So - why does US spurn Kurds?

The United States has blocked attempts by its Middle East allies to fly heavy weapons directly to the Kurds fighting Islamic State jihadists in Iraq, The Telegraph has learnt.

Some of America’s closest allies say President Barack Obama and other Western leaders, including David Cameron, are failing to show strategic leadership over the world’s gravest security crisis for decades.

They now say they are willing to “go it alone” in supplying heavy weapons to the Kurds, even if means defying the Iraqi authorities and their American backers, who demand all weapons be channelled through Baghdad.

High level officials from Gulf and other states have told this newspaper that all attempts to persuade Mr Obama of the need to arm the Kurds directly as part of more vigorous plans to take on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) have failed. The Senate voted down one attempt by supporters of the Kurdish cause last month.

Why not help the Kurds? They seem to be the only local fighting force that is half-way competent, they are not (AFAIK) extremists, and they are enemies of our enemies. What’s the problem?

The Turks will be awfully unhappy if the Kurds start becoming a regional power and start making noises about reclaiming ethnic Kurdistan (about a quarter of which is in Turkey).

The US wants to be allies with Turkey more than it wants to be allies with the Kurds.

The same is true of the Iraq, where another quarter of ‘Kurdistan’ lies, and the US is allied with Baghdad more than Kirkuk.

Realpolitik at it’s finest.

In fairness, though, it might be better for the region overall. Giving the Kurds their homeland back would probably make them a lot happier, and cut down on tensions from two ethnic groups in the same country both wanting political control (although in Iraq, it’s more Sunni v. Shia, with the Kurds staying out of the way).

The Kurds seem to do a better job policing their area that’s within Syria and Iraq than those national governments, but Turkey isn’t going to want to give up their portion and neither is Iran, so even if Syria and Iraq totally fell apart (well, more than they already have), Kurdistan would still have half their territory under the control of non-Kurds.

Because supplying weapons directly to the Kurds would be like the U.S. choosing only to cooperate with the UK armed forces in Scotland directly, against the wishes of th UK Parliament. Countries are supposed to deal with each other, not pick favored ethnic groups.

Because it would piss off Turkey.

It seems to me that the correct response to that is to say “fuck Turkey” and arm the Kurds anyway. But I’m not an expert on foreign policy.

Then why are we talking about supplying arms directly to the Sunni Arabs, and bypassing the central government?

Kurds piss off Turkey, Iran, Syria, ISILIS, and Iran. Plus there’s an American tradition of using the Kurds for our purposes and then abandoning them.

Going “fuck Turkey” wouldn’t be very smart. NATO ally and all that.

Who’s talking about that? Not saying it hasn’t happened, it’s just that I haven’t heard of it.

We are helping the Kurds. This map shows that the largest proportion of coalition bombing in Iraq and Syria is in support of the Kurds (as judged by the geographic region where the bombing took place).

If the Gulf states want to supply better weapons to the Kurds, how can we stop them? A lot of this sounds like the typical Middle Eastern government whining that the “U.S. won’t let us do X” or “The U.S. won’t do Y for us”. If they want something they should just do it.

This article provides a lot more detail and nuance than the OP’s article: Congress Voted Against Directly Arming Iraq’s Kurds. Here’s What That Means For The ISIS Fight.

Among its important points:

  1. The U.S. can only supply weapons to sovereign governments.
  2. The senate blocked legislation to change 1)
  3. Directly arming the Kurds would promote the disintegration of Syria and Iraq.
  4. It would be foolish to promote the disintegration of Syria and Iraq when ISIL would benefit from it.
  5. We supply indirect aid in addition to bombing: trainers, vehicles, air transport, and ammunition (if you remember this was our “Fuck Turkey” moment).

The facts are that the Kurds in Syria and Iraq have been very successful in pushing back ISIL with the aid of coalition bombing. Why give aid in excess of what they need to protect their territory?

Excellent analysis. I concur. This is more of a play by the Gulf States (UAE, Kuwait, Saudi, Bahrain, etc.) in regards to Syria and Iran, whom they see as their major threats. And NATO member Turkey has been waging a low- to moderate-level war with the Kurds for quite some time–they are unlikely to approve of US and fellow NATO allies efforts to give the Kurds any heavy armament (which one day could be turned against them, as our Iraqi-weapon programs have been appropriated by ISIS.

I would also point out for the record that most of those Mideast countries armaments come from the USA or other Western European nations. So if they go ahead and supply the Kurds themselves (and they do have that capability), it will be US weapons that are used–for whatever the Kurds deem as their interests…which might not be ours.

“Kurds have no friends.”

– Old Kurdish proverb

I found this article in Salon to be quite informative:

5 Strategies That Are Guaranteed to Fail in Iraq

One might still argue that such a limited role is still worthwhile. I’m not sure this is quite as “failing” a strategy as the other 4, but it does not solve the same problem that Wash DC wants to solve.

I think it should be pointed out that the Kurds in Syria are not the same entity as the Kurds in Iraq and have in fact been in armed conflict with each other in the past.

Also, re demanding land from Turkey or Syria, the major Kurdish parties have apparently dropped that from their platform.

So when the U.S. supplies weapons to “moderate” Syrian rebels, which “sovereign government” do those rebels represent?

TIL. Thanks for the update.

They (The US) Spent hundreds of billions of dollars on propping up the regime in Baghdad, to arm the Kurds directly with heavy weapons symbolizes the failure of that effort, and the waste of all that money.

As opposed to ISIS marching through Iraq?

As the article John Mace linked noted, the Kurds are not going to do much beside defend their own territory. One could argue that the air campaign will suffice to help them achieve that limited goal. Personally,I’ve thought aiding the Kurds was a good idea right from the start of this shitstorm. Turkey should agree, both because they would act as a buffer against ISIL and there’s a big pipeline deal between Turkey and the Kurds in Iraq.

You’re right. A more accurate narrative is that they won’t bypass *allied *governments in order to arm rebels within that government’s borders, even if the rebels are fighting some 3rd party, and despite how terrible the allied government might be.

So - why does US spurn Kurds?

Because Turks.