"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."
~ Adam Smith.
~ Adam Smith.
Exactly a year ago next week, The Jamestown Foundation published a short analysis of China's Kurdish policy, in which it outlined steps taken by the two main Southern Kurdish parties to engage China. The desire for engagement appears to be a mutual one fueled by China's growing energy needs.
Given his Marxist ideological roots, it's not surprising that Celal Talabanî was the first Kurdish leader to arrive in Beijing:
In early August 2003 Beijing hosted Jalal Talabani, chairman of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and member of the Iraqi Interim Governing Council, who was later to become the first president of post-Saddam Iraq. Representing Iraq rather than the Kurds, he was invited by the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, an official “unofficial” instrument, and headed the first Iraqi delegation to visit China after the war.
After Talabanî was appointed as Iraqi president, the Chinese made their first visit to Kurdistan:
. . . a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) delegation led by Ding Lifen [ . . . ] arrived in early May 2005 through the Al-Munziriyah Crossing near Khanaqin (on the Iranian border). The delegation was received by the heads of the PUK Khanaqin media office and organization center. A member of the delegation said that the visit came in response to the PUK invitation and followed a visit by a PUK delegation to China that led to the “strengthening of relations between the two parties.” He added that these relations have gathered momentum, particularly after the “historic visit” by PUK leader Jalal Talabani to China (Al-Ittihad [Baghdad], May 11, 2005).
Within days of the arrival of the Chinese delegation, Masûd Barzanî met with Chinese officials, including the Chinese ambassador to Iraq, and was invited to make an official visit to China:
Stressing the Chinese people’s appreciation for the many sacrifices endured by the Kurdistan people, he [the Chinese ambassador] expressed his hope for closer relations between the two peoples through expanded ties between the PRC and the Kurdistan regional government and especially between the CCP and the KDP. He underlined the important role of the Kurdistan people in rebuilding a federal and democratic Iraq. In response Barzani expressed his hope that the Chinese government would play its role in rebuilding Kurdistan (Khabat [Arbil], May 16, 2005).
The Communist Party of Iraqi Kurdistan also seems to have endorsed the Sino-Kurdish engagement. In October, 2005, China hosted another PUK delegation, headed by politburo member, Kosrat Rasul Alî.
The Jamestown Foundation notes the following as reasons for Chinese interest in South Kurdistan: as leverage against Turkish support of Uighur separatists in China's Xinjiang region; as an effort to gain a foothold in the Middle East; and, of course, as a source to help satisfy future Chinese energy needs. With such a need for energy resources to drive the Chinese economy, would China lend support to the KRG in a showdown over Xanaqîn, if needed, or over Kerkuk? If Iraqi "territorial integrity" were maintained through federalism, then Chinese support for Kurdish control of Kerkuk could be the beginning of a mutually beneficial alliance, especially since the Norwegian DNO Company subcontracted the construction of the drilling rig outside of Zaxo to a Chinese company.
From all this activity, it appears that China is ready to accept a federal status for Kurdistan within the Iraqi state. If so, would China also support a similar arrangement within the other states that continue to repress their own Kurdish populations? For a number of years the PKK has emphasized its desire to work within a framework that would guarantee Turkish "territorial integrity," repeating this position as recently as the end of August, 2006. A PKK ceasefire was called on October 1, 2006, in response to PKK-KRG negotiations. Both the ceasefire and calls for negotiation that would allow PKK to work legally and politically within North Kurdistan have been rejected by both Ankara and Washington.
Given the PKK's position vis-a-vis Turkish territorial integrity, there is no reason why access to Kurdish oil by China, or by the wider Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), cannot be linked to Kurdish political rights in Turkey. The Russian Duma has expressed support for the cause of the Kurdish people in North Kurdistan in the past. As a member of the SCO, Russia might also bring pressure against Turkey and the US to negotiate a peaceful, political solution with the PKK. Pressure may also be brought against severe Iranian repression of Kurds, since Iran recently received observer status with the SCO.
As a reminder, there is oil in North Kurdistan as well as in the South.
Washington rejects a political solution to the Kurdish situation in North Kurdistan for the business interests of its own defense industry, as is obvious from the appointment of Lockheed Martin board of directors' member, Joseph Ralston, as the PKK "coordinator." Also listed with the US Senate as a lobbyist for Lockheed Martin, working for The Cohen Group, and as a member of the American Turkish Council's advisory board, the appointment of Ralston is another example of US intentions to control the oil-rich region. Another indication was the visit of Condoleeza Rice to Ankara at the end of April, 2006, as the Turkish army massed along the border between North and South Kurdistan, fired weaponry upon South Kurdistan, and infiltrated more JITEM operatives into South Kurdistan. Such attacks against the so-called American ally in "Northern Iraq" while the Secretary of State was on an official visit to Ankara indicate just how valuable the Southern Kurdish "allies" are.
With the publication of the Iraq Study Group recommendations, we know how other influences in the US establishment view Iraq and Kurdistan. These influences desire to return to the pre-Gulf War status quo, no matter how badly that status quo treated the Kurdish people. All hot air expended for the facade of concern for human rights aside, these influences are interested in returning to the good old days for the sake of their personal involvement in the oil industry. In connection with the ISG, we have Tony Blair's earlier announcement, in the Sunday Telegraph, that Kurds should "acquiesc[e] in their treatment." Then there was the EU's utter silence over the Amed Serhildan and the Amed Bombing, a silence which also urges the Kurdish people to "acquiesce." Of course, these are only the most recent betrayals of Kurds by the West.
In an article from the beginning of December, 2006, JINSA takes an openly hypocritical stand against the SCO, citing human rights violations and crying for the sake of "democracy" worldwide, without any hint that the US itself only uses the "democracy" argument as a shell game to further its own national interests. The result is an extreme case of the pot calling the kettle black.
It is time that Kurdistan began to explore other options, with its own national interests in mind. It may be that there are others, in the East, with whom alliances can be made that will be mutually satisfying. To that end, there should be a conference of the Kurdish people worldwide, represented by the executive council of the Koma Komalên Kurdistan and Kongra-Gel, the KRG, DTP, KNK, any other regional parties or organizations, intellectuals from Kurdistan and from Diaspora. This conference should stress the fact that the leadership must follow a policy that will maximize Kurdish interests in all parts of Kurdistan.
Anything less is unacceptable.