Category Archives: National Defence

Why US Foreign Policy Continues to Fail in Afghanistan


Now that lives have been lost and we have withdrawn, this ill-conceived operation once again highlights the lack of US Foreign policy capabilities or our understanding of what is needed to protect American interests. Since the end of the Korean War the US has slowly lost the will to build influence and continue to lead the world. The Cold War was the last hoorah for what was left of US influence mostly based on the nuclear stand off with the Soviet Union. Much of the problem stems from the United States inability to adjust to a different world. Most of US foreign involvement since the cold war has been in Asia and the Middle East, cultures that most in Washington do not understand. This should not be the case as it is not in many other western countries and the US foreign service should be able to accept the different cultures but has always ended up trying to impose US values on the nations we get engaged with. 

In 1648 the Treaty of Westphalia helped establish the countries we know today that make up Europe. There were tweaks along the way, but it established the customs of international relations we know today. It was established within the bounds of European customs and cultures and of course held little sway as countries pushed out of Europe to colonize the world. At the end of the First World War the victorious nations sliced and diced the world up to their economic and political advantage. Ignoring the wants and desires of the indigenous population they put in motion decades of violence.  Many countries put together by colonial powers were countries in name only. Following the Second World War and then the Cold War many of these countries broke apart or fell under ruthless regimes that held them together at gun point.     

After the creation of Israel, the US seems to have locked out any further changes, no new countries. This of course left the made-up countries like Iraq to fend for themselves. We refused to acknowledge the different ethnic, religious, and even linguistic differences. The United States has the distinct advantage/disadvantage of being one of the most heterogeneous nations in the world. Regardless of all our knowledge we refuse to accept that not all countries and people will accept our values or adhere to our customs. We are seeing this play out today in Afghanistan. A tribal nation that many have tried to forge into a single country. It will not work. We needed to arm and train tribal forces not a national army. If it was ever to change it would take generations a century or more to make it whole. The United States unfortunately maintains a five second view of the world and has no idea of second and third order effect of its decisions. We look to deal with problems on a country-by-country basis while the countries we are dealing with are acting in regional or overarching religious aspects. In the case of the Taliban, they see their version of Islam as the only correct interpretation.

Biden said that after 20 years it was time for the Afghans to take charge, but who are the Afghans? As a single entity they do not exist. Our presence did begin to push a lot of the country forward. At a minimum woman were being educated. We are now talking to a group that holds a world view front he 7th century and act as if they have changed in 20 years and are now willing to become a part of the world. But all that will end simple because our foreign policy professional has failed once more.    

Is it time to abandon Afghanistan?


In his January 20th, 1961, inaugural address President Kennedy said, “we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.” Over the years these words have rung hollow for our friends and allies. Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia, and others, now Afghanistan.  A saying I heard long ago says, “Insurgents don’t have to win they only have to wait.” Today we once again see the truth of this statement. We have been in Afghanistan for 20 years and have in fact done good things. An entire generation of woman have grown up in a society that has allowed for growth. It is not complete, but we had a start. We are now hearing stories of girls being given to Taliban fighters as war prizes. The people know what is coming as evidenced by them hanging on the wheels of departing aircraft and handing their children over to waiting Marines, so they have a chance to escape. People are bring dragged out of their homes and executed. There will be more horror stories, but we will not hear them as we withdraw and there is no information or press coverage.

The new narrative is that most people wanted us out of Afghanistan but are opposed to the way it is being handled. I am willing to bet that most people did not know or care that we were still there. But we were and had set expectations of many Afghans. This went beyond the early mission of defeating Al Qaida and removing the Taliban from power. Was that the end of it? Where we expected to then just pack up and leave, as many have said? The question of whether we should have done nation building is now being asked and the answer is clearly yes. We had a moral obligation to replace what we broke, their government. What happened is, as is often the case with the west, we tried to impose western style democracy in a non-western culture.  

As we have seen in Iraq, tribal and regional loyalties out strip the concept of national identity. We had a good plan in place in Iraq that armed and trained the Sunni tribes call the Sons of Iraq. When the Shia dominated government pulled the plug on that we saw the rise of ISIS. Instead of trying to build a national army in Afghanistan, a country of little to no national identity, we should have trained and armed the tribes and worked on regional ethnic pride.

Was it time to leave Afghanistan, no it was time to reassess and change our tactics. Biden has said there was no longer a national security threat in Afghanistan, he is wrong. The Taliban control will give terrorist a safe area to grow and plot and attack the west. Make no mistake we will have to return in one way or another.  

Arms and influence, Trump and Biden


1 THE DIPLOMACY OF VIOLENCE

The usual distinction between diplomacy and force is not merely in the instruments, words or bullets, but in the relation between adversaries—in the interplay of motives and the role of communication, understandings, compromise, and restraint. Diplomacy is bargaining; it seeks outcomes that, though not ideal for either party, are better for both than some of the alternatives. In diplomacy each party somewhat controls what the other wants, and can get more by compromise, exchange, or collaboration than by taking things in his own hands and ignoring the other’s wishes. The bargaining can be polite or rude, entail threats as well as offers, assume a status quo or ignore all rights and privileges, and assume mistrust rather than trust. But whether polite or impolite, constructive or aggressive, respectful or vicious, whether it occurs among friends or antagonists and whether or not there is a basis for trust and goodwill, there must be some common interest, if only in the avoidance of mutual damage, and an awareness of the need to make the other party prefer an outcome acceptable to oneself. With enough military force a country may not need to bargain. Some things a country wants it can take, and some things it has it can keep, by sheer strength, skill and ingenuity. It can do this forcibly, accommodating only to opposing strength, skill, and ingenuity and without trying to appeal to an enemy’s wishes. Forcibly a country can repel and expel, penetrate and occupy, seize, exterminate, disarm and disable, confine, deny access, and directly frustrate intrusion or attack. It can, that is, if it has enough strength. “Enough” depends on how much an opponent has. There is something else, though, that force can do. It is less military, less heroic, less impersonal, and less unilateral; it is uglier, and has received less attention in Western military strategy. In addition to seizing and holding, disarming and confining, penetrating and obstructing, and all that, military force can be used to hurt. In addition to taking and protecting things of value it can destroy value. In addition to weakening an enemy militarily it can cause an enemy plain suffering.

Schelling, Thomas C.. Arms and Influence (The Henry L. Stimson Lectures Series) (pp. 1-2). Yale University Press.

It has been asked many times in the last few days, weeks, and months, why are we in Afghanistan and what is the American National Interest. The Presidents last news conference touched on this as have some of his last announcements on his decision to withdrew and news outlets have stated that polls on the American people stated that they wanted to get out of Afghanistan. Biden has also on several occasions said that our goals have been met and we should not continue to put US forces in harm’s way. I started off with the opening paragraph from Thomas Shelling’s book “Arms and Influence.” It is interesting to note that the first chapter is titled “The Diplomacy of Violence.”  I could have as easily quoted George Santayana “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” Afghanistan is a wild and virtually ungovernable country. It was used by Al Qaeda to plan and launch the 9/11 attacks. Would we ever be able to work with the Taliban to bring them into the government, no. President Biden seemed to think so, as did President Trump. Both were determined to end US military presence in Afghanistan. Trump understood how difficult it would be to corral the Taliban so he placed conditions on our exit and while using diplomacy added the threat of military intervention should the Taliban not meet the conditions. Biden on the other hand Using the deal Trump hammed out as the excuse that we had to get out, regardless of conditions. As we have learned from Schelling, diplomacy with out the threat of force is useless. Carl von Clausewitz in his work “On War” declared that “war is a continuation of policy by other means.” Does all this mean that the US or any other country must engage in “Forever Wars’ of course not. What we need to understand is that when dealing with foreign adversaries diplomatically there is always going to be the knowledge of a military in the background. This is not a horrible, brutal, bulling way of existence, but a matter of human nature. Without such a threat Hitler went on a rampage that nearly destroyed the world. With the threat of “Mutually Assured Destruction” the US and the Soviet Union existed side by side in peace. Biden and his government are living in a world of Ideology not reality. With Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban terrorist once again have a base of operations. Why did this not happen before as we wound down our force commitment? Trumps threats were believed. Currently Biden is seen as weak and ineffectual. Why is Afghanistan important? To keep the knowledge alive that the US will support its allies. What now will keep Turkey from attacking Iraq and eliminating the Kurds. What will keep Israel safe? What is going to keep China from attacking Taiwan. Second and Third order of effect must be considered in any decision that is made, not just feel good ideological rea

Afghanistain lesson not learned


There will be much finger pointing and recriminations following the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. There will be Congressional hearings and white papers from think tanks, and none will address the root cause of this and other problems that face the government and the people. The culture within the decision-making process sucks.  

Much of what I am going to say can be summed up by a saying attributed to Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House in the mid 1950s to early ‘60s. When speaking to young congressmen who told him of their ambitions his reply was, “to get along you have to go along.” This is the basic philosophy that drives career government and military leaders as they advance, don’t rock the boat.

This is not to say that there are not those who do indeed rock the boat, but they are few and do not last long. Those in the Intelligence Community are known as Cassandras, from the Greek woman in mythology who was given the gift of prophecy and the curse of never being believed.  While there should be a place for different analysis, and in fact has doctrinal support, it is seldom if ever used. Those who go the route of “Red Team,” or Devils Advocate,” rarely survive, it’s a career ender.   

While this mentality is less evident in the military it begins to rear its ugly head as people advance. To that end those that reach the higher command levels tend to be more politician than warrior. This was not always the case. There is an old story about a Soviet officer saying that the difficulty in planning against the Americans is that they rarely read their regulations or feel an obligation to follow it. Today strict adherence to doctrine is the road to success. George Patton would likely not have made it past captain.

I am not sure this problem will be, or can be, address. Those who write reports for the decision makers have their own form and language. If they are certain of the results, their superior wants they can structure the report to fit the desire. If not, which is more often the case, they can structure the report to be interpreted as needed. An absurd example would be a report that should read, “it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and sounds like a duck, we conclude it is a duck” would conclude more like “… we conclude with a high degree of probability that it is some form of waterfowl.”

Many have touted the results of a recent final report to congress from the Afghanistan Study Group that had listed several courses of action and the resulting consequences. Today most zero in on courses of action from the chapter of Alternative Pathways. The recommended pathway was to maximize existing US leverage to achieve an acceptable negotiated peace agreement. The most risky pathway was called a Washing of Hands and warned of the results, which we have now seen. The conclusion of the report stated that

“With the launch of peace negotiations, the conflict in Afghanistan has entered a new phase. This new phase requires a new understanding. Afghans must take primary responsibility for their own future. The United States must orient its efforts and resources toward shaping the conditions around the peace process—resetting and reframing it in ways recommended in this report—in order to give it the best chance to succeed. It should be reiterated, however, that our troop presence is a key point of leverage. U.S. troops play a vital role in ensuring the continuity of state structures, and thus their presence is essential to brokering a lasting peace. Success, it should be acknowledged, is not guaranteed. But there is a clear path forward. There is now a real possibility of the conflict winding down and Afghanistan becoming a country that needs far less help from the United States. If this happens, the United States can bring its troops home and both countries can move forward as sovereign nations with friendly relations based on shared values and sacrifices.”

 The answers were given to the decision makers, not from the IC or DoD but a select group empowered by Congress. This groups membership consisted of retired politicians and retired military as well as former diplomats and academics. In other words, this group consisted of people who could speak their minds without fear of professional recriminations, and they got it right.  This also shows that the information was out there for anyone willing to see it and think.

This failure of allowing the unpopular analysis to get through to the decision makers needs to be corrected and the culture of fear over being out of step with the mainstream needs to end. This needs to be a major lesson leaned or this problem will just continue.

BIden response to Iranian attack on U.s. bases


Is it to little to late

Yesterday President Biden finally acted regarding the recent attacks on US interests in Iraq by Iranian backed militias in SYRIA. While I congratulate the President for acting, I question the what and wherefore of the attack. According to reports there were several options presented to the president and the one chosen was the smallest target. This would not be a problem provided there was a political or military reason for the target selection. The only political reason seems to be domestic consumption. The other reason for target selection is the impact it will make and the message it will send.

The stated purpose was to launch a measured and proportional attack that would send a message but not lead to any escalation. This explanation shows that the new administration knows nothing about the politics or culture of the region. The hatred for the west is deep and profound.  There are conflicting reports as to the results of the attack. They go from only infrastructure was attacked up to 17 people killed. In any case attacking these militias will always result in retaliation and escalation.

In 1993 then President Clinton ordered retaliatory attacks into Baghdad aimed at punishing Iraqi intelligence for their part in a plot to assassinate former President Bush, and Afghanistan and Sudan in response to the bombing if US Embassies in Africa. For the most part the buildings attacked in Baghdad were damaged but since it was done in the early morning. In Afghanistan and Sudan mush the same, in Afghanistan the camps targeted were empty. The reasons given were once again, to send a message. The effect of these messages was stepped up terror attacks in Europe and the US with the 9/11 grand finally.

Internally prominent republicans have applauded the move while several democrat law makers called it an illegal move. Internationally the Russians complained they were not informed in time to deconflict the battle space, Syria called it a violation of their sovereignty. Iraq was informed as well prior to the mission and likely informed the militias in time for them to vacate the area, at least most.

It is unlikely that this attack will do more than heighten tensions in the region and Iran will likely put Biden on notice that this will only delay the process to reestablishing the Iran deal. As said, I am happy Biden did something and hope it is successful but feel it will not be. It was the wrong action in the wrong area. Biden will learn it will take more force to impact terrorist.

Dr. Pelosi or: How I Learned to Start Worrying and Take Control of the Bomb


After the January 6th riots House Speaker Pelosi asked the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to have the nuclear launch codes removed from President Trump. To his great credit General Milley explained to her that it could not be done but that there were safeguards in place to ensure that any lunch could not be ordered on a whim. To let everyone, know the president does not have a launch button on his desk that he can push anytime he would like. He has access to the launch codes that will authorize the military to attack preset targets. Should he call for the codes there will be a number of people that will follow the “football” in, and they will have the authority to not follow the president’s orders if they feel it to be capricious or unlawful.

Recently 30 democrat members of congress authored a letter with the intent of changing the system that would remove the president from being the sole authority in issuing the launch codes.  What could cause these members of congress to take up this request in unknown. They either have no idea has the system works or do know and are trying to make political hay. I do not believe that this would ever get far but if it were to, we need to understand the second and third order effect this would have on national security.

Should a counterstrike, or even a first strike, ever become necessary the current chain of command contains cool heads and experience in what would be required and to what degree. Compare this with a partisan congressional committee trying to make a split-second decision. So far congress has not been able to come up with a budget or a workable plan to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the accepted doctrines of the time that kept the cold war cold was MAD “Mutually Assured Destruction.” The doctrine held that if any one side launched an attack the other would respond immediately assure both sides would be destroyed. Now imagine that a future enemy, say Iran or North Korea, developed the capacity to launch a nuclear strike on the US or more likely in the short-term China. If they assessed that a US counterstrike would be delayed or maybe never happen then there is no deterrence. All because a partisan group made a power grab owing to their political philosophy that all power resides in the collective rather than the individual.

When next we get a chance to vote PLEASEThink about the individual candidate, regardless of party, and vote for that person’s ability to represent you not some ideology.

Iran vs. Biden


Welcome to our brave new world, which is starting to look like the bad old world. In the last week Iranian backed militias have launched three rocket attacks at American forces and positions including the American embassy, killing a US contractor, and injuring US service personnel. The reaction of the Biden administration has been to label the attacks an “Outrage” but that the US will not lash out, but consider options, Come on man. Iran has in the past tested the resolve of the United States, recently under Trump. The result with Trump was withdrawal from the JCPOA, the Iran deal, which cost them billions due to renewed sanctions. When they attempted to force their point once again by staging an attack on our embassy in Baghdad, their lead terrorist was killed by a drone strike. In June of 2019 Iran shoot down a US Drone over international waters in the Strait of Hormuz. The US responded by a cyber attack which shut down the Iranian Air Defense Grid. Last year the number of attacks increased but the number of rockets fired in each attack decreased.  The attacks also were of very little effect since they mostly missed hitting anything of value with no US casualties.

Today we see death and casualty causing impacts as well as an increase in accuracy. The good news is they are not using their more sophisticated weapons and not using the mass barrage technique of the past. How long will it be before they use larger more sophisticated missiles and aim to cause mass death. If there is no response, it will not be too long. Our allies I am sure are cautioning against the cowboy diplomacy of the past and the Biden administration is more then happy to oblige. While claiming to be assessing and contemplating they can continue to just sit back and do nothing. How will this work out?

In the past, during the cold war there was a military doctrine known as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) that was thought to keep the US and the Soviet Union from using nuclear force. We may not be talking about stopping a nuclear war (yet), but the concept of deterrence is valid. An excellent book from those days is “Arms and Influence” by Thomas C. Schelling. The first chapter in his book is titled “The Diplomacy of Violence.” Schelling speaks of the difference between compelling a foe or coercing them. Joe Biden is familiar with compelling someone as we saw with his threat to Ukraine to fire a prosecutor or lose US aid. Coercion is different, since it is making someone do what they do not want to do under threat of violence. Compelling Iran to stop supporting militias in Iran or to stop exporting terrorism in the region is a futile quest. Coercing them with threats of violence has limited effect but can still be effective if the amount of hurt inflected or perceived to be coming is sufficient to slow down an action. Claiming they were in Iranian waters the boats and crew were taken captive. Secretary of State Kerry apologized for the incident and thanked Iran for releasing the crew. Obama pointe the incident out as a success for diplomacy. Iran continued to size tankers in the gulf and demanding ransom. Most recently they sized a Korean tanker in January claiming it was polluting the gulf. Iran just announced it was releasing the tanker after South Korea released 1 Billion dollars in assets frozen by US sanctions.

The Biden administration must learn how to deal with terrorist regimes, or the violence will increase and consume the region and the world. One teaching of life comes from William F. Buckley who said, “Idealism is fine but as it approaches reality the cost becomes prohibitive.”  No government or political institution can stand if it is based solely on ideology that makes no room for change.

The Iran Deal and social justise


While the nation is consumed by the Impeachment trial, we have not heard much on Biden’s moves to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran deal. Since President Trump withdrew the US from the Iran deal there has been a massive hue and cry from certain segments of the political spectrum that Iran is going to go Nuclear and the people will starve with any return to sanctions. Iran has never stopped its nuclear program and its people were starving before the deal.

The US as well as the EU has requested re-negotiating the deal to allow for the addition of missile development, more stringent inspections and, very important, inclusion of human rights. In two on-air interviews/debates I have had recently with Iranian foreign policy people it was made clear that there would be no re-negotiation and the US must first recommit to full compliance before going any further.

The US and other allies went too fast and gave up too much in the original agreement. Those calling for a return to the original have never addressed what the problems are. I am not naive enough to believe that Iran will ever be in full compliance or that any attempt at reducing missile development or getting meaningful access to all sites will be successful. What can be hoped for is that the level of human rights abuses can be exposed to the world. The daily killing of Kurds and others as well as the destruction of any religion other then their version of Islam must be exposed and would-be during negotiations.

When so many call out for social justice to ignore the abuses in Iran for political means is disgusting. Iran is the chief supporter of terrorism in the world including facilitating al-Qaeda and ISIS supporting Hamas and Hezbollah and the killing and destruction of Kurdish culture and the Baha’i religion.  These things must be addressed before any return to any negotiation,

Trump and Iran


 

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By Paul Davis and Chiman Zebari

Today the world is holding its breath to see the response of the United State to an anemic attack by Iran on Iraqi bases housing Americans. The Islamic Republic launched around 15 missiles at targets in Iraq, some of which were shot down most of which missed the target. The attack was in response to the killing by the US of an Iranian terrorist and commander of an Iranian terrorist group.
Some say the Iranians missed their targets on purpose in order to avoid a major retaliation by the US. The Iranian FARS news network at one point said up to 80 Americans had been killed. The US is saying no casualties. While there may have been no US casualties there were Iraqis injured. So, what is next.
This is also being called a face-saving device so that the Iranian leadership, playing to a domestic audience, can show that they took decisive action to retaliate for the US actions. The operation was called the “Martyr Soleimani.”
The fact is that the death of Soleimani was a major blow to the Iranian ability to continue to export the Islamic revolution. The technical capabilities of Iran have increased in the last few years but the war fighting capabilities are far short of what they need to engage in any protracted war. This however will not fully deter the actions of Iran since there war model has been to use proxy forces to carry out limited attacks on selected targets.
The belief that this is a one-off operation does not track. The anger in the Islamic Republics leadership is very strong and revenge in their history. The President in his statement announced additional sanctions on Iran and justified the strike that took out Soleimani. The foreign minister of Iran told the world that this missile strike was proportional and served it purpose. This is difficult to believe since Iran has been attacking anyone or any country it sees as an enemy for 40 years. What may be considered is that Iran may not launch attacks by its forces from Iranian soil again. The standard Iranian tactic is to use proxy forces which gives them deniability.
The President also said that it appears that Iran is standing down, not sure what that means, in fact the next day there was an attack on the Green Zone in Baghdad. I expect to see a lull, which means back to normal, and then a spike in attacks in Syria and Lebanon as well as a potential Hamas or Hizballah attack on Israel. The Iranian dominated Iraqi militias will continue to act independently of the Iraqi government and under the control of Iran.
It should also be pointed out that the missile attacks were aimed at bases in Sunni and Kurdish areas. This tracks from past IRGC controlled attacks by the PMF militias. Soleimani’s main objective has been to spread the Islamic revolution, increase Iranian hegemony and remove the US (west) from the region. This last is important to understand, Iran sees little to no difference between the US and other western nations yet will continue to manipulate those western nations for trade.
Short of all out war with Iran the US needs to adjust it position in the region in order to continue a US presence as well as be prepared to defend US interests and allies. Based on the resolution of the Iraqi Parliament to seek to have all US forces leave one solution would be to move the US embassy from Baghdad to Erbil and ask the Kurds to hold another referendum on independence, and this time back them up fully. Kurds as we have mentioned previously are the only true allies the Americans have in the region. A truly free and independent Kurdistan would be a game changer. Removing US forces from Iraq would be a financial blow to Iraq and a political blow to Iran and Turkey.
With Soleimani out of the way Iran does not have a replacement of his caliper. Much of the control and personal contacts may begin to weaken and allow for the different actors to operate on their own. Beside the Kurds, the Sunni in Iraq have been victims of the Iranian control of Iraq. It is within their power to vote for autonomy and break away from Baghdad. What has stopped this in the past was not Iran but the US which maintains a one Iraq doctrine.
While so many are saying this is going to lead to World War III I would reiterate that the Iranian are in no condition to wage an actual war. As for terrorist attacks Iran and the IRGC are the leading exporter and planners of terrorism already. The Iranian government is facing a dilemma with a shift in the way the American government is reacting, holding Tehran accountable for the actions of its proxies, and the widespread protest in Iran and Iraq. This is in fact the perfect time to apply maximum pressure. The only thing that is working in Iran’s favor is the US House pushing a new War Powers Act exclusively to stop any action by the US in the event it is needed.
We need to build a strong coalition that will truly isolate Iran and end the regimes reign of terror. It is time for the majority of the government to understand that to do nothing now will result in a greater loss of national security then what they can understand in their current state.

Who are the Kurds Without Googling? By Chiman Zebari and Paul Davis


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The current crises in Washington is the decision by the president to pull US forces out of Syria and thereby ending the protection we have afforded to our Kurdish allies. In the middle of the arguments the president daughter in law, Lara Trump, made a statement in support of the president that said the average American had to Google the Kurds to find out who they were. This set off a firestorm of criticism justified or not. The main problem with the statement for many is that it is basically true. Even those who know the Kurds do not fully understand who or what they are. In order to educate we think it time to produce a Kurdish primer, or at least one about the current Kurds.
To begin the Kurds are an ethnic group not a race and have occupied the area commonly referred to as Kurdistan for over a millennium. They share no common history or culture with those surrounding them other than through interactions with their neighbors. As the region was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire, they became subjects of the Caliph but, like most throughout the empire, maintained their identity. Like many groups there were fissures and differences which can be seen today most glaringly in the different dialects of spoken Kurdish, some argue different languages. Throughout this time Kurdish culture remained intact. Following the end of the First World War the Kurds were divided up amongst three separate countries, Turkey, Iraq and Syria, while a portion remained in Persia or todays Iran. The Kurds have fought for a separate country ever since. As the Kurds became more independent, they began to develop separate political philosophies and parties.
To put into context the Kurds are not a monolithic group but like all other people in the world hold different political views and opinions. They have shown however they are different then their neighbors by allowing for different philosophies and different ethnicities to coexist in the Kurdish region.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is the oldest of the modern Kurdish political movements. Founded in 1946 as a Pan-Kurdish party in Iran it was instrumental in the creation of an independent but short-lived Kurdistan known as the Mahabad Republic. When the Soviet Union removed its backing the tow leaders Qazi Muhammad and Mustafa Barzani had a final falling out and Barzani established the Iraqi brand of the KDP.
The KDP was mostly operated as a tribal entity and existed by the strong will and stronger hand of Barzani. The back and forth relationship between the KDP and the various governments in Baghdad led to a revolt in 1974 in which the Kurds did not fare well. Results of the revolt on the Kurds led to the establishment of a second party in 1975, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Despite personal difference between Barzani and the leader of the PUK, Jalal Talabani, another difference was philosophical. The KDP was more tribal and center right while the PUK held a more socialist left drift. This split was so severe that it led to a brief but violent civil war between the two parties with the KDP looking to Baghdad for help and the PUK turning to Iran.
While the KDP and PUK never fully reconciled the actions of Saddam Hussain in his attacks of the Kurds killing hundreds of thousands did push the two sides together in the face of a common enemy. The Persian Gulf war allowed for a greater sense of autonomy until once again Saddam launched attacks on the Kurds as well as Sunni Arabs. After the US led invasion in which the Kurds play an important role an autonomous Kurdish region was set up and then enshrined into the Iraqi constitution.
The newly established Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) now sits in its capitol Erbil and is the acknowledge government for the Kurdish Region of Iraq. There are a dozen different political parties represented in the Kurdish parliament for the KDP and PUK to Gorran (Change), New Generation, as well as the Communist party and the Kurdistan Islamic Group as well as others.
We have spent some time on the Iraqi Kurds since they are the best known to the American audience. We now turn to the Turkish Kurds who as a population represent the largest group of Kurds in the Region.
While Iraq treated its Kurdish population as second class citizens the Turks refused to even admit that the Kurds were a separate ethnic group. Denying the use of the Kurdish language or celebration of Kurdish culture the Turk went so far as to rename them Mountain Turks. While the Iraqi Kurds evolved the Turkish Kurds responded to their oppression by the formation of the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK. The PKK grow from the revolutionary youth movement begun in the 1960 and was organized in 1974 as a Marxist-Leninist student movement. Moving through clashes with both police and right-wing organization it became a full-blown armed insurrection based on Kurdish nationalism and desiring a Pan-Kurdish nation. The PKK has gone through some evolutionary changes but remains basically an armed revolutionary group based in the Qandil Mountains of Iraq moving between attacking Turkish outpost and working for a peace agreement. This has been on going for 30 years. On the political side there have been a number of parties that have been associated with the PKK. The current party is the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP). HDP has had success in elections even winning a large number of seats in the Parliament in the 2015 general election. The ruling party under the current President Erdogan canceled the results and held new elections which reduced the win. Following which leaders of HDP in parliament were striped of their seats and some imprisoned under the claim of being or supporting terrorist. Most recently several mayors of towns in the Kurdish region were removed and replaced with Turks.
The PKK was chased around the region and at one time were in Syria until Turkey forced the Syrian government to get them to leave. Before leaving they establish a Syrian branch of the PKK which became the Democratic Union Party or PYD. This has allowed Turkey to claim the PYD as a terrorist organization and part of the PKK. While calling for autonomy of the Kurdish regions in Syria the PYD has learned the Lesions of the PKK and have mostly cooperated with the Syrian government until the time of the Syrian civil war. The PYD used the disarray in Syria to establish an autonomous government but did not engage in the war against the Assad regime itself. It has rejected Kurdish nationalism and maintains a Kurdish-Syrian identity. Like many parties in the region it maintains an armed force called the Peoples Protection Unit of YPG and an affiliated Women’s Protection Unit or YPJ. Today the Turkish government is unable to separate the PYD from the PKK in its operations which has led to the current violence. It is difficult also for some in the west to make the distinction because of a similar socialist ideology.
Another which Turkey claim’s is affiliated with PKK, is the Iranian Kurdish group the Kurdistan Free Life Party or PJAK. PJAK started out as a civil rights movement in the Kurdish region of Iran and moved to a violence when attacked by Iranian forces. Pushed out of Iran they set up in the Qandil mountains in Iraq and came under the influence there of the PKK. While adopting socialist ideology it is not known has much the PKK can influence PJAK away from its desire to maintain Persian roots.
Most Kurdish parties in Iran are outright communist or very left. Also, most are breakaways form other parties with the oldest being the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran.
Not all parties are mentioned is this article and much of the history has been severely modified, but as Lara Trump said it can be Googled. This brought us to a conclusion that the average is not up to date on geography, or the Middle East. We can point out so many television shows interviews where the average American on the street when asked about the past and present US presidents are clueless so we are not shocked about Lara’s statement as so many Kurds are. Education plays a big part in this case. The only thing that unites most Kurds is a call for a homeland. We are speaking of upwards of 40 million people without a nation. To dismiss any attempt to achieve autonomy is to ignore history. Regardless of what happens the Kurds, will continue to fight for independence within their respective regions. While it is unlikely that a united Kurdistan can be achieved it is possible to create separate Kurdish states that can work in confederation with each other. Giving in to Turkey will not stop the desire of the Kurds to be free. It is time that the United State, Unite Kingdom and other countries stand up for Kurds, those who claimed Kurds are their allies, those who used Kurds to push the Islamic State (ISIS) out of Iraq, and defeated them in Syria. Kurds shed blood for the world, it is time for everyone to step in and support the establishment of an Independent Kurdistan. President Trump made many harsh statements in the past a few days about the Kurds, first he mentioned that they are no angels, and then he said they got paid a lot of money. This angered Kurds tremendously. As president Masud Barzani replied to his statment, “Kurdish Blood is more valuable than money and weapons.

Chiman Zebari is a Kurdish American author, and human rights activist. She was an analyst for the US Intelligence Community. She has also worked for the US government in other capacities and was a broadcaster for Voice of America.
Paul Davis is a retired Military-Political analyst for the US Army as well as a civilian analyst in the US Intelligence Community with a concentration on the middle east with an emphasis on the Kurds. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at the Institute of World Politics in Washington DC.