Iraq, Syria, ISIS and Kurds: Geostrategic concerns for the U.S and Turkey – Gunter

Michael M. Gunter, professor of political science at Tennessee Technological University, has published a new article in the Middle East Policy Journal which analyses the geostrategic concerns of Turkey and the U.S in the Middle East. It is available via Middle East Policy Journal,

The rise of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq as well as the ongoing insurgency of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and now peace negotiations with the Turkish government have empowered the Kurds and challenged the existing political map of the Middle East. On July 19, 2012, the previously quiescent Syrian Kurds —largely under the leadership of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), closely associated with the PKK — also suddenly emerged as a potential game changer in the Syrian civil war and what its aftermath might hold for the future of the Middle East. In an attempt to consolidate an increasingly desperate position, government troops were abruptly pulled out of the major Kurdish areas. The Kurds in Syria had suddenly become autonomous, a situation that also affected neighboring Turkey and the virtually independent KRG in Iraq. Indeed, the precipitous rise of the Kurds in Syria could become a factor in changing the artificial borders of the Middle East established after World War I by the notorious Sykes-Picot Agreement.

Read the article in full.

Gunter: ‘Post-state entities reshaping Middle East map’

The urgency of the present situation facing the people of Kobane and the longer term implications of the transformation of the Middle East were issues addressed at the public meeting in the House of Lords on 12 January which was jointly organised by Peace in Kurdistan Campaign and Kurdistan National Congress (KNK).

Titled The Collapsed State Systems in Syria & Iraq and the Rise of ISIS & the Kurds, the meeting discussed the Kurdish role in the fight against ISIS and the alternative model offered by the establishment of the self-administration in Rojava.

As host, Lord Hylton stated the Kurds still need all the friends that they can get and this was especially the case in respect of the unrecognised entity of Rojava where urgently needed supplies were only getting through with great difficulty. Continue reading

Public meeting: The Collapsed State Systems in Syria & Iraq and the Rise of ISIS & the Kurds

PUBLIC MEETING

Peace in Kurdistan Campaign and Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) invite you to

The Collapsed State Systems in Syria & Iraq and the Rise of ISIS & the Kurds

Monday 12 January, 6 – 7.30pm

Venue: Committee Room 3, House of Lords, Westminster, SW1A 0AA

With Professor Michael M. Gunter and guest speakers; hosted by Lord Hylton.

The immediate origins of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) lie in the opportunity spaces provided by two bitter civil wars that challenged the existing state system and borders created by the Sykes-Picot Agreement of World War I: (1) The bloody Sunni-Shia civil war in Iraq that followed the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and (2) the even more horrific civil war that has been raging in Syria since 2011. ISIS has gained its strength from a wide range of political, sociological, economic, and military factors, among others, and Turkey has played a very controversial role in this complex situation.

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Gunter: The Stupidity of American Foreign Policy

Professor Michael Gunter, secretary general of the EUTCC, has written a new opinion piece on US foreign policy towards the Kurdish issue, which we reproduce below:

 

THE STUPIDITY OF AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY

Although there can be no doubt that compared to most other countries in the world today and in the past, American foreign policy has been motivated by relative honesty and intelligence, currently there are several specifics in that policy that can only be characterized as sheer stupidity. The first point has to do with American foreign policy towards the horrific civil war in Syria. Although President Obama’s basic instinct not to enter another disastrous Middle Eastern war is sound, his administration’s continuing attempt to support increasingly non-existent moderate oppositionists against the Assad regime is at the best based on wishful thinking because with one exception (the Kurds) such moderates in Syria no longer exist.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—now styling itself the Islamic State (IS)—has largely supplanted the moderates with the exception of the Kurds who have been battling the Islamists for more than two years. However, the United States opposes the Kurds because of a misguided belief that they are dividing the moderate opposition by insisting on Kurdish autonomy and probably even more are connected to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) that is largely in control of the Kurdish areas but is an off-shoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which the United States considers to be a terrorist movement. While the PKK link is real and largely explains the PYD’s success in fending off ISIS so far, the PYD is also a moderate secular movement and thus is everything the United States should want to support. This is even more so because for more than a year now, Turkey has been pursuing a serious peace process with the PKK. Thus, if the U.S. NATO ally Turkey is now dealing with the PKK/PYD, there is no further reason for the United States to shun it. American foreign policy has simply failed to catch up with the times and is thus shooting itself in the foot.

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BDP holds Washington conference

This week, the BDP representative office in Washington held a conference to discuss the role of the Kurds in the Middle East. Professor Michael Gunter, the Secretary-General of the EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC) and professor of political science at Tennessee Tech University, wrote this report.

 

 

THE CURRENT STATE REGARDING THE TURKISH-KURDISH PEACE PROCESS

Professor Michael Gunter

On 28 October 2013, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Representative Office in the United States, organized a one-day conference on “The Kurdish Role in the New Middle East” at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The primary concern of this conference was to analyze the current state of the foundering Turkish-Kurdish peace process. This brief report will detail some of the most important points made at this conference.

Cengiz Candar, a prominent Turkish journalist, argued that a neutral third party facilitator was needed, not a one-man show as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan currently appeared to be. At the present time the Turkish and Kurdish sides are finding it difficult to dialogue. Indeed, Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chair of the BDP, said that so far the peace process has seemed more like a monologue than a dialogue. Cengiz Candar also added that the following are necessary for the peace process to move forward: 1. Patience; 2. A vision for an end game; 3. Political courage; and 4. A procedure to follow facilitated by a third party.

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Michael Gunter book “out of Nowhere” to be released April 2014

EUTCC secretary general Michael M Gunter’s latest book, Out of Nowhere,  is due to be released in April 2014 from Hurst Publishers. More details below:

“In mid 2012 the previously almost forgotten Syrian Kurds suddenly emerged as a potential game-changer in the country’s civil war when in an attempt to consolidate its increasingly desperate position the Assad government abruptly withdrew its troops from the major Kurdish areas in Syria. The Kurds in Syria had suddenly won autonomy, a situation that has huge implications for neighboring Turkey and the near independent Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. Indeed, their precipitous rise may prove a tipping-point that alters the boundaries imposed on the Middle East by the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916.

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“Why the US should not bomb Syria”, by Michael M. Gunter

New piece by EUTCC secretary general Michael M Gunter [updated on 3 September with revisions from earlier piece, To Bomb or Not to Bomb]:

WHY THE UNITED STATES SHOULD NOT BOMB SYRIA

On August 21, 2013 the Syrian regime apparently used chemical weapons against the opposition in Ghouta, an eastern suburb of Damascus, killing anywhere from 500-1,300 people, the numbers vary according to U.S. intelligence reports made public. While the Assad regime has long had a great deal of innocent blood on its hand and now may be guilty of using chemical weapons, this is not a sufficient reason for the United States and its Western allies to bomb Syria. Indeed, the United States has neither an intelligent entry or exit plan. In the first place, however, we are not yet even certain the Syrian regime actually used these weapons. U.S. intelligence on these matters has erred and lied to the world before.

For example, in 1998 the United States bombed a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan claiming that Sudan had supplied al-Qaeda with chemical weapons that had been used in its attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Later we learned that the intelligence supposedly implicating Sudan was incorrect. Similarly in the run up to the war that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003 and whose murders and repercussions are still being felt a decade later, the United States falsely claimed that it had incontrovertible intelligence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, which justified attacking. It turned out that U.S. intelligence was wrong again or simply lied to justify going to war.

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“The Kurdish Spring”: New book published

A new book entitled The Kurdish Spring: Geopolitical Changes and the Kurds, published by Mazda, is the latest publication by Professor of Political Science and secretary-general of the EU Turkey Civic Commission, Michael M Gunter, and his colleague Mohammed M.A. Ahmed, Executive Director and founder of the Ahmed Foundation for Kurdish Studies. The book features contributions from scholarly experts such as Michael B. Bishku, Ofra Bengio and Joost Jongerden, who analyse the ‘Kurdish Spring’ as a long-running and growing movement for democracy, cultural, social and political rights and self-determination across Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.

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New book on Kurdish Spring about to be published

A new book co-edited by Michael M. Gunter, Professor of Political Science at the University of Tennessee and specialist on the Kurdish Question, will soon be published.  The Kurdish Spring: Geopolitical Changes and the Kurds features contributions scholarly experts such as Michael B. Bishku, Ofra Bengio and Joost Jongerden, who analyse the ‘Kurdish Spring’ as a long-running and growing movement for democracy, cultural, social and political rights and self-determination across Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.

The summary reads:

In the midst of all the changes the Arab Spring has brought in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, among others, the intelligent lay, media, and policy worlds have paid much less attention to what might be called the Kurdish Spring: Demands for meaningful democracy along with cultural, social, and political rights and their immediate implementation. Or as Ofra Bengio recently described it: “The Kurdish movement is now crystallized in almost all parts of Kurdistan. The weakening of the relevant states, alongside the tectonic sociopolitical changes taking place in the region as a whole, may end up changing the strategic map of the Middle East. Forged by the Great Powers after World War I, the borders separating the Kurds of Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran no longer appear as sacred or secure as they once did.”

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The Closing of Turkey’s Kurdish Opening

Professor Michael M. Gunter has published a new article in the Columbia Journal of International Affairs, entitled The Closing of Turkey’s Kurdish Opening:

“During the summer and fall of 2009, the continuing and often violent Kurdish problem in Turkey seemed on the verge of a solution when the ruling Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi [Justice and Development Party] or AK Party (AKP) government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul announced a Kurdish Opening or Initiative (aka as the Democratic Opening/Initiative). Gul declared, “the biggest problem of Turkey is the Kurdish question” and that “there is an opportunity [to solve it] and it should not be missed.” Erdogan asked, “If Turkey had not spent its energy, budget, peace and young people on [combating] terrorism, if Turkey had not spent the last 25 years in conflict, where would we be today?” Even the insurgent Partiya Karkaren Kurdistan (PKK) or Kurdistan Workers Party, still led ultimately by its imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan, itself briefly took Turkey’s Kurdish Opening seriously. For a fleeting moment, optimism ran rampant. What happened?”

Read on at the Columbia Journal of International Affairs website.