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 Behind Michael Rubin's Rhetoric

 Source : The Kurdish Globe
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Behind Michael Rubin's Rhetoric  31.1.2008
By Azad Aslan

January 31, 2008

In his widely read article, "Is Iraqi Kurdistan a Good Ally?" Michael Rubin deserves critical attention as the article touches upon some of the most strategic points considered decisive for the future and interests of the Kurdish nation.

The central argument that Rubin raises in his article is his doubt about the long-term U.S. and southern (Iraqi) Kurdish relations and alliance. Rubin develops his suspicion by referring to the troubled relations between the Kurds and Turkey and the Kurdish leaders' stiffened resistance against the Turkish threat and involvement in Kurdish affairs. While Rubin blames Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani of being antagonistic toward Turkey, he makes false allegation against Barzani by accusing him of supporting and assisting PKK against the Turkish military.

He explicitly criticizes the southern Kurds for being nationalists and aspiring to national rights. He states that "maps sold in the shadow of the KRG Parliament show a greater Kurdistan Region stretching well into Turkey. Kurdish newspapers refer to Iraqi Kurdistan as South Kurdistan, implicitly laying claim to southeastern Turkey as North Kurdistan. It is this tendency to exert populist claims across borders that makes Iraqi Kurdistan a force for instability, not an anchor for security." For Rubin then, the main source of the problem for any long-term, strategic U.S.-Kurdish relations is due to southern Kurds' determination to stand for their national rights. Here is where Rubin misses the main point and, in spite of being an expert on the Middle East, Rubin demonstrates his shallow understanding and trivial insight into Turkish politics and the history of Kurdish nationalism.

Rubin doesn't realize that long-term reconciliation between southern Kurds and the Turkish Republic is impossible. Formation and establishment of the Turkish Republic is essentially based on anti-Kurdism. The eight decades of Turkish anti-Kurdish policy holds no significance for Rubin. Survival of artificial construction of Turkish national identity and the Republic itself depends on continuation of oppressive status of millions of Kurds in North Kurdistan, or as Rubin would like us to call it, southeast Turkey. Political gain in southern Kurdistan in that sense is detrimental for the Turkish strategic interests. The neoconservative mentality of Rubin can't see this obvious fact.

Rubin blames Kurdistan President Barzani, saying he supports the PKK. "He (Barzani) tells U.S. diplomats that the PKK threat would disappear if only Ankara offered greater concessions in terms of amnesty, broadcasting, and constitutional reforms, while at the same time encouraging PKK leaders to continue their attacks and, indeed, facilitating their terrorism." Barzani is right to argue that the solution to the PKK question is not a military but a political one. Should Turkey reform and democratize its political establishment on the issue of the Kurdish national question, provide space for Kurds to enjoy their national rights, including right to self-determination, then there wouldn't be any reason for military conflict. Rubin, however, is absolutely incorrect by accusing southern Kurdish authorities of encouraging PKK military activities. The PKK's misguided and petty military confrontation with the Turkish military harms the Kurds more than anyone else.

It is no big secret now that the PKK organization, or at least a strong group within it, is manipulated by the Turkish military and civil intelligence forces. I strongly suggest Rubin to follow Ergenekon case in Turkey. The US administration and Rubin himself know better than anyone else who the real forces behind the PKK are. It is not the KDP that encourages PKK military activities, but ironically it is the Turkish military that benefits more from the PKK.

Rubin exaggerates the level of corruption, misuse of authority, and nepotism in southern Kurdistan to legitimize his view on the sustainability of Kurdish-U.S. relations. Nobody can deny that there is corruption in Kurdistan or misuse of authority or nepotism. These are unfortunately becoming a main façade of Kurdish society and politics. These facts, however, are not unique to Kurdistan alone. It is part of the life of Middle Eastern countries, including Turkey, which Rubin explicitly praises ever so.

Rubin's rhetoric can't be treated as an American intellectual misconception of Kurdish politics. It indicates a far deeper issue than an individual case. Rubin's open anti-Kurdish position underlines a wider conflict or contradiction between U.S. policymakers on the possible path that the U.S. must follow in the Middle East and Central Asia. The diametrically opposed and conflicting interests of Turkey and Kurdistan, one way or another, would force the U.S. to make a decision between them.

The southern Kurdish authorities' slackness to reform the Kurdish political, economic, and social establishments and to reduce the level of corruption, misuse of authority, and nepotism provide ample opportunities to some circles within the U.S. department who favor Turkey.

Southern Kurdistan is a field of experimentation not only for Kurdish nationalism but also for other regional and international powers. Kurds have no choice but to complete this experiment with success. The way through this is radical and rapid reformation of Kurdish political establishment combined with further and more genuine democratization. This must go hand in hand with providing people in Kurdistan equal opportunities in economic, social, and political affairs.

It may be true that the Kurds are not sophisticated enough to grasp the breadth of Turkish-US relations, as Rubin arrogantly puts it, but people like Rubin must understand that the Kurds have national dignity and pride not to bow for Turkish threats even if the US stands behind Turkey.

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