Pawns of the War Party

It’s "a state within a state," and its fighters regularly cross over into a neighboring country to carry out terrorist attacks, the most recent on Monday, when two people were killed and 14 wounded in a strike on popular tourist haunts. The terrorists claim they are fighting to "liberate" their people, who, they claim – with some justification – suffer in the vise of an occupation. From their bases across the border, these would-be "liberators" regularly launch raids that result in many civilian deaths as well as fallen soldiers – some 30,000 to date. They have vowed to turn the oppressor country into "hell" if their demands are not met.

No, I’m not describing Hezbollah in Lebanon – it’s our friends and allies, the Kurds.

Kurdish terrorist activities have picked up in the last few months, resulting in dozens of deaths and many more injuries to Turkish civilians as well as military personnel, and the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) and its more militant offshoots, such as the Kurdish Liberation Hawks, are raising anew demands for Kurdish independence.

The Turks, for their part, have been champing at the bit to strike at their tormentors, and have been held back only by assurances from the U.S. that the PKK problem would be taken care of on the Iraqi side of the border – which it has not. So the Turks are launching airstrikes in northern Iraq, where the Kurds hold sway and PKK bases huddle in the shadows of rugged mountain ranges – as are the Iranians. Tehran, too, has suffered a series of terrorist attacks by a group that calls itself "Pejak," although this moniker is thought by many to be merely a front for the PKK.

Like the PKK and the "Liberation Hawks," Pejak is based in the "autonomous" region of Iraqi Kurdistan, where it enjoys the protection of the regional government. What is for all intents and purposes the Iranian arm of the terrorist PKK has been launching raids on Iranian territory since 2004, and these attacks have picked up – in sheer numbers and in terms of casualties inflicted on the Iranians – since the U.S. launched its campaign to destabilize the rule of the mullahs in Tehran. As Rep. Dennis Kucinich put it in a letter to President Bush: "It is hard to believe that PEJAK is operating successfully from Iraq without U.S. knowledge, support, and coordination."

Terrorism is okay with the U.S. – as long as it’s carried out by our friends and allies, namely the Kurds. It’s just fine to operate as "a state within a state," as George W. Bush described Hezbollah – but only if it serves the agenda of the War Party in Washington. By this standard, Israel has every right to "retaliate" for the capture of two soldiers by bombing Lebanon and taking over a thousand civilian lives. It’s "self-defense," doncha know. But Turkey – a NATO member and aspirant to EU membership – has no right to react similarly in response to an increasingly deadly terrorist campaign carried out by Kurdish groups.

The Kurds are increasingly restive, and the two big Kurdish parties – the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), essentially competing protection rackets – are under a lot of pressure from the ranks to fulfill the promise of independence, or at least show Baghdad that they mean business. The "president" of the autonomous region of Kurdistan, therefore, is refusing to fly the Iraqi flag, and this has set off a minor crisis within the Iraqi government. Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is demanding that they fly the flag, countermanding Barzani’s order to lower it – and this has revived the long-faltering project to design a new flag for "liberated" Iraq. There was, you’ll recall, an earlier effort to replace the old flag, but the new design looked similar (some said) to the Israeli flag, a coincidence not entirely bereft of meaning.

One of the most interesting, and little-talked about, consequences of the Iraq war has been the extension of Israeli influence – and aid, including military aid – to Kurdistan. Seymour Hersh reported on this, and Le Figaro detailed the developing American-Israeli rift over the issue, with Washington increasingly nervous over the growing Israeli presence and what it portends for the region. The Turkish military, formerly best buddies with the IDF, are furious at what they consider to be a stab in the back by their sometime allies, and relations between Ankara and Tel Aviv have subsequently soured.

Israel’s interest is in establishing a base that borders Iran, from which to monitor developments in country and build an enclave from which to launch armed attacks. Pejak is the ideal instrument with which to accomplish this, and if Washington isn’t directly funding or otherwise aiding the Iranian Kurdish guerrilla group, then the Israelis surely haven’t neglected such an opportunity.

The Israelis are eager to use the Kurds as a tripwire for war, not only with Iran but with Syria, where restive Kurds have recently begun to rise against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. If the Israeli strategy is to spark a regional war that will rearrange the map of the Middle East and oust their enemies from Beirut to Tehran, then the Kurds are the perfect fuse. If you look at the claimed area of Kurdish predominance – "Greater Kurdistan" – it runs through Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and as far north as Armenia. Kurdistan, in short, is ideally located as a base from which to launch a campaign to destabilize Israel’s enemies and effect "regime change" throughout the Middle East.

As American foreign policy increasingly aligns itself with Israel’s, and the two allies settle their sights on Iran, Kurdistan takes on added importance. The price the Kurds are demanding for their cooperation – de facto independence – is one the U.S. may well be willing to pay if it means having an advantage in their coming showdown with Iran. Yeah, sure, Iraq is coming apart at the seams, with Sunnis slaughtering Shi’ites, and vice versa, but anyone who believes this is a major concern of Washington’s – except on the home front, insofar as it affects public support for an American military presence – is sadly mistaken. Iraq was then, Iran is now, and the War Party has already moved on to its next big project – with the Kurds playing a central role.

The Kurds, for their part, have launched a sophisticated public relations campaign, designed to acquaint Americans with "the Other Iraq," i.e., the supposedly peaceful, democratic, and increasingly prosperous and "free" Kurdistan "republic." A series of television ads, depicting Kurdistan as an idyllic vacation spot and potential favorite of Western investors, has been launched – no doubt with U.S. taxpayer dollars – in order to convince us that the Kurds are our best friends in the region, second only to the Israelis. The impression given by these ads – and a number of puff pieces in the American media – is that a trip to Kurdistan is no more dangerous or unusual than, say, a sojourn to upstate New York. And that’s true – if you’re an American.

If, however, you’re an Arab in "liberated" Kurdistan, you are likely to wind up either dead or run out of town on a rail. If you’re a Turkmen, you’re also in a bit of trouble. And being a Kurd doesn’t confer automatic immunity from official repression, as Dr. Kamal Sayid Qadir found out when he accused the ruling Barzani clan of corruption, nepotism, and gangsterism. Qadir was kidnapped by the Parastin – the Kurdish secret police – held in a jail for months on a charge of "libel", and only released after an international campaign called attention to his plight. Hundreds of political dissidents and other unfortunates languish in Kurdish underground prisons, as the Washington Post reported: given the historical record, this hardly comes as a shock. What’s shocking is U.S. forces are not only standing by and letting this happen, but are actively cooperating with Kurdish partisan militias as they round up their political and ethnic enemies.

Kurdistan, in short, is not Nebraska in the Middle East – it is instead a tyranny aborning, and a militaristic, expansionist tyranny at that. Governed by thugs who are on the take from their foreign sponsors, the Kurds are a source of endless trouble for the region. Their perpetual provocations have united our enemies, and even pushed Turkey into a de facto alliance with Syria and Iran. The Turks keep threatening to move on the PKK’s safe havens in Iraqi Kurdistan, and, one day, they may even do it – in which case, how will the U.S. justify its opposition to such a move, in light of Washington’s support for Israel’s "right" to defend itself against Hezbollah?

The Kurdish narrative has been, for years, that they are the most oppressed minority in the region: their martyrdom at Saddam’s hands was considered emblematic of Ba’athist evil, and a prime motivator for "liberating" Iraq. In our era of political correctness, where being an Oppressed Minority confers virtual sainthood on whomever is lucky enough to qualify, the Kurds are widely considered lovable and certainly the most "like us" of any comparable sub-group in Iraq.

This is a bunch of propagandistic malarkey. Like the Kosovars, another victim group beloved by the War Party, the Kurds are clannish, militaristic, and have no liberal tradition or real experience with democratic pluralism.

Aside from a political culture cut out for authoritarianism, their political leadership, whether it be the KDP or the PUK, is notoriously opportunistic, and historically has often been a willing instrument of great powers. Both parties have aligned themselves with a bewildering variety of allies, foreign and domestic, ranging from the KGB to the CIA to the Mossad to the Iranians – and even Saddam Hussein – in order to cash in on some momentary advantage. Given their history and inclinations, the Kurds, in short, are the perfect pawns of the War Party – and the first moves have already been made.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].