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April 05, 1991 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-04-05

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Why Israel Isn't
Helping The Kurds

Although it has aided the Kurds in the
past, the Jewish state has been unable to
help them in their most recent struggle.


Foreign Correspondent


sraeli officials this week
refused to confirm reports
that Kurdish leader
Massoud Barzani recently
visited Israel to seek assis-
tance for the rebellion
against the Iraqi regime of
President Saddam Hussein.
In their efforts to secure an
autonomous homeland, the
Kurds have been aided by
Jerusalem in the past, but
although they are now fac-
ing a ruthless offensive
mounted by troops loyal to
Saddam Hussein, Israel was
unable to accede to their
latest requests for both polit-
ical and logistical reasons..
Relations between Israel
and the Kurds have their
roots in the doctrine of
"peripheral alliances,"
which was developed by
Israel during the early '60s
in an effort to break out of
the ring of regional hostility
that surrounded them.
This doctrine involved the
formation of links, overt and
covert, with non-Arab or
non-Muslim states and
minorities in the region and
the task of forging those ties
was entrusted to the Mossad,
Israel's foreign intelligence
The alliance encompassed
such non-Arab states as
Turkey, Iran and Ethiopia,
as well as such non-Muslim
groups as the Christians and
Druze of Lebanon and Syria,
the Christians who were
fighting Muslim forces in
Sudan and the Kurds of Iraq.
The major advantage for
Israel in establishing this
intricate network was in the
area of intelligence.
Like the Palestinians,
however, the 28-million-
strong Kurds, who are scat-
tered across Syria, Turkey,
Iraq, Iran and the southern
Soviet Union, have often
served as pawns — to be
used and, when necessary, to
be sacrificed on the altars of
larger regional power
This has left them
dangerously vulnerable to
the changing fortunes and
dispositions of their patrons.
Much as Turkey might want
to contribute to the weaken-
ing of Saddam Hussein, it

will not do so at the cost of
strengthening the Iraqi
Kurds — and risking a rebel-
lion among its own large
Kurdish community.
Israel is virtually cut off
from the area, but even if the
Jewish state did have
physical access to the Kurds,
any intervention by the Jew-
ish state would quickly rim
into the teeth of United
States opposition.
Washington's major polit-
ical gain from the Gulf crisis
so far has derived from its
ability to maintain the in-
tegrity and unity of its Arab-
Western coalition.
Barring some totally un-
predictable development,
the "dream ending" to the
Gulf war is now likely to
produce a tragic conclusion
for the dissident Kurds who
seized the moment to stage
their revolt against Saddam
Having won their stunn-
ing military victory, Wash-
ington stepped back from the
fray, declining appeals for
help from Kurdish rebels in
the north and from Shi'ite
Muslims in the south, both
of whom are excluded from
real power in Iraq by the
minority Sunni Moslems.
The Bush administration
has repeatedly declared that

Barring some
development, the
"dream ending" to
the Gulf war is now
likely to produce a
tragic conclusion
. . . for the dissident

it is unwilling to become
embroiled in what White
House spokesinan Marlin
Fitzwater has described as
Iraq's "internal conflict,"
even if that means leaving
Saddam Hussein in power.
Such involvement, ad-
ministration officials feared,
would drag the United
States into a bloody civil
war, raising the specter of
another Vietnam-style im-
broglio which still haunts
There are, however, other


more complicated reasons
for this tragic twist to the
Gulf crisis. Washington
made no secret of its desire
to see Saddam Hussein
removed from power, but it
was anxious to avoid the
perception that it was impos-
ing a Pax Americana on the
region. It wanted Saddam
Hussein toppled, but it
wanted the Iraqis to do the
job themselves.
It was also anxious to
achieve that goal without
actually destroying Iraq's
central power structure,
which would have led Iraq
down the path to a Lebanon-
style fragmentation.
In a bid to keep his bal-
ance, President Bush sought
to stop the war before it had
totally destroyed the power
of the ruling Ba'ath Party,
but not before it had dealt
Saddam Hussein a fatal po-
litical blow through a
decisive military defeat.
According to a senior Mid-
dle East source, the Arab co-
alition partners, particular-
ly Saudi Arabia, Egypt and

Syria, were willing to con-
tinue the military offensive
against Iraq until Saddam
Hussein was toppled. This
was rejected by the United
States and its European
allies, however, because
they did not want to appear
to be imposing a puppet
regime in Baghdad.
President Bush's recent
overruling of Gen. Norman
Schwarzkopf was unlikely to
have taken place on purely
humanitarian grounds.
Rather, he is believed to
have been motivated to pre-
vent the annihilation of
Iraq's armed forces by a con-
cern that total defeat would
have led inexorably to the
disintegration of Iraq.
This would also have left
the second-largest oil pro-
ducer in the Middle East
defenseless against its
predatory neighbors, vir-
tually all which might have
been expected to stake ter-
ritorial claims to Iraq.
It would also have
strengthened the Shi'ite and
Kurdish elements, an event

that would have the effect of
destabilizing Iraq's
neighbors which have
substantial Kurdish com-
munities. While the Kurds
deny that they are nursing
secessionist aspirations,
there is little doubt that they
would seize such an oppor-
tunity if it presented itself.
The depth of concern about
the emergence of a Kurdish
secessionist movement was
expressed last month by the
Teheran Times, which close-
ly reflects official Iranian
The newspaper noted that
Kurds who call for an in-
dependent state would be
disqualified from any future
negotiations: "The dis-
integration of Iraq cannot be
accepted," it said. "Nor will
its three neighbors, namely
Iran, Turkey and Syria,
allow the formation of a
Kurdish state in northern
Early this week, as
Saddam Hussein appeared
to be gaining the decisive
upper hand in the see-saw



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