The Kurdish challenge

Will the Western powers be able to take advantage of a new force in the Middle East power struggles?

by Norman A. Bailey  |  August 20, 2012  |  ARTICLES

The Kurds are an ancient Indo-European people whose origin is unknown, but who have inhabited the area of the Zagros and Taurus mountains of the Middle East since the beginning of history. They are divided into clans and tribes and currently inhabit portions of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The most famous Kurd in history was Saladin (Salah-al-Din), the scourge of the crusaders. They have never had their own homeland but have always lived in areas ruled by other peoples.

That may be about to change. And if it happens and how it happens will add yet another element of uncertainty and danger to the already chaotic Near and Middle East. The Iraqi Kurds already have their autonomy and their own armed forces, as well as controlling a substantial portion of Iraq's oil production, which would provide an independent Kurdistan with a ready-made economic base. Relations are not good between the Shi'a dominated government in Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region. Syria's Kurds have been taking advantage of the anarchy in that country to take political control of their region in the north--east The Kurds of Turkey have been fighting the government in Ankara for decades, and any number of military offensives by the Turks have failed to defeat the insurgency.

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