This time around the "empire" is not the US, pace Comrades Hugo and Fidel. The empire in question does not yet exist in its desired, reincarnated form. But, given the ambitions of Turkish prime minister Erdogan and the almost done deal between his country and the mullahs next door in Iran, it is not unfair.
The jefe grande of the Ottoman Empire 2.0 is, like his predecessors, terribly upset by the Kurds. Again in imitation of his non-Islamist forebearers, Erdogan is dreadfully keen on wiping the several groups fighting for Kurdish independence out of existence for once and all. The Supreme Guardian of the Revolution, just like the Shah during the days of the ancien regime, shares the sentiment heart and soul.
The US as well as the (presumably) US backed regime in Iraq are caught somewhere in the middle. Baghdad has a much larger dog in the fight to be sure. Iraqi Kurdistan, which is legally semi-autonomous, is the most stable and prosperous place in the partially rebuilt country. It is not simply Kurdistan's wealth and security that has raised hackles not only in Baghdad but through much of Iraq. No. Rather the deep distaste for Kurds and their region is about the only thing upon which the minority Sunnis and majority Shia can and do agree.
Way back in the mists of history (that is before World War I resulted in a massive exercise in creative cartography), Kurdistan was a territorial whole. It had so existed for a mort of centuries both before and after the Ottoman Turks came to supremacy in Stamboli (or Istanbul, if that is your preference.) The carving up of the old Empire was accomplished courtesy of the machinations of mid-level bureaucrats serving their masters in France and Great Britain. In what was one of the greatest sins committed against the self-determination of nations principle dear to the heart of Woodrow Wilson, the Kurds found their tight little nascent state divided between French run Syria and English operated Iraq with small amounts allocated to the Turkey of Ataturk and the Shah of Persia.
Had this violation of American policy not been allowed to take place, Kurdistan would have long ago been recognized as the independent sovereign state its people wanted (and want) it to be. But, as was so often the case, Wilson believed that the League of Nations (his centerpiece ideologically) would solve the injustice--an injustice he himself acknowledged.
For many decades, the issue rested silently in the mountains which constitute most of "Kurdistan." But that came to an end when the respective "occupying" governments came to realize what resources resided in them thar hills. Oil and hydroelectric resources to be precise. Iraq battened fat off the oil while Turkey saw the rivers as the source of both agricultural and industrial riches. The Iranians and Syrians saw potential in the fast running waters if not the oil and vowed to get their share.
With every passing year, the resources of "Kurdistan" have become more and more critical to Turkey and Iraq. While the other two states have not profited so much, both Tehran and Damascus see the danger resident in a successful separatist movement. The Syrian government both before and after the Baathist came to power sought to suppress the language, culture, and political identity of the Kurdish population. The same has been the case in Iran under both secularist shah and Islamist grand ayatollahs.
Right down to the present day, the central government of Iraq has used all methods fair and foul alike to limit the autonomy of Iraqi Kurdistan. The only thing keeping Baghdad from emulating the muscular methods of Saddam Hussein in the region has been the military capacity of the Kurdish peshmerga, which could fight the national army to a bloody standstill.
Over the past quarter century, the Kurds have been waging a low level defensive insurgency against both Iran and Turkey. The PKK (shooting Turks) and PJAK (doing the same with Iranians down range) have been a thorn in the side of their target states. Because Turkey is a NATO "partner," the US determined that the PKK is a terrorist organization. Since Iran is a hostile state, the US has not yet made the same determination regarding the other group, the PJAK (aka "good terrorists.)
Comes now Recip Erdogan to announce an impending agreement with Iran to mount a joint effort presumably involving ground as well as air forces against those pesky Kurds and the heavily fortified base camps high in the mountains. The reason to presume a ground effort is the abject failure of air assaults conducted by the Turkish air force to do more than move a few rocks around as well as kill a small number of civilians who did not find shelter in time but who in their deaths provided excellent propaganda material for the Kurds.
So far there has been no reported word from the Iraqi government regarding this proposed violation of sovereignty. Perhaps the Iraqis are more easy going about such matters then are, say, the Pakistanis. Or, the central government might be hoping for a good excuse to move large forces into Iraqi Kurdistan, forces which once there will not be quick to leave.
Nor has the Obama administration made comment on the proposed joint action--except implicitly. For some while the US has been providing intelligence information to Ankara concerning the PKK. This shared catch includes imagery and ELINT obtained by Predators. Now, the word has leaked out that the Obama crew is contemplating basing Predators in Turkey.
Not one to be asleep at the switch, Erdogan has responded by offering to purchase or lease a few Predators so as to cut out the middleman. Considering that the Paks have wanted to do this for a long while now, it would be quite a diplomatic and political coup for Erdogan to achieve the goal.
Not to put too fine a point on the Kurdish Question, there is ample evidence to the effect that the Kurds and their proposed state meet the tests provided in the UN Charter as well as subsidiary conventions. With Iraqi Kurdistan as the linchpin, there is no doubt but the hypothetical Kurdistan would meet the requirements of the Montevideo Convention. Considering this inconvenient context, US policy regarding the Kurds is flatly wrong.
The finding that PKK is a terrorist entity was based simply on the role Turkey theoretically plays in NATO while the similar act by the European Union dates back to the days when Turkey was knocking on the EU door. In short, these actions had little if anything to do with "terrorism" per se and much to do with extraneous political considerations.
Silence in the Oval regarding the odd couple military plans must fall in the same category. Arguably, the decision to share catch with Ankara and the basing of Predators in Turkey constitute another bribe to Erdogan for allowing the installation of the US X-band radar. The decision to allow this anti-Iran move has resulted in severe blowback from Tehran, so the Turkish prime minister probably wants additional compensation.
There is only one open question. No, that question is not will the US switch its policy regarding the Kurds and their right to and desire for a state of their own. Nor does this question involve the notion of granting the government of Iraqi Kurdistan its request of redeploying US forces within its borders. The present administration lacks both the depth of regional understanding and the political will to do either--even if each would be in American national interest.
The only remaining question is whether or not Obama and his "team" will cave and sell-lease a few spare Predators to Erdogan, and through him, the Iranians.
Wanna make a bet?