This post is inspired by the Trump administration’s plan to supply the Kurdish YPG militia with “heavier weapons” (ATGMs, heavy machine guns, mortars, armored vehicles, etc) to aid in the liberation of Raqqa. This seems like just another step in a broader trend of a growing schism with the Turks and a growing cooperation / support / friendship with the Kurds.

Way back in the GWB days, the US’s position was pretty clearly against a sectarian partitioning of Iraq or an independent Kurdistan. Perhaps aided by the rise of ISIS, the Iraqi Kurds have achieved a semi-autonomous status, and it seems likely that significant portions of Syria are going to remain under Kurdish control in a semi-autonomous status of some sort. For example, the US military has helped / built air bases in the Kurdish-controlled regions of Syria, and while it hasn’t been explicitly stated, they don’t seem to be looking to turn them over to Assad anytime soon. We’ve even used our troops as a bit of a human shield to prevent Turkish attacks on the Kurds.

There is also a significant Kurdish population in parts of Turkey and Iran. They claim to be the largest “stateless people”. The great debate is: Should that change?

Should the Kurds get their own “Kurdistan”? Should the US help (we seem to be at least laying the foundation for it, if not yet openly supporting it)? What might the unintended consequences be? And what is the process for a group like the Kurds to get their own country? Do they petition the UN? Petition Iraq / Iran / Syria / Turkey? Hold a vote for independence themselves?

Probably. Their section of Iraq is defacto operating independently now.

I don’t think so, at least not more than we are doing presently. As you mention, Iran and Turkey have substantial Kurdish populations and they are not in a mood to surrender and of their territory to a new Kurdish state (the Turks have been in a low-grade war with the Kurds for decades). I really think between Iran and Syria we have enough without opening up a new sore.

You mean like Turkey and Iran cooperating to smash any nascent Kurdish state and Russia and/or the USA commence meddling there, with unforseeable results? Not something I feel real comfortable with.

They could do any and all of those, but I rather think they’ll be saying things like that rather softly, lest those neighbors decide to get together and flatten them (as they have since the days of the Ottomans and the Persian Empire). The Kurds are in somewhat (somewhat; not exactly) the same position as Taiwan, who does most things like an independent state but with a wary eye at mainland China across the Straits.

In sum, while the Kurds probably do ‘deserve’ (however you want to define that) a state, I would be very cautious about staking American power and prestige there; if President Trump thinks Health Care is ‘complicated’, just wait until he digs into the situations in the Middle East…

These de facto independence arrange seem an awful idea me. They blatantly just setting the stage for the next war.

When Iraq or Syria eventually get through their current communal nightmare, and end with a functioning government, with vaguely competent army, fully in control of their national territory (some way off, but will most likely happen eventually). Then their first order of business will to reclaim their respective Kurdish region, and then having just emerged from years (maybe decades of war) they are immediately thrown back into one.

It seems the international community needs to push hard for full independence, or keeping the Kurdish regions part of their respective countries.

And as Turkey will never accept independence, that option would instantly create a new unstable border region, ready to erupt into an old fashioned shooting war between two rival countries, at any time.

A landlocked country surrounded by some major regional powers? Yeah, they are fucked, medium term.

The Kurds deserve their own country. Unfortunately we have a de facto agreement with Turkey that they won’t start a war with the de facto country of Kurdistan if we don’t make it a real country. Apparently the Kurds are ok enough with this now because we’d be in a bad spot trying to stop them from declaring their own official independence. A big problem is the large Kurdish population in Turkey already. The Turks are sure they’ll lose territory if they allow a Kurdish state to be formed on the Iraqi side of the border. I don’t mind maintaining the status quo for now but over time it will be increasingly difficult to justify a lack of support for the Kurdish people who have been our long time allies at great sacrifice to themselves.

No. You have an obligation to defend the territorial integrity of a NATO Member.

The Stainless Steel Rat was right. There are a lot of parallels to Taiwan’s situation. I’d never really thought of it in that light before now.

I’m not suggesting taking a part of Turkey for Kurdistan. It’s just what the Turks think the Kurds will try to do if we support their taking a piece of Iraq. I think it’s possible to work out an agreement with the Kurds where they commit to staying out of Turkey, but it wouldn’t be easy to get Turkey to agree because such an agreement would not hold up well over time.

It is somewhat like the Taiwan situation, however the Taiwanese are ethnically Chinese, it’s not a situation where they’re seeking a homeland, they still have it in their minds that they are the legitimate government of all of China.

Do they deserve their own country?

I’m not sure I agree with that, does every self identified ethnic group deserve a country of their own? That principle seems like it would lead to a lot of civil wars or a hell of a lot of small, insular countries.

The Kurds obviously deserve not to be treated like second class citizens in the countries they live in and NATO & other nations could apply diplomatic pressure to Turkey to try to get them to agree to that but how many other groups would demand their own countries carved out of existing ones if the precedent is set?

That ship sailed a long time ago, surely? Norway, Finland, Germany, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Albania, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Italy and all the Arab states (including both Iraq and Syria, as it happens) are all ethnic/national states, either carved out of larger multiethnic/multinational states or created by aggregating smaller states.

There is a very small non-Han population in Taiwan. But the major parties there, the Kuomintang in particular, gave up any idea of being the legitimate government of mainland China a while ago. Now the cleaving issue in Taiwan is independence vs. eventual reunification with the PRC.

What **ganthet **said - although the ROC Constitution may technically claim governance over all of China (and also, interestingly, Mongolia,) almost no one in Taiwan actually still ascribes to that belief these days; probably less than 1% today.

I think Washington has left the Kurds out to dry/hang enough times. The ideal thing would be to give them a lot of aid to build up that country and make it formal; there’ll never be a better time. The Turks will never cave in, but in Iraq and Syria, there would never be a better time, with ISIS and chaos and whatnot. The ingredients are loose and ready for cooking a new country.

(bolding mine)

But that still shows that it’s a different situation than the Kurds have to deal with. They aren’t interested in eventual unification with anyone but themselves.

Not IMHO. I regard ethnic nationalism with deep suspicion and am on record as philosophically preferring multi-ethnic countries. Ethnic nationalism is to a substantial extent a modern creation and often a rather artificial one ( on point - the two largest Kurdish dialects are mostly not mutually intelligible ). No reason it needs to survive into the next century.

It probably will, mind you. I’m enough of a pragmatist to recognize the appeal, even when it is kinda made up ( like “Chinese”, another fine example ). But I’d much rather see more Yugoslavia and less Slovakia. Gene Rodenberry’s United Federation of Planets will live!

I would say it is somewhat similar in some countries with Kurdish regions, but is of course complicated by the fact that majority Kurdish regions are spread throughout many countries. Some percentage of Kurds in the Kurdish Regional Government area in northern Iraq would likely want to be independent, but overall the government there seems more or less content with the autonomy it has in a federal Iraq. Similarly, the Kurds in northern Syria could declare independence tomorrow from Assad’s regime, but they seem to have a relatively stable understanding that they are going to be autonomous for now and in exchange will not attack each other. Since the Syrian civil war started, there have been pockets of land controlled by Assad’s forces that are surrounded by land controlled by the Kurds in northern Syria without major conflict occurring between them.

So, in northern Syria and northern Iraq, like Taiwan, one of the questions they face is whether de facto independence and actual autonomy is preferable to actual independence and the conflict that could ignite. Since only relatively small numbers of Taiwanese are eager for some kind of immediate reunification with the PRC, eventual reunification is more of a theory when in practical terms today it is merely an opposition to independence.

I get that. But the issue here is whether ethnic communities that don’t prefer multi-ethnic societies (especially ones in which they are a minority) have to put up with them because Tamerlane prefers them? The international legal order has long recognized a right of self-determination, and I don’t think we can recognize a right but then say that it’s only exercisable for reasons which we think are good.

There’s a big difference between, “Things would be better if peope didn’t do X,” and “People should be prevented from doing X.” Tamerlane’s post seems pretty squarely in the former category.

Well, in a perfect world…:wink:

You are of course correct, but one should also be wary of ever assuming consensus. The last Kurd I met was an ardent Iranian nationalist who thought of himself as Persian first, Kurdish second. That’s hardly a majority view among ex-pats I’m sure - still it exist and one wonders just how common it is. The Turks claim a slight majority of Turkish Kurds are anti-independence but given how potentially self-serving that stat is, I’d regard that poll claim as potentially suspicious as well.

We will see where it goes. The Iraqi Kurds in particular will do what they wish and the dominoes will fall or not from there. I don’t think the results will be terribly predictable. I definitely don’t think we should be in the business of propping them up ( and thereby sundering a country that we regard as a supposed ally ), but nor do I believe we should be in the business of tearing them down.

ETA: Also what Miller said.

We can wish for Kurdistan to have its own state but that’s simply not going to happen for the simple reason that Turkey and Iran don’t want it to happen. Both countries would easily overtake the Kurds and I suspect that ethnic Kurds within their own countries would be met with Assad-like brutality, regardless of whether they were militants or not. Worse, Turkey, a linchpin of NATO, could simply abandon NATO altogether, or at least cooperate very selectively.