The U.S. Is Now Betraying the Kurds for the Eighth Time

A member of the Kurdish women’s protection units in 2018Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

Nothing in this world is certain except death, taxes, and America betraying the Kurds.

The Intercept - October 7, 2019

"With Trump’s thumbs-up for another slaughter of the Kurds, America is now on betrayal No. 8. Whatever you want to say about U.S. actions, no one can deny that we’re consistent.

The Kurds have an old, famous adage that they “have no friends but the mountains.” Now more than ever, it’s hard to argue that that’s wrong."

Here’s how that dynamic has played out, over and over and over again since World War I.

1 — Like many other nationalisms, Kurdish nationalism blossomed during the late 1800s. At this point, all of the Kurdish homeland was ruled by the sprawling Ottoman Empire, centered in present day-Turkey. But the Ottoman Empire collapsed after fighting on the losing side of World War I. This, the Kurds understandably believed, was their moment.

The 1920 Treaty of Sèvres completely dismembered the Ottoman Empire, including most of what’s now Turkey, and allocated a section for a possible Kurdistan. But the Turks fought back, making enough trouble that the U.S. supported a new treaty in 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne. The Treaty of Lausanne allowed the British and French to carve off present-day Iraq and Syria, respectively, for themselves. But it made no provision for the Kurds.

This was America’s first, and smallest, betrayal of the Kurds. At this point, the main Kurdish betrayals were handled by the British, who crushed the short-lived Kingdom of Kurdistan in Iraq during the early 1920s. A few years later, the British were happy to see the establishment of a Kurdish “Republic of Ararat,” because it was on Turkish territory. But it turned out that the Turks were more important to the British than the Kurds, so the United Kingdom eventually let Turkey go ahead and extinguish the new country.

This was the kind of thing that gave the British Empire the nickname “perfidious Albion.” Now America has taken up the perfidious mantle.

2 — After World War II, the U.S. gradually assumed the British role as main colonial power in the Mideast. We armed Iraqi Kurds during the rule of Abdel Karim Kassem, who governed Iraq from 1958 to 1963, because Kassem was failing to follow orders.

We then supported a 1963 military coup — which included a small supporting role by a young Saddam Hussein — that removed Kassem from power. We immediately cut off our aid to the Kurds and, in fact, provided the new Iraqi government with napalm to use against them.

3 — By the 1970s, the Iraqi government had drifted into the orbit of the Soviet Union. The Nixon administration, led by Henry Kissinger, hatched a plan with Iran (then our ally, ruled by the Shah) to arm Iraqi Kurds.

The plan wasn’t for the Kurds in Iraq to win, since that might encourage the Kurds in Iran to rise up themselves. It was just to bleed the Iraqi government. But as a congressional report later put it, “This policy was not imparted to our clients, who were encouraged to continue fighting. Even in the context of covert action ours was a cynical enterprise.”

Then the U.S. signed off on agreements between the Shah and Saddam that included severing aid to the Kurds. The Iraqi military moved north and slaughtered thousands, as the U.S. ignored heart-rending pleas from our erstwhile Kurdish allies. When questioned, a blasé Kissinger explained that “covert action should not be confused with missionary work.”

4 — During the 1980s, the Iraqi government moved on to actual genocide against the Kurds, including the use of chemical weapons. The Reagan administration was well aware of Saddam’s use of nerve gas, but because they liked the damage Saddam was doing to Iran, it opposed congressional efforts to impose sanctions on Iraq. The U.S. media also faithfully played its role. When a Washington Post reporter tried to get the paper to publish a photograph of a Kurd killed by chemical weapons, his editor responded, “Who will care?” ...
Read full report at The Intercept

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