and France do? They tossed the Kurds to the wind, abandoning them to live statelessly, in contiguous areas in Syria, Turkey, Iran and, of course, Iraq.
Again and again, the Kurds’ aspiration for some form of ethno-national autonomy has been thwarted by international friends bearing gifts (or arms, as was the case in 1975 when the US and Iran provided the Iraqi Kurds with weapons to fight Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime, only to withdraw all support when they both suddenly struck a deal with Saddam). And so it is once more. For the past two years, the Kurds in both Syria and Iraq have been the recipients of international, especially US support, because they have effectively been fighting ISIS on the West’s behalf. In return it’s clear the Kurds, particularly those in Iraq who already enjoy a degree of regional autonomy, believed that their role in the fight against ISIS would strengthen their claims for an independent state. Hence this week the Kurdish government in the autonomous region in northern Iraq staged a referendum on full independence. The international response? Condemnation and threats.