Special Russian Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Bogdanov has recently stated, “Moscow does not exclude the possibility of the creation of an independent Kurdistan and other new nations in the Middle East if terrorist action leads to the collapse of Iraq, but it is still in support of its integrity. Moscow bases its convictions on the fact that Iraq was and is one nation which has a constitution that the country should use to continue to move into the future. This also means the Kurdish Autonomous Region remaining within the Iraqi nation. The sovereignty, territorial integrity and the constitution of Iraq must be respected.”
“Another issue altogether is if there will be centrifugal forces which will combine with terrorist attacks and as a result of their far-reaching plans, this will split not just Iraq, but other nations, and create new states founded on very aggressive philosophies and ideologies of Islamic religious extremism. Then everything is possible, including the creation of new states based on ideological and religious ideas as well as on ethno-religious affiliations of the population in specific regions of this area in the Middle East,” Bogdanov stated in answering that Russia’s feelings were towards the plans of the Iraqi Kurds to hold a referendum on independence.
With this approach, Moscow has greatly distanced itself from the petrified views held by Washington, whose leaders are completely perplexed while still relying only on force and meaningless advice. Barack Obama’s administration and its officials are still clinging to their rampant support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is trying to use his American friends to stop the course of history. The White House insists that Iraq should remain a single nation. This was White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s take on the situation, “The best method for Iraq to oppose the existentialist threat posed by the ISIL is to unite the country”. At the same time, Washington called on Maliki to put all efforts into creating a government that would be able to more assertively and effectively combat the threat posed by the militants. This approach taken by the Obama administration speaks only that the American bureaucrats have not simply lost their strings of managing Iraq, but cannot even fathom what to do next other than to utilise the principle of “hold on tight and don’t let go”.
The latest bloody events in Iraq force us to look towards the Iraqi history, to wonder when and who created this nation, which are the principles of its statehood and, most importantly, what were the initial borders of Iraq. Iraq is a young country that is not yet 100 years old. After the First World War, the breakup of the Ottoman Empire raised the issue of what would happen to the Arab territories that were once part of the Empire. Incidentally, the issue of Arab participation in the First World War was heatedly discussed between the British High Commissioner in Cairo Henry McMahon and ruler of Mecca Sharif Hussein bin Ali al-Hashimi as early as 1915. An agreement was reached after a long diplomatic correspondence, during which Hussein pledged to create an Arab uprising against Turkey; in turn, England pledged to recognise the independence of the Arabs and to assist in creating a united Arab nation with a capital in Damascus.
As the correspondence between Britain and Sharif Hussein discovered, there were serious disagreements surrounding the fate of the territories. In particular, Hussein demanded for the future Arab nation to include Syria, Cilicia, Palestine, Iraq and the entire Arabian Peninsula, except for Aden. Great Britain, on the other hand, insisted on excluding Western Syria, Lebanon, the Governorates of Baghdad and Basra in Iraq as well as English protectorate states on the Arabian Peninsula. Furthermore, Henry McMahon demanded for London to be in charge of defence for the future Arab nation and to guarantee the English high-ranking posts as aids and officials in the future Arab government, which, of course, met with objections from the Arab side.
In this way, the main issues discussed during this correspondence were the borders of the Arab nation and its ties with Great Britain, which were never resolved. Nevertheless, resting on the promises made by “honest” Henry McMahon, Sharif Hussein began to ready the uprising against Turkey and succeeded in June 1916. In October of 1916, Hussein declared the independence of Hejaz and named himself the King of Arabs, that is, all Arab countries in Asia, but was recognised by the European nations as merely the king of Hejaz, which he and his descendants soon lost at the behest of his English “allies”.
The European agents, who already mastered the ways of deception in their diplomacy by then, followed their Sykes-Picot Agreement when dividing the legacy of the Ottoman Empire, according to which France received the south-eastern part of Turkey, north Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Correspondingly, Damascus did not become the capital of the united Arab nation, which was never created, while Sharif Hussein and his descendants were banished from Hejaz by future Saudi King Ibn Saud with the help of the English (likely in exchange for his trust and loyalty towards the crafty British).
Even the renowned Thomas Edward Lawrence did not help the Arabs, a man whom British propaganda elevated to be Lawrence of Arabia. He truly accomplished a lot for London, forcing the Arabs to accept many sacrifices, including human ones, only to then see the English unabashedly occupy their territories and pump out untold natural resources. Sharif Hussein’s third son, clad in the snowy-white national Arab dress, delivered a short speech at Versailles where he bitterly accused the European nations of betrayal and simply failing to keep their promises. Already a Colonel, Lawrence of Arabia was present and with a crooked smile replied “Those are our laws”. As we can see, these rules and laws look like they belong to a criminal organisation and not people who respect agreements and their obligations.
However, London was then faced with the problem of managing the new Arab territories and this is why two new nations were created. The first was the emirate of Transjordan, where Sharif Hussein’s second son Abdullah was made king. The other nation was Iraq, which was created in Cairo by then colonial secretary Winston Churchill at a meeting that included 38 of the highest ranking officials from the Middle East. The English officials present then have been dubbed by Iraqis as a “gang of thieves” – an analogy of the tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves – because not a single Iraqi person took part in creating their own nation and the interests of Iraqi people themselves were not taken into consideration at all.
According to the Sykes-Picot Agreement, northern Iraq or the Mosul Vilayet (province) was part of the Arab territory that Paris received the mandate to rule. But because oil was discovered there, London ripped this delicious piece of land away from the French, obtaining a stake in the French oil company while developing its oil deposit. Turkey, who also wanted the city of Mosul, was satisfied with a promise made by an oil consortium (where the English were calling the shots) to pay an insignificant percentage of their oil revenue for the next 20 years. Incidentally, while being part of the Ottoman Empire, the Mosul Vilayet was closer to Syria, as there were Kurds residing in its northern sections. Without the oil, Iraqi Kurdistan would currently have been part of Syria. Then, conflicting with Iraqi opinions, the third son of Sharif Hussein, Faisal, was shipped into the country aboard an English cruiser and took up the throne.
History thus shows us that Iraq was created by the English without accounting for the historical specifics of those living in Mesopotamia, while the borders were created fairly arbitrarily, once again to serve the interests of the former colonial powers. It’s not surprising that this nation suffered a myriad of tensions throughout its entire existence. Numerous governments regularly made war with their people while quashing the Kurd’s hopes for independence. Iraq has also frequently taken an active role in all wars that raged in the Middle East.
If the current situation allows it, then the Iraqis themselves, without outside pressure, need to provide the possibility to rebuild or to create a new nation with new borders. If three groups of people – the Sunnites, the Shiites and the Kurds – cannot live together and cannot elect a new government to represent everyone’s interests, then it would seem that it is necessary for them to live apart for some time. The better option, however, would be to concede some of their sovereignty to continue living within the borders of a single nation.
But how to achieve this, especially if the Washingtonian strategists who see themselves as the “new rulers of the world” insist only on creating a government headed by their puppet Nouri al-Maliki without considering the best interests of each population group, the borders, new economic and political ties. It would appear that the Iraqis will need to traverse a long and bloody trail towards creating their national identity, which includes defending their opinion before the White House.
Viktor Mikhin, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.