Category Archives: Iran

America’s Kurdish adventure will end in tears

AT THE end of World War I, many ethnic groups were able to get a patch of land for themselves, with the area and population therein largely dependent on the extent to which they had pleased the imperial powers that came out as victors of that war – France and Britain.

The Kurds were one group that missed the bus and ended up scattered over four countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. They are a restless lot and the countries in which they lived often had to keep them quiet by one means or another.

The late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein gave them a limited measure of autonomy. But there was always the implicit understanding that if the Kurds got too ambitious, then they would be met with blanket slaughter. Dictators like Saddam – and his neighbour, the late Hafez al-Assad of Syria – do not do things by half-measures and for years the Kurds were content to remain within their allocated freedoms.

After the Gulf War of 1991, there was, for a while, protection in the form of western fighter jets that patrolled a no-fly zone; after the war, the Kurds rose up in protest against Saddam in the hope that their long dormant hope for a country would be realised. But they were tricked by the US which, after initially backing them, changed its mind when George Bush Senior realised that a weak Iraq would lead to Iran being the dominant power in the region.

And that the Americans did not like – they have not had much to do with Iran after the events of 1979. So the Kurds had to eat what Australians call a shit sandwich and stay on as part of Iraq.

Now Washington – and its so-called coalition against the extremist Islamic State – is arming the Kurds in order to get them to fight the militants. In doing so, they are setting themselves up for a lot of trouble in the future. The Americans have forgotten what happened after they armed resistance fighters against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. One of the side effects of that policy was a little event that happened on September 11, 2001.

But the Americans have not learnt. If they read their own history books, they will realise that they are incompetents of the highest order when it comes to intervening in foreign countries. Yet they keep doing it over and over again.

In 2003, George Bush Junior invaded Iraq and broke the entire system. The Americans did not merely topple the government, they ripped out the entire bureaucracy and left the country without any functioning systems at all. The results of that have been self-evident over the last 11 years.

After Saddam came to power in a coup in 1969, he realised that he had a mess on his hands, created by the British and French drawing borders at right angles to satisfy the requests of this group or that. And so he ruled with an iron fist and kept the country intact. Anyone who even indicated a mild dislike for him was shot in cold blood.

The Americans released all his controls. And in so doing, they opened the gates for every sectarian group to do what they wanted. Power was given to the Shias and hence the Sunnis took up arms. The Islamic State is just the most extreme manifestation of that resistance – another group that rose up in reaction to American screw-ups.

Internecine warfare between countries or groups in the Middle East is a routine thing. The West should keep out of these squabbles. But the Americans have oil interests in many parts of the region and hence they intervene again and again. No good has ever come of it.

The outcome will be the same this time too.

Is Hersh right or wrong?

THE well-respected American investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh, has come under a lot of fire from conservatives recently after he published an article in the New Yorker, saying that there was no conclusive evidence that Iran was making any moves towards building a nuclear bomb.

Hersh is a legendary figure in journalistic circles; he broke the story of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and, more recently, was responsible for exposing the abuse by American forces in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Some of the criticism came from the Wall Street Journal which was very careful to avoid citing Hersh’s credentials but, instead, concentrated on pointing out where he had gone wrong in the past. For an investigative report, getting it right 50 percent of the time is better than most and Hersh is far better than that.

The WSJ piece, written by a cantankerous gent named Bret Stephens (partial article here; the skinflints at WSJ charge for rubbish like this) dwells heavily on what Hersh has got wrong in the last four or five years. It does not give the reader any idea about the major triumphs that this intrepid man, one of the few newspapermen in the US with even a shred of integrity after the Iraq invasion of 2003, has recorded.

Other criticisms dwell on Hersh’s characterisation of the Iraq invasion as a “mistake”; this is correct as the march to control Saddam’s oil was a deliberately planned mission by Dubya and his cronies. The possibility that Sy indulging in sarcasm appears to have escaped people.Hersh, more than anyone else, knows the background of what led up to the Iraq invasion.

If Hersh is right in pointing out that Iran is nowhere near a nuclear weapon, then a huge amount of the fear factor that is being drummed up by Israel and its cohorts in the US dissipates immediately. Even Israelis, such as the former Mossad chief, Meir Dragan, have gone on the record, saying that Iran poses no danger at the moment.

But if the fear that hangs over the Middle East is lifted, then it becomes difficult for Israel to continue to get the support it does in the US. Support which translates into lobbying muscle, aid and diplomatic support. Hence anybody who writes an article like Hersh did will be targeted.