Today a development is experienced in Iraqi Kurdistan whose results can only be described as a tragedy. If we let the scenarios that were scheduled as a solution to the Kurdish problem in the Middle East pass between Washington, Ankara, Paris and London, the bitter results of the imperialist plans which occur again an again come to our minds unavoidably as the ‘unfortunate fate’ of the Kurdish people. Today, people like Barzani and Talabani, who are all important in these scenarios, can still claim to strive for solutions ‘Kurdistan would wish.’ But today we cannot disregard the fact the plans which are hatched by imperialism, and the endeavours for autonomy of these Kurdish national leaders coincide essentially. A brief look at the history of the Kurdish national movement and the past of the Kurdish people shows also that these national leaderships always chose a non-political way, sided with the stronger on the pretext of neutralism, and striven for solutions which did not serve the Kurdish interests but those of reactionary streamings which were conform to the political regional interests of another country on the pretext of the balance of powers.
Even though there are social, economic, cultural and class- conditioned reasons for this, we shall call to attention that these facts display the following: In the year of 1512 Yavuz Sultan Selim and Shah Ismail fought to divide up the country of the Kurds, Yavuz Sultan Selim, who won this war, gave autonomy and half- autonomy to some Kurdish principalities and declared himself ‘protector of the Kurds’ – just like today. The Kurdish people was divided and ruled.
In the 19th century, at the time of Mahmut II, who knew to learn lessons from the past, the Kurds were recruited for the ‘Hamidiye Legions.’ This army suppressed the Armenian, Kurdish and even the Albenian uprising.
During the First World War the Kurds achieved an autonomy through the treaty of Serves which has imposed on them by the imperialists. The imperialists followed also the maxim of ‘divide and rule.’ This plan was very similar to the present proposal for a solution from the imperialist – which is also accepted by Turkey. In the suppression of the uprising in Dersim and of Sheikh Said this tactic – to annihilate Kurds with Kurds – was used too. One uprising was suppressed by the Alevitian, the other one by the Sunnite Kurds (of course, the Kemalist army was the main force).
This historic tragedy is continued today. The national leaderships who are deceived by Shah-Saddam-Khomeine-USA- EC, and look for solutions to the Kurdish problem were and there are played off against each other. Among them there are people like Mele Mustafa Barzani, who end in great tragedy and disappointment. Today, after the end of the Gulf War, the Kurdish national movements and the imperialists as well speak of autonomy. Where is the true rescue for the Kurdish people? On this article we shall deal briefly with the Kurdistan policy of imperialism after the Gulf War, the content of the endeavours of the Kurdish national movements of autonomy, Turkey’s part in this and the developments in the Middle East.
The Kurdistan Policy of Imperialism and the Kurdish National Movements
During the Gulf War we witnessed quite a few scenarios which were prepared by imperialist circles in case the Iraqi regime should break down or Iraq should be divided. Quotations, we often heard, like «We oppose the division of Iraq. We will not allow a change of the status quo in the Middle East… » show the point which the Kurdish national movement reached.
Today, 25 million Kurds live in the Middle East, divided under the rule of different states without having a own national state. For decades it has been tried to annihilate the Kurdish nation by oppression, assimilation and genocide, and not to grant it the right of self-determination. But despite the efforts of the imperialists and the countries which rule the Kurds to deny the existence of the Kurds and to annihilate them, the Kurdishness could not be extincted and the Kurdish national movement became a force which cannot be denied by anyone today. The Kurdish national movement entered as a determining factor into the events in the Middle East, especially in the seventies and eighties. Even though the Kurdish national movements, which emerged in the different countries, have independent organisations and different programs and strategies, they became a factor for the imperialists and the states of region, which guarantees the existence of the Kurdish people and makes its annihilation impossible.
This situation forced the imperialists and the states of the region to deal with the Kurdish problem more extensively.
Especially Iraqi Kurdistan is a region which draws everybody’s eyes to it. In Iraqi Kurdistan there exists a strong movement which relies on an old struggle, is rooted in the people and has strong armed forces. The national movement could not be annihilated, in spite of the oppression and the murders of the BAATH dictatorship, and managed to stand up renewed and strengthened again. Today, favourable conditions have been created for the success of the Kurdish national movement in Iraqi Kurdistan because the BAATH government was weakened in all fields through the Gulf War and lost prestige in the eyes of the people. This development was started with the Gulf War; it disquiets the imperialists and the states in the region and caused the emergence of different scenarios.
For imperialism the Kurdish question was always a joker in case the balance in the Middle East should shift to their disadvantage or a regime should not dance to their tune. G. Carver, an old CIA officer, put it this way: «We have always used the Kurds and threw them away afterwards.»The most important example for the usage of the ‘Kurdish joker’ is the instigation of the uprising of the Democratic Party of Iraqi Kurdistan (DPIK) under the lead of Mele Mustafa Barzani against the BAATH regime in 1974. US imperialism made false promises to Mustafa Barzani concerning the national rights of the Kurds. This way it reached his uprising against the BAATH regime, which developed counter to the interests of US imperialism.
On the other hand, imperialism has always kept the possibility of a Kurdish satellite state, in case of a fundamental change of the situation in the Middle East. The states of the region dealt with the Kurdish question in their own interests’ sense. The states which are confronted with the Kurdish question have used different kinds of domestic policies towards the Kurdish nation, from false promises of autonomy to assimilation and genocide. The Kurdish question was used a joker in foreign-policy problems between those states. Iraq, Iran and Syria give the most clear cut examples for this. Iran and Iraq as well supported the Kurdish movements in the respective other country, even by supplying weapons – and this became almost an rule in foreign policy. Syria acted similar too, though not to the same degree as Iraq and Iran. Turkey only has not used such a policy so far-partly, because she saw no need to do so, because she thought this policy to be risky for herself. But recently, the declarations of the Özal government like: «From now on we will be the protectors of the Kurds,» show that the Turkish government starts to leave this path.
Undoubtedly, the efforts by imperialists and the states of the region to use the Kurdish question for their interests will prolong in the future.
The Kurdish national movement shall further develop itself in a revolutionary way and rely on its own strength-independently from imperialist and reactionary policy. The Kurdish national movement has essential weaknesses tough, in respect to a policy which is independent from the imperialists and the states of the region, because of its class-conditioned, narrow capitalist view point and its pragmatism. The Kurdish national movement consists of several organisations in the different countries of the Middle East. These organisations have bourgeois-feudal and petty bourgeois nationalist leaderships. As a result of these class characteristics, each one of these leaderships does not tackle the Kurdish national movement in accordance with the totality and the general revolutionary interests of the Kurdish nation, but in accordance with their own narrow nationalist interests.
The nationalist approach which is a product of the bourgeois and petty bourgeois class characteristics, the pragmatism, the lack of confidence in their own interests. Therefore, the nationalist policy of the bourgeois and petty bourgeois leaderships caused the ‘deliverance’ of the joker to the imperialists and the states of the region.
The placing or their hopes in other forces, the lack of trust in their own strength and the nationalist pragmatism are the reasons for many bitter defeats of the Kurdish national movement. The support by the imperialists and the states of the region existed as long as this corresponded with the interests of these state. The imperialists or the states of the region restricted their aid to a degree that made it possible for the Kurdish national movement to guarantee its existence, but not to realise success. When the states of the region achieved their aims, or resolved the conflicts between them, they stopped to support the Kurdish national movement. Each agreement between these states served to strike heavy blows against the Kurdish national movement and to inflict defeats on it.
The DPOK which revolted against the BAATH regime in 1974, because of the promises of support by US imperialism and the Shah, was dropped after the settlement between Iraq and Iran in 1975 and the Kurdish national movement was exposed to terror and murder. M. Barzani said: «We were told that the Kurdish state would be supported by the USA and Iran as well. … We put trust in the oath of the USA and resisted and fought the enemy.»He had to apply for asylum in the USA. This policy of co- operation with the states of the region led to the fact that Kurds acted against Kurds. The Kurdish national movements even suppressed Kurdish national movements in another country, when they co-operated with the respective government. In the sixties, the Barzani-led DPIK demanded that the Iranian KPD should quit fighting against the Shah, so that the ‘good relations’ of the DPIK with the Shah were not put at risk. When the Kurdish movement under the leadership of the KPD rejected this and continued its armed struggle against the Shah, the IKDP sided with the Shah to suppress this movement.
The Kurdish national organisations always legitimated this policy of relying on alien forces with the argument that one should try to reap the benefits of the contradictions between the enemies. They regarded this contradiction and the situation which was created by these contradictions as an essential factor for development and success of the Kurdish national movement. This approach led logically to such a kind of policy as the dependence on external support and the striving for solutions which could be accepted by the imperialists and the states of the region. For this reason, the Kurdish national movement could restart its activities only after the fall of the Shah and the take-over of power by the mullahs in 1979. After the Islamic revolution in Iran, the leaders of the Kurdish national movement tried to get support and aid from it. After receiving it, they could reorganise the struggle in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Iranian-Iraqi war was assessed to be a chance for a qualitative development of the Kurdish national movement. Yet, the Kurdish organisations did harm to each other, Iraq supported the Iranian KPD and Iran the Iraqi DPIK. It was supposed that through the latest Gulf crisis a favourable situation would be created for the Kurdish national movement. Many Kurdish leaders assessed it as an last opportunity for the future of Iraqi Kurdistan. Therefore, during the Gulf War a weakening and the breakdown of the BAATH regime was expected. During the war nothing was done, even more, Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Unity of Kurdistan (YNK) went to the White House several times. This Talabani declared in front of the US Americans that he is ready for any co-operation to create a new front in Iraq in accordance to the USA’s wishes.
Of course, the contradictions between the enemy forces and the favourable conditions which are created by them are important moments which the revolutionary forces that lead the national and social liberation struggle can use to their advantage. Therefore, it is normal and necessary for the Kurdish national movement to take advantage of the Iranian-Iraqi war and the latest Gulf crisis. But it cannot be said that this was done from the correct revolutionary viewpoint.
The Iranian-Iraqi war and the latest imperialist Gulf war created a favourable situation for the Kurdish national movements but, as they looked for the co-operation with the USA, the wrong results were achieved. Friend and enemy in the region were mixed up. Instead of striving for the Iraqi revolution, they striven for a permission for autonomy by the USA.
Now it was exposed nakedly that the bourgeois and petty- bourgeois leaderships do not rely on the Kurdish people but on the imperialists and the states in the region.
The Kurdish nation did not forget the bitter results which were caused by the reliance on alien powers and the overvaluation of the contradictions in the enemy camp. The Kurdish national movements emphasised several times that the bitter results of these catastrophes should not be experienced again. In spite of this, during the latest Gulf crisis it could be seen clearly that the correct lessons have not been learned and the wrong line, which has almost become a tradition, was continued.
The Gulf crisis and the acting of the Kurdish national movements
During the Gulf crisis with Iraq’s annexation of Kuwait the Kurdish national movements showed their traditional, negative attitude they hold, and they still do so.
The Kurdish national organizations regarded the attack of US imperialism against Iraq, which started as an economic, political and military siege and turned into an armed attack, supported by all imperialists, as an attack against the regime of Saddam Hussein only. They characterised this war as a “dog fight” between the imperialists and Saddam’s dictatorship. This evaluation led them to stay “neutral” in this war and to even search the cooperation with the imperialists. For, according to their view an attack against Saddam’s regime would be a favourable development in their interests. This nationalist viewpoint is so narrow that they could not see that the common attack of the imperialists against the Iraqi people was an attack against all peoples in the Middle East, in order to be able to rule them. Imperialism aimed with this war at a “new order”, which should subjugate not only the Iraqi but also the Kurdish people.
One of the biggest mistakes of the Kurdish national movements was their “neutralism” towards the imperialist attack. It is inconceivable that a national liberation movement would be successful without taking a clear stand and achieving victories. It is a frightening example for the narrow viewpoint of petty- bourgeois nationalism that the expansion of imperialism’s domination, being the true enemy of the people, in this region was supported to weaken or bring down the regime of Saddam.
Some Kurdish nationalists went even further and sided with the imperialists. The Kurdish representatives who gathered in Moscow put this attitude into the following words: “The Kurds will fight in the front against Saddam and the BAATH, no matter with whom.”
This attitude which exposes pure pragmatism will not lead to the liberation of the Kurdish people but -like often before in the past- to its abuse by imperialism and to more bitter defeats.
Celal Talabani, the leader of the YNK, declared at the beginning of the Gulf war that his party would fight against Saddam together with the USA. To be able to come to an arrangement with US imperialism he travelled to the USA and demanded guarantees, a Kurdish autonomy and the supply of arms. Talabani’s attitude is a repetition of former bitter experiences.
In return for the autonomy or the establishment of a federal state in Iraqi Kurdistan Talabani signalised his willingness to compromise to the imperialists and the states of the region by declaring: “We will not be a separatist regime, we will not jeopardise Turkey’s interests…” This compromise does not take into account the situation of the Kurds in Turkey, Iran and Syria. For example, it is not clear which promises Talabani and the representative of the IKPD gave to Özal at their secret meeting in Ankara (Maybe it can be seen in the role imperialism gave to Turkey in the Middle East). Maybe the talks in Ankara were about separating Iraqi Kurdistan from Iraq and to integrate it into Turkey with a limited autonomy in order to find a “solution” for the Kurdish question, in case the opposition in Iraq could not bring down the Saddam regime and imperialism could not enforce its “plan for democratisation” in Iraq. Kurdish nationalism which looks for the liberation of the Kurdish nation in co-operation with imperialism fails another exam. It will not surprise, if this failure will cost the Kurdish people dearly. Even if the “autonomous Kurdish region” or a “federation” which are striven for by Kurdish nationalism and can be accepted by the states of the region would be positive developments with regard to the wishes of the Kurdish national movement, it is obvious that they would not be an essential step towards the liberation of the Kurdish and other people in to very compromise and to cooperate with US imperialism (like for instance, the leaderships of YNK and DPIK) would achieve autonomy in Iraqi Kurdistan, this would be no step towards the liberation of the Kurdish people. For, this step would be taken with the permission of imperialism from the beginning, and corresponds to the imperialist policy of a “new order” in the region. The fact that these Kurdish patriotic leaderships do not possess two major factors for a true national liberation in our century -firstly, a correct anti-imperialist attitude and secondly, a leadership which follows the ideology of the proletariat – increases this objective reality. Therefore, we should not leave out of consideration today that the imperialists’ remedies for the Kurdish question are part of its “new order”, which aims at the domination of the peoples of the Middle East.
The “new order” of imperialism in the Middle East and the Kurdish policy within this framework
The USA and the other imperialist forces, which ended the imperialist Gulf war with a victory, force the people of the Middle East into an imperialist peace, Imperialism, which gained the military victory, uses its success presently-with new military and economic agreements- for economic and political profit, Undoubtedly, each step of imperialism in this direction means another barrier for the Kurdish national struggle.
Imperialism has rolled up its sleeves to submit the other regions, especially the Middle East, under its new yoke which imperialism calls “New World Order”. Today it threatens all oppressed peoples of the word with the imperialist war in Iraq-in the same way it has threatened the peoples of Grenada, Panama, South and Central America: “I will force all oppressed peoples and all countries to their knees who contravene to my interests by military occupation, threat, blackmail, economical and political blockades and, if necessary, by war.” For imperialism there is no weapon it would not use to protect its own interests, the imperialist freedom of exploitation and democracy and human rights -for imperialists only.
Today, US imperialism, as the winner of the war, reached a point where it gained more influence over the Middle East. It was strengthened in its strategy to find “!imperialist solutions” for national and class contradictions according to a “New World Order”. But there is another fact: Apart from its military profits, imperialism also incurred the peoples’ hatred in the Middle East. That is to say that there is an anti-imperialist potential, which should be used by the revolutionary organisations.
The USA, who re-integrated Kuwait into their sphere for exploitation with the imperialist war, continue their policy of a “new order” which stands for the announcement of their world empire. The essence present conditions of dependence ant exploitation, the surrender of national and class conditioned revolutions and the covering up of the fascist dictatorships in the neo-colonies with an alleged democracy. Briefly, with the demagogy of “neither fascism, nor communism” they try to sell an alleged democracy as democracy. At international levels the ally themselves with social reformism; and the demagogy of the “New World Order” is used to guarantee the prolongation of the imperialist system of exploitation. In order to achieve this, at first all measures are taken to bring down the socialist regimes in Eastern Europe. Then, the fascist dictatorships in the neo-colonies give way to civil looking governments within the framework of the game of democracy. Everywhere civil fascist governments are established, who accept the bourgeois electoral system and parliament. We should regard the “new” solutions imperialism has produced in the Middle East for the Palestinian and Kurdish question and the other class- conditioned contradictions within this framework. Today, the Palestinian and Kurdish question are newly woven in the light of this
1) “We will work together to achieve peace, in the same way we resisted together against the aggressors. (…) A stable situation and security in the Gulf region is vital for our national interests.”
2) “The control of weapons: A new arms race of the countries at the Gulf and in the Middle East could end tragically.”
3) “The Arabia-Israeli conflict: Everybody must understand now that it is necessary to agree to compromises to create peace in the Middle East. We must do our utmost to get rid of the enmity between the Arab countries and Israel, between Palestinians and Israelis. Nothing can be gained by terror. There are no other means than diplomacy. (…) It is time now to finish the Arab-Israeli conflict. I assure you that nobody will take more trouble than we do to create a lasting peace in the Middle East.”
4) “Economic development: Measures which grant economic independence and freedom of enterprise to all peoples of the region.”(Cumhuriyet, August 8, 1991)
As we can read in Bush’s plan, imperialism demands “stability” for the Middle East. Of course, this is a “stability” which is aimed at prolonging the results of the Gulf war and the existing relations of exploitation and dependency. Therefore, imperialism plans to suppress all revolutions which have an anti-imperialist character (Palestinian and others) and to give legitimacy to this suppression with the treaties. This has to be regarded as “stability”! And US imperialism declares that it will establish “stability” from now on together with the imperialist forces which took part in the war and its collaborators. This is an important development.
The USA want the UNO’s support at the solution to the Palestinian and Kurdish problem, like in the Gulf War. The other (allied) powers act already together with the USA. (The contradictions between the imperialists cause different nuances in their proposals for solution but they do not hinder the co- operation.) The Kurdish national movement must realise these facts. Without an anti-imperialist policy the Kurdish people will not enforce its free right of self-determination.
Even worse, the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois-feudal leaderships will settle for national-cultural reforms which the USA admit in the framework of their game of democracy. The front in Iraqi Kurdistan, which is led by Talabani, the leader of the YNK, and Barzani, the leader of the DPIK, says that she does not strive for an independent Kurdistan, engages herself in the imperialist game of democracy and shows a pragmatic attitude which is based on permission.
“The Kurdish people deserves the support of the US government. The present Kurdish movement is a democratic and legitimic movement, and can play a role in the strengthening of democracy in the region.”(Celal Talabaniin Hürriyet, February 28,1991)
“Independence is impossible for us. In a region between three countries, which oppose this demand, independence cannot be achieved. We know this. But the form of government in Iraq is our problem (…). For the stability in the region you must give more importance to the Kurds (this is addressed to the Turkish government). We have the required maturity and the required sense of responsibility.”(Hosvar Zebari, member of the Politburo of the DPIK in Günes, February 28,1991)
As we can see, the peace plan of imperialism contents neither the right of self-determination for the Kurdish nation, nor the revolutionary demands of the patriotic Kurdish organisations. Some reforms that are foreseen in this plans correspond with the programs of some Kurdish national movements. Nevertheless, the Kurdish national movements and the Kurdish people can only determine their own fate, if they use the right anti-imperialist policy which is directedagainst the collaborating regimes and led by the proletariat. This fact is valid everywhere; and the Kurdish national movements should call exactly this fact to their consciousness. The commitment to imperialist policy and the satisfaction with some cultural and national rights which are granted within the framework of the imperialist “peace plan” will not lead to national liberation but to collaboration.
The second point in Bush’s catalogue is a lesson from the war between imperialism and Iraq. He intends to disarm the countries in the Middle East, to control the weapons and to hinder that these weapons are turned against him, like Iraq did. -This way he will be able to control the armament or the countries of the region.
The resolving of the contradictions between the Arabs and Israel, which are mentioned as third point, foresees future steps to protect the imperialist stability and interests. (Neither by chance, nor because he forgot it, Bush’s plan does not content anything on the Kurdish question. Everything at the given time!) The USA, who put the discussion on the establishment of a Palestinian state in Westbank and Gaza on the agenda again, try to weaken the hatred of the Arab peoples which rose because of the Gulf war and to present themselves as “freedomloving”, “democratic” and “human rights conscious” to the oppressed peoples. A relative gain of sympathy through a positive step for Palestine will make it possible, for a while, to hide the imperialist, occupatory and aggressive face of the USA. Furthermore, the USA try to present their imperialist solutions as resolutions of the UNO, whereas the USA have prevented the enforcement of such resolutions for decades. This way, everything will be “conform with international law”. It is difficult to say that such a step for the solution to the Palestinian problem -with whatever quality- will not be according to the expectations of the USA. Even if the Palestinian sate which is to be founded within this development and according to US imperialism’s plan, will not be a direct collaborator of the USA, it will be guaranteed with treaties that it will not do harm to the USA. The USA can wait with this step because the PLO sided with Iraq in the war, but they cannot do without a partial solution (which means no end to the Palestinian problem) anymore. The approach of the USA and their collaborators does not differ in this aspect.
Israel will be the sole country in the region to resist Bush’s peace plan and his new solutions to the Palestinian problem. But Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and even the Soviet Union will participate in the solution to the Kurdish problem. The USA will weigh their steps and will have to look especially for the consent of the three first named. A partial solutions to the Palestinian problem will produce a “new state” too. In respect to the Kurdish question neither imperialism, not the Kurdish national organisations (except the PKK) want the creation of a new state.
The fourth point of the imperialist “peace plan” is nothing else than the recreation of the Marshall plan in the Middle East. The economic reconstruction of Kuwait after the war (70 per cent of the orders were given to US companies) and the treaties for weapon supply show the aims of the USA. Freedom of enterprising means for the USA that they get 70 per cent of the exploitation profit and the other imperialists the rest.
The basis of the Kurdistan policy of the USA and other imperialist powers is the absolute rejection of a Kurdish state in which a revolutionary people’s government rules -this became obvious once more during the Gulf war.
Fundamentally, imperialism does not think about the independence of any people in the Middle East. Nevertheless, imperialism always dealt with all national movements and minorities because of its general policy and therefore it approached the Kurdish problem in the Middle East with this policy also.
The Kurdistan policy of imperialism and its tactics
Imperialism used the existence of the Kurdish problem in Iraq, Iran and Syria to strengthen the dependency of the respective government from the USA and to force them to political acts in favour of the USA on the international stage. Therefore, they spoke about the Kurdish problem now and then in the White House and on the international stage to dictate their interests easier to, for example, the Turkish oligarchy. In Iraq, Iran and Syria this strategy was used, too. The Gulf war gave the most obvious example for this.
Imperialism, which had attacked Iraq, requested Turkey to open a new front. In case of a rejection by Turkey it announced to leave this to the Kurdish organisations in Iraq (DPIK and YNK). Talabani’s negotiations in the White House hint at this among other things. If the Kurdish organisations in Iraq should open a second front, it would be a matter of course that they would make their own demands to the USA. Even if it is another story how far the USA would accept these demands, the Turkish oligarchy, which is afraid of a Kurdish state at their borders, understood the message and admitted the USA’s usage of the air force base in Incirlik. In the end imperialism won again.
Each time the Kurdish national movements -in spite of all their mistakes- began to threaten the relations of dependency between imperialism and the existing governments, the USA and the other imperialist countries avoided to “touch” the Kurdish problem and applied strategies to satisfy the existing governments. History tells that imperialism often raised the hopes of many Kurdish national movements in Iraq and Iran and later settled with the collaborating governments and dropped the movements. The US imperialists which kept Talabani for a while in Washington, and gained the air force base in Incirlik and Turkey as an ally in this war by doing so, sent him back empty-handed. This time they used Talabani to force Saddam to make concessions. Behind the support for the Kurdish question of Great Britain, France and even Sweden there is the same strategy.
If the USA had supported Talabani and Barzani in opening a second front in Iraq during the Gulf war, they would not have got the political and military support of Turkey, Syria and Iran, who would have been afraid of this front; and these countries which were their allies would have opposed the USA in some points. First and foremost, important. The interests of the collaborators will adjust to them (this could be seen in the Gulf war). The reason for the USA to sometimes support and sometimes drop Barzani and Talabani can be found in the question whether the Kurdish problem can be used as a joker for their interests, or for those of their collaborating governments in the Middle East. This does not change the basic attitude, anyway. The basic attitude is that all revolutionary solutions to the Kurdish national question are rejected. It is a fact that the strategically manoeuvres of the USA are deceiving. Still, the USA and the other imperialist powers always looked after their interests when they acted against the Kurdish national movements or pretended to support them. Even if the imperialists compromise sometimes, this will be just the result of the long struggle of the Kurdish national movement and the progressive public in these countries.
Was it unavoidable that Iraq lost the war?
What were the political strong-points of the regime of Saddam in the Gulf war? They were the following:
* Arab nationalism
* The factor Islam
* The anti-Israeli attitude (The plan to get the Arabs on its side in the Arab-Israeli conflict)
* A tired but still strong army which fights in its own country.
But what were the weaknesses of the regime of Saddam? They were the following:
* The unsolved Kurdish question. No support from the Shiites and the Kurdish people.
* The compromising attitude of the bourgeois leadership.
* An unbalanced military power facing a huge allied power.
* Unfavourable international conditions.
Facing these facts, we can pose the question whether the defeat of Iraq was unavoidable.
If the government of Saddam would have been able to carry out the strategy which it planed in the beginning -that means to expand the war to the whole Arab region by using the Arab-Israeli conflict to do so and to turn the war between Iraq and imperialism into a war between the Arab peoples and imperialism- the Arab peoples would have won. One should not underestimate such a strategy in the middle East. Saddam saw this potential but he could offer no political guarantees to win this potential for him. He wanted to be like Nasser but he lacked the necessary attitude despite the fact that all conditions for a neo-Nasserism are given in the region. The misery for Iraq is that she has such a leadership.
Iraq got no support in the region.
On the one hand, Syria and Iran exposed an open pragmatism, in spite of the dominating Islamic fundamentalism in Iran and in spite of the pressure which the peoples of these countries exerted on the governments to support Iraq.
On the other hand, some Arab countries continued their collaboration, joined the alliance and sent their troops to the Gulf (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Quatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates). Some other Arab countries exposed a pragmatic attitude caused by their petty-bourgeois leaderships and were not able so support Iraq concretely (Libya, Jordan, Algeria, Sudan). The result was a splattering of the Arab nation.
The bourgeois leadership of Iraq was politically weak form the beginning because it had a dirty past (the genocide of Halebshe, the suppression of communists and opposition) and no support of the national and ethnically groups, except the Sunnite minority. Under this circumstances, it could not be expected that Iraq would be able to resist against the united-acting imperialism successfully.
Therefore, a military victory for Iraq was impossible from the beginning. The military victory would have been possible only, if the above mentioned strategy could have been enforced. But the dirty past of the BAATH government, the lack of support for it and the mistrust of the Arab people made this strategy impossible.
Why did not the Arab countries support Iraq? For the collaborators, it is not necessary to pose this question. The others renounced their ideological missions like Islamic fundamentalism or nationalism and submitted to bourgeois pragmatism. The polity of these countries was guided by a bourgeois ideology during the war: pragmatism. Syria sold the Arab nationalism within “two days” in order to keep control of Lebanon. Iran, a non-Arabic country, but one of the forces in the region sided objectively with the USA, whereas they usually call the USA “the Big Devil”. Libya was a boat which rocked, with her appeals for Iraq and the USA.
The imperialist plan for a “NATO” in the Middle East, and the role given to Turkey
“A security system-which is to be founded in the region-shall exist of partners with equal rights and shall not offer the possibility of claims to leadership to any Arab country.”(General Ilhan Kilic, member of the Turkish general staff, Cumhuriyet, February 23, 1991)
US imperialism, the winner of the Gulf war, request lasting military institutions in the region. Imperialism, which plans the abolition of the NATO because of its lack of function, wants to suppress the struggles of the peoples with new “regional NATO´s”. It plains a new attack for security in the region (It could also be called an alliance for attack) with the help of the Gulf. The Turkish Oligarchy, which assumes the foundation of such an alliance, cannot be stopped to give advice to imperialism about its experiences with previous alliances in the region. The Özal government suggests itself as leadership of the “NATO in the Middle East” because the Arab governments have problems with each other and the former alliances which were led by Iraq or Iran failed because of this. (…) The Özal government, which understood with the wisdom of a lackey that the permanent military presence of the USA in the region will bring problems, emphasises its readiness to be mercenaries. It can be seen that imperialism strives for the foundation of regional alliances like a “NATO in the Middle East” or a “NATO in Middle and Central America” in order to continue its aggressions and to guarantee the future of the system to exploitation. So, there is nothing new at the front of imperialism! If we talk about the question of power, terms like “peace” and “rapprochement” have a demagogic meaning only. (Reformism only has to stay with these terms today.)
While Turkey strives for the leadership of the “NATO in the Middle East”, she tries to hide her new aggressions. On the one hand, she wants to be the leader of the of the power which suppresses the Kurdish national movement in the Middle East, on the other hand, she plants to admit the “free” use of the Kurdish language within the framework of the game of democracy. She wants to take on the bloodiest duties, by suppressing the revolutions with the support of the “legal” NATO, but she tries to polish her image on the international stage with her suggestions for a solution to the Kurdish question. Turkey wants to replace the Gls of the USA, the French Legions, the British soldiers. That is to say that the Kurdish organisations in Iraq are wrong.
“We are in favour of the Iraqi borders staying the same as before the Gulf war. We oppose the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in Northern Iraq. This is our sole condition.” (T. Özal, Sabah, February 18, 1991)
“The democracy in Turkey is very important and necessary for the establishment of democracy in Iraq. (…) The Turkish government can regard the Kurds in Iraq as their allies and put trust into them. (…) In no way we will do harm to the interests of Turkey. (…) Turkey was always a barrier to us. With this step (the recognition of the Kurdish language is meant a new page is opened.(Celal Talabani, Günes, February 27, 1991)
As we can see in this, there are other calculations and endeavours. The secret agreement between Ankara and the DPIK and the YNK shows that the strives for solution is not a revolutionary one.
The patriotic forces, like Talabani and Barzani, kid themselves, when they talk fancy, like: “We are Turkey’s friends, we do not have any problems with her. Özal’s way is the right one…”, for, the Kurdish national movements will have to turn against Turkey anyway when she becomes the first of the “NATO in the Middle East”. Of course, only if they stand up for independence and the right of self-determination. Özal’s government is preparing for the role of imperialism’s policeman. It is a result of this preparations that the bases in Incirlik, Erhac and Erzurum are newly armed and equipped after the war.
If this calculations work out, Turkey and her army will be able to attack the Middle East in on behalf of the imperialists. It can be doubted to which extent the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois leaderships have realised this.
In Politics, It is Necessary to Take a Stand
So far, we showed the extent of the war the imperialists declared on the peoples of the Middle East and the attitude of different political forces and the reflection of it in practice. In doing so we must emphasise especially that “neutrality” is no revolutionary attitude when life demands engagement from us. This is the most important lesson we should learn from the happenings. In such an important situation, the effort to carry out a “neutral” policy leads to failure and stagnation for movements whatever their aims are. If the political parties and organisations do not assess such developments correctly and are not able to save themselves from destruction by the class struggle. In such developments policy and tactics serve to gather political strengths.
The revolutionaries took a clear stand from the beginning of the Gulf War and displayed the situation open and understandable. They saw the connection between class struggle and imperialist war and developed strategies which were adjusted to the new situation. The approach of the Marxist-Leninists was exemplary, as well because of their theoretical approach, as because of their policy which became one with practice.
Humans which claim leadership in the class struggle must act accordingly against the Gulf crisis and the imperialist war and conduct a revolutionary policy. The political attitudes showed who is consequent and who hot. It is impossible to exist on the political stage by the claim “to make policy” only. The strength of each movement is measured in its actions.
As the question of power is the main problem of every revolutionary movement, they should realise the emergence of a new process and use it to wage the class struggle more effective. The biggest difference between the Marxist-Leninists and other political streamings during the Gulf War was that apart from the correct theoretical approach, they also understood the class struggle in their own countries. The revolutionary and national organisations in the region should be able to learn lessons from the Gulf War in this respect. Those who striven for a turning of the war into a civil war, would have had to prove that they die and the side of the Iraqi people fighting the existing government. Those who hid behind a curtain of “neutralism” and watched silently the war which has been declared on the peoples of the Middle East exposed a political blindness.
The Marxist-Leninists carried out a policy which is directed against imperialism’s interests, emphasised the imperialist and reactionary character of the war, and called upon the peoples against the war. They tried to unite all forces against the imperialist war. Their attitude towards the imperialist powers.
In the same way we sided with the Arap people when imperialism attacked Iraq, we must now take a side in the Iraqi civil war. The Marxist-Leninists must take a stand again. They should analyse the quality and the aims of the given powers and approach the cause in accordance with the interests of the peoples.
The imperialists want to peoples of the Middle East to pay tribute to them, today. This tribute contents new treaties which last for years, the plundering of the wealth of the peoples and the creation of new collaborators. The imperialists see the so-called solutions to the Kurdish question within this plan. With the Kurdish uprising in Iraq the solution to the most important problems in the Middle east came on the agenda under the surveillance of the imperialists. We do not have to wait for long to see that this “solution” does not lead to any solution, because it will not disturb the balance and the status quo, and would need the permission of the imperialists.
The Kurdish question cannot be solved with the permission of the imperialists. But, unfortunately, the Kurdish national movement, which has a bourgeois leadership, is far away from understanding this. Many Kurdish organisations queue in front of Washington’s doors and try to get their attention and look for help in the imperialist scenarios.
Nevertheless, the Marxist-Leninists must be support the uprising against Saddam in spite of all, even if it is led by a pragmatism which is influenced by nationalism. The revolutionaries must side with the Kurdish people against Saddam. This does not mean, though, to approve the connections of Kurdish bourgeois and petty bourgeois leaderships to imperialism or its collaborators. These connections must be abolished and the policy of permission by the imperialists must be stopped. Otherwise, a new tragedy or an “autonomous” or “federal” Kurdistan, which will be dependent from imperialism, is waiting for the Kurds and this will be no gain for the Kurdish people in the region, as we mentioned above. Today, the regime of Saddam must stop the genocide and accept the will of the peoples. Of course, it is not possible that Saddam, who is ready for anything to protect his own chauvinistic-reactionary interests, will accept this voluntarily. The force of uprising will force him to do so. The Marxist-Leninists must support this uprising which is led by the Kurdish national movements in spite of all its mistakes, and do everything to make it victorious, because the uprising is an expression of the national demands of the Kurdish people. Even if the Kurdish national forces rely on the bourgeoisie, this does not change anything. They are in the right vis-à-vis Saddam and therefore progressive. Although the true liberation of the Kurdish people cannot be independent from the liberation of the other peoples in the Middle East, and the true liberation of the peoples con only be achieved through the liberation struggles which are led by the proletariat, we must, anyway, support the national liberation struggles which have bourgeois leaderships on the base of the right of self-determination of nations. It is not possible to draw the conclusion that the present support which is caused by the present situation will be continued in the future. The Kurdish national leadership will decide on this with its attitude towards imperialism.
We assume that the Kurdish national leadership in Iraq is more progressive than Saddam. As we sided with the Iraqi people against imperialism yesterday, we support the Kurdish people in its uprising against Saddam, who wants to hinder the enforcement of the right of self-determination. The Marxist-Leninists have always supported the progressive movements and leaderships against reactionary governments, she is still more progressive than Saddam. Moreover, the demand for the right of self-determination should be regarded higher than the quality of the leadership.
We want to emphasise again that even if the uprising in Iraqi Kurdistan comes to a success and a bourgeoisie-led “autonomous” or “federal” Kurdistan is founded, this will in no way mean the liberation of the Kurdish people. Like for all peoples which live in Iraq the liberation of the Kurdish people. Like for all peoples which live in Iraq the liberation of the Kurdish people is only possible through a social revolution. The liberation of the Kurdish people, the land of which is occupied by four states, is only possible, if in each of these countries a revolution takes place. Even if the Marxist-Leninists see the liberation of the Kurdish people in this, they will still support the Kurdish national movements – as long as they show an anti-imperialist and progressive attitude and look at the problem from the viewpoint of the right of self-determination of the Kurdish people.
The struggle of the Kurdish national movements influences the other peoples in the region, awakes their fighting spirit and the consciousness that they must defend their own rights. Therefore, the struggle must not only be supported, it is also necessary to establish alliances within it and to organise the common struggle of the peoples against the common enemy.
The new situation which arose after the imperialist war aggravates the situation of the people in the Middle East and their struggle. Therefore, the peoples will win in the long run, even if it looks like a victory for imperialism, today. The new way to drive back imperialism in the Middle East, to make its plans ineffective and to achieve the liberation of the peoples through the organisation of the common struggle of the peoples in each country.
In this period, when imperialism moves forward and tramples underfoot everything that opposes it, there is only one thing to do: to make Marxism-Leninism our leader. Today it became even more important to continue the anti-imperialist struggle all over the world and to further develop international solidarity.
This article is translation of an article written in the weekly newspaper ‘Mücadele’ (Struggle), April 1, 1991