Gary Kent

Kurds can pull off miracles, but they need help against Isis

The Kurds can pull off minor miracles when they need to. They require active support, however, now they are at the centre of the global struggle against the self-styled Islamic caliphate, Isis. Recent history shows the Kurdish potential.

Eight years ago in Iraqi Kurdistan, there was much talk about oil and gas reserves. Some thought it was all hot air; their oil sector is now huge and has driven another once impossible dream – rapprochement with Turkey, which needs vast energy supplies to fuel its growing economy. Energy could even fuel Kurdish independence.

However, a longer history hangs over the Kurds. Nearly a century ago, Kurdish hopes of a single nation-state were snuffed out. Some say they weren’t ready, others say they were betrayed. Four Kurdistans have since emerged in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, each repressed to some degree.

That century has deepened Kurdish differences. A bewildering alphabet soup of abbreviations describes the ‘virtual Kurdistan’ – PYD, YPG, YPJ, KNC, PKK, KDP, PUK, KRG, KDPI – the main military and political actors in Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.
A century of separation has spawned a variable geometry of democratic development, with the new democracy of Iraq’s Kurdistan Region furthest ahead but still a work in progress.

Furthermore, the Kurds are surrounded by powerful neighbours who usually seek to divide them. One neighbour, Turkey is in the doghouse among Kurds because it says the fighters of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) are equivalent to Isis, and initially refused to allow Kurdish fighters and weapons through its border with Syria to the besieged town of Kobani. Turkish forces arrested and teargassed Kurds on the border where its tanks sat, while Isis pounded Kobani.

Turkey has also not allowed jets from fellow Nato members to use its Incirlik air base, although this would mean they could more easily and cheaply strike Isis in Syria.

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