Reactions to the unfolding Iraqi Kurdish referendum for independence have been varied, with countries like Canada saying they support it, while Iran and Iraq claiming to be prepared to go to war over it. Yet, no reaction is as telling as Turkish President Erdogan’s who said the following:
“Tell Mr. Netanyahu that we are standing at opposing sides. How can our relations be in good shape while he is the only one recognizing the [referendum] of the Regional Administration of Northern Iraq? Tell him to abandon the support,” Erdogan said.
Earlier in the month Al-Monitor reported that the Turkish press claimed that Barzani had made a deal with Israel to let 200,000 Kurdish Jews living in Israel move back to Kurdistan. The problem is there is no where as close to that many in Israel.
Turkey’s fear and the reason for their reaction to Israel’s overt support for an independent Kurdistan is that for Turkey and Iran any Kurdish independence will directly impact and inspire their very large Kurdish populations to do the same. There are approximately 15 million Kurds in Iran and another 20 million Kurds in Turkey. An independent Kurdistan in Northern Iraq is seen as the gateway for the rest of the occupied Kurdish homeland to break away from the countries that have annexed their land.
Many of the Iranian Kurdish groups have bases on the Iraqi side of the porous Iranian border. These groups are natural extensions of the KDP and PUK political parties in Iraq.
Both Turkey and Iran have claimed Kurdistan is some elaborate Zionist conspiracy built by Jerusalem to dismember their countries. What they seem to be forgetting is that it is their own actions against the indigenous Kurds and their hate for Israel that have caused the very predicament they have feared the most.
Russia and USA Stand Quietly With the Kurds
While the Iranians have had free rein in Syria under Russian auspices, Putin has taken a different track with the Iraqi Kurds, which is similar to the US strategy. While not publicly supporting Kurdish independence like Israel has, both Putin and Trump have decided to tacitly support independence from behind.
For the USA, Kurdish independence creates a counter weight to Iran, while Putin is willing to let Iran’s push towards regional control get stalled in order to payback Turkey, who Russia considers an arch and ancient enemy.