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(32,017 posts)
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 09:46 AM Aug 2014

Who will help the Kurds?

Now that President Obama has launched a program of humanitarian aid for the Kurds and has authorized limited offensive air strikes against IS, DU has erupted in debate along very familiar lines. Some support the President's decision and the course of action he is taking. Others abhor his decision to risk involving the United States in yet another war in the Middle East.

A recent DU thread asks whether we are "ready" for another war in the Middle East, and I think it's author is right to caution us that "limited" assistance to the Kurds could very well spiral into full-scale war (as we learned from Vietnam). That's a very real risk, and well-meaning people on DU are worried about that prospect. Some of them argue (in typically isolationist terms) that the Kurds are not our problem. Some even go so far as to argue that the Middle East is not our problem (even though they know that Japan, for example, which has practically no oil reserves of its own, gets most of its oil from the Middle East).

This isolationist/pacifist bent among my well-meaning peers at DU is what prompted this thread. To those people who rightly fear another pointless war I ask, who will help the Kurds (who are being attacked, brutally, by IS)? One person suggested that Turkey should help. Iran, which also has a substantial Kurdish population could help, if they were so inclined. The point of this thread is to suggest that nobody wants to help the Kurds. If the United States doesn't do it, nobody will.

Consider the following map:

The Turks do not want an independent Kurdistan. They're probably secretly pleased that IS is attacking the Kurds and forestalling their ambition to establish an independent state. The Turks, for their part, are intent upon keeping their Kurds and their Kurd-inhabited lands (which are rich in mineral resources). It's unlikely that the Turks will help the Kurds, and Turkey is a NATO ally, so we have to consider their interests very carefully whenever we make decisions that impact the region.

The Iranians do not want an independent Kurdistan. As such, they are unlikely to aid the Kurds and are, most likely, secretly pleased that IS is attacking the Kurds. Iran doesn't want to lose territory to an independent Kurdistan, so they are unlikely to aid the Kurds in their fight against IS.

As such, it appears to me that the only state on Earth that has both the power and the will to aid the Kurds is the United States. President Obama agreed to provide humanitarian aid and limited military strikes for this reason. We created this mess in Iraq with a disastrous decision to go to war in 2003. The people of Iraq were much better off under Saddam Hussein, as most sane people can see in retrospect, but because we created this mess, I feel we have a continuing duty to ameliorate the damage that we caused, and that's what I think the President is doing now.

Will this action lead us to full-scale war? Perhaps. Note that ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) no longer exists. Neither does ISIL (The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). They have both been superseded by IS (The Islamic State) led by a Caliph to whom, supposedly, all Muslims owe allegiance. IS is an existential threat to peace and security throughout the Muslim world. We will have to deal with them sooner or later. For the time being, however, President Obama has decided to aid the Kurds--quite specifically and in a very limited way. Because no other nation has the ability and the willingness to do so, I think he made the right call. Personally, I'd rather deal with IS now, in its infancy, before it grows into a greater menace.

For the time being, however, I ask DU this question: if we don't help the Kurds, who will? Perhaps nobody, and this is a key factor that President Obama considered in making the decision to engage, once again, in this volatile region.


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Who will help the Kurds? (Original Post) Laelth Aug 2014 OP
Probably not so much the same people who broke Iraq but those janitors who clean up the mess. gordianot Aug 2014 #1
IS is still weak. Laelth Aug 2014 #3
ask yourself this question and answer honestly please. politicman Aug 2014 #2
I don't care which President authorized it, IronGate Aug 2014 #4
I hear you. Laelth Aug 2014 #5
thanks for your respectful answer, and heres my response. politicman Aug 2014 #8
What is the history of the Kurds that seems to end up in their being in trouble with everyone? jwirr Aug 2014 #6
They have a very interesting history, in fact. Laelth Aug 2014 #7
Agreed. I just worry that we will be there another 13 years. Also asked the question because I jwirr Aug 2014 #9
Saddam Hussein gassed them because they wanted independence. Laelth Aug 2014 #11
I am glad I asked. I now understand a lot more of what is going on. Feeling very sorry for the Kurds jwirr Aug 2014 #16
It appears that there are about 4 million Kurds in Iraq. Laelth Aug 2014 #17
Thank you. I am hoping for the best for them. These wars and the hate our world seems to jwirr Aug 2014 #18
At this point it's a low cost experiment to see if flamingdem Aug 2014 #10
No doubt. Laelth Aug 2014 #12
Who Else, Besides Americans, Are Flying Fighter Jets in Iraq? bigtree Aug 2014 #13
Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq are all rightly afraid of IS. Laelth Aug 2014 #14
the US and other nations are stepping up their humanitarian aid bigtree Aug 2014 #15
I want to thank you for this excellent thread Jim Beard Aug 2014 #19
You are quite welcome. Laelth Aug 2014 #20


(15,301 posts)
1. Probably not so much the same people who broke Iraq but those janitors who clean up the mess.
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 10:01 AM
Aug 2014

It is quite possible the real feared monster has arrived in the Middle East. Boy who cried wolf comes strongly to mind.


(32,017 posts)
3. IS is still weak.
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 10:33 AM
Aug 2014

It has no "official" weapons suppliers. It has no strong allies (although there's good reason to believe that it is currently backed by Saudi Arabia). It has no capital, no diplomats, no ambassadors, and has not been recognized as an independent state. That said, the leaders of IS (former Ba'athists from Saddam Hussein's regime) are intelligent and competent. They have crushed the Iraqi military in nearly every engagement. In part, this is because Donald Rumsfeld made the disastrous decision to disband the Iraqi military after we conquered Iraq. Iraq's Shiite government has a brand new military with no institutional knowledge. Their morale is abysmal. They, quite simply, don't know how to run an effective military. In fact, an Iranian has now been given control of Shiite Iraq's military because the Shiite Iraqis recognize that they have no ability to wage war with their military in its current state. The vast majority of the folks with institutional military knowledge in Iraq are Sunnis (former allies of Saddam Hussein), and they are now running the highly-effective IS military.

IS remains weak, but, as I said in the OP, IS is an existential threat that I would rather deal with now before it grows any stronger. In effect, I agree with you. IS is the real deal, and it needs to be destroyed. I don't think I am crying "wolf" when I say that.




(710 posts)
2. ask yourself this question and answer honestly please.
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 10:28 AM
Aug 2014

After reading your op, I would turn around and ask you to answer this question as honestly as possible:

If it were Bush, McCain or Romney using air strikes in Iraq to help the Kurds, would you be so supportive of it?

Really, if any of those 3 authorized air strikes in Iraq to help the Kurd, would you be supportive of it or against it?

If you can be honest and answer that you would be against it, then you have your answer as to why many of us here on DU don't accept your rationalization just because Obama is the one authorizing it.



(2,186 posts)
4. I don't care which President authorized it,
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 10:38 AM
Aug 2014

it's the right thing to do to prevent what could very well be a genocide or ethnic cleansing by a brutal terrorist army.


(32,017 posts)
5. I hear you.
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 10:46 AM
Aug 2014

You are absolutely right to be wary of the party's cheerleaders on DU. Here's what I can tell you about that. I am not a mindless, partisan cheerleader. I do align myself with the Democratic Party. I have run for office under the party's banner. I am a Democrat, but I am also an independent-minded liberal. I criticize both the Party and the President when I feel criticism is warranted. A brief review of my DU Journal will provide all the evidence you need on this subject.

Responding to your specific questions, I answer as follows:

1. Yes. I would support both humanitarian aid for the Kurds and attacks on IS if Bush, McCain, or Romney were President at this time.

2. Yes. If any of those three people authorized air strikes against IS under these circumstances, I would support those decisions, just as I was quite pleased with the way that George H. W. Bush handled the first Iraq war. There were plenty of things that I disliked about President Bush the First, but I think he handled that war very well.

3. As I would not be against the actions you mentioned above had Republicans been responsible for their execution, I need not respond to your third point, but please understand that I do understand, I think, the opposition of many DU posters to the President's recent decisions vis-a-vis the Kurds. Even so, if we don't help the Kurds, I ask, who will?




(710 posts)
8. thanks for your respectful answer, and heres my response.
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 11:11 AM
Aug 2014

I honestly appreciate the way you answered my question, it was the first time in a long time that someone on DU answered a question in a respectful manner, thinking of the opposite position while answering why you stand by your own position.

But I want to say that the Sunni's in the region are already asking why the U.S refused to intervene when the Sunni's were getting slaughtered in Syria early on, only to intervene when Christians and Yazidis are threatened with slaughter?

The Sunni's are already asking why America decides to militarily intervene to help the Christians, Kurds and Yazidi's, when it refuses to help the Palestinians who face the same predicament in Gaza?
Heck, America didn't even militarily help the Shia government in Iraq when ISIS over ran their forces in northern Iraq, yet for the Christians, Kurds and Yazidi's, America decides to use military intervention and the Sunni's are questioning why.

This will only lead to more Sunni's becoming radicalized and fighting America and who ever is aligned with it IMO.


(32,017 posts)
7. They have a very interesting history, in fact.
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 11:06 AM
Aug 2014

They aided the allies during WWII and were promised an independent state in exchange for their assistance. The allies stabbed them in the back, and the Kurds were denied an independent state. They have, in fact, been seeking an independent Kurdistan for over a hundred years, but the geo-political will to make that happen has never materialized.

More here.

The Kurds present a unique historical and geo-political problem, to be certain, but I think that we are right to help them now, and I am inclined to do just about anything to crush IS in its infancy. A new, Islamic Caliphate is about the last thing that the world needs at this time.



(39,215 posts)
9. Agreed. I just worry that we will be there another 13 years. Also asked the question because I
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 11:11 AM
Aug 2014

remember that they were the ones who were gassed by the Iraqi government before we went in 2003. Obviously their own Iraqi's do not like them but I suppose that is because of their WWII position.


(32,017 posts)
11. Saddam Hussein gassed them because they wanted independence.
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 11:32 AM
Aug 2014

Or, so I understand. The Kurds have been a problem for Iran, Turkey, and Iraq for a long time. They are independent-minded and have long fought for their own, independent country. Saddam Hussein had to fight them to keep them in line, and this was one of the excuses that we used in 2003 to go to war against Saddam, but the Kurdish independence movement is nothing new. They were never fully integrated into Iraq. They have never been fully integrated into either Turkey or Iran. They see themselves (with good reason) as an independent nation living in hostile territory. The breakdown of Iraq as a sovereign state (which we facilitated) gave them hope for independence. At present, the Shiite government of Iraq can't help them. They're barely holding their ground against IS. IS, for its part, is determined to exterminate heretics (like the Kurds), and given that the Shiite Iraqi government can't protect the Kurds, they are defenseless. They are trying to hold their own against IS, but IS inherited Saddam Hussein's military institutional knowledge and have seized a lot of weapons that give them an advantage over the Kurds. Only the United States can help the Kurds at the moment.

You're right to worry that we may become entangled, militarily, in this region for another 13 years. I am not happy about that, but I see no viable alternative. IS is a very real threat to peace and stability, and we continue to have vital interests in the Middle East.



(39,215 posts)
16. I am glad I asked. I now understand a lot more of what is going on. Feeling very sorry for the Kurds
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 03:11 PM
Aug 2014

and agree that we need to help them. Given what we have already experienced there I think this is going to be tough.

How many Kurds are there and is it at all possible to find them places to go to if we cannot protect them. I am reaching because this type of move does not work either as we see with Israel and Gaza. Oh well I guess we just have to take what steps we can.


(32,017 posts)
17. It appears that there are about 4 million Kurds in Iraq.
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 03:50 PM
Aug 2014

So says wiki, here.

They could retreat into Iran and Turkey, I suppose, but they lack the means to get there (as walking in the desert or the mountains without supplies is deadly). Besides which, they don't want to leave. That's their home.

Presumably, some targeted air strikes against IS will cause IS to back off of the Kurds. At this point, we mainly want IS to leave the Kurds alone, and I think the Kurds would be happy with that result combined with some much-needed humanitarian aid that we are already starting to provide.



(39,215 posts)
18. Thank you. I am hoping for the best for them. These wars and the hate our world seems to
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 03:52 PM
Aug 2014

generate is not helping anyone.


(39,380 posts)
10. At this point it's a low cost experiment to see if
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 11:13 AM
Aug 2014

the Kurd army can be strengthened enough to fight Isis. That plus the humanitarian issue of helping the stranded people on the mountain.

It's too early to judge if we have another problem on our hands that will go on and on.

I disagree with the analysis about Turkey and Iran and their Kurds. While that is a consideration a bigger consideration is a "Caliphate" that will threaten them. They are more threatened by Isis, that's why the US is able to work to some extent with Iran on this.


(32,017 posts)
12. No doubt.
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 11:35 AM
Aug 2014

Both Turkey and Iran should be afraid of IS. Whether that fear will translate into aid for the Kurds is another question. To date, neither Iran nor Turkey has shown any willingness to come to the defense of the Kurds.



(86,334 posts)
13. Who Else, Besides Americans, Are Flying Fighter Jets in Iraq?
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 11:58 AM
Aug 2014

____ The Iraqi Air Force is poorly equipped, consisting of several Cessna planes carrying American-supplied Hellfire missiles, some American- and Russian-supplied helicopters, and Russian-made Su-25 aircraft.

Garrett Khoury, the director of research at The Eastern Project, explained that the Iraqi Air Force "recently acquired around a dozen SU-25 ground attack aircraft from Russia (with more possibly coming from Belarus) ...which give them the ability to conduct serious ground-support operations.

" are Russian jets bearing Iraqi insignia, but possibly piloted by Russians," Khoury continued. "Iraq did use the SU-25 during the Saddam Hussein era, and there are probably former Iraqi pilots who flew them, but it has been at best 12 years since any Iraqi pilot got any significant flying time with the plane."

So who bombed ISIS on Thursday night?

The most probable answer is Iraqi Su-25s, manned by Russian or Iranians—or maybe Iraqis . . .

. . . Turkish F-16s were reportedly patrolling the skies over the area near Sinjar in northern Iraq, where about 50,000 Yezidis are starving after fleeing ISIS militants.

"Iran has used its own Air Force to attack ISIS since the beginning of the group's offensive, but mostly to keep them away from the Iranian border," Khoury said. "Syria has likewise conducted air strikes on ISIS targets on the Iraqi side of their shared border . . ."

read more: http://www.slate.com/blogs/business_insider/2014/08/08/who_else_besides_americans_are_flying_fighter_jets_in_iraq.html

Iraq's leader, Nouri al-Maliki, has welcomed Syrian jets bombing near a border post lost by his forces to insurgents, in a rare strike against the jihadist group Isis that also occupies much of northern Syria.

Maliki acknowledged that a series of attacks on Tuesday targeting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) near the town of al-Qaim, on the Iraqi-Syrian border, were carried out by the Syrian air force.

Joshua Earnest, White House spokesman, said earlier that the US had "no reason to dispute" reports that Syria had attacked within Iraqi territory but Maliki told the BBC that the air force had stuck to its side of the border. Maliki said the Syrian air strike on the Sunni militants left both countries "winners" but claimed his administration had no prior warning of the raids.

"There was no coordination involved, but we welcome this action. We welcome any Syrian strike against Isis because this group targets both Iraq and Syria ... But we didn't make any request from Syria. They carry out their strikes and we carry out ours. The final winners are our two countries," he said in an interview with BBC Arabic.


Syrian aircraft bomb Sunni militant targets inside Iraq


(32,017 posts)
14. Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq are all rightly afraid of IS.
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 12:02 PM
Aug 2014

Of that I have no doubt. That doesn't mean, however, that any of those three nations gives a rip about the Kurds. I return to my original question.

If we don't help the Kurds, who will?



(86,334 posts)
15. the US and other nations are stepping up their humanitarian aid
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 12:11 PM
Aug 2014

. . .but your query suggests that there should necessarily be some U.S. military role in defending the Kurdish people against Isis.

The U.S. presence and activity has already been demonstrated to be counterproductive to most of our aims there. In fact, it was cited by the Bush administration's own intelligence agencies as fueling and fostering more terrorists in opposition than our military was able to put down. There shouldn't be an expectation that it would be any different this time around, no matter how altruistic the goal.

I fully support the humanitarian effort to deliver supplies, food, and other amenities to the besieged Kurdish civilians, but I reject the notion that the U.S. should be doing the fighting. There are several other nations in the region which would be better suited to that task; several are already making that effort.


Jim Beard

(2,535 posts)
19. I want to thank you for this excellent thread
Sat Aug 9, 2014, 05:13 PM
Aug 2014

This subject has been on my mind for some time now. I really like the maps that show the Kurdish population area and how complex it is. I was under the assumption that the Kurdish area was much smaller in Turkey which is indeed a problem.

I do not believe in forcing people to live together like the prime example being the former Yugoslavia. Let the people have true self determination. I am even critical of the United States and its brutal civil war. Slavery was on its way out all over the world and it was just a matter of time before it was no longer used in the US. We lost a lot of our brothers and sister in that war and the anger runs deep even today.

While I despise what Russia is doing in the Ukraine, Kiev were the birth place of Russia. Let the Russians to the East go and defend the areas most like Europe.

There will have to be some division of the oil reserves on Kurdish land.

It there was an independent Kurdish nation in what is now Iraq, there would be migration from other Kurdish regions.

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