Quest for an Independent (Israel-friendly?) Kurdistan - Part III

Thursday, August 23, 2012 |  Elizabeth Blade

This is part two of a three-part series on Kurdish efforts toward statehood, and that potential state's future relations with Israel. If you have not done so already, we recommend first reading Quest for an Independent (Israel-friendly?) Kurdistan - Part I and Quest for an Independent (Israel-friendly?) Kurdistan - Part II

Concerned about the ramifications of a divided Syria, the US seems to tilt towards its regional allies, opting to support the Islamists rather than the Kurds. “For the past two years I have been working with the State Department advocating a solution for the Kurdish people,” said Abbas, currently living in Washington. “All I heard was that I had to join the SNC,” he complained.

“While the Obama administration won’t solve the Kurdish problem, Republicans have already indicated that they are willing to promote and support a federal Syria. Some European countries have also showed some readiness to cooperate on the matter. This is the only way out,” he added.

According to Abbas’ vision, Syria would have five regions, each with increased power over legislative, political and economic affairs; while the central government – based in Damascus – would be limited to handling foreign policy, monetary issues and national defense. According to Abbas, the Druze would take the South, the Kurds would settle in the North and Northeast, Sunni Muslims would get Aleppo and Damascus, and the Alawites would concentrate along Syria’s Mediterranean coast.

Abbas maintains that such a partition would benefit all of the parties involved. The US and its allies would retain influence over the Arab regions of Syria, whereas Russia – which has been clinging to the Assad regime for the past 17 months – would be allowed to keep its foothold in the region by maintaining its naval base in the port of Tartus.

Addressing fears of a looming Islamist threat over Israel, Abbas stated: “Kurds are natural allies of Israel and the West. They are moderate Muslims, who are tolerant towards other minorities”.

In the past, when relations between Turkey and Israel were at their peak, Israel refrained from showing much support for the Kurds. Now that the raging Arab Spring has reshuffled the Middle East, Jerusalem’s attitude seems to be changing and taking into greater account the geographically important location of the Kurds.

“A Kurdish state in the North will block the spread of Sunni Islam, encouraged by such countries as Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. On the other hand, it will weaken Iran and its proxy, Hezballah, and will put an end to Turkish, neo-Ottoman ambitions,” summed up Abbas.

Experts agree, saying that Kurds are likely to establish close connections with the Jewish state. “In Iraq, Kurds have been called the second Israel since 1960s. Kurdistan will be West-oriented, more democratic, and definitely more stable,” charged Bengio.

“Even though some factions of the Kurdish people might have mixed feelings towards the Jewish state, like the PKK, which has blamed Israel for its alleged involvement in helping to track down one the organization’s leaders, the general perception of Israel will be positive,” summed up Eppel.

Israel might also explore an alliance with the Alawites. “They won’t have any problem with Israel and will be willing to cooperate with the Kurds,” reassured Abbas, who stressed that peace would be possible only if Iran’s influence is eliminated from Syria.

According to the leader, Tehran controls Syria’s economic sector, something that influences Damascus’ domestic and foreign policy. “Now, however, the Alawites seem to realize that they will need to sacrifice their ties with Iran in order to stay afloat,” he concluded.

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