The Kurds: A True American Ally

A woman in the Kurdish military recently shot and killed a senior commander of the self-proclaimed Islamic State who once kept her as a sex slave.

After more than 50 people at a Kurdish wedding died in an attack by Islamic terrorists, Turkey finally decided this week to launch a serious assault against the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

The incidents underline the importance of the Kurds as a key ally in any successful attempt to rid the world of the radical Islamists.

When I arrived in the Middle East nearly 40 years ago, the Armenians and the Kurds were among the most downtrodden ethnic groups in the region. The Armenians have their own country now; the Kurds don’t but should.

In one of the most brutal results of map drawing before and after World War I, more than 30 million Kurds were split among four countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. Keep in mind, most Kurds, who are mainly Sunni, consider themselves Kurds, not Iraqis, Iranians, Syrians or Turks. An independent state would be one of the largest in the Middle East–bigger than Syrian and almost as big as Iraq.

The Kurds have faced adversity many times, including the horrific 1988 chemical attack by Saddam Hussein’s government that left thousands dead in the worst incident of its kind in history.

The Kurds have supported the United States on many occasions, including the Gulf War, the Iraq War and the Syrian Civil War—much of the time later being forsaken by the Americans.

The Kurdish forces are called the pesh merga, which translated means “one who faces death.” This army has driven out Islamists from a variety of their strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

The U.S. government has thrown billions of dollars at a variety of ineffective Middle Eastern armies, but it has only been recently that the Kurds have received money for small arms shipments.

The United States should fund the pesh merga to a much greater extent because it is the only effective fighting force against the Islamic State.

Perhaps it’s time for the U.S. government to consider an independent Kurdish state in at least parts of Iraq and Syria, where it could continue its support of America.

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Christopher Harper, a longtime journalist with The Associated Press, Newsweek, ABC News and The Washington Times, teaches media law.

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