And therefore it was Suleimani and his proxies — his “kingmakers” in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq — who increasingly came to be seen, and hated, as imperial powers in the region, even more so than Trump’s America. This triggered popular, authentic, bottom-up democracy movements in Lebanon and Iraq that involved Sunnis and Shiites locking arms together to demand noncorrupt, nonsectarian democratic governance.
On Nov. 27, Iraqi Shiites — yes, Iraqi Shiites — burned down the Iranian consulate in Najaf, Iraq, removing the Iranian flag from the building and putting an Iraqi flag in its place. That was after Iraqi Shiites, in September 2018, set the Iranian consulate in Basra ablaze, shouting condemnations of Iran’s interference in Iraqi politics.
Ali Khamenei is a cagey leader who did not become one of the longest serving rulers in the Middle East by impetuously going to war with America. The clerical oligarchs respect American determination and understand the imbalance between a superpower and a struggling regional actor. They have never figured out Donald Trump, a U.S. president who offers unconditional talks while working to crater the Iranian economy. We should not expect Iran to take on a president who just ordered the killing of one of their famed commanders.
After years of Iranian provocations directly and through proxies, America’s defense machinery returned fire in no uncertain terms. President Trump’s order was no subtle back alley “hit” involving a dimly lit peripheral figure among the state’s proxies or some obscure but critical figure engaged in rocketry and nuclear arms development. Qassim Soleimani was Tehran’s top general and (second) most vigorous master of the levers and tools of the state’s diplomacy and conflict-inducing and war-fighting capacity. His taunt as quoted by The New York Times, “We are near you, where you can’t even imagine. We are ready. We are the man of this arena” was his invitation to his kind of party.
Washington will wake up later this morning to . . . what? “Heightened tensions with Iran”?
Call it what the strike represented: war.
BackChannels, ever strident and stubbornly independent, suggests that Left / Far Left Democrats and Always Right / Far Right Republicans should both can their bitter and frequently counterproductive and surreal partisan sandbox fight and take a moment to consider together the many acts of terror sponsored by Tehran, including attacks on American forces, the harangues and threats against the Democratic Liberalism of the West — and nonstop threats promising the annihilation of Israel, the seizing over many years of British patrol and other sea craft, and most of all the barbarism — the inhumanity — meted to all within and beyond Iran who have been abused, murdered, and subjugated by the regime.
Kurdish defense elements may represent an amalgam of Kurdish interests largely beneath the authoritarian semi-socialist umbrella of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). Conceived in the Far Left zeitgeist of the 1970s, an era saturated in and partially shaped by agent provocateur, disinformation, and money pouring off of Russia’s “Active Measures” programs, the PKK appears to have followed the pattern known to other Soviet-associated “liberation fronts” in relation to ruthless consolidations of power, funding through criminal means, and the launching of violent revolutionary actions against forces impeding organizational ambitions, concepts, and ends.
In 2013, Erdogan promised to recognize Kurdish identity and language, and increase Kurdish liberties. A truce followed, but hostilities resumed in 2015. Erdogan said he was responding to PKK terrorism. The PKK claimed Erdogan destroyed the ceasefire by building dams and security stations in Kurdish regions. In either case, a war was on. Erdogan attacked with helicopter gunships, artillery and armored divisions, murdering thousands and displacing 335,000 mainly Kurdish citizens. A UN report described destroyed villages as moonscapes.
The recruitment of mixed Kurdish forces to fight ISIS necessarily involved diplomatic magic as some best trained and experienced in the business of fighting were to become those fighting Assad’s idea of “The Terrorists” — ISIS.
Here’s a section representing one starting point — the American State Department’s continuing designation of the PKK as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” — and both the required finesse to shift popular impression plus an expression of America’s intent to defend its Kurdish allies (and front line) in the effort to defeat Islamic State —
The Department of State has reviewed and maintained the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), pursuant to Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended (8 U.S.C. § 1189). The PKK was originally designated as an FTO in 1997.
. . . .
Today’s actions notify the U.S. public and the international community that the PKK remains a terrorist organization. In addition to its continued status as an FTO, the PKK has also been designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224 since 2001.
BackChannels refers often to the “Phantoms of the Soviet”, a mixture of KGB-Era ideas, methods, personalities, and relationships that have for about 26 years outlived the Soviet Union. Wherever cultivated, the same have fairly suspended geopolitical space in the barbarism and political repression best associated with feudal / medieval political absolutism.
The PKK’s role in potential Turkish-Russian escalation should be viewed through the lens of Moscow’s deep historic ties with the group — and with Damascus. In the 1970s, the PKK was established with Soviet support in the Beqa Valley of Syrian-occupied Lebanon. As one of two NATO countries boasting a land border with the Soviet Union, Turkey was considered Moscow’s soft underbelly during the Cold War, providing Washington with numerous assets such as listening bases capable of intercepting communications across the Black Sea. The Russians saw the PKK as a means of undercutting a key U.S. ally.
The PKK also enjoyed support from Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafiz, who cast his regime as the champion of Turkish Kurds despite oppressing Syria’s own Kurdish community. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan lived in Damascus while his group ran training camps in Lebanon and used Syrian territory to attack Turkey.
Moscow’s support for the PKK eventually dissipated with the end of the Cold War and the emergence of pressing political and economic problems at home. Syria ended its own support in 1998, after Ankara threatened Damascus with war for supporting what had become a terribly destructive PKK campaign throughout Turkey. As part of this abrupt shift, Hafiz al-Assad expelled Ocalan.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) emerged from the radical ferment that swept the Western world in the 1960s. It was founded in 1978 as a Marxist-Leninist organisation infused with Kurdish nationalism and a cult of personality around its leader, Abdullah Ocalan. The PKK spent much of this period attacking other Kurdish and left-wing groups, and its own dissidents – hundreds of whom would be killed over the years – in an attempt to monopolise the support base for its ideas.
While BackChannels happily and humbly defers to The Henry Jackson Society’s wizard of political science, Kyle Orton, it recognizes inherent value in the Kurdish community as singular among the world’s ethnic and tribal cohorts and with that equally inherent rights to autonomous self-determination and dignity — in defense terms: freedom from cultural and religious persecution.
BackChannels, being neither international organization or potent state, however may best demur to an analyst closer to the issues and altogether more experienced — in this instance, Michael Rubin of The American Enterprise Institute:
More importantly, PKK tactics have changed: There remains low-level military insurgency, but gone are the days when the PKK targets Turkish civilians (alas, the reverse is not true with regard to Turkish forces and Kurdish civilians, as the residents of Cizre, Nusaybin, and Sur can attest). Certainly, breakaway factions of the PKK such as the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) have claimed attacks, but such factionalism is common when former terrorists come in from the cold. That was the case with the “ Real IRA ” which emerged after the IRA entered into a peace process in Northern Ireland.
A little more than six months ago, BackChannels published “Moscow as Medusa with All the Snakes Attached” (January 2, 2019), and what it had had in mind was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s leveraging of arrangements involving leadership in several EU / NATO states fit for the flattering of an emperor. He had President Erdogan apologizing to him for shooting down two MIGs overflying Turkish air space (and, lo and behold, the “Turkish Stream” energy project got back on its feet) and, later (about now), purchasing Russian air defense technology suited to knocking NATO air power out of the sky . . . .
So here with the above in mind is reference to “east-west” and “medieval v modern” conflict that continues to validate the idea of the presence of the “Phantoms of the Soviet” and their generally impeding progress toward modern governance in the near and middle east:
The Kurds have historically played an important role in Russian efforts to exert its influence in the Middle East. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union used the Kurds to bypass America’s containment strategy in the region.
Shortly after World War II, Moscow supported the creation of the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad in Iranian Kurdistan to increase its influence in the region. After the Iranian army crushed the Kurdish forces, the fighters led by Mustafa Barzani took refuge in the Soviet Union.
Political analyst Gonul Tol appears in the third video featured in the next section, which presents another set of impressions having to do with the Kurdish struggle for Kurdish autonomy and unification.
Reference Abdullah Ocalan’s vision that misrepresents liberalism and true representative democratic process, which may in turn replicate what the Soviet axis always produced using “sweet words” combined with the rapacious temperament of the politically privileged in an autocratic system: kleptocratic strongmen in palaces and manipulated “masses” around them.
2. Phantoms of the Soviet – PKK
Related to the first point, the PKK set up in the Soviet Era with, apparently, related dogma for intellectual definition, and in that its presence in persons may persist beneath other banners, the same may serve to block western enthusiasm for an independent Kurdistan. In other words and in relation to the Phantoms of the Soviet (a category referenced frequently on BackChannels in relation to other conflicts), the persistence of PKK ideas and actions, whether vengeful or provocative, cloud western support. The only answer to that is to reconsider what is advanced in Kurdistan as regards practical ideals and political language (across languages) and adjusting for the distance in intellectual history between states of affairs in 1984 and those of this day.
3. Putin’s Feudal Revanche
Putin’s Russia represents another rapacious autocracy bent on producing conflict worldwide within a global system of feudal absolute power certain to drive wars of all against all.
The Federation represents Russia’s third flip — two revolutions, three governments — within 100 years of the days of the tsars, and appears now to leverage deals on that basis, e.g., in range of Putin’s sway (and leveraged by the Turkish Stream energy pipeline project, Erdogan has diminished the democracy that initially empowered him and all but returned Turkey to a feudal estate from which he cannot be politically (by mere elections) ejected.
4. Moscow / Moscow-Tehran’s Totalitarian Approach to the Creation and Presentation of Conflict
The intent was to produce a large piece of theater, truly, that would make Assad look good — he envisioned and helped into power the enemy wanted — while producing a major headache for the west. By remaining somewhat fixed in past arrangements and ideas, the Kurdish community has perhaps been maneuvered into aiding the devil that most seeks to control it (and everyone else).
5. State of Kurdish Administrative and Constitutional Development
It has been hard to see the coordinating and self-subordinating (“for the greater good”) character of Kurdish leaders to an overarching administrative and democratic (power checking, power displacing, power distributing, and culturally and politically evolving) system. The latent Kurdish state in fact that may be defined by the subordination of officials to greater institutional arrangements may be there, but the western / publishing-in-English journos haven’t laid out relationships, or I’ve missed that coverage, or the same is not wanted.
In deference to Ocalan’s “democratic communalist” vision, there may be little incentive (by way of example too) to bring western commercial elements and associated vulgarity into a culturally independent Kurdistan. There are many other ways to pursue and sustain both cultural and political evolution and distributed economic development across a new polity (reference authors Brown, McRobie, Schumacher, among others).
Addendum to the Above: Found Posted on YouTube – October 17, 2017
6. Modern Kurdish Defense Considerations Against Adverse Feudal Estates
Much in favor of the defense of Kurdish independence may be the reversion of the Turkish government to feudalism and its history of persecution of the Kurds and others. Clearly, the Kurdish community needs an effective defense against adverse egomaniac and ill-willed potentates.
7.Armed Proxies of Iranian Fascism
Washington needs to be pressed hard about the powering up and evident fielding of Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite militia in the latest suppression of Kurdish independence. At this point, Moscow / Moscow-Tehran’s kleptocratic totalitarian ambition should be glaring, and the western public should join the Kurdish community in blocking greater Iranian fascism through armed proxies.
If there’s a secret to peace all around, it may be in the separation of the present western-backed governments from the external meddling of rogue dictatorships that wish to drag the region backward toward feudal barbarism using the most nefarious of political methods to do it. The leaders in that aggression have learned how to make money off the misery of others while they themselves remain remote from the nightmares they have created.
The Kurdistan region enjoys autonomy in Iraq, and that has meant running its own airports; borders; maintaining its own Peshmerga security forces; and exporting oil through its own economic management.
Baghdad now wants to use the referendum as an excuse to roll that back.
With the war on the Islamic State seemingly close to an end, Baghdad wants to punish the Kurdish region for seeking independence.
BackChannels has turned up the following themes related to the Kurdish struggle for independence:
Iranian resistance expressed in Iraq via Iran aligned and backed Shiite militia.
Persistence of the Kurdish PKK and a perhaps too robust relationship with a persistently feudal and political absolute, criminal, and totalitarian Russia.
Inability, so far, to attenuate the power of chiefs and produce a disciplined and power balancing democracy.
Reference – Iraq: Iran Aligned Shiite Militia
Note, please, the date year associated with reference. Whether 2015, earlier, or later, BackChannels’ Kurdish source has cited Iraq’s Iranian-aligned Shiite militia as posting a persistent challenge to the defense of the Kurd’s ancestral land.
Washington’s response to the Islamic State’s (IS) advance, however, has been disgraceful: The United States is now acting as the air force, the armory, and the diplomatic cover for Iraqi militias that are committing some of the worst human rights abuses on the planet. These are “allies” that are actually beholden to our strategic foe, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and which often resort to the same vile tactics as the Islamic State itself.
. . . from the KRG perspective, two Shia militia forces—Asaib Ahl Haq and the Badr militias—are uncontrollable.
Both these militias are backed by Iran, and the their military operations are effectively overseen by Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Qods Force, which serves as the external arm of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).
Hashd al-Shaabi is the defender of “Iraqi sovereignty and its unity,” he declared, and it will not fight any other group except ISIS.
Kurdish Peshmerga and Shiite militia forces have clashed several times in Kirkuk’s southern ethnically-mixed city of Khurmatu in recent months. Several people from both sides were killed in the confrontations.
A century after the breakdown of the Ottoman boundaries, Iraq remains a forced union of peoples whose national aspirations and sense of identity have been suppressed. Members of my family spent decades in exile from successive Iraqi governments that, since the turn of the 20th century, butchered generations of Kurdish men, women and children who struggled to find their place in this artificial state.
Thus there has always been a lingering, unresolved question of identity for the Kurds of Iraq. That identity will finally achieve resolution when the people of Iraqi Kurdistan vote in the referendum. This expression of popular will should not only close a long chapter of grief but also bring new certainty and stability to an increasingly volatile region plagued by sectarian conflict and bloodshed.
Of special concern was the possibility that Iran-backed Shiite militias in Iraq could seek to gain political advantage by challenging Kurdish control in the oil-rich, ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk and other disputed territories also claimed by the central government in Baghdad.
John Hannah relays a chilling list of actions taken or threatened by Iraq and Turkey in their pique with the Kurdish referendum. He goes on to note the following and then pleads for Washington’s regaining its own initiative in moral courage in partnering with the Kurds and forestalling the escalation of force applied in keeping them captive to forces clearly out of step with Washington’s moral and political missions:
I was taken aback by the intense frustration and anger directed at a critical wartime ally and longtime, loyal U.S. partner whose history of oppression and even genocide at the hands of other nations leaves it with — if nothing else — an almost unimpeachable moral case for self-determination.
ISIL — the “Islamists” — have been long “played” by Moscow and Tehran as a goad to the west and a useful foil in their feudal struggle to sustain the medieval political absolutism that in turn supports their respective dictatorships.
President Trump’s bearing down on ISIS threatens to remove that plaything from the Moscow-Tehran (old “Red-Green Alliance”) toy box. Under pressure, and as much may have taken place in St. Petersburg earlier today, ISIS has now to displace and redistribute its criminal program.
The kind of manipulation involved between Moscow and an assortment of terrorist organizations may often be indirect. As the editor of Back-Channels, I believe that the al-Qaeda presence in Syria was “incubated” of de-emphasized in Syria’s combat planning, so as to shape and “frame” the look of the developing civil war. That’s what the piece is about, and there’s more online to support it.
Regarding the St. Petersburg train bombing — today’s event — there are some tweets now crediting ISIS with the attack.
The prompt: the suggestion that ISIS was finished in Iraq.
Reliant on the open source, BackChannels has been finding it difficult to obtain data regarding the ISIS presence in Mosul and elsewhere in the combined Syrian-Iraq Theater of War. This may be the closest one may get with today’s field reporting:
Some posters on Isis forums linked the explosions to Russia’s backing of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting Isis as well as other groups in the Syrian civil war.
The group hasn’t yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but often takes as long as a day to do so. If it does claim responsibility for the incident – which it has done with attacks that officials have later said it had no role in – it would be far from the first time it has done so, after it said it had inspired attempted attacks in Chechnya and Russia earlier this year.
The 18 to 20 million people who live in 2700 shanty towns and illegal dwellings, particularly around major capitals, the rampant phenomenon of trafficking of young women and girls to other countries, the rising number of women who post ads on the walls to sell their infants, and the 30 per cent of the population who according to the admissions of the regime’s officials are starving, are but a few examples indicating how the Iranian people’s lives have been destroyed under the repressive rule of the Velayat-e Faqih, Khamenei.
Such devastation coupled with incessant executions and daily arrests of some two to three thousand people comprise the security the mullahs claim they have provided for the people of Iran by engaging in the slaughter of the people of Syria, Iraq and other countries in the region.