Free Kurdistan!
The Kurds are a loyal ally of the U.S. and an exemplary force in the region.

Kurdish peshmerga near Mosul, Iraq. (Getty Images)


Robert Zubrin

Iraq is not a nation. Rather, it is a territory with arbitrary borders, which at this time is contested by three rival governments. In the west, there is the Islamic State, a group of fanatical, genocidal terrorists, committed to the destruction of Western civilization, Eastern civilization, and all those who refuse to submit to their totalitarian-cult rule. In the south, there is the Baghdad regime, controlled by a gaggle of corrupt Shiite Islamist sectarian politicians, tribal leaders, and gangsters allied with and backed by Iran. Finally, in the northeast, there is the de facto Kurdish state, displaying a level of religious tolerance, women’s rights, rule of law, private enterprise, pursuit of economic development, and friendliness toward the United States, Israel, and the West in general that is exemplary in the region.

Question: Which of these three governments should America support?

The fact that this question even needs to be asked is indicative of the total senility of current U.S. foreign policy. But it’s worse than that, because if your answer was “the Kurds,” your career prospects in the Obama State Department would be quite dim.

In fact, not only do the Kurds yield priority of State Department preference to the Iran-allied Baghdad regime, whose continued economic and political domination over the Kurds the administration insists upon, but — in terms of real action, rather than rhetoric — the Obama administration has arguably done more to favor the Islamic State as well.

These appalling realities are illustrated most starkly if one considers the key question of the financial foundation of each of the three governments. A key exportable product of Kurdistan is oil. On the basis of the Baghdad regime’s supposed right to rule all Iraq, it demands that the oil the Kurds produce be handed over to it, for it to sell, after which it will compensate the Kurds with such part of the cash received as it deems appropriate. As a result, the Kurds have been getting very little for their oil. So, rather than remain subject to such theft, the Kurds recently elected to lease some tankers, fill them with their oil, and send it abroad to sell it themselves. However, rather than support such commendable enterprise, or even merely ignore it, the Obama administration has vigorously tried to suppress it, going so far as to threaten sanctions or other legal action against the government of any country that chooses to accept Kurdish oil for sale at its ports.

This has severely impaired the Kurds’ ability to exercise their right to sell the products of their own efforts, thereby leaving them with insufficient funds to buy arms (which have also been denied them by the Baghdad regime). In the face of an onslaught of dangerous Islamic State victories, the administration has provided a trickle of arms and a modest level of air support (about ten strikes per day over the past week) to enable the Kurds to hold the line. But, without administration interference, the Islamic State is being massively funded by Qatar and, with the further de facto support provided by Obama’s refusal to fund, arm, or provide air support to the rival Free Syrian Army, allowed to become the principal Sunni anti-Assad resistance group in Syria. Furthermore, the leading Kurdish militia in Syria fighting the Islamic State has been designated by the administration as a terrorist group and blocked from receiving any help — despite its prominent role in defending the minority Yazidi people from genocide.

This insanity needs to stop. The Kurds should get America’s full support, with the interests of the Shiite Baghdad regime considered only insofar as it acts as a useful ally to the Kurds, rather than the reverse. There are many reasons we should give the Kurds our support, but the central one is very simple: They’ve earned it.

There is a moral question here, but also a practical one. It is a central principle of foreign policy that one should reward one’s loyal friends, set aside the interests of the ambivalent, and punish one’s enemies. The Islamic State is clearly our enemy. The Baghdad regime, in bed as it is with our Iranian foes, is at best ambivalent. What about the Kurds?