It is sad, but the process of redistribution of the Middle East’s territory established after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a hundred years ago, has begun again. There’s little doubt that Iraq and Syria are going to be those affected by it most. The disintegration of Iraq was predicted for some time now, and thoroughly examined by various analysts. But it has now finally been launched into action by the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Thus, on February 2, the President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, called for a referendum on the independence of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region (KAR) and the right of the Kurds to seek self-determination. He, however, made a reservation, that this step doesn’t amount to the declaration of statehood, instead it is aimed at a display of the will of the Kurdish people for independence. But at the same time, Barzani expressed his confidence that self-determination – is something that cannot be denied, it is a “natural right granted by God.” He also noted that many local politicians have recently made a lot of false conclusions about the rights of the Kurdish people, and stressed that a Kurdish state in the Middle East – is the reality, and it can identify its rights for itself. The head of Iraqi Kurdistan has also appealed to Kurds saying that while they wait for someone to come and give them the right for independence, nobody would come, so they must demand it for themselves.
In the last couple years the Kurdish region of Iraq has been seeking ways to increase its territorial holdings through the capture of Arab lands in the region of Mosul and Kirkuk, including those of the rich northern oil field, along with ways to strengthen its financial independence through the construction of a new pipeline to Turkey. But the operations of the Islamic State in Iraq along with the global decline in oil prices has led the region to bankruptcy.
The US has long nurtured this idea but has lacked the boldness to put it into practice. But recently Washington’s think tanks came up with a new concept of an independent Kurdistan, according to it Kurdish autonomy will not simply occupy the Kurdish populated areas of Iraq, but those in Syria as well, considering the central government in Damascus has de facto lost control over them due to the ongoing war. American analysts nurture the hopes that over time an Iranian Kurdistan will also want to become a part of a Kurdish state. However, it’s much harder, with Turkey, where almost 40% of the population are ethnic Kurds and populating the entire territory of southeastern Anatolia and along the border with Syria stretching to the Mediterranean coast. For almost a year now Turkey has been waging a full-scale war against the Kurds in the southeast of the country. To suppress the population that has traditionally occupied these areas Ankara has dispatched the entire 2nd Army Corps, the most battle-capable part of the Turkish Armed Forces, along with police squads and security forces. Every single day Turkish soldiers are being killed in this area. Yet, it’s a well known fact that the better part of the weapons that are used by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters have been supplied by the US and EU countries. Those weapons were originally supplied to the government of the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq. Numerous leaders of the the PKK found refuge in EU countries, and the money they receive from these states are being sent to Turkey. Of course, the support that the West provides to the PKK is not confined to weapons alone, since the United States has also given training to a lot of the PPK fighters. And although Turkey is a NATO member state, Washington and its European allies will be more than happy to weaken it, even by tearing a part of its territory away to create Kurdish autonomy there, thus taming an uncompromising ally. It’s was no accident that NATO pulled Ankara into the Syrian conflict, pitting it against Russia. It’s clear that Turkish leaders have miscalculated their steps and found themselves trapped.
Quite curiously, instead of looking for ways to achieve reconciliation with Moscow, thus restoring economic a valuable partnership and the flow of tourists from Russia, Turkish leaders continue the quarrel with Russia and even seem willing to confront the Russian military further in Syria. Moreover, on February 4, the Prime Minister of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoğlu, commented on the statements of the Russian Defense Ministry that were made in respect to the ongoing preparations of the Turkish military to intervene in Syria, saying that Russia carries on some kind of “crimes” in the Syrian Arab Republic. Earlier the official representative of the Russian Defense Ministry, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, said that there were reasonable grounds to suspect intensive preparations in Turkey for a military invasion of the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic, including an unusually precise shelling in the areas of Latakia, along with the refusal to allow a Russian observer mission to fly over Turkish territory, which is a direct violation of the Treaty on Open Skies. Ahmet Davutoğlu has also stated that Turkey has the right to take any measures to protect its safety,” adding that by such statements Moscow is trying to divert international attention from its “criminal activities” in Syria.
Ankara’s grandiose claims were immediately reaffirmed in Riyadh, where it was reported that the Saudi Arabia Armed Forces are prepared to take part in a ground operation in Syria as well. According to the statement made by Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri, Saudi Arabia will be a part of the international coalition effort in Syria, led by the United States. Allegedly those actions are going to be aimed against the militants of the Islamic State. Earlier, Foreign Minister of the Kingdom Adel al-Jubeir repeatedly stressed the fact that Riyadh never claimed that it rules out the possibility of an armed solution to the ongoing crisis in Syria.
According to the coalition’s plan, Syria is going to be torn into pieces with the establishment of an Alawite controlled zone along the Mediterranean coast, the north going under Ankara’s control; Aleppo, Homs, Hama and the central part of the country to be occupied by Sunni forces controlled by Saudi Arabia, while the Kurdish areas will become a part of the Kurdish Autonomy Region. Additionally, Israel has already annexed the Golan Heights.
Characteristically, Turkish and Saudi statements came within a day after the failure of the Geneva talks. This means one thing – there’s going to be a new war in Syria soon. Everyone understands that with the close air support provided by Russia’s aircraft, the Syrian army along with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Lebanese Hezbollah will be able to cleanse Syria’s territory from terrorists by summer, taking full control of the Syrian-Turkish border and putting an end to the flow of weapons, mercenaries and trucks filled with oil. And this would be the end of the so-called “rebellion” in Syria.
That is why Ankara and Riyadh are in a hurry, even though the invasion of Syria can pose unpredictable difficulties for them, since Turkey carries on its war against the Kurds, while Saudi Arabia is still fighting the Houthis in Yemen.
But the US is putting a lot of pressure on these two states, willing to keep in danger, while applying pressure on Russia and Syria through their actions. However, this turn of events may lead to a major war, if Russian forces come under fire, Russia will have enough determination to launch retaliations strikes, starting the collapse of the regimes in both in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Peter Lvov, Ph.D in political science, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”