A century of aspirations has finally resulted in a vote - inside Iraqi Kurdistan - for an independent Kurdish nation. Jubilation across the region, from Syria to Iran, amongst the Kurdish population is apparent. Despite the grave limitations of this vote, the fact that it has happened pleases a people who have fought - in different ways - for the realization of their national aspirations. It is hard to deny that.
Today, the Iraqi government - backed by the Turks and the Iranians - have disallowed aircraft to land in Iraqi Kurdistan. Turkey, Iraq and Iran have said that they would embargo the landlocked region and suffocate the meaning of this vote. There is little tangible support available from the Kurds in Syria and Turkey, both of whom have different ideas about the way ahead. Turkey's Kurdish political forces have largely shifted their horizon from independence to material rights within Turkey, while the Syrian Kurds are fighting a difficult battle against ISIS to hold territory which they hope will be granted - as Damascus has promised - some autonomous status.
The vote itself did not follow the timetable of Kurdish national aspirations, but it followed the parochial political crisis of the Iraqi Kurdish leader Barzani. This is the essence of the report I have this week from Alternet. It covers the genesis of this vote and the dilemma of the victory, whether the scale is exaggerated or not. Will Iraqi Kurdistan - like South Sudan - be able to make its way forward when it is surrounded by hostile neighbours, and will it be able to survive when both the major external powers - the United States and Russia - are uninterested in putting down a marker for this new development? Important questions to consider.
You can read my report here.
Iraqi Kurdistan's old ally is Israel. There is no wonder why, therefore, Israeli flags appeared in the crowds of those celebrating the vote's outcome. Turkey's Erdogan made a sharp comment about these Israeli flags - 'Who will recognize your independence? Israel. The world is not about Israel. You should know that the waving of Israeli flags will not save you'. In fact, the presence of these flags sets the hair on edge for people in the region - including the more left-oriented Turkish and Syrian Kurdish political forces. They do not like the close association of Israel with the Iraqi Kurds.
In Iraq, there has long been the accusation from Abd al-Aziz al-Uqayli in 1966 to Nouri al-Maliki this year that a Kurdish state in northern Iraq would be a 'second Israel'. Israel imports three quarters of its oil from Iraqi Kurdistan and it has been the Iraqi Kurds main diplomatic ally since the 1990s. There is much to be said about this alliance and the political problem this will create for the Iraqi Kurds.
Israel has been very clever in its slow attempt to create allies not only in West Asia, but in South Asia. I have long written about the Israeli attempt to break India from the Non-Aligned Movement's consensus on Palestine. Last week I spent about an hour talking to Sana Saeed, a journalist with AJ+. She has now made a fabulous eight minute video - with great archival footage and smart use of material - to offer a primer on India's Israel position. You can watch it here. The segment is also quite funny.
I hope that AJ+ or someone like them would do a short video on the relations between Iraqi Kurdish politicians and Israel.
The Turkish army and the Iraqi army trained on the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan as the vote took place and its results were awaited. The smell of war - or at least the threat of war - is real. Far more dangerous, in a way, than the war-mongering that continues to take place around the Korean peninsula. Trump's exorbitant language was met - during the UN General Assembly session - by a major Russian-Chinese naval exercise off the coastline of North Korea. That message was not sufficiently broadcast in the United States and in Europe - where it should be made known that the Russians and the Chinese continue to provide some form of security guarantee to the North Koreans.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the island of Puerto Rico suffers from indifference by the White House, while the President focuses his attention on the protests of football players. For Frontline, I wrote a short report on the struggle of the undocumented youth - the Dreamers - who Trump has promised to deport. This kind of policy, far more than anything else, continues to divide the United States and create instability within. You can read my report here. Am currently reporting the aftermath of the hurricane on Puerto Rico and on Cuba. That'll be out in two weeks.
We, at LeftWord Books, are very excited to announce several new titles, all available for pre-order:
(1) Archana Prasad's Red Flag of the Warlis. History of an Ongoing Struggle.
(2) T. M. Thomas Isaac and Michelle Winter's Building Alternatives: The Story of India's Oldest Construction Workers' Cooperative.
(3) Socialist Register 2018. Rethinking Democracy, edited by Leo Panitch and Greg Albo.
Please join our book club, so that you can get our discounts.
Meanwhile, at our LeftWord Books blog, we have a wonderful report by Elisabeth B. Armstrong on chasing down Adrienne Cooper, the author of one of the best books on Bengal's rural insurgency of the 1940s. It is a charming story about Adrienne's amazing research and about the insurgency that she documented in her long out of print book (we hope to bring out a second edition). You can read the blogpost here. The picture above is from the notebook of Adrienne Cooper.
Please visit our LeftWord Books site. We have lovely stuff for you.