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Kurdistan - A Region, Not A Country


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The Kurds are an ethnic people based in Kurdistan - a region without a county which occupies portions of (going clockwise on the top map which follows): Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. If this seems strangely familiar, take note of the right map which depicts ISIS (i.e, "The Islamic State").

9_9_2014_b-pipes-kurdistan-8201.jpg ISIS-Terrorist-Map.jpg

This ugly, overlapping border, despite Kurdistan having little to do with ISIS:

"The Fight Of Their Lives" by Dexter Filkins on newyorker.com

From what I gather, the Kurds are caught in the middle of this, and don't want to be.

This issue is of global importance, and it's pretty pathetic how I picked up on it: MI-5, Season 1, Episode 3: "One Last Dance."

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Some Kurdish facts:

Despite the similarity in cross national territories I can't think of two groups more dramatically different than the Kurds and ISIS.

The Kurdish population has been around and identified as such for thousands of years, having first surfaced as a group several hundred years before Christ.

Kurds number in the 10's of millions.  They are a significant but minority population in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.  There is a Kurdish diaspora beyond those nations.  Imagine that; a significant population in a number of neighboring nations, but always a minority and never having one's own land.

The Kurds in Eastern Turkey effected a significant rebel and violent force for many years and while that fighting has diminished of late, Turkey has significant problems with that population.  Meanwhile the Kurdish territory in Northern Iraq, gained significant protections from Sadam Hussein following the initial Gulf War and were protected from Sadam via a US led Air Force effort.  Essentially the Iraqi Kurds gained a level of independence starting sometime around 1991 and it has remained in some level of independence since then.

The Iraqi Kurds initially supported the Turkish Kurdish independence movement but politically stepped back from that controversial stance.  The Iraqi Kurds are one part of an incredible political dilemma inside Iraq between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

The Kurds while being overwhelmingly Islamic include both Christian and Jewish Kurds (of small numbers) but have reasonably large and separate Sunni and Shiite populations.  The Kurds have somehow managed to avoid being in the middle of the Sunni/Shiite strife.    There is a reasonable level of religious tolerance in existence among Kurds with various denominations being in the majority in different parts of the large Kurdish territories.  I would think that this element of religious tolerance along with their very very long history as a "people" would significantly distinguish the Kurds from ISIS.

Now here is a piece of rather current news that I find very fascinating and representative of all the complexities of modern life, international politics, foreign relations, etc.   There is a large tanker with about 1 million barrels of oil, from Iraqi Kurdistan floating around in the seas and unable to deliver its "bounty" due to current international concerns.  The ship has hovered around the US for about 6 months.   When it first approached the US borders the oil was valued at about $100 million.  Its now valued at around $50 million due to the drop in oil prices.

Meanwhile the oil has not hit a shore.  Iraq claims that the oil is their's and Iraqi Kurdistan claims the oil is their's.  Therein lies the dilemma....and this oil remains at sea, unusable, not capable of being unloaded...at least not in the US.  ....and in those 6 months its lost $50 million in value and its not going to use.

Man...now with the advantage of hindsight I could have solved that issue to everyone's delight.... ;)....but that is not going to occur.

In any case the size and significance of the Kurdish population along with its existence among a variety of nations is one more complexity within the middle east.

And as noted above in the opening thread...it is a region...most definitely not a nation.   It makes me wonder about Kurdish foods.

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Here is some detail via CNN on the Kurds fighting ISIS in and near the city of Mosul in Northern Iraq.  Some elements:  50 year old Kurds at the front line:  Weapons from WW2 vintage;  ISIS in the city:  Kurds surrounding it:  Air strikes and bombings.

Mosul is primarily inhabited by Arabs:  Sunni Muslims, but the Iraqi army is primarily Shiite and the Sunni's as a group about fighting ISIS or not.   The Kurds are the main force on the ground confronting, not the Iraqi army.

This part of the world is a hellacious place.

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I find the Kurds and Kurdistan to be fascinating, especially its history post 1991, in the mideast.    Its a region, not a country, but since 1991 has managed to carve out and defend an area that gives it an almost country like status.  The Kurds in Iraq have generally stepped back from aggressively assisting Kurds in Turkey or Iran from pushing for their own independence.  Simultaneously they were protected from Saddam Hussein by the US air force from 1991 to 2003, and then have more aggressively pushed for as much of an independent state within Iraq as they can manage subject to the politics of the country and the region.

Here are three interesting stories on life development and recent history in Iraqi Kurdistan from different perspectives:

From last year a journalist who had visited Kurdistan in early 2003 in the run up before the US/allies war against Irag/Saddam writes about his visit in 2014   Just the pictures from the story are amazing when one considers the devastation across wide swaths of the middle east.  He also sheds some light on the Bush administration reasons for going to war, versus what he saw on the ground.  Fascinating "stuff".

Secondly a perspective from a quasi retired diplomat/PHD who has worked for the World Bank, the Food-For-Agriculture Organization and was in the Kurdish government cabinet.  His opinions are his own in the article, and his history and perspective are interesting.

Finally on a more human interest basis an Irish woman teaching in Kurdistan writes about her experiences.  She finds and draws parallels between life in Ireland and life in Kurdistan.

One last completely unconnected note:  The current President of Kurdish Iraq is a  member of one of the dominant tribes;  Masoud Barzani of the Barzani tribe.

Barzani, barzani, Barzini   Barzini was one of the significant characters from the Godfather, being one of the "heads of a mafia family" in NY and one who conspired against the Godfather while ultimately arranging for Sonny to get shot.  Fortunately, for those who rooted for the Corleone's, Michael had Barzini whacked....and that most wonderful of movies managed two great film epics (and one clunker).

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