[WSMDiscuss] Kurdistan in movement… : Barzani on the Kurdish referendum : 'We refuse to be subordinates' (The Guardian) / We owe the Kurds justice (Bernard-Henri Lévy)

Graeber,D D.Graeber at lse.ac.uk
Mon Sep 25 00:04:50 CEST 2017

oh where did you appeal to me?
what you write here sounds pretty on target to me

On 24 Sep 2017, at 10:50 pm, Jai Sen <jai.sen at cacim.net<mailto:jai.sen at cacim.net>> wrote:

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Greetings all
            I’m doing this post further to my post as below, on the ‘Kurdish referendum’ that is meant to take place tomorrow, September 25, towards bringing out some of the full implications of what is happening in that region.
            In short, I got an off list comment from a friend I had bcc’d in, helping me to understand that the situation in the region is very complex, and that the push for a referendum is by no means necessarily all positive :
I'm not an expert on this by any measure, but I'm not certain this is good news. My understanding is that Barzani is buddies with Erdogan. He's a rentier comprador nationalist who made a deal with the US occupation to run this protection racket he calls independence. An independent Iraqi Kurdistan fits exactly into the balkanizing strategy pushed by the US/Saudi/Israeli coalition from the beginning for iraq -- how opposed are they really i wonder? Barzani's forces are regularly antagonistic to other Kurdish organizations (PKK/YPG/YPJ), both militarily and propagandistically, along with antagonizing local Yezidi populations who don't fit the model of a homogenous kurdish ethnicity. While a few hundred miles away [in Rojava] another group of Kurds are leading a revolution against 5000 years of patriarchy and rejecting the whole paradigm of nation-states, I'm not sure that this kind of Kurdish nationalism is the right thing to celebrate.
            To get clarity on this, we consulted someone who is an expert on the region and who has specifically written on it, Salvatore Engel-Dimauro, Chief Editor of the journal Capitalism Nature Socialism, and where after some exchange I asked Saed (as he is known) if he would give me a short text I could post here.
            Here is what he has very kindly sent me, at extremely short notice :
“The referendum is a means for the Barzani faction to centralise power, using Kurdish self-determination to gain greater legitimacy within Kurdish communities within as well as beyond the KRG. The rush for the referendum could be related to the current, arguably more favourable conjuncture. The Saudi and Persian Gulf dictatorships are too busy with curtailing Iranian state’s expansionary aims (they might even want an independent Barzani government on their side to buffer against Iran). The US and Russia governments are virtually deadlocked in Syria, to the Ba’athists’ delight. Once they attain an independent state, possibly buying even more arms from the US and client states (e.g., the UK) with the money made from foreign investments into fossil fuel extraction, the Barzani clan could even be enrolled (again by the US), eventually, in a campaign aimed at destroying the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, once the PYD are deemed expendable to US imperial interests (and Russia would be just as glad to be rid of the PYD, for different motives). The KRG Barzani regime in fact already undermines Rojava with embargoes and through political sabotage by way of the Kurdish National Council within Rojava.
“[On the other hand, the] Erdogan regime and the Kemalists in Turkey are against the referendum, as far as I know, because of the precedent it signifies relative to Kurdish self-determination within Turkey. I would bet also that the Iranian government are against the referendum for similar reasons. So [, and in short,] the referendum opens up possibilities more for the reactionary sides of Kurdish politics while precluding leftist alternatives altogether.”
            So a lot of food for thought, and reflection, on the referendum tomorrow.  Though I knew I was on unfamiliar ground, and in general that it was complex ground – and given this, appealed in my post to David Graeber, someone I know who knows the terrain well, for a comment -, I apologise here for giving the referendum as much of a positive spin as I did yesterday, without knowing the terrain.
            Thanks very much indeed Saed, for giving me this text and for helping me - and I hope, all of us - understand the issues better.

On Sep 23, 2017, at 10:10 PM, JS CACIM <jai.sen at cacim.net<mailto:jai.sen at cacim.net>> wrote:

Saturday, September 23, 2017
Kurdistan in movement…
[A historic independence referendum for Iraqi Kurdistan<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_Kurdistan>, long in planning, is scheduled to be held tomorrow / day after tomorrow, on September 25 2017 – but is opposed by a range of states, including “the rest of Iraq, the US, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the UK, France, the European Union and the Arab League” :
Barzani on the Kurdish referendum : 'We refuse to be subordinates'
Martin Chulov and Paul Johnson, The Guardian
We owe the Kurds justice
Bernard-Henri Lévy
“The Kurdish referendum is not an act of force. It is a right. It is a debt. It is a major landmark for a great people who have given immeasurably to the world. They have given us the Peshmerga, who liberated and protect the last Christian populations of the Middle East. For centuries, they have been one of the wellsprings of the enlightened Islam that, in the secret recesses of the soul no less than in the fury of battle, remains the best response in the Middle East and around the world, to the curse of radical Islam. The world must honour the Kurdish people as they have honoured us.”
See also :
Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum, 2017
An independence referendum for Iraqi Kurdistan<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_Kurdistan> has been scheduled to be held on 25 September 2017. The result will be binding[1]<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_Kurdistan_independence_referendum,_2017#cite_note-1>[2]<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_Kurdistan_independence_referendum,_2017#cite_note-2>[3]<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_Kurdistan_independence_referendum,_2017#cite_note-3> for the Kurdistan Regional Government<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurdistan_Regional_Government> (KRG), but its legality has been rejected by the federal government<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_government_of_Iraq> of Iraq<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq>.
It was originally planned to be held in 2014 amidst controversy and dispute between the regional and federal governments.[4]<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_Kurdistan_independence_referendum,_2017#cite_note-planned-4> Longstanding calls for Kurdish independence[5]<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_Kurdistan_independence_referendum,_2017#cite_note-5> gained impetus following the Northern Iraq offensive<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Iraq_offensive_%28August_2014%29> by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_State_in_Iraq_and_the_Levant> in which Baghdad-controlled forces<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_security_forces> abandoned some areas, which were then taken by the Peshmerga<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peshmerga> and controlled de facto by the Kurds.
The referendum was announced and delayed on several occasions[6]<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_Kurdistan_independence_referendum,_2017#cite_note-postpone-6>[7]<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_Kurdistan_independence_referendum,_2017#cite_note-nonbinding-7> as Kurdish forces co-operated with the Iraqi central government for the liberation of Mosul,[8]<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_Kurdistan_independence_referendum,_2017#cite_note-after_liberation-8> but by April 2017 it was being seen as happening some time in 2017.[9]<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_Kurdistan_independence_referendum,_2017#cite_note-will_2017-9>
On 7 June 2017, President Masoud Barzani<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masoud_Barzani> held a meeting with the Kurdistan Democratic Party<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurdistan_Democratic_Party> (KDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriotic_Union_of_Kurdistan> (PUK), the Kurdistan Islamic Union<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurdistan_Islamic_Union> (KIU), the Kurdistan Islamic Movement<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurdistan_Islamic_Movement> (KIM), the Kurdistan Communist Party<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurdistan_Communist_Party>, the Kurdistan Toilers Party<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurdistan_Toilers_Party>, the Kurdistan Toilers and Workers Party, the Kurdistan Development and Reform Party, the Erbil Turkmen<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_Turkmens> List, the Iraqi Turkmen Front<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_Turkmen_Front>, the Turkmen Development Party<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkmen_Democratic_Movement>, the Armenian List in the Kurdistan Parliament, the Assyrian Democratic Movement<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assyrian_Democratic_Movement> and the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Popular Council<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaldean_Syriac_Assyrian_Popular_Council>, where the independence referendum was confirmed to be held on 25 September 2017.[10]<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_Kurdistan_independence_referendum,_2017#cite_note-10> The Iraqi government declared victory over the Islamic State in Mosul on 10 July 2017.
            David, any comment ?

Barzani on the Kurdish referendum: 'We refuse to be subordinates'

Exclusive: Iraq’s Kurdish leader tells the Guardian why the independence vote is so vital, and how he will defy global opposition

[A pro-independence rally in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.]
A pro-independence rally in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Photograph: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images

Martin Chulov<https://www.theguardian.com/profile/martin-chulov> and Paul Johnson<https://www.theguardian.com/profile/pauljohnson> in Erbil, northern Iraq

Friday 22 September 2017 10.40 BST Last modified on Friday 22 September 2017 22.00 BST

Iraq’s Kurdish leader, Masoud Barzani, is on the edge of defying overwhelming international opposition to take the Kurds<https://www.theguardian.com/world/kurds> to a landmark referendum he says will end the region’s role in a broken, sectarian Iraq, and pave the way to independence.

Speaking days before the ballot, scheduled for Monday, Barzani said the majority of the global community had underestimated the determination of the Kurds. It had also, he claimed, made a miscalculation in believing that his intention to hold the ballot was a “pressure card” designed to draw concessions, rather than a tangible first step towards a long-held goal of sovereignty.

“From world war one until now, we are not a part of Iraq<https://www.theguardian.com/world/iraq>,” he said. “It’s a theocratic, sectarian state. We have our geography, land and culture. We have our own language. We refuse to be subordinates.

“The parliament in Baghdad is not a federal parliament. It’s a chauvinistic, sectarian parliament. Trust is below zero with Baghdad,’ Barzani said at his presidential palace in the mountains beyond Erbil – the ruined city of Mosul 50 miles away, a border with Iran to the east, and Syria and Turkey to the west.

[Masoud Barzani]
Barzani: ‘Is it a crime to ask our people to express themselves over their future?’ Photograph: Azad Lashkari/Reuters

The language coming from Baghdad in the south has been equally forceful, predicting violence if the referendum goes ahead. And Haider al-Abadi, the Iraqi prime minister, says that if that happens, military intervention will follow<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/16/iraqi-leader-warns-kurds-over-independence-referendum-violence>.

Barzani, a slight figure walking with a sway and invariably clad in the studied simplicity of khaki, has led the Kurds of Iraq for 12 years, the last two as a de facto president of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north of post-Saddam Iraq. His burden, and his cause, throughout a lifetime as a revolutionary, then statesman, has been to transform aspirations into sovereignty. Ranged against him – for now at least – is the rest of Iraq, the US, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the UK, France, the European Union and the Arab League. In favour is Israel, a declaration he could probably have done without.

The vitriol between Baghdad and Erbil has a real manifestation on the ground. As part of the post-Iraq war settlement, the Kurdistan region was guaranteed annual injections of money from central funds, but that agreement collapsed amid a row over oil receipts.

Now, at first sight, there is a mass of construction work in and around the city, which is home to 850,000 people. Up close, the view is different: stalled construction, immobile cranes, the skeletons of half-finished skyscrapers sending out the message: no money. A debt of at least $20bn (£14.7bn) and fickle revenue stream add little comfort.

Along streets festooned with independence flags, past cars bearing posters and the ubiquitous image of Barzani, through three reinforced barriers, and three sets of armed guards, the Guardian is shown into Barzani’s conference room, ushered into the same seats occupied in recent weeks by the US defence secretary, James Mattis, and secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and General Qassem Suleimani of Iran - and by the UK defence secretary, Michael Fallon, only 24 hours before. All of them told him: don’t do it.

[A Kurdish boy sells banners supporting the referendum in Erbil.]
A Kurdish boy sells banners supporting the referendum in Erbil. Photograph: Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters

But for 71-year-old Barzani, who has led the Kurdistan Democratic Party since 1979, having succeeded his father, it may be now or never.

Barzani has been fired by a sense of purpose ever since he joined the Peshmerga at the age of 16: “There are so many of us who have fallen and given their souls for this fight.”

Now, with the anticipated fall of Isis, he has another card to play<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/24/kurds-see-historic-chance-advance-cause-ruins-islamic-state>.

“In 2015 I told President [Barack] Obama ... that the partnership with Iraq had failed. At the time we agreed to concentrate on the fight against Isis, so we left it at that.

“Is it a crime to ask our people to express themselves over what they want for the future?” asked Barzani. “It was surprising to see the reaction from the international community. Where is your democracy now? Where are the UN charters? Where is the respect for freedom of expression? After the big sacrifice of the Peshmerga and breaking the myth of Isis, we thought they would respect this right.”

Barzani appeared rattled by the intensity and volume of the opposition to the ballot. On Thursday, Washington released the latest of three increasingly strident statements condemning the poll. Iran and Turkey fear for regional stability and for how an almost certain win in Iraq would galvanise Kurdish minorities in their own countries, as well as Syria.

The multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk, which has been fought over by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen throughout the ages, and controlled by the Kurdistan regional government for the past three years, has been included in the referendum<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/19/curfew-imposed-iraqi-city-kirkuk-before-kurdish-independence-vote>. The move led Suleimani and Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of Iraq’s Shia militia, to threaten military force to retake the city.

The Iraqi government continues with its message that the referendum is in breach of the constitution and a potential trigger for the breakdown of the country, which was declared independent in 1932 when the post-Ottoman British mandate officially ended. To that charge, Barzani argued Iraq was a consequence of the Sykes-Picot document of 1916, a secret British-French carve-up which delineated borders: “The work of officials with a pencil and map.”

Barzani said he had been given no reason to change his mind, or the date, insisting that all offers put to him had centred on reverting to negotiations with Baghdad, which have repeatedly failed in the 14 years since the ousting of Saddam Hussein.

He said the referendum was a means to an end “but not the end itself”, and that post-referendum negotiations with Baghdad and regional partners could start within the next two years.

Asked what would be required for a postponement, Barzani said it would only be the offer of a UN mandated solution, with a prescribed agenda and timeline.

“Why would we enter into an open agenda, not knowing the alternative? We are not going to do that. It would need a real agenda, with a specific timeframe and the supervision of Unami [UN assistance mission in Iraq].

“Baghdad must come forward with a concept on how we can negotiate, being two good neighbours, within a timeframe.”

[An Iranian Kurdish woman takes a selfie with a man at a gathering near Erbil to urge people to vote in the referendum.]
An Iranian Kurdish woman takes a selfie with a man at a gathering near Erbil to urge people to vote in the referendum. Photograph: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images

The referendum ballot asks: “Do you want the Kurdistan region and the Kurdistani areas outside the region’s administration to become an independent state?”

It sets no pathway towards sovereignty and has no administrative mechanism for any immediate changes to dealings between Baghdad and Erbil.

Attempting to allay fears that the referendum would set a dangerous precedent by creating a de-facto partition of Iraq along ethnic lines, Barzani said: “This would be a nation state, not built on one ethnic group. It would be based on citizenship.”

And with that the president is off: there are more rallies to address, more envoys to confront.

There was a last-minute boost: an appearance in Sulaimaniya alongside Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, the wife of Jalal Talabani, the stricken leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the second clan-based party in the Kurdish north, which, after some ambivalence, has fallen in behind the referendum. The appearance offers a rare moment of unity before the ballot.

But there are dark warnings from some long-time observers of the Kurds’ struggle towards statehood. “They want to become a second Israel,” said one. “But they could become a second Palestine.”

We owe the Kurds justice
Bernard-Henri Lévy
Contributed to The Globe and Mail
14 hours ago September 23, 2017


Bernard-Henri Lévy is a writer and documentary filmmaker. His film Peshmerga!, portrayed the struggle along the 1,000-kilometre front line separating the Kurds from Islamic State.

The opposition of the international community to the approaching Kurdish referendum is a shame.

We are talking about a people who have been deported, gassed and pushed into the mountains where, for a century, the Kurds have mounted an exemplary resistance to forces imposed on them.

Theirs is a region that finally gained autonomy with the fall of Saddam Hussein – a region that, when the tsunami of the Islamic State crashed over ancient Mesopotamia in 2014 and the Iraqi army took flight, was the first to organize a counteroffensive. Since then, over a front a thousand kilometres long, the Iraqi Kurds have held off the barbarians and, thus, saved Kurdistan, Iraq and our shared civilization.

And it was the Kurds again who, in the run-up to the battle of Mosul, went on the offensive on the Nineveh Plains, opened the gates to the city and, through their courage, enabled the coalition to strike at the heart of the Islamic State.

But now that the time has come to settle up, instead of thanking the Kurds, the world – and the United States in particular – is telling them, with thinly veiled cynicism, "Sorry, Kurdish friends, you were so useful in confronting Islamist terror, but, uh, your timing is not so good; we don't need you any more, so why don't you just go on home? Thanks, again – see you next time."

The timidity of the international community in the face of the Sept. 25 referendum on an independent Kurdistan is a trifecta of indignity, absurdity and historic miscalculation.

The referendum is thought to distract attention from the common fight against the Islamic State and interfere with the Iraqi elections scheduled for next year: but everyone knows, except when they choose not to admit it, that the military part of the battle ended with the fall of Mosul, thanks largely to the Kurds themselves; moreover, who can guarantee that the Iraqi national elections will take place as scheduled rather than being adjourned, just as we are asking the Kurds to adjourn theirs?

An independent Kurdistan, the commentators continue, would imperil regional stability: As if Syria, mired in war, Iran, with its revived imperial ambitions, and decomposing Iraq, that artificial creation of the British, were not dangers far greater than little Kurdistan, a secular and democratic friend of the West with an elected parliament and free press. Independence, the talking heads insist, would threaten the territorial integrity of the four countries – Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey – across which the Kurd nation is spread.

But what about the reaction of Iran's Revolutionary Guards? What about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's reported threat to block the roads that connect the region to the rest of the world? The role of the West isn't to act as a media agent for two dictatorships that detest them.

Sadly, however, no argument is too feeble to be used to justify our request to "delay." It feels like an Orwellian nightmare, or a festival of bad faith, in which all arguments are turned into their opposites. That the Kurds organized themselves into an autonomous island of democracy and peace after the Peshmerga had not been paid by Baghdad for three years? That should be enough for them, claim the experts at the U.S. State Department and the other Western embassies, who cannot seem to grasp why the Kurds should want to take the last step from autonomy to independence. That the Kurds control oil in the Kirkuk region? Instead of seeing this as a good thing that should provide immediate assurance of their ability to finance the development of their new country, observers seem to think only of the covetousness that these riches might stimulate.

And when the two major parties, those led by Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, scramble for votes – which anywhere else would be seen as a sign of healthy republican civic culture – this is suddenly viewed as the seeds of divisions and disputes to come. Here we are dealing with the old colonialist drivel about people who are never quite ready to govern themselves, not yet grown up, not adult enough.

It is the familiar tragedy that befalls nations that have no friends: Yes, services were rendered, vague promises were made when we needed you and when you alone stood between us and the barbarians, but now that the time has come to keep our word, the evasion begins –"Bad timing; not part of the plan; the world has an agenda and we regret to inform you that you are not on that agenda."

May similar sorry machinations not produce, in the case of the Kurds, the same sad effects. May the descendants of the survivors of Mr. Hussein's chemical attack on Halabja find the strength to resist the intimidation of all their well-wishers.

The Kurdish referendum is not an act of force. It is a right. It is a debt. It is a major landmark for a great people who have given immeasurably to the world. They have given us the Peshmerga, who liberated and protect the last Christian populations of the Middle East. For centuries, they have been one of the wellsprings of the enlightened Islam that, in the secret recesses of the soul no less than in the fury of battle, remains the best response in the Middle East and around the world, to the curse of radical Islam. The world must honour the Kurdish people as they have honoured us.

Jai Sen
jai.sen at cacim.net<mailto:jai.sen at cacim.net>
www.cacim.net<http://www.cacim.net/> / http://www.openword.net.in<http://www.openword.net.in/>
Now based in New Delhi, India (+91-98189 11325) and in Ottawa, Canada, on unceded Anishinaabe territory (+1-613-282 2900)
Recent publications :
Jai Sen, ed, 2016a  – The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us Move ?  and  Jai Sen, ed, 2016b – The Movements of Movements, Part 2 : Rethinking Our Dance (both forthcoming in 2017 from New Delhi : OpenWord and Oakland, CA : PM Press), ADVANCE PREFINAL ONLINE MOVEMENT EDITIONS @ www.cacim.net<http://www.cacim.net/>
Jai Sen, ed, 2017a – The Movements of Movements, Part 1 : What Makes Us Move ?.  Volume 4 in the Challenging Empires series (New Delhi : OpenWord and Oakland, CA : PM Press).  Available for pre-order at PM Press<http://www.pmpress.org/>
Jai Sen, ed, 2017b – The Movements of Movements, Part 2 : Rethinking Our Dance.  Volume 5 in the Challenging Empires series (New Delhi : OpenWord and Oakland, CA : PM Press)
CHECK OUT CACIM @ www.cacim.net<http://www.cacim.net/>, OpenWord @ http://www.openword.net.in<http://www.openword.net.in/>, and OpenSpaceForum @ www.openspaceforum.net<http://www.openspaceforum.net/>

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