In the 36ºN parallel, the Provide Comfort

Inthe 60s the Kurdish territory in the north of Iraq achieved a certain degree ofautonomy as a consequence of continuous claims before the national government.

However, the militancy of this people forced in 1975 by the Algiers Agreement (Wikipedia n.d. 2017) to closethe borders between Iran and Iraq to the rebels of both countries.

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In April1991 and as a result of the decision of the UN Security Council to establish aprotection zone north of the 36ºN parallel, the Provide Comfort Operation (Ricks, T. E. 2017)protected the Kurdish population from Saddam Hussein’s attacks after theuprising that followed to the Gulf War.

Following this, an entity separatedfrom the central government was established, endowed with a regional assembly,a “federal” government and a unified army (Wikipedia n.d. 2017). This official ruling bodycontrols the region of Northern Iraq and is called the Kurdistan RegionalGovernment (KRG) and it has its own military forced, the Peshmergas.Kurdish partiesTheKurdish politics in Iraq are defined by the competitive and rivalry relationsbetween the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union ofKurdistan (PUK).

Theorigin of the KDP goes back to the 40s, when clashes between the forces of theKurdish leader Mustafa Barzani against the Iraqi army, Barzani unified all theKurdish factions into a single political party, the KDP, which today is thelargest Kurdish political force. (Wikipedian.d. 2017) The internal rivalries in the KDP for the Kurdish leadershipcaused a division in the late 60s, unchaining the founding of the PUK in 1975by Jalal Talabani. Currently, The KDP maintains its strongholds in thenorth-western provinces of Erbil and Dohuk, while the PUK is predominant in theeastern province of Sulaimaniyah bordering Iran (Wikipedia n.d 2017).

In my opinion, both partiesare based more on family loyalties than on political ideology. Referendum for IndependenceFocusing aside from the political rivalry between the KDPand the PUK, the other great element that influences the decision making of theKurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is the competition between Turkey and Iranfor influencing the region. It can be affirmed that the KDP, with Masud Barzaniat the head and presiding over the KRG, has strong ties and strategic interestswith Turkey, and has promoted the independence referendum of September 25;while the PUK has the backing of Iran and is divided over an independence fromIraq. The possible declaration of independence, in addition to the traditionalKurdish region in northern Iraq, would include what are known as disputedterritories, which are those that the Peshmergas took in their defence andfight against ISIS and that have traditionally not belonged to Kurdistan.On June 7, 2017 Masud Barzani announced the celebrationof an independence referendum in the areas of Iraq controlled by the KRG onSeptember 25, 2017 (Divan, K. 2017). The electoral response was vigorously yes(Chulov, M. 2017).

Most of the international reactions before and afterthe referendum were opposing the referendum, and once celebrated, the resultwas not recognized. The central government of Iraq declared it unconstitutional(Editorial Staff The Baghdad Post 2017), the Iraqi parliament voted in favourof allowing the prime minister to take all possible measures to preserve theunity of Iraq (Rasheed, A., & Jalabi, R. 2017), and the Iraqi Supreme Courtordered its suspension (Editorial Staff Al Jazeera 2017).

Turkey expressed its concern and its desire to cancelthe referendum prior to its realization describing it as historical error(Butler, D. 2017) and linking the future of the Kurds to a united Iraq (Butler,D. 2017) After the celebration of this, Turkey threatened to suspend alleconomic relations, and as a power display, the day after the vote, militarymaneuvers on the Iraqi border were joined by Iraqi and troops (Butler, D. 2017).

While Iran is the country that most strongly has expressed its opposition to anindependent Kurdistan in Iraq, putting on the table the most assertive threats(Saleem, Z. 2017), carrying out military maneuvers on the border, and closingthe airspace to flights to and from Iraqi Kurdistan.The responses of the United States (Chmaytelli, M.2017) and Russia (Editorial Staff Ekurd Daily 2017), each in its own way, havefocused on prioritizing the unity of Iraq as an essential value, in which theissue of Kurdish independence does not distract from other priorities,fundamentally the fight against the Islamic State. While Russia has been morediplomatic, affirming Putin that they would respect international law (Goran,B. 2017) (nobody can ignore that this Russian moderation is due to thepossibility of important economic agreements in the energy sector between Erbiland Moscow) (Barmin, Y. 2017). For its part, the United States has threatenedto cut economic and military aid to the Iraqi Kurds (Harris, B.

2017).Finally, the UN made clear its disagreement with thereferendum when it was announced, stating that it would not play any kind ofrole in it (Salaheddin, S. 2017).  SYRIAN KURDISTANEfforts made by the SyrianpresidentsThroughout history, Kurds were deprived from aSyrian citizenship until the late 70s.

Most Syrian presidents preferred toencourage the Kurds to unite their efforts to those of the Turkish and IraqiKurds, shifting the issue in this way away from Syria. In any case, the Kurdishautonomy of Iraq alarmed Syria, which feared that it would spread to itsterritory. (Wikipedia n.d. 2017)In the present, Rojava, the Kurdisharea of Syria has been under the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and itsarmed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) since 2012, and they haveestablished several autonomous administrations known as cantons.They are represented in the parliament, the Kurdish language is not forbiddenin the country and they coexist peacefully with the Arabs.

All of these isthanks to its latest president Bashar al-Assad.KurdishDemocratic Union Party (PYD) ‘s goal In 1998, the Syrian governmentbanned all Kurdish political parties and organizations, including the PKK andPUK. As a result, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) was founded five yearslater by the Syrian Kurds (Wikipedia n.d. 2017).The now leader of PYD, SalihMuslim, has stated multiple times that they are not seeking an independentregion in Syria, but to turn Syria into a democracy with equal rights for allits citizens. As for now, a civil war has been striking the Syrian ArabRepublic for six years and the battle is not over yet, not by a long shot(Rudaw 2017).  IRANI KURDISTANIndependent Republic of Kurdistan (Republic of Mahabad)In January1946, as a result of political movements after the Second World War, theIranian Kurds, with the support of the Soviet Union and in Iranian territory, proclaimedthe independence of the Republic of Kurdistan with capital in the city ofMahabad (Mufid, A.

2011). This new republic did not reach the year of life, andin December 1946, it was integrated into Iran again as a result of internalKurdish divisions, the limited Soviet support and pressure from Westerncountries in what was already configured as the Cold War. As of today, theRepublic of Kurdistan, with capital in Mahadab, has been the only independentKurdish State in history (Wikipedia n.d. 2017).The Algiers AgreementThe use of theKurds by different governments to confront each other is a common constant inKurdish history, with the result of violent clashes between themselves.

ManyIranian Kurds were killed in Iraq by the Kurdish Masud Barzani of the KDP. Itwas in 1975, after the signing of the Algiers Agreement between Iran and Iraq,that the Iraqi border was closed, helping to stop the Kurdish factions fromfighting each other and being used by both governments. But in practice that frontierhas been very permeable.

During the war between Iran and Iraq (1980-1988) bothstates strengthened the Kurdish minority of the enemy state while repressingtheir own.Country’s strategyThe Kurds in Iran represents the second largestethnic minority in the country (first being the Azeric), with an estimatedtotal of between 7 and 9 million people, a little less than 40% of the totalKurdish population in the Middle East (Yildiz, K., & Taysi, T. 2007). They are concentrated mainly in the Westernprovinces of Iran that are neighbouring Iraq and Turkey.When speaking about the Iraqi Kurdish politicalparties in previous pages, it was commented that it is the PUK that keepsstrong ties with Iran.

However, Iran has also known how to cultivate itsrelations with Masud Barzani, leader of the KDP and president of the KRG. It ispart of the Iranian strategy to get along with both rival parties in order togain an indispensable role, either to mediate in disputes or to take advantageof the rivalries between both parties according to their interests; and on thepart of Barzani and the KDP to take advantage of the opportunities and maintaina balance between Turkey and Iran that may be beneficial for a future independence(Iddon, P. 2017).  TURKISH KURDISTANPKK’s GoalTraditionally,Turkey has opposed the Kurdish people in its entirety and specially after thefoundation of PKK.  Itwas founded by a dozen of students in 1978, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) madethe armed struggle the axis of its struggle against “the Turkishcolonizing state” (Editorial Staff Le Monde 1998) and it wanted aKurdish-Turkish federation without modifying borders. Turkey’s lack ofexperience in anti-guerrilla warfare and the methods it employed in the region:towns and villages emptied of population, assassinations, tortures, prohibitionof peaceful manifestations, etc., which strengthened PKK until 1992. From thatmoment, the government concentrated its repressive activity while the PKKstrengthened its Marxist and nationalist ideology.

Their violent methods in theregion, and particularly in Europe, made them lose part of the popular support.Consequently, it opted for a change of strategy: To increase its diplomaticactivities and initiatives. These were successful given that they contributedto draw the attention of international justice organization such as AmnestyInternational, they increased the isolation of Turkey and they attained theadhesion of the European Union with the Kurdish cause (Wikipedia n.

d.2017). Turkey’s view in the present InTurkey today, we should not be surprised to see that the main commercialpartner of the Kurdistan Regional Government is precisely Turkey, maintainingstrong ties of cooperation with Iraqi Kurdistan not only in economic but alsostrategic issues. TheTurkish Government has changed its perception of the Kurdish question in Turkeyin the last 10 years, arriving at the conclusion that by only using militaryaid will never solve the problem.

To prevent the secession of the TurkishKurds, the plan is to integrate them into the country’s national politics,allowing them to create their own political parties, running for nationalelections, and facilitating Kurdish cultural expressions. Thus, in March 2013,Turkey and the PKK agreed on a ceasefire and the initiation of peace talks (EditorialStaff BBC 2013). The decline of military power in Turkish politics in recent yearshas meant that the Kurdish problem in Turkey has begun to be seen more as aproblem of political struggle between parties than as a threat of security andinternal integrity for the Turkish state. Thischange of perception of the Kurdish-Turkish problem has meant that Turkey does notsee as a serious threat the possible independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, making ita strategic ally as an alternative supplier of oil and a better partner for thecontrol of the Turkish borders with Iraq. Oneof the main concerns of the Turkish Government today is everything that canhappen in Syria, especially what can affect its borders.

The Kurds of Syria,supported by the United States, are playing a good role in their fight against ISIS,controlling more and more areas of northern Syria. The fact that the SyrianKurds consolidate a certain autonomy could allow the Turkish Kurds associatedwith the PKK, not happy with the Government of Ankara, to have a sanctuary fromwhich to plan and direct their future actions against Turkey. In this sense,the Erdogan government directly links the Democratic Union Party (PYD), themain Kurdish group in northern Syria, to the Turkish PKK as a subsidiary ofthis (Editorial Staff BBC 2016). This link between the PKK and the PYD, onwhich the Turkish government insists is a non-trivial and non-innocent issue atinternational level, since the PKK is recognized as a terrorist group by theEuropean Union and the United States. Country’s strategyTurkey’sstrategy is clear, try to weaken the Syrian Kurds to the maximum, using directmilitary action if necessary (Hanna, J., Sariyuce, I., & Blau, M.

2016).The interesting thing is that in this effort to contain the Syrian Kurds, theGovernment of Ankara has found an ally in the Kurds of Iraq. This is where thetraditional Kurdish rivalry and division is seen: the Kurdistan RegionalGovernment sees the PYD as a possible political rival in the future andtherefore would be more interested in a region in northern Syria controlled bylike-minded Kurds.

In fact, there are many armed confrontations between Syrianand Iraqi Kurdish groups for the control of territory on the Syrian-Iraqiborder (Editorial Staff Al Jazeera 2017). 


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