Tag Archives: War

Trump and Iran

 

US_Steps_up_Pressure_on_Iran

 

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.

Syrian Kurds, Turks and Kawa the Blacksmith

Kawa

The recent actions of Turkish forces and their allies have shown their racist intent by treating the people of Afrin as barbarians of old treated those they conquered. Looting, murder and rape are the order of the day. The west has seen a fair share of this type of barbarity. The Spanish conquistadors, Manifest Destiny and the destruction of indigenous people as the US pushed west, any war in Europe, and the rape of Nanking. History has not been kind to the perpetrators of these acts, and they will judge the Turks more harshly, in modern times this should not have been allowed but given the history of the region it should have been expected and stopped. The Turkish Government must be held fully accountable for this tragedy and brought to justice. As a member of NATO Turkey must be held to a higher standard.
The Turks have claimed the purpose of their attack on Afrin is part of the war on terrorism since the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military the YPG controlled Afrin. It is Turkey’s claim that the PYD is wholly part of the Turkish Kurdish group known as the PKK, which has been fighting Turkey for almost 40 years. While the two groups can be considered affiliated politically they are not one monolithic Kurdish movement as the Turks would believe. The PYD and the PKK may believe in the same basic concepts, but they have shown they will apply them differently. The PKK has been in direct conflict with the Turkish military inside of Turkey while the PYD/YPG has never attacked Turkey or its military. Non-the-less Turkey holds to the fantasy that they are one in the same and hopes if they say it often enough the world will believe. The west does not believe and have armed trained and fought with the Syrian Kurds against ISIS since the beginning.
In a widely distributed photo a of statue seen being torn down and defaced, is a statue of Kawa. Kawa has been identified as a Kurdish hero. Kawa is a mythological figure in Kurdish culture. A blacksmith who helped the people of an ancient Mesopotamian kingdom overthrow a cruel king and restore peace and prosperity. This was the beginning of a new day for the Kurds, Newroz in Kurdish, and Newroz is the Kurdish celebration of the new year on March 21th. Kawa is held up as a symbol to the Kurds that fighting for your rights you can overcome adversity.
The attack on Kawa’s statue not only indicates the level of destruction the Turks put Kurds through, but the level of hatred. This is an attack on the Kurdish culture which fits into Turkish history. Following the end of the Ottoman empire and during the establishment of the modern Turkish Republic, Kurdish identity came under attack. For most of the 20th century the Kurdish language was outlawed in Turkey, no books, newspapers, music or celebrations of Kurdish holidays were allowed. Recently these Turkish Jim Crow laws were removed, and Kurdish culture allowed to come into the light. This was a short-lived movement and once again all things Kurd are falling under Turkish censorship. In a country that claims to be democratic one in every three Kurdish politicians are in jail. This includes members of Parliament who have their immunity voted away and charged with supporting terrorism.
The Kurds have proven themselves to be a strong ally of the US and have shed blood for us. They have established the closest thing to a democratic government we have seen in the region. Turkey, once a democratic ally and strongly secular is sliding into a one-man dictatorship basing itself on a desire to reestablish the Ottoman empire, or at least restore lost territory.
Turkey must be brought back to its democratic roots or censured by the west and removed from NATO. Turkey has relied too much and for too long on the blind belief that they must be held in NATO at any cost. The reality is in the new paradigm of the Middle East the Kurds must be protected and allowed to continue their march toward democracy. The world must once again believe that the US will protect its friends. For some parts of Kurdish culture, the road forward is longer then for others, if however, we do not help we will only have one more enemy in the region rather then a strong friend and ally.

The coming of Bolton

 

With the announcement that John Bolton is going to replace H.R. McMaster as the National Security Advisor a rash of reporting has come out condemning the former UN Ambassador as a hot head and a war monger. His early rejection of the JCPOA (the Iran Deal) as bad for the world and his pronouncement that the US has a legitimate right to attack North Korean to end its ability to threaten the world with nuclear war. In an article in the Atlantic his statement on North Korea was called a radical idea and that it risks the “most destructive war in living memory.” These types of melodramatic declarations do nothing to help an informed decision. I would say the most destructive war in living memory was World War II. It must be pointed out that WWII began because democracies failed to confront dictatorships in a timely manner.
When the Obama administration was making its argument for the Iran deal the president told the nation there were two options, diplomacy or war. There of course many options in any scenario, and presenting only the extremes is a treacherous path to take. Let us look at a potential third alternative, diplomacy with the threat of war. We have tried diplomacy with North Korea for over 25 years we no success. If Kim Jung-un is of the opinion that it will always be diplomacy followed by sanction relief, followed by jettisoning what ever agreement you came to and carrying on your nuclear program until next time, diplomacy will not work.
In the case of Iran we negotiated away all leverage and financed Iran’s terrorist proxies. Kim can see the results of the JCPOA and how toothless the enforcement provisions are. Why then should North Korea negotiate in earnest? Presently the answer is John Bolton. With Bolton advising the president and Mike Pompeo at State, both hawks, the North Korean calculus must change. Hawk by the way does not mean go to war over everything but stand firm on principles and work for the best but never shy away from a credible threat of war. This is what Bolton brings to the table, not a crazy man but a firm man. If he can bring fear to the other side so be it. I suggest reading about the Cuban Missile Crisis, perhaps Bolton can chair EXCOMM.

History is about to Repeat Itself in Kurdistan

Hitler and Chamberlain

“APPEASEMNET” Giving into someone in order to avoid potential conflict”

As my readers know I like to connect current events with their historical forbearers. It has always amazed me how many people can recite George Santayana warning that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” and how few live its caution. Today in Kurdistan we are witnessing a repeat of history which bought the world to a great war and in the end introduced us to the atomic age.
Following the devastation of World War I most of the world was exhausted and did everything to never have a major war again. The war to end all war was not, and the mechanisms set up to prevent the next war failed. They failed because the participants refused to accept the fact that there are times when force must be used to stop a greater violence.
The League of Nations and its member states set up high ideals and moved forward with great expectations, but when faced with actual crisis that revolved around its main charter it proved incompetent. The attempts at resolving the problems through diplomacy or attempts to bring the parties to the table were an absolute failure. The inability to resolve the Japanize invasion of Manchuria, or the Italian assault on Abyssinia (today Ethiopia) as well as both the league and the great powers to respond to German rearmament, and the reoccupation of the Rhineland and Europe conceding the Sudetenland, all in the hopes of evading war. One action of the league that may have been considered a success was the resolution of the Mosul question, rejecting Turkey’s claim to the province of Mosul as historic Turkish territory and awarding Mosul to Iraq under a British mandate for 25 years to ensure the autonomous rights of the Kurds. The intent however did end as failure.
The result of all this was that the aggressor nations of Germany, Italy, Japan, and the Soviet Union saw the weakness of the world and exploited it. The League of Nations was toothless without the British or French military and the leaders of those nations were still so traumatized by the last war that a military option to any problem was just not considered.
Today we see much the same happening in the Middle East. Aggressor nations have been testing the west and finding it war weary, attempting to extract itself from current confrontations while avoiding new ones. While viable diplomatic solutions are advanced, with no threat of war they are simple rejected. When they are successful, such as a ceasefire in Syria, it is temporary and used to rest and rearm the combatants.
Iran is currently the most dangerous aggressor by far. Its direct use of its military through the IRGC and indirect use by proxies including Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, Hezbollah and Hamas. These forces have given Iran control of Iraq and Lebanon as well as much of Syria. This control gives Iran a land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean. It has effective control of Iraq and Lebanon and Syria.
How could this happen? Let us continue the lessons from history. Consider the disputed territories in Iraq as the Rhineland/Sudetenland of the 1930’s. Germany marched into the Rhineland to diplomatic outrage but no action and then used diplomacy to take the Sudetenland without Czechoslovakia’s input or presence. These last are examples of the west failing to stop aggression in the hopes of stopping aggression. When Iraq, under the direction of Iran, violently seized Kirkuk and the other disputed territories from the KRG without warning, the west allowed it in the hope of ending aggression.
Following failed diplomacy and a worthless embargo of Japan the Japanized attacked Pearl Harbor with the intent of reducing the US military and removing its power from the Pacific. Japan had shown itself to be ruthless in its military conquests prior to Dec 7th ,1941 and continued it brutality up until the end of the war. The Iraqi PMF has shown itself to be brutal with the mass slaughter of Sunni civilians following its occupation of cities such as Fallujah. This has continued even into the disputed territories. The US can stop this by extending military protection. Recently however the PMF have declared the US military as the new targets and the leader of Sadr’s militia, Abdullatif al-Amidi, has called on the Iraqi parliament to force the removal of all US forces from Iraq.
In the end this will result in an eventual all out war in the Middle East. This war will not be confined to the current areas. As we have seen, Saudi Arabi has been pulled into the battle in Yemen and is under attack by forces trained and supplied by Iran. The leadership of Iran has also said that the next war will result in the destruction of Israel. Russia has already staked out its claim in Syria and Turkey is drifting rapidly into dictatorship set on recovering at least part of the Ottoman Empire (Mussolini was intent on reestablishing the Roman Empire.)
It is always hoped that war can be avoided but history has shown us that diplomacy works best when both side understand that there is a military option available and that the other side is willing to use it.

 

 

What History Teaches Us About the Danger of Ignoring North Korean Threats and Actions

NK over Japan

Yesterday North Korea launched a missile that was capable of carrying a nuclear war head that flew over Japan.  This is not the first time NK has violated Japanese sovereignty but it is potentially the most dangerous. To be certain this was not a test but a message. The message is that NK can and will attack its enemies with nuclear weapons. The world is outraged and terrified, except apparently Russia, which has said it was US and South Korean actions that forced NK to launch this missile. This of course was some of the same logic that certain parties used in the past to explain the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the US made them do it.

We are moving down a path that the world has seen before, and has never learned from.  Kim Jung-Un is a ruthless dictator with no moral compass or sense of the world. He is testing the US and regional powers to see how far he can go. He will continue to push until he is convinced of his invincibility. At this point the world will pay a terrible price for its restraint. It is just a question as to which country he will fire a nuke.

We have seen this with Hitler and Stalin and more recently with Kaddafi, Saddam Hussain, and Assad. In each case the world waited until the need for force was required to end aggression and millions died. The argument has always been the same, use diplomacy, use sanctions and wait them out, use of force will only beget force and war. The reality is that the longer you wait to stop someone like Kim the more devastating the war will be, and war is his aim. He has deluding himself into believing the world will always back down and he will always get whatever he wants. There is no one to tell him differently and his life to date has shown he will always get what he wants.

War is terrible, and nuclear war devastating. I do not want war but the way we are going I don’t see a way out of it short of a preemptive strike and the removal of this dictator. In the end, it will be the least deadly path. History however has shown that we will not take that path and there will be another devastating war that could have been avoided.              

Will the Trump Doctrine Bring Peace or WWIII With Regards to North Korea?

ICBM

With the North Korean launch of an ICBM with the capability to reach the US, the specter of war has crept into the news media. Of course, much discussion revolves around President Trump and the fear that he invokes in a large segment of the left. What history teaches us however is that the direction Trump is taking us is one in which the potential for war should be reduced. I will add one caveat, what history has taught was based on interactions between rational actors, Kim Jong-Un may not fit that profile.
Much has been written about the ideals of continuing diplomatic avenues or increasing sanctions against North Korea, these have been the responses since the Clinton administration, and have resulted in various degrees of failure. I have read that there are no real options other than containment and sanctions. Many analysts insist that there is no viable military option because that will lead to a war where millions are killed. Kim Jong-Un, they say, is only developing nuclear weapons to protect his regime and will not use them since he must know it is suicide.
I must respectfully disagree with many of these analyst, the North Korean military exist, in the mind of the leadership, for one reason and one reason only, to reunite the Korean peninsula under Pyongyang. This has been true since the beginning under Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather. In the third generation of the Kim dynasty the desire is strong to fulfill that pledge. North Korea does not however have a leader with a world view and whose only true military experience has come from an obsession with playing video games. In other words, he does not see using his military or nuclear weapons as a problem. It is a means to an end and will bring him glory and victory.
Ending the existence of nuclear weapons, or at least restricting the number of countries that possess them has been the desire of most of the world since 1945. This desire has failed and resulted in several countries joining the nuclear club. In no case has any country that desired a nuclear weapon been stopped from achieving that aim through diplomacy. What has been effective was stopping the use of these weapons through a concept known as Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD. Once a nuclear exchange was initiated the response would be immediate and total. What made this effective was not the possibility of a destructive response but its assurance.
In recent history, especially in the last eight years, this assurance has been missing and it is causing the Trump administration to face the facts that not just the threat of war but military action is likely to be needed with North Korea. The world is facing the return of a peace through strength doctrine. When President Obama took the military option off the table or severely limited its use it sent a message to the world that anti-American actions would not always be followed by military actions and that diplomatic punishment was of little consequence.
In the last 5 months Trump has responded to a Syrian Chemical attack with a missile attack on the airfield that launched it, shot down a Syrian plan that had attacked our allies, run freedom of navigation drills through the south china sea and moved more military equipment to South Korea. The question remains if these and other activity are sufficient to convince the other side that US doctrine has changed. North Korea will never be convinced since their leadership lives in a bubble, assured of their invincibility. The countries that must be convinced are South Korea and Japan who will face the most devastation in the event of war, and China and Russia who have the most to lose in the event of North Korea being defeated and absorbed into a single Korea under Seoul.
This can be done given enough time and support from the American people and the international community. The center of this new doctrine comes not from old political thinking but from the infusion of business and nontraditional thinkers. This is not the first-time new ways of addressing old problems has come from nontraditional sources. Returning to the concept of MAD it was best explained in mid 1960s works by Dr. Thomas Schelling, an economics professor from Harvard and Yale. In his book Arms and Influence Dr. Schelling showed that in the realm of international diplomacy there is always a military component, unlike traditional belief that the use of military was diplomacy by other means we now learned that there is a coercive part. This last was referred to as the diplomacy if violence. The existence of a strong military by itself was sufficient to bring a just resolution to a problem. The only drawback to this is that the other side must have no doubt you will in fact use your military if needed. This is the part that has been a blockage to effective diplomacy for the US in recent years, there was a lot of doubt and in some cases absolute belief that no military action would take place.
President Trump is now caught in a period of changing doctrine and getting the world to accept and understand there is a change. In the case of North Korea, we don’t know how much time we have where the threat of military force to coerce a decision will be effective, or will we get to a point that we must compel an end. If forced to use the military many will die, Seoul will be devastated as will Tokyo, and China will be forced to move to stop a unified Korea to avoid a democratic western nation on its border.
The world is a dangerous place, made more dangerous when indecisive ideologs are running foreign policy. With a President who is less experienced in diplomacy and more in standing up for principles we have a chance of making the world safer by making war a probable outcome of the bullying tactics that have unfortunately been successful in the recent past.

The New Cold War

Cold War

Recent international activities are beginning to remind me of the cold war, and its heating up. Over the weekend the US shot down a Syrian SU-22 ground attack aircraft, after it had attack US supported Syrian and Kurdish forces who were in combat with ISIS. This action in and of itself is significant and indicates a sea change in US policy. But it is not an isolated incident and is a continuing march toward a new cold war that has been in development since the fall of the Soviet Union.

For those who do not remember, the cold war lasted from the end of the second world war in 1945 until the fall of the Soviet Union on 1991. During this time, there were both political and military confrontations between the West and the East. To correct the wrong impression while the term is “Cold War” there were some very hot spots during this time. From the Korean War through Vietnam and smaller conflicts in Africa and South and Central America, the west faced off against the agents of the Soviet Union in many ways. The main difference is that while the West (US) would engage directly with military force the East (Soviet Union) used proxy fighters.

Today we are seeing a rise in tension and a return to many of the same patterns we saw in the past. Both Russia and China have begun to once again challenge our military by close encounters at sea and in the air and by testing our ability to detect and react to air and submarine incursions.  The subs have mostly been in Scandinavian seas, we have not heard of others. Like the last time however this could lead to unforeseen problems. From the proxy side, we see Russia fermenting a civil war in Ukraine and a direct annexation of Chimera. They have also returned to the Middle East by propping up the regime of Assad in Syrian and this time they have committed their own forces.  China is challenging us in the south china sea by the expansion of territorial claims and an increase in military presence.

It may be assumed we won the last time and we will win this time. This time however there is a major change. The United States is seen by many as a paper tiger. Regardless of what we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan it is greatly assumed we will not commit to a major defense of the west. Some of this can be laid at the feet of the current administration for its talk about NATO and the need for Europe to be more proactive in its own defense. But for the most part, on a macro level, we have over the past few years reduced our own military and shown a reluctance to engage in any meaningful way with the growing threat from Russia or China.

During the last cold war, we stayed out of direct confrontation with Russia through something called Mutual Assured Destruction, (MAD).  The concept of MAD was that in the event of a major war both sides had the capability to destroy the other. In a true sense, it was not the fear of mutual destruction that held back the missiles it was the fact that retaliation was assured. Neither side doubted the other would retaliate. In diplomacy, much the same concept is valid. Why would one side bother to negotiate with another if there is no fear of a military response that could be devastating.

Why has Russia run roughshod over the west, in the last few years presidents from both parties did little to react to Russian military adventures other than wag a finger and level ineffective sanctions. The danger today with the sea change I discussed is that it may take a lot more convincing to reign in Russia and China. This will mean there will be violence and death. Should this however work, as history has taught, then if we are still in time it will be less violent that if nothing is done. If we are not in time then nothing will reduce the carnage.

I hope I am right and we are in time. We must however present a more united front to the world then the fighting and inexcusable rhetoric that is coming out of Washington. It is a dangerous time and it will take a strong front to deflect the carnage and save civilization. PLEASE THINK before you get all bent out of shape over some mundane action of a politician, your child could have been Otto Warnbier. I am not sure if we had a better reputation for protecting our citizens there would have been a different outcome, or if he would have been arrested at all. But we need to try. We need to be that country that other would rather talk to then fight.

 

 

 

Turkey, PKK and the Kurds

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Why the Kurds Must Move Forward United and Why Turkey is Resisting the Future

By Paul Davis

As many of you know, and for those who don’t I will tell you, I am a long time supporter of Kurdish unity and Kurdish independence. As you can see by my photo and name I am not Kurdish. I am an American, originally from New Jersey, now living in Virginia. My opinions are shaped from a lifetime of studying history and politics and a career in intelligence.. I give this introduction so my readers will understand my positions.

Turkey is a country that has faced great change in the last century from the base of a once great empire through defeat and breakup and resurrection. Kemal Mustafa Ataturk saved Turkey from falling into the trap many of the new nations did after the first world war. Turkey carved out a new and forward moving country whose people enjoyed political and economic freedom and growth. There were of course problems, there always are, but for the better part of the 20th century  the country moved forward. Recently however Turkey is backsliding both politically and socially. This is a period of change that can be documented in almost any society. This is not a good or bad period, just one that happens because societal changes sometimes happen faster than societies can accept. During this time societies look backward toward a time of a better life and greatness. In fact these times were never better and the perceived greatness was never all that great, at least not for the average person.

The Kurdish people have a different perspective on the world, one that produced a history and a society different than that of  conquerors that ruled the Kurds. What they have is a culture shaped by the different societies under which they have lived but a society that has evolved into  its own uniqueness. The Kurdish people are not however immune to the traps of history and are themselves now caught in that period of change. Like Turkey they can move forward or try to move back, the latter never a successful option. What they and the Turks cannot do is remain where they are.

Much of recent Kurdish history is covered in blood and social and political alienation. As stated above Turkey moved forward in the 20th century, but left behind its Kurdish minority. In point of fact, Turkey refused to admit it had a Kurdish minority and moved to forcibly assimilate them into the new Turkey, again history should have told them this is never a good idea. A number of Kurdish political movements grow up, and most died, in this transitory period. The Kurds fought the Turks, the British, the Iranians and the Syrians. These fights resulted in the current group of political parties that for the most part have their own military. These include the KDP. PUK Gorran, PJAK, PYD, the HDP, and to the point of this paper the PKK.

While all  parties evolved from a common base of Kurdish nationalism they have traveled different roads to arrive at where they are today. In Iraq the KDP is the oldest of the major movements and as such tends to be more conservative, based on tribal and familial rule . The PUK which broke from the KDP derives its base philosophy from the political left and is considered a center-left party. Gorran which broke from the PUK is what in today’s world would be considered progressive. While philosophically different they have one thing in common, they are responsible for running a government, providing basic services and protection. They interact with the central government as well as play on an international political stage.

Those Kurdish parties outside of Iraq, with the current exception of HDP, do none of the above.  For the most part these other organizations are ideologically driven insurgencies with  militias. Both the PKK and the YPG (militia of the PYD) have recently fought valiantly against ISIS. But is fighting enough to claim leadership. have any of these parties provided food, clothing, housing or jobs to a general population that they govern.  I have just read some of the most recent writings coming from the PKK and they brought me back to my college days in the 1970’s with the discussions of total freedom and release from servitude. The socialist and anti-capitalist, non-statist world to come. The only thing missing were unicorns and rainbows. These are easy statements for an organization to make that has no actual duties or requirements to the average citizen. The PKK took to the mountains to plan their utopia and there they stay, except to come out and kill.

Turkey on the other hand does have these duties to its citizens, and in the case of its ethnic Kurdish population abandoned them. The continual repression of the Kurds and the suppression of Kurdish ethnic identity caused the existence of the PKK. For the last three decades Turkey and the PKK fought a running battle. Changes on both sides continued. For Turkey the transition was from a militarized democracy to an elected democracy to, for the last decade, a one party rule that mimics democracy. The PKK for its part started out as radicalized Marxists, through a form of pragmatic socialism to what they are today, a bureaucratic insurgency claiming socialist values . The bottom line however is that neither side has much to show for its efforts against the other.

Now to the KRG. The Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil Iraq is the only internationally recognized body that has any legitimate authority relative to Kurdish interest. They have been legally entitled by the constitution of Iraq. They have been accepted by the international community as the Kurdish entity that speaks for the Kurds. With this power comes responsibility and restrictions. While many will argue that the KRG is not a democracy but an oligarchy it is the closest thing the Kurds in Iraq have to self rule. Is it democratic – a little, is it corrupt – very likely, is it legitimate – yes.

Putting all of this together;

Turkey is a legitimate government, regardless of how far it has traveled toward dictatorship. Dictatorial regimes are legal entities until they piss off the wrong group. This generally takes a long time. We can look to Iran and North Korea as examples of dictatorships that violate international law and continue to function.

The PKK has no international legitimacy, regardless of how much it feels it does through its Ideology and international mindset, it is not a nation and when it commits acts of violence it does so outside of law and international standards. It is not a state and only a state, according to Weber has “ a monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force. ”

The KRG is a legitimate regional government with international standing, regardless of how some citizens feel disenfranchised by the ruling elite. On the domestic and international stage they have the authority to act as any government entity and as a semi-autonomous region they have their own military, the Peshmerga.

Turkey is a legitimate government that currently has lost the moral high ground. The recent attack on Kurdish positions in Iraq and Syria have been conducted under the cover of fighting terrorism. Until very recently the Turkish government would not get involved in the fight against ISIL. In fact they stood by while ISIL attacked its neighbor Iraq and made gains in Syria into territory claimed by the Kurds. Two important things have happened to change Turkish minds. The first is that the Kurds fought back and not only recaptured lost territory but expanded into territory they did not control before. In conjunction they also did what they have not done before, effectively cooperated. The second, and more important thing to happen was the ruling party lost the majority in the  last election and is in jeopardy of  losing control of the government.

The first item, Kurdish victory and cooperation are terrifying to the Turks who have always feared their indigenous Kurdish population’s desire for freedom or, at the least, autonomy. The second is even more frightening to the ruling party elite who are losing control over a citizenry looking for economic growth and political freedom. The ruling party, the AKP, has ruled over what has become a safe and stable country for the last 12 years. With rising expectations and no existential threat the people looked to change.

The two winning parties need to build a coalition in order to form a new government. While neither one likes the other they both have no love of the AKP. The two avenues to follow would be for the two parties to swallow their pride and form a government or if too much time passes for the President to call for new elections. With no change a new election could be more devastating for the AKP and give enough seats for one of the other parties to form a government. What is needed is a crisis to turn the tide.

For the Turkish government the Kurds have always been the go to crisis and this time is no different. Of course this time, as in the past, the PKK gave them an excuse by attacking and killing 2 Turkish police officers then taking credit. Sending jets to attack PKK positions in Iraq, over and over, is not a justifiable or proportionate response. It is however not an unexpected response given the current state of affairs with-in Turkish politics. Recent polls show AKP growing in popularity since the violence started.

The PKK for its part has continued to foment its version of revolution against the Turkish government. Make no mistake the PKK is well armed and funded, but is impotent relative to its founding purpose. I would equate the current state of the PKK with that of the Colombian guerrilla movement The FARC. The PKK has past its zenith and to use an economic term is past the point of  diminishing returns. The best way the Kurds in Turkey are going to achieve their aims today is politically. The recent strong showing of the HPD in the last Turkish election should be an indicator of what can be done.

Both the AKP and the PKK are opposed to an open democratic resolution to the problems faced by Turkey and the Kurds in the region. To be honest the PKK cannot defeat the Turkish military, and it should be obvious, by now, will not wear down Turkish resolve. Equally obvious is the fact that Turkish military action will not defeat the PKK, in fact it makes it stronger.

The Kurdish future, today, lies in the ballot box. The true aims of Kurdish unity and independence can not be won through force of arms. Acknowledging that a lot of what the Kurds have in Northern Iraq was won in battle, it was not just the Kurds in the fight but the world. At the end of the day it was through politics and diplomacy that the KRG rose to the level of legitimacy. The west is not sending troops to fight the Kurds but diplomats to negotiate treaties.

I have not forgotten ISIS or the other factors that have the region in turmoil. As I said in the beginning I am a student of history and will say that ISIS and the rest of those who are walking backwards will eventually disappear into the dustbin of time.  It is important to continue to move forward to separate yourself from the rest. A warning however is that ISIS will not go quickly or quietly and the world needs to unite to defeat this evil.

Shi’a Militias Back in Play, What is Their Target

Once again, we see the Iraq Army (IA) bogged down in fighting ISIS, this time in Anbar. And once again we see the emergence of Iranian lead militias being called on to fill the gap left by an incompetent (IA)which does not seem to have the capacity or desire to take on ISIS. The call to deploy the Hashid Shaabi or Popular Mobilization Forces can be heard coming from a few Sunni tribes but it is likely the louder voices are coming from Tehran. The problem with this move is that the Iranian led Shi’a militias, while larger than the IA, would likely inflame the situation by taking retribution on the Sunni population as they did in Tikrit. The Anbar region holds no significance to Tehran but is of strategic importance to a unified Iraq. The arterial roads that connect central Syria with central Iraq, as well as control the Euphrates River makes the region of strategic importance. That is of course unless Baghdad or Tehran is not interested in securing the Sunni heartland and has other targets in mind.

Should the militias succeed in inflaming the Sunni tribes and driving them into the arms of ISIS. Then the Iranians will be there to support and protect and move on targets that make sense to them. What target meets the criteria of a Shi’a area, of value to Baghdad and Tehran, not currently under Baghdad’s control. The only answer is the Governorate and city of Kirkuk. Kirkuk has been in dispute since the fall of Saddam and currently under control of the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). Full control of Kirkuk was not a fact for the KRG until the collapse of the Iraqi army following attacks by ISIS. The KRG while having de facto control of the city but limited control of the governorate now claims the prize of full control. The thing to also remember is that the only area of Anbar that the IA is fighting for is Baiji, which has the largest oil refinery in Iraq. Kirkuk by the way sits on top of one of the largest oil fields in Iraq.

So will the US retain any leverage over Baghdad and will Iraq remain a unified nation when all is said and done. Stay tuned and we will see.

Shia Militia
Shia Militia

Does Russia Plan to Stop with Ukraine or Turn Left at Kiev and Continue to Poland

Does Russia Plan to Stop with Ukraine or Turn Left at Kiev and Continue to Poland

Today NATO has confirmed what the Ukrainian government has been saying for months; Russian troops have crossed the border and are in eastern Ukraine. Not some advisors, but troops, tanks and artillery with all the support required. Moreover, why not, the West has given them permission to invade and told Putin that nothing will happen other than economic sanctions. Sanctions that will only bolster his standing with the Russian people and lend credence to his claims of US support to the “fascist” in Kiev.

Unfortunately, most Americans will not know this is happening since the news media is still concentrating on the recent election results and current developments in Iraq and Iran. I suppose it is important to concentrate on who will be the Democratic nominee in 2016, devoting multiple columns on speculation while Ukraine is being invaded. While the troubles in the Middle East are important Ukraine present a larger danger to the West. Why is Ukraine important and what should the West do?

The short answer (or shortsighted answer) is that Ukraine is not very important to the US and only marginally important to Europe. The US does very little business with Ukraine and Europe is tied through the natural gas that flows from Russia through pipelines in Ukraine. The importance of a response to Russia’s invasion is in the long term. For the US, which has lost the respect of the world, is to reestablish the foundations of peace in Europe which has allowed growth and prosperity. It is further important to establish diplomatic boundaries; boundaries which when crossed do invite a military option. These boundaries use to exist; there was some certainty of a response when crossed. With the loss of those boundaries, invasions happen.

The invasion is moving slowly while Putin and his thugs continue to test Western resolve and capabilities. Recent activities, reminiscent of the cold war, are being used to judge us. Russian planes are flying near US, Canadian and European airspace causing fighters to scramble to intercept. Naval forces have also been involved testing the waters off Sweden. The “non-Russian forces”, disguised as Ukrainian separatist, who took control of eastern Ukraine and allowed Russia to annex Crimea, preceded these tests. Now that we have been judge and found deficient Russian forces are flooding over the border. The question is where will they stop? Once a Russian military force begins to move it will stop only when it runs into a force larger then itself or is sufficiently degraded that it can go no further. Of course, an alternative is to ensure it never begins to move.

It is somewhat late in the game to try incremental steps to convince the Russians it is a bad idea to invade Ukraine. It is not too late to show resolve and indicate that there will be a price to pay and that price will be painful. I doubt that the U.S. can pull it off and will need someone that the Russians believe will be true to their word. Germany, England and France, along with Poland and the Baltic states could provide a sufficient force to make a threat credible.

I hope that a united European front would be able to stop a war from happening or at least contain it to a limited war that would not lead to a major conflict. The problem, as I have written before, is the longer it takes to meet this challenge, the larger the war that will come. Make no mistake, unless Putin is stopped, there will be a war.