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 Who is Denise Natali?

  Opinion — Analysis  
  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author


Who is Denise Natali?  17.4.2012  
By Kani Xulam -


Kani Xulam, an ethnic Kurd living in America, founder of the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN) Kani is a native of Kurdistan. He has studied international relations at the University of Toronto and holds a BA in history from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
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She is lending her pen to the cause of tyranny deliberately and I suspect proudly.

April 17
, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC, — Who do you think would be the first to voice a sentiment such as “Kurdish nationalist interests” and “American national interests” are not one and the same? The usual suspects are our habitual critics and abusers, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey, Nouri Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, Bassar Assad, the “still” president of Syria, and Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran. But to this illustrious list, we can now add another name, that of an American, Denise Natali.

If you are scratching your head and wondering why on earth I would make such a claim, don’t. Just read her recent piece, “Coddling Iraqi Kurds,” in Foreign Policy. Though a bit convoluted, a careful reading of the diatribe makes this professional researcher a darling of the bigots in Ankara, Baghdad, Damascus, and Teheran. She says in English what they have been telling us in Turkish, Arabic and Persian ad nauseam. Why Denise Natali has chosen to subscribe to their verbal and physical despotism is beyond me. Over the years, I have met my share of clueless Americans who side with our foremost foes without even knowing us. But not Denise Natali. She can tell a Kurd from a mile, as it were. She is lending her pen to the cause of tyranny deliberately and I suspect proudly.

Of all peoples fighting tyrannies, we Kurds alone hold a special place in the ranks of the freedom fighters all over the world. To us belongs that reputation of fighting four countries, three peoples, and two religious denominations at the same time. But God, apparently, thought we could handle one more. We have to now deal with Denise Natali as well. I, for one, welcome the challenge. Imagine triumphing over the combined forces of intolerance and darkness. Our poets will have a field day singing our victories. Our painters will capture the moments with their brushes. Where will Denise Natali be on that most solemn day for the Kurds and Kurdistan? I have a hunch she will drink a cup of hemlock the day before. Kurdish liberation and Denise Natali do not mix. When the first comes into existence, the second has to exit.

But our battles are not going to be trouble free. Let’s just look at Denise Natali and how she is waging a total war on the Kurds and Kurdistan. It is a performance full of lessons for the experienced as well as the rookie. I urge my fellow Kurds to study it carefully. Her initial arrows may be directed at the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), but all of us are her fairest targets. To make inroads into what we fondly call Kurdistan, she disguises her goals as those of the United States. According to her, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is helping the Turkish state to “quell” the PKK and “manage” cross-border Kurdish nationalisms. And in exchange, the United States has allowed the Iraqi Kurds “to become the biggest beneficiary of Post-Saddam Iraq.”


Now that she has proven to all “analysts” the legendary Kurdish proclivity to kill its kind, she tells us more — and it is so good that you wonder if it is God that is talking through Denise Natali! Get ready for a gem here and sit down if you are standing: The KRG is too strong for its own good. And not wanting her Middle Eastern despots to be in harm’s way, KRG’s power must be curbed, she declares! “Principles” are at stake. U.S. has “commitments” to the countries that control the fate of the Kurds. Washington cannot and should not be led astray by the likes of Mam Jalal or Kak Massoud for something as dangerous as “Kurdish nationalist interests.” It is an impressive logic. I think it should be called “Advanced Politics,” just like Erdogan calls that abomination in Turkey, “Advanced Democracy.” 1000 years from now, people will stop reading Machiavelli, but not Denise Natali. We should all consider ourselves lucky for living in her times, so to speak.

Notwithstanding my involuntary praise of Denise Natali, or the gaping holes in her argument, it behooves us Kurds to reflect on her perceived reality. Is KRG really helping the Turkish government to “quell” the PKK? Is it really a contractor of Denise Natali, oops my mistake, the United States to “manage” cross-border Kurdish nationalisms? Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, was in Washington, DC last week. When confronted on the topic, he said the opposite: “When Kurds suffer, I suffer; when they are happy, I am happy.” If anything, there was a genuine undercurrent of Kurdish nationalism to everything that he said in the capital of Americans. If the United States has hired him to “manage” Kurdish nationalisms, the United States is failing miserably to the shock of not just Denise Natali, but also Messrs. Erdogan, Bassar, Maliki and Khamenei.

Denise Natali must know this. For she also says, the KRG is hoodwinking the United States. So if she cannot get the United States to rein in the KRG, she has other options: the erstwhile oppressors of the Kurds, which must be alerted to the rising power of the Kurds in the heart of the Middle East, like the rising power of the Nazis in the heart of Europe. This fiscal year, Baghdad is going to give Erbil 11 billion dollars, she says. Not long ago, it also gave International Oil Companies (IOCs) 560 million dollars for their work in the Kurdistan region. And what has President Barzani done in return? Nothing. No one in Baghdad knows how much revenue is generated from cross-border trade with Iran, Turkey or Syria. It is high time Maliki did something about this. Otherwise, says this self-appointed adviser of our foes, with the KRG acting like a state, “Kurdish communities in Turkey, Syria, and Iran will likely increase their demands for similar rights, creating new pressures for Kurdish autonomy across borders.”

If that happens, Denise Natali will simply lose her brilliant mind. Instead of losing that extraordinary intellect, we must sacrifice 40 million Kurds to save her. As an American, she was born too late to take part, for example, in Andrew Jackson’s war on Native Americans to satiate her thirst for blood. If she had been born a few decades earlier, she would have joined the Klan to hunt down the “Negros.” To our eternal misfortune, she was born in our times, when America had, to a certain extent, outlawed the domination of race over race, a calamitous event in the life of Denise Natali, like the collapse of Soviet Union is in the life of Vladimir Putin. A votary of absolute power, she needed an outlet for her own propensity to dominate not just individuals but also peoples, be they from other lands. For reasons that mystify me, she chose to come to Kurdistan. Apparently, we didn’t know what to do with her, but she surely seems to know what to do with us. She wants us all to go on a one-way trip to hell and leave Arabs all of our oil, which should earn them at least 40 billion dollars per year for the foreseeable future.


Her tenure in Kurdistan is worth noting. She spent 18 years in our midst. She learned our language. She named her daughter after one of us. She worked her way up and eventually became the Dean of Student Affairs at the American University of Iraq -- Sulaimani (AUIS). Her colleague, John Dolan, has written a parody of her time at AUIS. Denise Natali, apparently, liked order (too much) and wanted to discipline her students. Her students, free from the clutches of Saddam Hussein, wanted to experiment with its opposite, freedom. It was a clash of two competing ideologies. One had to give in. The students didn’t want to. Denise Natali began expelling them one after the other from the so called Harvard of Kurdistan. One of the students took matters into his own hands and left a death threat on her office door. The university entered a crisis mode. No one snitched on the student. Instead, a blast wall rose in front of Denise Natali’s office.

As Kurds, we definitely owe Denise Natali an apology. I offer mine belatedly. But I don’t think the errant student’s behavior is the reason Denise Natali is fighting us tooth and nail. What else might have tipped the scales against us? Could it be that she doesn’t like Kak Massoud Barzani or Mam Jalal Talabani? They are not perfect, to be sure, but are they as bad as Saddam Hussein? Denise Natali doesn’t offer an answer, but order must come from Baghdad, she insists. I doubt very much if Kurds agree with her, and while that is clearly not her concern, it is mine—and I suspect yours as well, since you are a reader of these pages and of Rudaw.

I will end my rebuttal on a more sobering note. Two prisoners of Saddam Hussein meet in Hawler after his hanging. Both are Kurds. Both are torture survivors. One has become an author; the other works as a vendor. The writer asks the peddler what he thinks of the KRG? He says, “At least this is a government that doesn’t throw us in jail just because it can. No more Anfal. No more chemical weapons. At least now we don’t have to live in fear like we used to.” This account of the exchange is in the pages of Jalal Barzanji’s new book, “The Man in Blue Pyjamas.” It offers depth and perspective. It is what is missing in Denise Natali’s diatribe, which I am sure she classifies as “analysis” and “information”. We disregard it at our peril.

* Kani Xulam is a political activist based in Washington D.C. He is the founder of the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN)

Kani is a native of Kurdistan. He has studied international relations at the University of Toronto and holds a BA in history from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He was recently awarded an MA by the International Service Program at American University. At the University of Toronto, he represented Kurdistan at the Model United Nations. In 1993, at the urging of Kurdish community leaders in America, he left his family business in California to establish the American Kurdish Information Network in the nation’s capital. He is the founder of the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN)

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