The Kurds Between Turkey and Iran
A Kurdish flag stands amid the destruction caused by a reported Iranian rocket attack near town city of Altun Kupri (Perdi), north of Kirkuk, in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, on November 23, 2022. (Safin Hamed/AFP via Getty Images)

The Kurds Between Turkey and Iran

Al-Arab, Saudi Arabia, November 22

These days, Turkey and Iran seek to mitigate the tension that exists between the two countries by assigning blame to the Kurds. Both sides use the Kurds as a scapegoat. Turkey strikes the Kurds in northern Syria, threatens a major military operation and, at the same time, hints at reconciliation with the regime in Damascus. Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic of Iran promotes the theory that the Kurds are the reason behind all of its internal problems and crises. The Revolutionary Guards are bombing Kurdish regions in Iraq under the pretext that Iranian opponents have established bases there. This indicates a clear desire of the Iranian regime to ignore the reality on the ground, which is that the Iranian peoples – not just the Kurds – have risen up against an intolerable regime that has made their lives miserable. It seems clear that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is at a loss in light of the continuous deterioration of the Turkish economy just months ahead of the general elections, with uncertain results for him or his Islamist-leaning party. Erdogan believes that a military operation in Syria and a change in direction of Turkish foreign policy will lead to an improvement in the economy. Such thinking can produce some positive results, but the fact remains that Turkey, during Erdogan’s era, could not adopt a unified policy on any single issue. Nothing indicates this more than the Turkish hesitation regarding Syria. Turkey has missed all of the opportunities it has had since 2011 to bring about positive change in the interest of the Syrian people. It was the only party prepared to play this role at the beginning of the Syrian revolution, but it preferred to procrastinate and enter into calculations related to the personal ambitions of Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the one hand, and his pro-Muslim Brotherhood tendencies, on the other. The policies pursued by the Turkish president reflect a state of loss. In the end, his problem in Syria is not so much with the Kurds as it is the absence of a consistent policy. This policy, which Erdogan pursued, served neither Turkey nor the Syrian people, who believed that they had a solid ally that they could rely on who would not succumb to Iranian and Russian blackmail. Erdogan retreated after his first clash with Russia. He then moved on to making deals with Vladimir Putin. The Syrians, especially in Aleppo and the surrounding areas, paid dearly for these deals. Erdogan’s policy toward Israel remains a scandal in itself. At first, he wanted to imitate the Islamic Republic in dealing with the Palestinian issue. He tried to participate in lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip. It was an attempt of a folkloric nature that ended in disaster – and with a full U-turn that brought Turkey back into the warm Israeli embrace. Erdogan’s problem lies with the Kurds of Turkey before the Kurds of Syria and Iraq. This problem cannot be escaped by going outside of Turkey’s borders. What applies to the Turkish president also applies to the Iranian regime, which refuses to admit that its problem is with all Iranian peoples and not with women’s freedom to wear or not wear the veil. The recent World Cup match between Iran and England was a true expression of the Iranian predicament: Not only did the Iranian players refuse to sing the words of their national anthem while it was played, but it became clear that they had no enthusiasm to play at a level befitting the existing regime. In Turkey and Iran, fleeing abroad and blaming the Kurds is not a viable solution to any problem. The real problem lies in two regimes that refuse to focus on their domestic issues and on the suffering of their peoples. Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed to provide a single coherent explanation as to why he demonstrated so much hostility toward Egypt and its people; why he insisted on sponsoring the Muslim Brotherhood; and why he is now able to shake hands with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. He can’t explain why he chose to confront a friendly and peaceful country like Greece. He has no explanation as to his country’s plan for Syria. Similarly, the mullahs in Tehran fail to recognize that their problem is with the Iranian people, including the Azeris, an ethnic group to which the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei belongs. They fail to acknowledge the fact that the militias that they established and funded in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen will not benefit the Iranian people in any way. They refuse to admit that whoever establishes these kinds of sectarian militia invests in destruction, ruin, misery and nothing else. There is no doubt that the Kurds are not saints and have made many mistakes. However, they have been wronged time and again. What is now needed is a way to deal with them in a different context that does not involve violence, isolation and accusation. It won’t help the Iranian regime to assign blame to the Kurds for a crime they didn’t commit. It won’t help Recep Tayyip Erdogan to hold the Syrian Kurds accountable for terror attacks they had nothing to do with in Istanbul. Pointing fingers at the Kurds is not a cure, but rather a blind eye to the deep crisis in which both the Turkish and Iranian regimes are floundering and deeply embroiled. –Khairallah Khairallah (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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