Kurdish rebels announced on Monday that they would start attacking U.S. targets in Iraq. It is their response to a Turkish air strike that, with Washington’s tacit support, killed over 150 Kurds on Friday.
During the Desert Storm, the Kurds were one of the most fervent allies of the United States in the region. But as soon as the American troops withdrew from Iraq and Saddam Hussein resumed his office, they were severely punished for their support: nearly 40,000 Kurds were gassed or starved to death.
When the Americans arrived in Iraq again in 2003, the Kurds hoped their dreams of independence would finally come true. Scattered around the entire Middle East Region – Kurdish settlements are present in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey – they had fought for a free state for four decades. The United States, as the world sole superpower, had both strength and means to grant her loyal ally a scrap of land where the Kurdish people could govern themselves. But the moment the Saddam regime was toppled and the major fighting ended, the Kurds, who inhabit northern Iraq, were, again, left alone.
When the situation in Iraq began to deteriorate, the Americans realized they could not stabilize the region on their own. They needed the support of other countries, namely Turkey that boasts the most formidable military power in the Middle East. Bordering both Iraq and Iran, Turkey holds a key to keeping the flow of radical Islamists off Iraq and checkmating Iran, if Tehran wanted to wage an anti-American uprising as it has been threatening. As a secular but overwhelmingly Muslim country, Turkey is also a valuable asset to Washington’s plans of reaching out to the Muslim people of the Middle East.
Dumping the Kurds was the price the Americans had to pay. In the first months of 2008, the Bush Administration included the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on the terrorist organizations list, pairing the Kurds with Hamas and other radical groups traditionally hostile toward the United States. The Pentagon gave the American intelligence the green light to provide the Turkish with information on Kurdish bases located in southern Turkey and northern Iraq. Secretary Gates also closed his eyes to Turkey’s repeated raids into Iraq that often resulted in the total annihilation of Kurdish villages.
The Kurds, and not only them, find it hard to understand the principles behind President Bush’s foreign policy. Only in February, the United States was among the first countries that recognized the independent republic of Kosovo, despite protests from Russia and some European countries. The Kurdish people hoped that their loyal service at America’s side would give them independence and freedom. Instead they were betrayed.
One of the rebels told the Associated Press on Monday: “We have changed our stand toward the United States government and we are standing against them now. Maybe some day … individual combatants might launch suicide attacks inside Iraq and Turkey, and even against American interests.”