Against the Kurdish Leadership’s Collaboration with US, Russian and Israeli Imperialism! Unite the Kurdish Liberation Struggle with the Arab Revolution!
By Yossi Schwartz (Revolutionary Communist International Tendency), 29 August 2016, www.thecommunists.net
The Kurds are an oppressed nation with the right to self-determination. The size of this nation is between 25 and 35 million. It inhabits a mountainous region currently under control of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. They are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East.
The Kurdish region has been conquered in the past by many invaders and conquerors: the ancient Persians from the east, Alexander the Great from the west, Muslim Arabs in the 7th Century from the south, Seljuk Turks in the 11th Century from the east, the Mongols in the 13th Century from the east, medieval Persians from the east and the Ottoman Turks from the north in the 16th Century, as well as the United States when it occupied Iraq.
Granting the Kurds the right of self-determination is a task of the bourgeois democratic revolution. Related to this is the fundamental task of the democratic revolution in the Middle East and North Africa – to expel the imperialists that control the region and super exploit the workers and the peasants. Additionally, the assistance of the local "rulers" that share some of the profits made by the imperialists should be done away with.
Imperialism and the Middle East’s Oil
In the Middle East the main field of exploitation revolves around the oil business. For example, oil and gas production in Iran is controlled by the state-owned National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). Now that sanctions have been lifted Iran plans to invite a number of international oil majors including ConocoPhillips Co., Exxon Mobil Corporation, Royal Dutch Shell plc and Total S.A., among others. (1)
Iraq produced nearly 3.4 million barrels of oil per day in 2014. Production in 2014 was higher than any other year since at least 1980, when the country produced just more than 2.5 million barrels per day. Oil production in most of Iraq falls under control of the Ministry of Oil in Baghdad. The Ministry operates through several state-owned companies, including the North Oil Company, the Midland Oil Company, the South Oil Company and the Missan Oil Company. In the autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq, oil production is controlled by the local Ministry of Natural Resources. More than a dozen major international oil companies are involved in Iraqi oil production. U.S. and European oil majors include Exxon Mobil Corporation, Occidental Petroleum Corporation, BP plc, Royal Dutch Shell plc and Total S.A. Other international oil giants in Iraq include China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and others. (2)
In Libya Waha and Samah oil fields are operated by the Waha Oil Co. (WOC), a subsidiary of the National Oil Corp. (NOC). Though WOC is the primary operator for both fields, the two are a joint venture between WOC and American oil companies ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil and Hess Corp. (3)
Kurdistan and Permanent Revolution
Other tasks of the democratic revolution are the unification of the region, agrarian reform, economic development and democratic rights to oppressed layers of society, especially women and religious minorities.
The attempted democratic revolution also known as the "Arab Spring", so far has not been able to push through because of lack of a revolutionary leadership of the working class, the only consistent revolutionary class of our times. The middle class has shown that it is unable to lead the democratic revolution.
Trotsky's theory of the Permanent Revolution, explains that in countries that have not gone through the democratic revolution by this period of capitalist decay, the only class that can lead the democratic revolution successfully is the working class. Once in power it will continue to carry out the tasks of the socialist revolution. This theory has been verified by the experience of the interrupted Arab revolution by the international and local counterrevolutionary forces.
Thus, the only way for the Kurds to win their own state – Kurdistan, is by supporting the working class revolution. Illusions that the Kurds will be able to free themselves by relying on the American, Russian or Israeli imperialism are very dangerous as it will only help to divide the opposition to the Iraqi or the Syrian dictatorships and will not lead to independence of the Kurds.
Imperialism’s History of Betrayal of the Kurdish People
Unfortunately, supporters of the petty-bourgeois nationalist PKK claim that the Öcalan leadership is completely different from the KDP and follows a pro-socialist and anti-imperialist road. An example for this illusion is the Kurdish journalist Giran Ozcan. He wrote in an article from October 2014: "The KDP's vision for Kurdistan is one that will easily fit into the current globalised capitalist system, whereas the PKK's vision for Kurdistan will stick out like a sore thumb. (…) The formula seems extremely clear: PKK for a socialist Kurdistan. KDP for a capitalist Kurdistan." (4)
Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. History is telling us that during WWI the British promised the Kurds that Great Britain will help them to get their state. But this promise was worthless.
"The extension of British control to southern and western parts of Kurdistan was welcomed by the majority of local Kurds, whose towns and villages had been devastated by the war. The Allies’ wartime propaganda generated great expectations among the Kurds. Some Kurdish nationalists took the Russian side, such as Abdul Razaq Bedirkhan, a Kurdish prince, while some others attempted to establish political contacts with the British, such as General Cherif Pasha, a high-ranking Ottoman diplomat. Kurdish nationalists genuinely believed that if they persuaded the Allies, and particularly Britain, of their nationalist cause and the compatibility between British interests and Kurdish political aspirations, an independent Kurdish state might emerge. Early British measures in British-controlled Kurdistan reinforced such Kurdish optimism, notably the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish entity in the British sphere of influence. The immediate aim was to assign local Kurdish leaders the task of restoring normal economic, social and administrative life under the supervision of British officials. In the absence of a clearly-defined policy towards Kurdistan’s post-war future and in view of London’s growing anxiety about military, political and financial commitments, the British authorities in Baghdad decided to experiment with the idea of Kurdish autonomy." (5)
What the Kurds did not know is that during WWI, the British and French made a secret agreement – the Sykes-Picot Agreement. The agreement was to carve up the Near and Middle East and create artificial nation-states under the imperialists control. The former provinces of Syria and Mesopotamia under the Ottoman Empire were divided into five nation-states: Lebanon and Syria were to be controlled by France. Palestine, Jordan and Iraq including Mosul Province were to be controlled by the British.
At the end of the War, the Treaty of Sevres humiliated Turkey but promised a Kurdish state. However, the Treaty of Sevres was rejected by the new Turkish Republic which successfully fought against British imperialism and its Greek ally, and a new treaty The Treaty of Lausanne was signed in 1923. The Treaty gave the entire Anatolian peninsula to the new Turkish Republic and the promise to a Kurdish state was buried.
From the end of World War I to the Gulf War in 1991, the Kurds in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria fought separate guerrilla campaigns to achieve autonomy. All the rebellions were suppressed. Guerrilla warfare, a type of radical middle class strategy, failed many times. Even when they win they create semi-independent states that the imperialists continue to super-exploit and control, or at best Stalinist regimes like in China and Cuba that serve as obstacles on the road to socialist society. Unless the new middle class bureaucracy in power is removed by political workers revolutions they become capitalist again as it happened in Cuba and China. Cuba now is exploited by the imperialists and China is a new imperialist state.
Kurdish Leadership allies with US Imperialism
Nevertheless the bourgeois and petit bourgeois delusions don’t die and they are doomed to repeat the same disastrous policies. Following the first Gulf war of the US imperialists on Iraq in 1991, a new Kurdish autonomy was established protected by the US and the U.K that created a no-fly Zone that prevented Saddam Hussein from reoccupying the Kurdish autonomy.
In 1992, the Iraqi Kurdistan Front, an alliance of political parties, held parliamentary and presidential elections and created the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. Two years later a civil war began between the bourgeois Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the more left wing Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) which split from the KDP. Two separate administrations in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah were established. In 2003, during the American led occupation of Iraq, the Kurdish Peshmerga from both factions joined the imperialist war against Iraq and the regional autonomy was reestablished in Iraq.
In February this year Masoud Barzani, the leader of the KDP and the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, called for a referendum on Kurdish independence. It could be a ploy to empower the KRG against the central government of Iraq in the struggle to control the oil fields. In 2005 a similar referendum was called, 98% of the Kurds in Iraq supported the independence, but the Kurdish regional government ignored the results and did not break away.
In Iraq the Kurds want to expand the borders of the Autonomy to include the largely Kurdish cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, but Assyrians, Turkmen and Arabs are also part of the populations of both cities. In addition, not only the Iraqi government but the Turkish government oppose it as well. Furthermore the Kurds are facing the forces of Daesh/ISIS that control large parts of Iraqi Kurdistan
In mid-2013, Daesh sent fighters to capture three Kurdish enclaves that bordered its territory in northern Syria. Until mid-2014 they were repelled by the Popular Protection Units (YPG) - the armed wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Unity Party (PYD). But in June 2014, ISIS overrun the northern city of Mosul, routing Iraqi army divisions and seized weaponry which later were moved to Syria. This led to the involvement of the Kurdish fighters against Daesh. In August 2014 Daesh launched an offensive and the Peshmerga withdrew in disarray from several towns as ISIS killed or captured thousands of Yazidis.
The US-led coalition launched airstrikes in northern Iraq and sent military advisors to help the Peshmerga. The YPG and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), from Turkey, also came to their aid.
In January 2015, Kurdish forces regained control of Kobane. Since then, the Kurds have won in battles against Daesh in northern Syria with the help of US-led coalition airpower. They control some territories along the Turkish border and advanced to within 50km of the Daesh stronghold of Raqqa. Fighting under the banner of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish YPG has emerged as a key ally of the US-led coalition, which considers it one of the few effective partners on the ground in Syria.
Israel and the Kurds
In March this year the Syrian Kurdish leadership announced they are open to ties with Israel. (6) Israel has had a long history of supporting and arming the Kurds in Iraq. In the rebellions of the 1960s and 1970s it sent military advisors, trained and supplied the Kurd units with firearms, field and anti-aircraft artillery.
In the last years Israel has had a secretive relationship with the Iraqi Kurds, including limited military assistance, bought by KRG’s oil. When the autonomous Iraqi region decided it would defy Baghdad’s orders last year and begin selling its own oil directly, Israel was one of the first countries to give the Iraqi Kurds the economic outlet and much needed money to fund their fight against the Islamic State. A report by the Financial Times estimated that Israel had purchased 19 million barrels of Iraqi Kurdish oil, worth roughly $1 billion, between May and August of last year. (7)
Last month, according to Al Jazeera, US signed a military aid deal of 415 Million dollars with Iraq's Kurdish Peshmerga units fighting against Daesh. With approval from the Iraqi government of Haider al-Abadi, the US is also sending 560 more troops to help Iraqi forces in the fight to recapture Mosul. The US Defense Secretary Ash Carter has also promised additional air power to the government. (8) While for the Iraqi revolution to win it is necessary to break Daesh, in any war between ISIS and the US the interest of the international working class is in the defeat of the US.
Collaboration of the PKK with Assad against the Syrian Revolution
The Kurdistan Workers' Party the PKK, a petit bourgeois nationalist guerrilla organization, has taken the side of Assad. According to Salah Badruddin, a Syrian Kurdish writer and politician who supports the Syrian revolution:
“In 2011, nearly 3,000 Kurdish fighters came from PKK’s military base in Qandil Mountains near the Iraq-Turkey border, and their leadership had many meetings with President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, who served as Syria’s Deputy Defense Minister and was killed in 2012.” (9)
Badruddin added that Assef Shawkat met a group of PKK military senior commanders in 2011 aiming to revive an old friendship and reach an agreement under the title of hostility to Turkey.
“The main aim of the PKK-Syrian government agreement was to exclude the Syrian Kurds from the Syrian Revolution,” he said.
The Kurdish leadership is playing a very dangerous game by allying the Kurds with the USA imperialism and Russian imperialism, which are the worst enemies even compared to Daesh. While revolutionaries support the Kurds’ struggle for their right of self-determination they will not gain it by allying themselves with the USA and only will isolate themselves from the revolution.
Forward to a Free, United and Red Kurdistan!
We reemphasize what we stated in a RCIT resolution from last year:
“For their part, Kurdish revolutionaries must fight from within the Kurdish masses to combine the struggle for liberation with the aim of a United Red Kurdistan. In such a Kurdistan the working and poor masses, i.e., the working class, the poor peasantry and the urban poor will take political power and – in contrast to Rojava – there will be a true workers’ democracy. This will also mean full democratic rights for parties and organizations who oppose PKK/PYD, but which stand for election on the basis of the Kurdish liberation struggle. Kurdish revolutionaries must orient their struggle away from the mountains and towards the masses of the Kurdish working class, not just in Diyabakır and Batman but in Istanbul and Ankara as well! They must fight against the capitulationism of the PKK, their collaboration of their leadership with US imperialism in Syria, their disarming of the masses, and their anti-Marxist theory of Apoism, in addition to ideologically fighting against the concept of Kurdish nationalism, especially when this is directed against all Turks (and not simply the fascists, the military and the police). Turkish and Kurdish revolutionaries also have to form a single party to fight for the liberation of all the workers and the oppressed of the region.” (10)
(1) J. William Carpenter: The Biggest Oil Producers in the Middle East October 15, 2015, http://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/101515/biggest-oil-producers-middle-east.asp
(3) International Business Daily, 17/4/2016, http://www.ibtimes.com/fear-isis-attacks-libya-shuts-down-major-oil-fields-2353898
(4) Giran Ozcan: Emerging Kurdistan: socialist or capitalist? http://kurdishquestion.com/oldsite/index.php/insight-research/analysis/emerging-kurdistan-socialist-or-capitalist/147-emerging-kurdistan-socialist-or-capitalist.html
(5) Saad Basheer Eskander: Britain’s Policy Towards The Kurdish Question, 1915-1923, PhD Theses, The London School Of Economics And Political Science http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/2625/1/U615574.pdf, p. 13
(6) The Times of Israel: After declaring autonomy, Syrian Kurds ‘open to ties with Israel, 18 March 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/after-declaring-autonomy-will-israel-embrace-syrias-kurds/
(8) Al Jazeera: US signs military aid deal with Iraq's Kurdish fighters, 14 July 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/07/signs-military-aid-deal-iraq-kurdish-fighters-160714071048418.html
(9) Hisham Arafat: Syrian Kurdish writer and politician “Kurdish-Assad fighting is conflict between allies", 4 May 2016, http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/interview/f90ea9cd-cf44-4bcd-b2c6-e1b5a43c75dd/%E2%80%98Kurdish-Assad-fighting-is-conflict-between
(10) RCIT: Turkey/Kurdistan: Stop the Terror against the Masses! Down with the reactionary Erdogan-government and its war against the Kurdish people! 14.10.2015, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/ankara-bombing/
We refer readers to the following documents of the RCIT:
RCIT: Turkey/Kurdistan: Stop the Terror against the Masses! Down with the reactionary Erdogan-government and its war against the Kurdish people! 14.10.2015, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/ankara-bombing/
RCIT: Revolution and Counterrevolution in the Arab World: An Acid Test for Revolutionaries, Resolution of the International Executive Committee of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, 31 May 2015, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/theses-arab-revolution/