The major remaining obstacle to Iraq’s achieving political and
military surcease is Iranian-backed Muqtada al-Sadr, and the major obstacle to
Israeli-Arab peacemaking is Syrian-backed terrorism. The Iranian octopus funds unrest throughout
the Middle East, and Syrian tentacles have strangled Democracy from Lebanon to Gaza
to Iraq’s al-Anbar Province
to the Sudan.
hegemony is also inward-directed, targeting its largest ethnic minority, the
Kurds. Lacking representation in this
Ba’athist regime, Kurdistan of Syria (it’s capital is Qamishlo) needs
international support to replicate Iraq’s success in meshing tripartite
ethnicity (Shi’ite, Sunni, Kurd), itself mirroring the inherent strength of America’s
“melting pot” legacy.
Thus, the next move in this geopolitical chess game must
focus upon optimizing legitimate Kurdish interests in Syria—not withstanding the Turkish-PKK conflict—for
it promises incremental isolation of Iran’s mullahs. (NATO forces in Afghanistan
must combat al-Qaeda’s Pakistani sanctuaries on Iran’s eastern border is vital, but
tangential to the focus of this piece.)
The Bulletin has published two essays addressing Syria’s status as the lynchpin of Middle East strife by one of the authors of this piece
(Dr. Sklaroff). One discussed how
President al-Assad’s inner-circle had been implicated by the UN in the
assassination of Lebanon’s
former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005, and continued to be complicit in an
accumulating list of deaths of and injuries to Lebanese legislators and
journalists (6/12/2006). The other
lamented actions that legitimized al-Assad’s anti-Americanism (2/21/2007). Both proposed taking urgent actions against
this renegade regime, updated herein.
Happy New Year?
On their New Year (Newroz), March 12, 2004, a full-scale
Kurdish uprising began in Syria,
clamoring for limited autonomy.
President Bashar Assad’s “ethnic cleansing” repression yielded 85 killed,
hundreds injured, and five thousand arrested.
Since then, detainees have been tortured.
On March 20, 2008, this spring festival celebration was
marred by clashes between security forces and Kurds; three Kurds were killed
and dozens were wounded. Syria, having
deployed 10,000 security forces, intelligence services, police, armed Ba’ath
loyalist, military forces (five different terror groups) to all cities in the northern
Kurdish-dominated region, accuses the Kurds—20% of its population—of treason
and alliances with Americans and Israelis.
According to Refugees International, this unrest stems from
a 1962 census, which stripped Kurds of their citizenship rights. Even if Kurds proved Syrian-residence dating
from Ottoman Empire or the French mandate, or if
they had served in the military, they still lost their nationality. Since then, even if they met requirements for
(re)gaining citizenship (five-year residency, Arabic-speaking, non-criminal,
legally-competent, physically-fit, etc.), they were unable to acquire
recognition. As a result, Arabs were
resettled on confiscated land in the northeast region—rich in natural
resources—to buffer Syrian and Turkish Kurds.
This “Arabization policy” has resulted in rendering its
300,000 Kurds “stateless foreigners” (ajanib
in Arabic) and subject to oppression. Syria’s Constitution
affords no protection for Kurds—or, indeed, for any other minorities—and they
have been rendered “non-citizens” and thereby deprived of basic rights to
obtain basic social services.
They cannot own property, vote, be publicly employed, travel
freely within the country, obtain passports, or even practice certain
professions (such as medicine or teaching). Couples are deemed “single” and, thus, cannot
share a hotel room or register their children. These 100,000 children of unrecognized
marriages (maktoumeen) are denied
access to education, food subsidies and healthcare and, thus, are forced to
work…aspiring to menial careers of cotton-picking, cigarette-selling and
Some Kurds have attempted to be smuggled abroad, after which
time they have sought refugee status.
Their plight—particularly after the March, 2004 uprising—prompted
supportive actions from international organizations such as the European Union
and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees; they cited unresolved violations of
Article 3 of the Syrian Nationality Act.
As a result, al-Assad asserted new legislation was being
drafted to resolve the arbitrariness of the 1962 census…but none has emerged. Instead, in late 2007, he distributed
identification cards to 20,000 Druze in the Golan Heights
(who had not accepted Israeli citizenship) to show that they “belong to the
Clearly, political priorities had again
As recently as this past summer, the Human Rights Committee—the
body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by its State parties—again called upon
Syria to “protect and promote the rights of non-citizen Kurds.”
claims Kurds, emboldened by the success of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish
region, engage in insurrection with help from foreigners. Kurds’ counter-claim is that they merely seek
democracy, implementation of a form of federalism that will afford them
It is ironic, also, that the 40 million Kurds are non-Arab,
predominantly-Sunni Muslims, inhabiting a mountainous region spanning northwest
Iran, northeast Iraq, east Turkey, northeast Syria, and a small community in
Armenia. Despite being co-religionists,
they have become inveigled in Syria’s
support of the (Islamic radicals vs. Judeo-Christian) Clash of Civilizations.
provides a model for how to resolve the tug-of-war between nationalism and
The Iraqi Constitution allows for its eighteen provinces to
elect to congeal their resources to join into cooperative territories. It might even be possible to apply the
Kurdish Peshmerga model (dating from
the 1920’s) when authorizing local (Sunni/Shi’ite) militias to police their own
neighborhoods, to relate with indigenous populations with which they harbor
This would be akin to America’s state-level National
Guards that coexist under the auspices of the national military (controlled by
a representative central government). It
would not undermine the Iraqi army’s efforts to protect borders (as has
increasingly been achieved along its Syrian frontier) and to defeat
out-of-control private brigades (e.g.,
the Mahdi Army).
All the while, quasi-autonomous Kurdistan serves as a
homeland to which Kurds living abroad emigrate and pay visits, just as Israel
interrelates with (and enriches) Jews living in the Diaspora. Similarly, other countries could be
encouraged (gently or more forcibly) to allow their peoples to mesh a countrywide
sense of patriotism with a local sense of pride.
Because the nations comprising the Middle East were
arbitrarily created after World War I—following defeat of the Ottoman
Empire—unrest among definable sub-groups constantly threatens
their stability. America must help them to evolve
from dictatorship to democracy, from autocracy to freedom, from militarism to
free-market economies, from suppression of human rights to the creation of
city-states that can flourish in this new millennium. This modernization effort must include legitimizing
nationalistic urges, for resolving such chronic conflict would enhance creation
of a durable peace in this volatile region.
One excellent example of a democratic and free-market region is the
Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq.
While staying-the-course of achieving geopolitical goals
that have animated the Bush Doctrine (formulated after 9-11 to fight Islamo-Fascism),
can help them to tack towards belated recognition of the need to grant
subpopulations a degree of autonomy and self-actualization, affording them the
ability to vent pent-up frustrations and to honor legitimate aspirations.
As the United States
envisions a diminution of involvement within Iraq, engendered has been a country
that respects women’s rights and human rights.
Just as Iraq
recognizes the right of self-determination for definable nationalities, America
will do well to empower whole populations elsewhere that nurture traditions
that transcend artificial boundaries.
serves as a useful target for the ongoing struggle to liberate peoples such as
the Kurds, for their freedom will necessarily undermine despots who aspire to impose
Sharia Law locally and internationally.
Sultanates and Islamic Republics that accommodate minorities are just
fine; worldwide caliphates under Dhimmi are not.
Finally, Free World leaders need to answer the following
question: Why there are 22 Arab states,
but not a single Kurdish state?