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The New Israeli Buffer Against Iran: An Independent Kurdish State

Iran – In the lead-up to Monday’s highly controversial Kurdish independence referendum, the Star of David was a prominent feature at rallies across Europe and the autonomous Kurdistan Region in Iraq. 

The so-called “Israel” Project quoted a Kurdish youth who attended one of the pro-independence rallies in Germany’s Cologne in late August. “Kurds and Jews, we have the same enemies,” Jahwar Slemani told the US-based non-profit. Meanwhile, an “Israeli” flag displayed at the same rally read, “thank you for your support”.

The source of gratitude is not exactly difficult to identify. Tel Aviv is the first, and so far only, public voice of support for an independent Kurdish state. Earlier this month, “Israeli” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Tel Aviv “supports the legitimate means of the Kurdish people to obtain their own state.”

On September 7, the former deputy chief of staff of the “Israeli” military, Yair Golan, said that he liked the “idea of independent Kurdistan,” offering further insight into what exactly Jahwar Slemani meant when he claimed that Erbil and Tel Aviv share the “same enemies”. “Basically, looking at Iran in the east… a solid, stable, cohesive Kurdish entity… it’s not a bad idea,” Golan said at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

An open secret

Although “Israeli” politicians are eager to publicly advertise improving ties with a number of Middle Eastern governments, their counterparts in the Gulf and Erbil, for the most part, seek low-key relations in the shadows.

This ‘secret’ relationship between the Kurds and the “Israelis” – involving political, economic, military and intelligence exchanges – dates back to the mid-1960’s. For Erbil, ties with the “Israelis” have been crucial over the years for a number of reasons. Firstly, powerful Jewish groups have played a pivotal role in lobbying for Kurdish independence in the west, especially among Washington’s political elites.

Furthermore, the Kurdish Regional Government [KRG] has always been heavily reliant on “Israel” when it came to the illegal sale of Iraqi oil. The KRG Minister of Natural Resources, Ashti Hawrami, recently admitted that to avoid detection, the oil was often funneled through “Israel”.

Perhaps more importantly, “Israel” has been a crucial supplier of arms and military training to Kurdish forces over the years. In exchange, the Kurds have offered their services to Tel Aviv in more ways than one, becoming one of the most valuable assets for the “Israeli” Mossad.

Throughout the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, Iraq’s Kurdish region served as a major base of operations for “Israeli” intelligence-gathering on Arab states. Following the birth of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, priorities shifted and intelligence collection from the area became strictly focused on Tel Aviv’s new adversaries in Tehran.

By 2012, French newspaper Le Figaro reported that Mossad agents were recruiting and training Iranian ‘dissidents’ in clandestine bases located in the Kurdish region, just across Iran’s western border. Similarly in 2013, the Washington Post reveled that Ankara had informed Tehran about a network of “Israeli” spies working in the Islamic Republic, including ten people believed to be Kurds.

According to the report, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization [MIT] passed the information onto their Iranian counterparts after the group of 10 met with their Mossad handler on Turkish soil.

The target is Iran

Along with Iraq and Syria, Turkey and Iran share a common denominator – Kurdish separatism. Turkey hosts over 14 million Kurds, while Iran has an estimated Kurdish population of roughly 6 million. Both have warned Erbil about potential conflicts surfacing from its push for independence, which may “prove difficult to contain”.

A Middle East Research Fellow at Chatham House, Renad Mansour, explains that regional states have always feared contagion from an independent Kurdish region in Iraq. “There have always been, sort of, the fears of irredentism,” Mansour said. “What will happen to other Kurdish populations if there is a Kurdistan in one part of the region?”

It goes without saying that a Kurdish state under the thumb of the “Israelis” would threaten the sovereignty and stability of all neighboring countries, fueling separatism and paving the way for yet another bloody and drawn out regional conflict. As such, an independent Kurdish state should be seen as a natural progression of the so-called Islamic State – the creation of which sought to redraw the regional map, starting with the division of Iraq and Syria.

Thanks to extensive foreign military assistance, the Kurdish Peshmerga emerged with major feats on the battleground in their fight against Daesh [Arabic acronym for “ISIS” / “ISIL”], while earning a reputation as a formidable buffer zone – strategically located along Iran’s western border.

A member of Iraq’s ruling State of Law Coalition, Saad al-Muttalibi, explains that the endgame of the KRG’s pursuit for statehood “is definitely an “Israeli” listening post on the Iranian border.”  “The target is Iran,” al-Muttalibi said.

Naturally, Saudi Arabia, which has been drawn closer to the “Israelis” over their shared hostility towards Iran, has also been sending positive signals to Erbil. Moreover, Riyadh is reportedly bankrolling Iranian Kurdish militants based on territory administered by the KRG.

It would be reasonable to assume that few understand the gravity of the current situation better than the IRGC’s Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and other top Iranian military officials – most of whom are veterans of a bloody conflict against Iran’s Kurdish separatists that unfolded in the 1980’s.

Washington’s role 

The Kurds managed to carve out their autonomous enclave in northern Iraq thanks primarily to an American no-fly zone introduced in 1991. The subsequent US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 guaranteed that the Kurds would never again be governed by Baghdad, paving the way for greater degrees of autonomy.

Officially, Washington has come out against the Kurdish independence referendum, warning that it could set off an ethnic conflict. The White House described the vote as “provocative and destabilizing”. Surely, Masoud Barzani, who already faces sanctions from Turkey and Iran, coupled with unsettling military drills along the borders of this country in waiting, cannot afford to be perceived as “provocative” by his partners in Washington.

The obvious question then becomes: how on earth can the Kurdish leader – the recipient of enduring American support for decades – feel confident enough to move forward with an independence referendum that everyone seems to oppose?

An assistant professor at the Bursa Technical University, Nouri Korkmaz, believes that Washington’s condemnation of the independence referendum is disingenuous. “What are they doing to prevent it?” Korkmaz asks. “We see statements asking Barzani to halt the referendum but on the other side we see senators and congressmen asking Turkey why it opposes an independent Kurdistan.”

For his part, the managing editor at Veterans Today, Jim W. Dean, pointed out that Erbil is highly vulnerable to unprecedented economic pressure, and will likely suffer if Iran, Turkey and Baghdad were to cut off Kurdish oil exports.

“They [the Kurds] had to know this and anticipate this,” Dean explains. “Someone is behind them and has guaranteed to write a cheque to tie them over economically if their oil exports are cut off and, also if their imports are cut off.”

“The only ones who can do that are the Saudis, ‘Israelis’ and the US,” he added. Although the KRG is likely to approve the referendum, the non-binding vote is not expected to result in an immediate formal declaration of independence.

With such heavyweights standing in Barzani’s shadow, however, the Kurdish leader may well not be calling the shots when it comes to the effort to escalate tensions.

Source: Al-Ahed News

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