The Kurds and America: A One-Sided Love Story

October 6, 2011

Once again, news about the Kurds and the USA is back on our television and computer screens. The US is receiving Kurdish officials, but it is also criticizing them heavily.
While the Kurds always proudly reaffirm that the US has a special relationship with Kurdistan and an affinity for the region, US officials constantly refer to Kurdistan as a region within Iraq. In most cases, the relationship between the two improves when there is a crisis in Iraq and the Kurds are needed to solve it.
Talking to both the Americans and the Kurds privately, there seems to be serious misunderstanding between the two. When an American official talks about “within the framework of the Iraqi state” they mean the term to the letter. I did not realize how serious this is until I met some of them recently.
From the background discussions that I had with them, I was convinced that the United States does not have a specific Kurdish policy. It is proud of the “Iraqi” achievement in Kurdistan and wants it to extend the rest of the country, but this in no way means that the Kurds have a special place in the American thinking of the future of Iraq.
“The Kurds must realize that the road to Washington goes through Baghdad,” said one old friend who now serves in government.
In return, the Kurds must realize that the US will listen to what Baghdad tells the US about the Kurds. The criticism of the Kurds that I heard in DC was very similar to what is said in Baghdad about Erbil. On oil and gas, the entire issue is reduced to whether the Kurds would show their oil and gas contracts or not.
When the region’s ministry of natural resources released some of the contracts, one of the first private reactions was: “The DNO contract does not show the time when Peter Galbraith had a 5% share!”
The standard accusation of the Kurds in a number of offices was: “They want to be on their own and they want to be part of Iraq for the 17.5% share!”
One junior official even said: “We are better off dealing with Sadr than Barzani!” The official added: “At least he represents the will of the people!”
According to the people I met, the Kurds are responsible for the poor treatment of Christians, for grave human rights violations, for a very poor freedom of speech record and for playing both Iran and America. The Kurds are not trying seriously to fix the situation in Iraq “because they are benefiting from the chaos.”
The irony here is that listening to the senior officials in the USA and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), a very diplomatic tone is used which does not reflect the reality of the nature of the relationship and the prospects for its future.
When you listen to junior officials privately, you’ll find the Kurds are very optimistic and excited about the prospects of US-Kurdish relations, while on the American side future prospects appear very bleak. They do not seem to think that the KRG, its president or its government are that different from any other Arab dictatorship in the region.
The Kurds must end this one-sided love story — which is costing them dearly in this anti-American region — and demonstrate that they are different from how they are seen in DC.

    Michael says:

    God bless the Kurds. I love them as well.

    – An American guy

    Butan Amedi says:

    There is a difference between Kurdish and Arab leaders: In Arab states, the most benevolent leaders are the ones that preach in the name of Palestine, burn American and Israeli flags and blame the two for the miseries of their people. In Kurdistan, the situation is wholly different: In 1991-2003, the KRG was able to survive for the allied protection. The KRG may attribute the existence of the KRG to the struggle of the Peshmerges, but the fact is that Saddam would have flooded the region in no time had it not being air-patrolled by the allied. Keeping this on mind, the Kurdish leaders had to advertise to their constituents good working relationship with the US., even when it was hardly the case at various times. So, in simple words, good working relationship with the US creates a good impression within most Kurds and exactly the opposite within most Arabs.

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