Thursday, October 26, 2006

Kurdish National Congress is Demanding the Immediate Resignation of General Ralston

KNC Press Release

On August 28, 2006, the US State Department announced the appointment of former USAF General Joseph Ralston as a "Special Envoy for countering the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK).”

General Ralston is a vice-chairman of The Cohen Group, a private lobby firm with close ties to the American Turkish Council (ATC) and Lockheed Martin. According to an article in the Washington Post in May of this year, Lockheed Martin acknowledged it was a client of The Cohen Group, and paid some $500,000 to The Cohen Group for services rendered in 2005. General Ralston is also a member of the 2006 Advisory Board of the ATC, as well as a current member of the Board of Directors of Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin is also a member of the ATC. Ralston's appointment came at a time when Turkey was finalizing the sale of 30 new Lockheed Martin F-16 aircraft (approx. $3 billion) and as Turkey was due to make a decision on the $10 billion purchase of the new Lockheed Martin F-35 JSF aircraft. The sale for the F-16's was approved by Congress in mid-October and Turkey's decision in favor of the F-35 JSF was announced on October 25, shortly after Ralston's recent stay in Ankara, ostensibly to counter the PKK.

At the same time, a unilateral PKK ceasefire went into effect on October 1, although it was rejected by both the Washington and Ankara governments’ days before it went into effect. This is in spite of the fact that the PKK prefers to negotiate a political settlement to the Kurdish question in Turkey, and had indicated its willingness to do so repeatedly over the last 13 years and, most recently, in August, with demands that are fully consistent with Turkey's EU accession criteria. Last week, during a question-and-answer period after his address at a meeting of the Eurasian Strategic Research Center (ASAM) in Istanbul, General Ralston, as America's Special Envoy, refused the possibility of applying an IRA-type model to solve the issue of the PKK and the wider Kurdish question in Turkey. General Ralston, as an appointed official of the US government, has indicated there is no possible peaceful, political settlement on the horizon, a policy that goes against the will of the Kurdish people.

Additionally, there continues to be a hostile posture from the Turkish armed forces toward Iraqi Kurdistan, the only peaceful portion of Iraq. In early April, the Turkish army dramatically increased its presence in the Kurdistan region of Turkey to some 250,000-300,000 troops. Many of which were concentrated along the border with Iraqi Kurdistan. By the end of April, during Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's visit to Ankara, hostile actions against Iraqi Kurdistan began, ostensibly aimed at alleged PKK camps. Attacks included bombings, violations of Iraqi airspace, and infiltration of Turkish special operations forces. To date, the main targets of the Turkish military in Iraqi Kurdistan have been unarmed civilian Kurds and livestock.

The decision to appoint Joseph Ralston, a former military officer with widely-known links to the defense industry, its lobby, and the Turkish lobby, calls into question the sincerity of the American administration in seeking a political solution to the gross repression carried out against the Kurdish people by the Turkish Republic. It also calls into question the sincerity of the American administration in seeking to establish democracy and democratic values in the Middle East. Both of these are magnified by the American and Turkish refusal to seek a peaceful solution which the current ceasefire affords.

By virtue of General Ralston's intimate connections with the defense industry, and with the lobby group of a foreign state that has so far shown itself hostile to any democratic changes for the Kurdish people within its borders, we consider the appointment to be an example of an extreme conflict of interest.

As such, we at the Kurdish National Congress of North America demand the resignation of General Ralston as Special Envoy to Turkey.

Kurdish National Congress of North America

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dividing Iraq and Creating a Kurdish State

By Ardalan Hardi

Previously in his interview with Paul Gigot in the Wall Street Journal President Bush said to partition Iraq would be "a mistake." Bush went on to say "the Iraqi people are going to have to make that decision."

The current government that rules Iraq as a state exists only in name. The division of – Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni – already has happened. Mistake or not it is very much a reality we have to face. If our goal is to reform the Middle East like President Bush suggests, then we have to accept the will of the people of Iraq and accept the inevitable. Democracy is not forcing people to live together that do not want to.

On Oct. 11 the Iraqi parliament approved a law that will allow Iraq to be carved into a federation of autonomous regions. The bill passed the 275-member parliament by a vote of 141 to 0.

In his last interview on Fox News, President Bush said he would reject any recommendation to partition Iraq along ethnic and sectarian lines and that creating semi-autonomous states for Kurds, Shiite and Sunni Muslims would worsen divisions in Iraq. It would seem that Bush is back-tracking from his earlier statement of letting the Iraqi people make their own decision. It is understandable for the president to have reconsidered his earlier comments when it comes to Iraq’s’ future since the U.S. has invested so much money and manpower in freeing Iraq from tyranny. However, to emphatically rule out the partition of Iraq is regrettable.

Staggering violence in Iraq, has now taken 2,791 American lives and according to The Lancet, the British medical journal, 650,000 Iraqi lives have been lost. It is time for a new approach in Iraq.

Many experts agree dividing Iraq is the only way to keep stability in the region and to bring foreign troops home.

Senator Trent Lott, former republican party senate majority leader says “When it comes to curbing Iraq’s sectarian violence, we should remember that Iraq is essentially three peoples — Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites — lumped together long ago by Colonial Britain into the manufactured nation of Iraq. Suppressed by decades of dictatorship, these three peoples still have distinct historical and cultural differences, manifesting themselves again and threatening the stability of the region and the entire world.” He goes on to say “Iraq requires a new plan.”

Peter Galbraith, former U.S. Ambassador to Croatia and author of a new book, The End of Iraq,” says “Iraq has disintegrated into three parts – a pro-Western Kurdistan in the north, an Iranian-dominated Shiite entity in the south, and a chaotic Sunni Arab region in the center.” He goes on to say “There can be no strategy of keeping Iraq together because it is not together.”
U.S. senator Joe Biden says “resolving the problems in Iraq will require separating the various factions there.” He added “the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis need to have their own mostly autonomous regions in Iraq, that reconstruction assistance should be increased to the country and that most U.S. troops should be withdrawn by 2008.” Biden said this plan would be similar to what was done during the mid-1990s in Bosnia.

President Bush’s desire to keep Iraq as a unified country is hopeless and unworkable. The sectarian violence that has plagued Iraq for last few years is not going to go away like Shlomo Avineri, professor of political science at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, says “There seems to be no power able to hold Iraq together. Attempts to set up a national unity government, in which all groups will be represented, have failed.” Such attempts will probably fail in the future as well, even if they are papered over by some verbal, worthless face-saving formula.”

"Iraq is going the way of the former Yugoslavia. When ethnic and religious groups are unable and unwilling to live together in a country held together by force and lacking any democratic traditions, disintegration may be the only way out."

"Maybe three separate states in what used to be Iraq have a better chance - as occurred in Yugoslavia - of leading to some stabilization and even democratic development."

"By calling the strife in Iraq "sectarian," observers and policymakers are trying to minimize the deep chasms that divide Iraqi society - like calling the bloody wars between Catholics and Protestants in 17th-century Europe "sectarian." But those were not only about theological disagreements; they were about identity, historical narrative and memory."

"The sooner one realizes their force - and their legitimacy within their respective communities - the sooner illusions about abstract democracy and non-existing unity can be replaced by more realistic policies."

However, President Bush maintains that such a move would increase violence in the region and "create problems for Turkey". On the contrary, many, including some Turkish experts, agree that a Kurdish state would be a beneficial to Turkey’s security. Furthermore, Turkey would rather see a democratic Kurdish state rather than another Islamic fundamentalist regime on its border. Moreover, the Turkish economy is already benefiting from a Kurdish regional government developing economy.

Sedat Laciner, director of the USAK says “Contrary to the general belief, there is no fear of the establishment of a Kurdish state among Turkish public opinion. The premise that a possible Kurdish state in Northern Iraq will threaten Turkey is not a majority view in Turkey. On the contrary, a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq may have some advantages for Turkey.”

This week another Republican from Bush's home state has come to the same conclusion. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas expressed her openness to consider the value of breaking up Iraq.

President Bush did the right thing by getting rid of the dictator Saddam. Now it is time to come to the right conclusion by dividing Iraq and getting our troops out of harms way.

A united Iraq does not exist and never will. Forcing unity in a country that does not want to be unified creates a time bomb that could bring further negative ramifications and greater consequences to the future of U.S. foreign policy. It is false to think that a united Iraq keeps U.S. interests at heart when it only benefits those neighboring countries that lack democracy in their own states and are fearful that a true democratic Kurdish state might coerce them to change their ways. By dividing Iraq, at least we will gain the Kurdish nation as an ally in a region where true friends are hard to come by. We might even gain some influence from the Shiite’s in the south.

Like former senator Trent Lott says “I’d rather have 50 percent of something than 100 percent of nothing.”

Friday, October 20, 2006

Will the Parties to submit the documents?

By Asos Hardi

I read on the Kurdistan regional government's website that the committee set up to investigate alleged Kurdish collaborators with Saddam Hussein’s regime has asked the United States military and all the Iraqi political parties to hand over Baathist intelligence documents. It is unclear whether this was an official request or just a press statement, but the documents held by US forces and the political parties are central to resolving the issue.

The Kurdish committee cannot impose demands on the US military, but we would like to know whether the committee is at least going to insist that the Kurdish parties submit what documents they have? Kurdistan regional president Massoud Barzani has told the media that the committee has full powers to act, and its head is an independent judge. That raises the question of whether the parties really will open their files, or just hand over some worthless documents. Who is going to make them them? In a country where the security and intelligence agencies are controlled by political parties, what can an independent committee do? It is like a game of snakes and ladders: in theory, we are making progress, but we are always afraid that the dice might land us on a snake and take us back to the beginning of the game.

(Awene is a Sulaimaniyah-based independent newspaper issued weekly by the Awene)


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Kurdish phobia that exits in Turkey
By Ardalan Hardi

Turkish Daily says the president of Iraq has negotiated with a terrorist organization and any negotiation with terrorist organizations is unacceptable for any state. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is considered a terrorist organization by Iraq, the United States, the European Union and Turkey. The article goes on to say Talabani is the first official who confesses that he was in direct talks with the PKK terrorist organization.

In an interview with Newsweek President Talabani said “We are urging the Turkish Kurds to be moderate, to wage their struggle through democratic means.” President Talabani’s attempt to face the PKK issue through diplomatic, democratic process is the only way to establish a peace in Turkey with regards to the Kurds. Since Iraq is a sovereign nation, it has earned the right to makes its own analysis concerning with whom and how it wants to negotiate to resolve the PKK issue peacefully.

Consider the following.
  1. Why is it okay for Turkey to dialog with Hammas when Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Israel, and the U.S., and is banned in Jordan? However, it is not acceptable for Jalal Talabani, a Kurd and president of Iraq, to talk to PKK. In addition, Talabani’s dialog with PKK is nothing new. It was not long ago when former Turkish president, Turgut Özal, appealed for Talabani assistants to reach a deal with PKK in order to resolve the Kurdish issue. The cease fire of the 90’s was the direct result of those negotiations. Unfortunately Mr. Ozal passed away and those talks ended. In a short period of time, northern Kurdistan was again engulfed in violence.
  2. PKK bases in Iraq are refugee camps that were inherited from the previous Iraqi regime. All of the refugees fled Turkey to avoid political oppression and extreme poverty.
    Under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugeesand 1967 Protocol, a signatory nation must grant asylum to refugees and cannot forcibly return refugees to their nations of origin. According to the international law, refugees are individuals who: are outside their country of nationality or habitual residence; have a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and are unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.
    Iraq’s government is obligated to uphold international law and cannot and should not force the asylum seekers back to Turkey where it is certain they will face execution by Ankara’s government.
  3. In an interview with CNN, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, rejected calls by an imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader for an unconditional ceasefire by the PKK, saying "a ceasefire is done between states. It is not something for the terrorist organization." Looking back in history we see that for years the U.S. considered PLO to be a terrorist organization. While Menachem Begin stated on more than one occasion that even if the PLO accepted UN Security Council resolution 242 and recognized Israel's right to exist, he would never negotiate with the organization. In the final analysis and for the sake of peace, the U.S. and Israel ended the dead lock that had plagued the Middle East peace process and opened dialogue with Arafat and the PLO.
  4. If Turkey truly wants to end the Kurdish question peacefully, it does not have to have dialogue with PKK. Ankara’s government can pick anyone of the other legal Kurdish political parties within Turkey to negotiate on how to improve economic development in northern Kurdistan, allow real exercise of cultural rights for Kurds, and recognize Kurdish identity in Turkey. By doing so PKK would became a mute point.

It is obvious this attack on President Talabani is just another propaganda scheme by Turkish state to pave the way for invading Kurdish de-facto state.

The problem is Turkey is not interested in solving the Kurdish issue peacefully. This Kurdish phobia that exits in Turkey goes back to creation of Turkish state from Kamal Ataturk and persists to this date. Everyone knows Turkish military is in control of the government in Turkey and in order to maintain their hold on power, they have successfully instilled this fear of the Kurd factor in their citizens to legitimize their own existence.

The statements in Turkish Daily made by Nilgun Gulcan, the so called Turkish think tank, saying the Kurdish leaders in Iraq aim to separate Iraq and to establish a Kurdish state in the north adding “They abuse the PKK problem. They first supported the PKK terrorism in order to make Turkey busy – not to prevent separation of Iraq – and now they want to legalize a terrorist organization. It is unfortunate that a legal president makes negotiations with a terrorist organization.” Gulcan goes on to say “As long as Barzani and Talabani continue to support the PKK terrorism, a possible Turkish military intervention in Northern Iraq would be on the agenda.” This is another validation of the Kurdish phobia that exists in the Turkish state. These allegations are just baseless propaganda to legitimize Turkish military intervention in Kurdistan’s regional government and eliminate any gains’ the Kurds have had in recent history.

Turkey continually uses the PKK card unsuccessfully as a ploy to gain support from the international community for its devious plan.

The EU and US must stand firm against Ankara’s government fraudulent attempts on sabotaging the only part of Iraq that is in peace.