This leads to a third reality. The Kurds are not at all happy about having no country to call their own. In one way or another, the Kurds have been expressing their displeasure with the status quo for generations.
The goal of the Kurds is simple. They are a nation, self-conscious, aware of the ties of history, culture, language, and geography. But as such they are incomplete. To be complete, the nation must have a state to call its own. In this dynamic the Kurds are not different from the Palestinians.
There is a fair measure of irony in considering that the Kurds are kept down, divided, oppressed, even, in the estimate of many Kurds, "occupied" by the Islamic states of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. With an astigmatism endemic to Islamic regimes, no member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference seems at all perturbed by the willingness of Muslim majority countries to suppress their fellow Muslims.
Not surprisingly, Ankara which is ever ready of late to hurl rhetorical bombs at Israel over presumed Jewish wickedness in the Gaza Strip is not only silent on the plight of the Kurds, but quite willing to send troops and fighter-bombers over the border into Iraq with the intent of killing Kurds in large numbers. Over in Tehran, Orator-In-Chief Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not only unusually quiet regarding the Kurds but has shown himself eager to send Iranian shells and troops into Iraqi Kurdistan with the goal of killing as many of those pesky people as possible.
In Baghdad, the current political stasis is in no way lessened by the role adopted by the Kurds who seek any and every advantage at the expense of the national government. In all probability, there are more than a few members of the new Iraqi government who wish they had the freedom to deal with the Kurds as bluntly and terminally as did Saddam Hussein.
The most aggressive of the several Kurdish insurgent groups, the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) is aimed at Turkey where nearly fifteen percent of the population is Kurd. PKK is of the view that a Kurdistan comprising the Kurdish majority portion of Turkey and the semi-autonomous province of Iraqi Kurdistan would be viable in all respects, political, economic, social, and cultural.
This is a correct apprehension. Iraqi Kurdistan on its own would be viable. The melding of the arbitrarily divided major portions of the Kurdish homeland would make an even more impressive new state. The envisioned entity would have both oil and water--the two fluids without which life in the 21st century is impossible. While "greater Kurdistan" would include sections of Syria and Iran, the exclusion of these would subtract nothing of importance from a hypothetical Kurdish state.
In an ideal world, a world where the Wilsonian principle of "self-determination of nations" had trenchancy, there would be no bar to the peaceful creation of a state to match the Kurdish nation as it is currently distributed between Turkey and Iraq. Given Mr Obama's obvious affection to Wilsonian notions of internationalism, it is passingly strange that he has not embraced self-determination for the Kurds. But, that musing cannot detain us.
The reef upon which the potential Kurdish ship of state must founder is the determination of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran to disallow any alteration in the comfortable current status quo. The Turks and PKK have been engaged in a slow motion shooting war since 1984. Neither belligerent has been either willing or able to seek a knock out blow. At the same time neither has been willing to call the war off, to seek some sort of negotiated compromise.
When not engaged in the planning and execution of provocations directed at Israel with the goal of establishing Ankara as the beacon of hope for the Palestinians, the Islamist leaning AKP in Turkey has been going after the PKK with a renewed frenzy of killing and dying. Prime Minister Erdogan with his usual over-the-top oratory has vowed to fight against PKK without hesitation and regardless of the number of "heinous" attacks the "terrorist" organization might mount.
From Erdogan's language one might think PKK had just hit Istanbul with a chemical attack or poured anthrax in the water mains of Ankara rather than simply hitting a border police station and killing a dozen or so Turkish cops. The PKK action was purportedly in response to the border incursion undertaken by Turkish troops and aircraft which cost the lives of a couple of dozen Kurds, some of whom might have been combatants.
This set of exchanges are typical of the war during all of its twenty-six years. The same is true of the Iranian artillery stonks across the border. Bloody "tit" followed by a sanguinary "tat."
For several years the Kurds of Iraq convinced themselves that the American invasion and its aftermath would serve as a game changer for the Kurds generally. In this the Kurds were doomed to be disappointed. While there were (and are) any number of good reasons based both in principle and in national interest for the US to take the lead in facilitating the "self-determination"of the Kurdish nation, the US was inhibited by visions of a destabilized Turkey.
This inhibition need apply no longer. Turkey has changed sides in all but formal announcement. In another of those ironies which makes the Muslim world so interesting to the observer, a reason for the realignment of Turkey with Iran and away from the US, EU, and NATO is the shared interest both countries have in suppressing the Kurds. But, in making its switch so quickly, so openly, and so completely, the Erdogan regime has eroded any US interest in keeping Turkey stable.
This new consideration particularly when taken in conjunction with the self-serving hypocrisy of the OIC as well as the Muslim majority states directly involved, open new possibilities for a US coordinated effort to support the Kurds in their ambitions and, in so doing, embarrass the governments of Turkey and Iran (and, it deserves mentioning, Syria as well) severely. It would also expose the OIC as the duplicitous body which it is.
There is a collateral which, on balance, is more good than bad. That collateral is the truncation of Iraq. To be viable any new Kurdish state must include Iraqi Kurdistan. That province quite literally is the odd man out in Arab majority Iraq. The fact that Iraqi Kurdistan has significant hydrocarbon reserves which the Kurds hate sharing with the Arabs in no way lessens the antipathy which has long typified relations between these two people who uncomfortably cohabit in common borders.
As Baghdad is loath to let the oil leave Iraq much as it might like to see the Kurds exit the area, any divorce between Arab majority and Kurd minority will not be as amicable as was, for example, that between Czech and Slovak. A divorce would require a "realignment" of US forces in Iraq to Kurdistan (perhaps under the ostensible need to protect the Turkmen minority in Kurdistan against ethnic cleansing.)
The Kurds have been in favor of a US presence in Kurdistan. Several times since 2003, the authorities in Kurdistan have extended an invitation to the US to reposition its troops there as a security against outside interference. While it might be difficult to take up the invitation, doing such would not be impossible. Certainly it would be less difficult than trying to support a central government beset by multiple insurgencies and lacking broad gauge legitimacy.
As a side benefit there is no doubt that the Kurdish government would be far more open to seeing US rather than Chinese oil companies develop the reserves in the region. This stance is at sharp contrast to the attitude in Baghdad. An open American presence in Kurdistan would definitely inhibit Iranian (or Turkish) military actions which is also in distinct contrast with the supine reaction of Baghdad to incursions and artillery attacks.
The Kurdish Question is not one amenable to solution by the UN or any other manifestation of the "international community." It is one, however, which can be answered by the US even over the objections of Russia and China.
The partitioning of Iraq would be only the first step in solving the dilemma presented by the Kurdish nation in its search for a state. Ultimately, the Turks would have to accomodate themselves to the reality that they cannot suppress the Kurds forever. The gestures of limited democracy and constrained economic development offered by Gul, Erdogan, and the rest of the AKP are too little, too late. And, their effect has been offset by the moving of ethnic Turks into districts which have been Kurdish since the time of Saladin.
The Turks are discovering that there is a force greater than that of political Islam. That force is nationalism. The Kurds become more committed to their nationalistic vision every time a Turkish bullet kills a Kurd. To put it bluntly, Erdogan and the AKP are on the wrong side of history this time.
There is one fatal problem in considering the new options open to the US. President Obama lacks both the vision and the wisdom needed. He is without the moral and intellectual courage necessary to seize the moment. He does not have the spine of George Washington Plunkett, the spine needed to, "see me opportunity and I took it."