The U.S. Must Stand by and for the Kurds (Gregg Roman, 2/21/24, Real Clear World)

The Kurds, a resilient and significant ethnic group without a recognized state of their own, have long been instrumental in the fight against terrorism and the preservation of American interests in a volatile Middle East. It is time for the U.S. to honor its promises, acknowledge the historical injustices faced by the Kurds, and stand firmly in support of their aspirations for autonomy and security.

It is an appropriate moment to step back, appreciate Kurdish history, and consider our obligations to the Kurds not only in Syria but in Iraq, Turkey, and Iran as well.

The Kurds, predominantly Sunni Muslims, are the most populous ethnic group on earth without a recognized state of their own. A diverse group of some 25 to 30 million people, about half of the Kurds inhabit lands across parts of Southeast Turkey. Most rest live in northeast Syria, northern and western Iran, southwestern Armenia, and northern Iraq.

The most prominent feature of the Kurdish landscape is the rugged mountains of the eastern Taurus-Zagros Mountain range. Because of the mountains’ imposing nature, armies have had trouble conquering the area, which has allowed the Kurdish people to survive in their fastnesses throughout the centuries. Indeed, a famous Kurdish proverb says, “The Kurds have no friends but the mountains.”

The proverb has proven, sadly, to be true.

The Kurds were promised a state in the wake of the First World War – that is, after the destruction of the Ottoman Empire – in the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres. Nevertheless, the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne reneged on this promise.

Both Bushes deserrve blame too, for not recognizing the nation of Kurdistan after the Iraq wars.


Rebel offensive taking toll on Myanmar military’s cohesion, soldiers say (Rebecca Tan, Yan Naing and Andrew Nachemson, February 14, 2024, Washington Post)

Accounts from Myanmar army soldiers who have surrendered or defected over the past three months reveal that the military is suffering from plunging morale and overstretched logistics amid a rebel offensive that has prompted mass surrenders. […]

Myanmar’s military seized power in 2021 after ousting the democratically elected government. When protests erupted across the country, the military responded with force, and thousands of its opponents turned to armed resistance, in some cases making common cause with ethnic rebel groups. The military has sought to crush opposition with methods so brutal and indiscriminate that U.N. investigators say they are likely war crimes.

But last year, the rebels pushed the military into its weakest position in decades by capturing towns on the edges of the country and driving the junta’s forces toward the middle, analysts say.

Investigators at Myanmar Witness, an independent nongovernmental group that verifies developments in the Myanmar war, said they used open-source information to geolocate footage of five mass surrenders and weapon seizures since October. The investigators said that their efforts have only just begun and that their findings represent “the tip of the iceberg of the military’s losses.”

Researchers at the Institute for Strategy and Policy-Myanmar, a Myanmar-based think tank, are also working to verify surrenders, and Executive Director Min Zin said it is already apparent that the scale is unprecedented in the military’s history. Myanmar analysts from four other independent research institutions agreed.

“It speaks volumes about the military’s capacities that they had to accept this kind of situation,” said Richard Horsey, a senior adviser on Myanmar for the International Crisis Group.


Sikh Americans, citing ‘transnational repression,’ vote for an independent homeland (Richa Karmarkar, 2/01/24, RNS)

Last Sunday (Jan. 28), more than 120,000 Sikhs of all ages and occupations took part in a historic referendum in San Francisco on the creation of an autonomous homeland in northwestern India. They braved hourslong lines after already long commutes, in many cases from neighboring states, to reach the polling place in the City by the Bay.

These Sikhs, almost all of them U.S. citizens and residents, were voting aspirationally for the creation of Khalistan — a hoped-for but nonexistent “land of the pure” that would stand separate from the nation of India.

Organized by Sikhs for Justice, an activist group that is banned in India, the vote was aimed at raising the profile of Sikh efforts to convince the government of India to allow Punjab, the state where the Sikhi faith was born, to secede.

There is no India


I will be a first minister for all’: Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill marks historic moment for once unionist state (Rory Carroll, 3 Feb 2024, The Guardian)

The chamber’s ornate ceiling remained blue, red and gold, and Portland stone still held up the Stormont edifice, but the beaming Sinn Féin faces declared this was a historic moment for Irish nationalism.

Michelle O’Neill became Northern Ireland’s first nationalist first minister in a day of symbolism and pomp that restored devolved government and etched an epitaph on the tomb of what was once a unionist state.

The union endured – Northern Ireland remains part of the UK and a referendum on Irish unity is not on the horizon – but when the assembly nominated O’Neill at 2.33pm yesterday for republicans the countdown to potential unification ticked louder.

Once we faced no external threats our allies in South Africa, Northern Ireland and Israel had to settle their internal issues in favor of democracy.


Yemen’s Endless Wars (James Snell, 5 May 2021, History Today)

Mountainous and dry, with a tendency to anarchy in the ample spaces between its cities, Yemen has long been hospitable to insurgency. Yet in ancient times it was home to the Sabaeans and had claims to be the biblical land of the Queen of Sheba. Its fertility and beauty were such that the Romans called it Arabia Felix, ‘happy Arabia’. The people there are mostly Arabs and like much of the rest of Arabia, became subject to the distant domain of the Ottoman sultan. The fate of the peninsula was influenced significantly by Britain, which in 1937 took the port city of Aden as the centre of its colony (on independence in 1967, it became South Yemen). Britain exercised significant influence over who ruled Muscat and Oman; assisted succession to the monarchy and imamate of North Yemen; and together with the US confirmed the al Saud family as hereditary rulers of what became Saudi Arabia. Now combined, the former North and South Yemen are together Sunni by bare majority, but the Zaidi Shia remain a large, mainly northern minority.

Since Yemen was unified in 1990, successive governments have claimed that the country can be governed as one, a right that a number of rivals currently contest. Yet the number of guerrilla wars fought in the country’s north in the last hundred years show that the old cliches about Yemen are at least partly true. Wars of insurgency take root there and, each time, the same players and similar countries are involved.

Ansar Allah, commonly known as the Houthi movement after its leaders Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi (1959-2004) and Abdul-Malik al-Houthi (b.1979), is the latest organisation to conduct an insurgency in the territory of the former state of North Yemen. The Houthis’ antecedents fought enemies, both internal and external, including Egyptian troops sent by Gamal Nasser, the president of the then United Arab Republic (UAR), in the 1960s. […]

That war began with an attempted coup. In 1962 the newly crowned king and imam of North Yemen, Muhammad al-Badr, was overthrown by a military which desired to establish an Arab republic in an age when two Arab states, Egypt and Syria, had already united as the UAR. The officers behind the coup were trained by Egypt and their efforts to usurp power were supported by Nasser.

Muhammad al-Badr was a Zaidi Shia, who drew his support from this religious group. Within weeks of the coup he began marshalling resistance among the country’s tribes.


False Messiahs (Barnett R. Rubin, January 4, 2024, Boston Review)

Neither the British nor the Zionist movement considered the views of the people who lived in Palestine, 96 percent of them Arab. By Herzl’s own account in his diary, he did not speak to a single Arab during his 1898 visit to Palestine.

As historian Rashid Khalidi documents in The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine (2020), Balfour wrote in a 1919 memo to the British cabinet that “in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country. . . . Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.” Winston Churchill, in his 1937 testimony to the Peel Commission appointed by London to make recommendations on Palestine, was more emphatic:

I do not admit that the dog in the manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit, for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to those people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race, or, at any rate, a more worldly-wise race, to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.

Why did Zionism and many Jews accept this bargain? As Europeans, even if oppressed ones, they largely shared the virtually unchallenged assumptions of European colonial thinking. Circumstances also provided them with little choice. Given the opportunity, many—perhaps most—of the Jewish refugees from Hitler would have gone to the United States rather than Palestine. But by the 1930s, the tightening grip of anti-Semitism on the Western world convinced even erstwhile Jewish opponents of Zionism that they had no choice. Zionism’s claim that Jews could never be safe among other nations was proving true, not only in Nazi Germany but also in the “liberal” west. Jews trying to flee Nazi anti-Semitism butted up against anti-Semitic immigration laws in the United States and UK. The British—indeed Home Secretary Balfour himself—had enacted the Aliens Act in 1905, introducing immigration restrictions. The U.S. Immigration Act of 1924 was explicitly intended to stop the massive immigration of Eastern European Jews, among others. In July 1938, thirty-two nations assembled on Lake Geneva at the Evian conference to consider what to do about the mounting tide of Jewish refugees. Every delegate expressed sympathy for the refugees, but only Ecuador and the Dominican Republic offered to admit any of them.

The Mandate for Palestine given by the League of Nations to Britain in 1920—which came into effect in 1923—gave the Zionist organization legal status as “a public body for the purpose of advising and co-operating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine.” It also provided that the mandatory authorities “shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage . . . settlement by Jews on the land.” The mandate forbade discrimination by the British in Palestine against other members of the League of Nations but offered neither protection nor any form of representation to the Palestinian Arabs.

As colonial subjects, the Palestinian Arabs, unlike the Americans or British, had no sovereign power to regulate immigration into their territory. The combination of the Nazi regime, the exclusionary consensus expressed at the Evian conference, and the British mandate on Palestine together imposed a disproportionate burden of accepting Jewish refugees on the Palestinians, whose tiny country had nothing to do with the origin of the crisis and was deprived of any means of self-government.


The immigration game (Ian Linden, 1/03/23, The Article)

Much of what is popularly believed about immigration – I confess to a measure of gullibility myself – is just plain wrong, misguided or exaggerated. The world is not facing an unprecedented refugee crisis, South-North migration is more a rational economic decision than “a desperate flight from poverty, hunger and conflict”. Immigration’s impact on the wages of indigenous workers is negligible. We need migrant labour. We don’t have enough UK-born trained staff in the NHS, social care and a range of vital occupations. Neither development nor border restrictions will stop migration.

The uncomfortable truth for the Right: “control of your borders” includes the right to admit immigrants past them freely


China Confronts a New Political Reality in Taiwan: No Friends (Josh Chin and Joyu Wang, Dec. 29, 2023, WSJ)

A drawing of Taiwan at the presidential campaign headquarters of the island’s ruling party shows strikingly little concern for north and south. Instead, the island is shown turned on its side, with China and the Taiwan Strait conspicuously absent.

The drawing reflects the worldview of the Democratic Progressive Party, which over the past eight years has sought to carve out an identity for the self-ruled island that is separate from mainland China. But it also represents a broader change in Taiwan that sits uneasily with Communist Party leaders 1,000 miles to the northwest in Beijing.

With voters set to cast their ballots for a new leader in a volatile three-way election next month, Taiwanese politics has shifted decisively, and perhaps irrevocably, away from China. The change in mood is evident in public-opinion polls—and even in the campaign of the opposition Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang.


Why Israel can’t accept a ceasefire: Hamas has dictated the parameters of victory (EDWARD LUTTWAK, December 23, 2023, UnHerd)

During their protected wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, America’s leaders and generals could never define victory. Hamas, by contrast, has a clear understanding of what it looks like. Now that the terror group has demonstrated the failure of Israel’s deterrence, it insists it will not any more short ceasefires in exchange for hostages, but only a complete end to Israel’s offensive, which would of course leave it in full control of Gaza.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.


Revisiting the Erasure of Kurdish Identity in Syria: Growing up as a Kurd in the country was a scarring experience for children that included the denial of one’s own name (Ronahi Hasan, December 20, 2023, New/Lines)

The Kurdish people, estimated at 45 million by the Kurdish Institute of Paris, have never recognized what they consider the artificial boundaries that divide them across four nation-states — Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey — and have struggled to form an independent state of their own since the Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916.

Under this agreement, western Kurdistan was definitively separated from northern Kurdistan and became part of the newly formed state of Syria. These changes made Kurds in Syria the largest non-Arab ethnicity. The Kurds hoped for a degree of freedom and coexistence in modern Syria. What came instead was the opposite: Successive Syrian governments, under the direction of the Baath Party, have continued their cruel treatment of the Kurds.

Kurds have a distinct culture, language (Kurdish) with many dialects, and history. We have a rich cultural heritage, with unique traditions in music, dance, clothing and cuisine. While the majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslims, there are also Kurdish communities that practice Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Yarsanism, Yazidism, Alevism and Judaism.

Kurdish society places a high value on hospitality, honor and tribal ties, and extended families often live in close-knit communities. The Kurds have a complex history marked by periods of autonomy and resistance against various ruling powers.

The Kurdish problem stands as one of the most intractable and enduring conflicts in the Middle East, perhaps even in the world. Kurds remain politically, culturally and economically ghettoized within the boundaries of Turkey, Iran, Syria and, until recently, Iraq. While the Kurds in Iraq have achieved far-reaching self-rule in the Kurdistan Region, whose autonomy was written into Iraq’s constitution in the post-Saddam Hussein era, even Kurds in Iraq still face an uncertain future, as issues like the future status of Kirkuk and other disputed territories remain unresolved.

“Li ser xeta” and “le bin xeta” are two Kurdish phrases rooted in our minds. Kurds in Syria call the Kurdish regions in Turkey “li ser xeta,” which means above the line; that is, north of the Syria-Turkey border. By the same token, we call the Kurdish areas in Syria “le bin xeta,” meaning below the line. We grew up using these two phrases to protect our sense of belonging and to reject what we consider the artificial lines that divide our land.

The most important fact about the Israel/Palestine conflict is that it is not distinct.