A Problem of Perception

A report from Al Monitor has an official Iranian spokesman giving its friends in the Iraqi Kurdish KDP hell over reports that some Iranian Kurds are fighting ISIS alongside them in the Mosul area. Sounds familiar to me. The Iranians are ok with Barzani’s KDP, because that’s somebody else’s Kurdish problem and they’ve cut a deal. When it comes to Iran’s own Kurds, that is quite a different matter.

I ran our consulate in Tabriz for a couple of years, back in the ‘60’s, and this was old hat then, the Shah playing games with Kurdish politics across the border in Iraq, while sitting firmly on his own Kurds, with the Turks sitting in the balcony keeping close watch. The Kurds know how to play the game too, and know how to settle for less if they can hang on to it for a while. I suspect we’ll be hearing very little if anything from now on about Iranian Kurds operating as an independent military force anywhere, even if allied in the fight against everybody’s enemy ISIS.

It struck me that a lot of our ongoing headaches in that part of the world arise from a simple issue of how we perceive them: Should we consider this mess a series of interconnected conflicts, or as an endemic condition?

Think of the poor fellow who suffers from a urinary tract infection. The medics try everything to cure it and finally decide just to suppress it, so he ends up taking a pill every night that does just that. Not as good as a cure but better than nothing.

The Levant plus nearby Kurdish areas is suffering from constant conflict. The roots are complex and interconnected, and they run deep into groups’ mistreatment of other groups that run in some cases back for millennia. When we settle one conflict the condition provides a replacement soon enough. We are playing whack-a-mole. We have become a part of the condition, not a solver of problems. Not bad for a relatively new country an ocean away.

This essay is a diagnosis not a cure. For that, I can only suggest that more bombs may not be the best answer.

Carl Coon


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1 Response to A Problem of Perception

  1. Sky Coon says:

    Instead of bombs, what about a return to strongmen representing the largest or toughest factions? It looks like the president of Turkey has hotel business deals with Trump now – of the beginnings thereof. Will Putin, the Turks, and the Iranians dominate the region? Iran with Russia’s help is winning back what is left of Syria. Will they take over Iraq too with the Shia majority? It looks like it to me. And what of Sunni strongholds? Oil wealth is waning. Saudi Arabia is hemorrhaging cash stockpiles. Who takes over for the Sunni after ISIS loses all it’s territory? Of course there is Turk and Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but are they all beaten back to their own countries? And does Lebanon fall to a Christian Shia alliance?

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