Between Iraq and a hard place

Well, the horrors are being racked up in Iraq – destruction of people, buildings, society, antiquities, and pretty much everyone else the ISIS can get their hands on. It’s not like destruction of this kind has not been visited upon the region before, you know. For millennia the armies of empires have swept hither and yon across the vast flatness and destroyed everything in their path. That’s one reason there’s ruins dotting the place now, those places were destroyed 100s and even 1000s of years ago as religion, leader and credos marshaled what forces they could and went on the rampages – how many millions of people have been slaughtered in the process would be hard to calculate. Entire peoples were certainly eradicated – the Hittites, Ammonites, Ur, Babylonia, Turkic peoples moved further west into the nub of Asia sticking out to Europe … Persians, Arabians, Mamelukes, who knows? It takes in a broad sweep of people, places and beliefs. Alexander the Great swept through, wrecking as he went, so did Cyrus of Persia, and Darius, and Xerxes, and certainly the Romans were no slouches in the destruction department. Even the Catholic Crusaders were in on the act, why in Northern Iraq – or the broad Kurdistani area – a kingdom called “Edessa” survived off and on for a few centuries. Now supposedly our president, Obama, is supposed to do something about the place. I doubt anyone really knows what. ½ the nation probably says “bomb” and the other half says “who cares” if they even know a thing about the place. We’re not going to solve it, though, that’s for sure. Certainly not by any commonly accepted means like “Peace Corp” or “Marines” or endless cruise missiles and bombing raids.

Meanwhile, the place has a history – and it did not start with the “Bush War” nor with Saddam Hussein, nor even the creation of “modern Iraq” in 1917 at the behest of Lord Balfour in a drunken moment of line drawing. What else could it have been? He and the Frenchmen, the less famous one, Poincarre or somebody – no difference, the French foreign minister of the time – decided to divvy up the Levant without speaking to any of the people who actually lived there. And what a people they are! – well, actually, several peoples. None of who have ever liked each other: the Kurds, and Sunni and Shiite Muslims, who were either Arabs or Persians, and a dozen or more smaller sects, peoples, ethnicities and even tribal affiliates … and now most Americans think of them as “Iraqis” and the place as “Iraq” as if there was this one place and people with whom we are contending. And that is not the case at all. The lines having been recently drawn, not even a 100 years ago – I suppose they could be redrawn – and perhaps they should be. For the fake construct of “Iraq” is not helping anyone. That would be the bold foreign policy initiative to push – let the president set up an international commission to divide the place up, redraw some lines around the people, and not right through the middle of them. Such bold thinking is unlikely, especially from our current president.

The Kurds are an easy group to deal with – at least in discussion – for they are a people. That is, they speak Kurdish – which is an Indo-European Language at the fringe of the Farsi branch – or Persian. That’s what they speak in Iran. Though, the Kurds of Iran do not speak Farsi, but Kurdish. Sort of the way French and Portuguese are both Romance languages – but surely a grand conversation could not be had. Perhaps a few words in common at most. And there’s Kurds in northwestern Syria and southeastern Turkey. One big chunk of Kurds spread over four “nations” – all of which are lines drawn in the sand by Europeans. The Kurds of Turkey can no more speak to their Turkish government without a translator than can Syria Kurds speak to their “government” in Arabic. So, linguistically, and geographically, the Kurds are a 25,000,000 or so strong clear ethnic people group – who are fairly rational, actually – certainly businessmen, with smuggling (aka, commerce) being a high paying job. It would be rational on a human level to separate the Kurdish provinces of the four countries and put them into a new Kurdistan with whom we could cooperate. They’re Muslims, but without the Koran-thumping. They also have their own oil and farm enough food for them to make a go of it … why, they might well become a prosperous nation.

The rub is, of course, that Turkey, Syria and Iran and Iraq would all have to lose a chunk of population that isn’t really theirs, and the land, wealth and tax dollars that might exist there. So the four nation’s majorities suppress the Kurds in one way or the other in order to hold onto the fake borders that Lord Balfour drew up one night after a few toddies. He perhaps didn’t know that there were Kurds, or perhaps he did and didn’t care. So, the four nations spend endless money on keeping the Kurds subdued and the Kurds seethe and revolt to some degree and in Northern Iraq they have a semi-autonomous region akin to a nation already. And it is now asking for weapons – and has the cash to pay – to stave of something called ISIS. To get the weapons to Kurds would, of course, entail getting them through Turkey, Syria and Iran, and the rump of Iraq left – and well, those four don’t like the idea of well armed Kurdistan with its own foreign policy – which might well include using the new found weapons to reunite all the Kurds in one big happy family.

Ah, ISIS – some “Islam State in Iraq System” or something – I’ve seen several names and permutations of the acronym – which is in English, apparently – for nothing says your ethnic heritage more clearly than using a foreign language for your own group’s name. They are crazed, certainly – destructive of all that stands, apparently including 800 and 1200 year old buildings which now offend them. They are Sunni, of course – and they hate Shiites as much as anything .. or more. They should be cordoned off, and the Shiites should go their way. They are pretty much in different parts of the country – the more south and east, the more Shiite, westward are the Sunni – separate them.

I’m not sure we’re going to do anything by bombing ISIS or something. They are part of the population – that hates the other parts – separate the peoples. Maybe arrange to take out the antiquities – I’m sure they can be bribed to give up the ancient stuff. Cash speaks wonders.

Still, there are people who are upset that Obama is doing nothing, or the wrong thing, or worked to bring ISIS to power or some other nefarious thing – I don’t know – maybe – the man is a clod, is as clueless as most people about the region, as steeped in modern Iraqi politics and it’s American-branch which is the aid and then war we had with Saddam Hussein, and then there’s our Iranian problem – in which case we could help foment troubles there by helping Kurds revolt and leave – and push the Baluchis in southeast Iran to leave their Persian masters and join the Baluchis of Pakistan, another fake country at war with itself – perhaps a complete redrawing of the maps from oh, Libya to India would be worthwhile – it’s happened before – barely a 100 years ago – it could happen again.

But I doubt it with Obama in office and the current Republican-Democrat fight over “Bush’s war” and “weapons of mass destruction” and our Iranian issues – in a way – the fight over there is dependent on our own domestic politics – and each side here gets to fling flatulence at each other over who did what when with who where over there … and that’s the whole problem with our thinking on the matter. Everyone in here has painted themselves into a corner over what happens there.

Well, it’s only a quick blog post, not a book – which to truly give this subject some required thinking might be necessary – but whatever we do in the short term – none of it is good. Enjoy the morass. That’s the best we can do.

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