24 September 2017   Leave a comment

The German elections are over and the tentative exit results confirm the trend in Europe of weakening support for traditional parties.  According to The Economist:

“Updated projections have the CDU/CSU (Christian Democrats/Christian Social Union) on 33.1%, an improvement but still below the party’s lowest vote-share since 1949. And they have the SPD (Social Democrats) on a dismal 20.4%, almost three points below its previous post-war nadir in 2009.”

Angela Merkel will most likely return as Chancellor, but the appeal of fringe parties as protest votes seems to be strong in Germany, as it has been in France and Britain.  The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) took a much higher than expected 13% of the vote.  For the first time since the end of World War II, a right-wing nationalist party will have representation in the Bundestag.

On Monday, 25 September Kurds in Iraq will vote in a referendum concerning possible Kurdish independence.  The Kurds constitute one of the largest nations in the world (between 25-30 million people consider themselves to be Kurds) without a state.  There was a possibility for an independent Kurdistan early in the 20th century.  After World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the British and French concocted the Treaty of Sèvres which divided up the Ottoman Empire into different nation-states, including an independent Kurdistan.  The Turks, led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, fought several battles against the Allied powers, culminating in the Armistice of Mudanya (1922) with Turkish troops in control of critical parts of Anatolia.  That Armistice led to the Treaty of Lausanne in which the Sèvres Treaty was nullified and modern Turkey was created and the promise of and independent Kurdistan was squashed.

Treaty of Sèvres (1920)

Treaty of Lausanne (1923)

 

Ultimately, however, both of these Treaties were frauds.  The intentions of the British and the French were clearly stated in their secret Sykes-Picot Treaty in 1916.   The two powers deluded themselves into thinking that their empires would survive the ongoing World War and they had every intention of integrating the collapsed Ottoman Empire into them.  The Sèvres and Lausanne Treaties were partial capitulations to those aspirations, but both countries intended to treat the “new” countries as semi-colonies.  Indeed, some Kurds actually fought on the side of the Turks in the war against the Allies between 1920 and 1923 because they feared becoming that the proposed “independent” country of Kurdistan would be a satellite of the British.

Kurds in Iran once did have an independent state.  During World War II British and Soviet troops occupied Iran, and Kurds in the northern zone controlled by the Soviet Union declared the independent Republic of Kurdistan in Mahabad, Iran in January of 1946.  The Kurdish armed forces were led by Mustafa Barzani, the father of the current leader of Iraqi Kurds.  The Mahabad republic lasted less than a year before it was crushed by Iranian forces.

Given this history, it is not surprising that every state in the region, including the US which has armed and used Kurdish forces in its war against Daesh (the Islamic State) in Iraq and Syria, is opposed to Kurdish independence, with the single exception of Israel.  Israel sees an independent Kurdish state as an important counterweight to Iranian influence in the region.  The Kurds never seem to catch a break.

Posted September 24, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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