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‘Independent Kurdistan can hasten spread of jihad’

Published time: July 01, 2014 13:51
Iraqi Kurdish residents shop ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan at a market in central Arbil, in Iraq's Kurdistan region, June 28, 2014 (Reuters / Ahmed Jadallah)

The formation of an official Kurdistan could accelerate the fragmenting of the regional order, including the breakup of Iraq and Syria, and the spread of Islamic jihad into Jordan and potentially Saudi Arabia, independent journalist Larry Everest told RT.

The US radical agenda in Iraq backfired and caused tremendous instability, strengthened Iran, weakened the US positions both in the region and worldwide, therefore Washington fears the possible worsening of the situation as it would have more grave implications for the world, Everest, who is the author of Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the US Global Agenda, said.

RT: Former BP boss Tony Hayward oversaw the construction of a pipeline leading from the Kurdish area of Iraq into Turkey. Why was this particular route chosen?

Larry Everest: It was chosen because it was under Kurdish control and another pipeline in the north of Iraq has been shut down because it has been under the control of Sunni forces including ISIS. But a larger picture here is all that oil economics of the region take place within a geopolitical framework that was established after the WWI borders done by British and French imperialism and really taken over by the US following WWII. This structure has led to incredible suffering and misery for people in the region including the Kurdish people. I have been in both Iranian and Iraqi Kurdistan, and it is the regional order that is threatening to fragment right now, largely as a result of this whole history of oppression, but also the US so-called “war on terror”, really a war for a greater empire, and how it actually fueled reactionary Islamic fundamentalism. So people in the region are really facing a horrific situation, and all of this can have a very profound impact on the entire global oil market and global oil production. Let’s not forget that the Middle East still produces a third of the world's oil.

RT: Could this move have an impact on oil prices and the global economy?

LE: I do not think it is going to have any immediate impact on prices or on the global economy, but Kurdish people have certainly been suppressed for decades. Unfortunately, the current leadership is not offering any sort of the liberatory alternative, but the potential of Kurdistan becoming independent in the current situation can hasten the fragmenting of the regional order, including the breakup of Iraq, including the spread of Islamic jihad and the breakup of Syria, the spread of Islamic jihad into Jordan and potentially Saudi Arabia. We have the possibility of the US-Israeli escalation to try to maintain this whole structure. So the entire situation is very fraught. The big issue is that oil economics, oil production takes place within a geopolitical framework, and this overall framework is fractured, broken and unraveling. If Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates in particular are destabilized or are potentially destabilized, this is what could send enormous shockwaves into the entire global economy.

Let’s not forget that the US has essentially had this region locked under the control of tyrants, monarchs, military dictators for over 60 years precisely to control the flow of oil from this region not mainly for US consumption but for the US military power, for the US control of the global economy and for the US leverage of a potential rival, so in terms of the economics of oil and global economy, it’s this bigger picture that is really what can have most impact.

Certainly some of the smaller things like the opening or closing of the pipeline, whether or not Iraqi oil production is interrupted, which so far has not been in a major way. These things are relatively minor perhaps on the radar. So it is the bigger regional picture and the geopolitical picture, there are really the things to keep an eye on.

Children, who fled from violence in Mosul, play with a ball inside the Khazer refugee camp on the outskirts of Arbil, in Iraq's Kurdistan region, June 30, 2014 (Reuters / Murad Talaat)

RT: Western powers have not generally supported the Kurds in the past. Why this shift in policy?

LE: This is a complicated picture because the US, for example, since 1991 and the First Gulf War has created a sort of safe haven and they used it as a point of leverage at first against Saddam Hussein and then in terms of control of Iraq. Now we see that Turkey is doing a similar thing, not simply to take the oil, that is a part of it, but also to have geopolitical regional leverage.

But nonetheless Kerry was just in Kurdistan urging the Kurds not to break away from Iraq, so at this point the US imperialists fear that the breakup of Iraq can have much deeper ramifications of the type I was speaking about earlier. Already there was a time when ISIS/ISIL had control of the Iraqi border with Jordan and immediately there were secret discussions between Jordan, the US and Israel about providing military aid. The US does not want in any way to accelerate this fragmentation as they may have in turn to accept that or make the best out of it, however that situation turns out.

We are dealing with the whole cauldron of contradictions here which really have been triggered not just by the long history, but the fact that the US had a very radical agenda in Iraq, which included creation of a new kind of neo-colony. This is like the Bush team destroyed the Baathist army and the state there, they tried to construct there something more to their liking and use it as a regional platform for the projection of power and influence, including against Iran. All of this has backfired and caused tremendous instability, weakened the US grip on the region, strengthened Iran and weakened the US globally.

I would not be surprised if the US, despite its efforts to go to “pivot to Asia”, is forced to re-engage militarily. This is a crisis that could happen and I’m not going to predict exactly what is going to happen, I do not think anyone can, but it has potentially enormous historic importance. One of the terrible things is the suffering of the people in this because none of the political forces involved offer a way out for the people.

Iraqi refugees, who fled from the violence in Mosul, walk during sunset inside the Khazer refugee camp on the outskirts of Arbil, in Iraq's Kurdistan region, June 27, 2014 (Reuters / Ahmed Jadallah)

'Western imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism reinforce each other'

RT: In 2003 it was agreed that Kirkuk should be controlled by Baghdad. But now that the Kurds are in power there, no world leaders have expressed any concern. Do you think the West will help create an independent Kurdish state?

LE: Kerry made it clear when he went to Kirkuk and met with Barzani that the US did not want this. However, they also understand that the Kurdish forces are against the Islamic fundamentalists, they are an important military force to help to fight Islamic fundamentalists and ISIS, which is their main concern right now. Also they have been a reliable “partner”, in other words "collaborator", with the US and other states. So they are not about to make a huge to-do out of this, but as the Financial Times editorialized it, the New York Times, the US government have said, they do not want to hasten the demise of Iraq as a unified country and state, even if there is de-facto autonomy for Kurdistan, but not de-jure not a formal autonomy. So that is what they are doing, but every way they turn there are problems. They have no good options in this situation; this is why it is such a tangle there. But again, the point here is not that the Kurdish people in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria do not deserve national liberation, but that it is not what is being thought by the government in Erbil, which is the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, or in these negotiations with the imperialist powers who are seeking to try to preserve this very repressive order that caused so much suffering in Iraq, not to mention more than 1 million Iraqis who have died as a result of the US invasion.

RT: What are the interests of Israel in supporting the Kurds?

LE: For Israel it is not so much oil, as it is geopolitics. Israel and this is the key US gendarme client-state in the region formed by ethnically cleansing Palestine, has supported the Kurdish move because it sees the Kurds as a potential ally in the region, possibly against Iran and against other Islamic fundamentalist forces.

This is what is behind what Israel is doing. Again, at the moment Israel, the US, the other world powers, Russia included, see this jihadist threat concentrated in ISIS but there are other forces involved as well. This is an immediate threat because the most serious threat they see is the destruction of the order, the structure and borders. We have just seen ISIS declare the caliphate, a new state in the region, and they bulldoze the borders between Iraq and Syria. This is one of the things people have to learn from this – imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism clash, but they also reinforce each other, and this US so-called “war on terror” has greatly fueled Islamic fundamentalism. If people end up supporting either side of this, it strengthens both. This is a horrible dynamic that we need to break out of it and bring forward a different way than either of these oppressive forces.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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