The myth of the plucky Kurdish warrior

Our favourite allies in Iraq and Syria have problems and divisions of their own

27 February 2016

9:00 AM

27 February 2016

9:00 AM

On Nawroz, the Persian New Year, last March, Isis sent a holiday greeting to the Kurds. They published several videos of Peshmerga fighters, now prisoners, kneeling, handcuffed and wearing the usual orange jumpsuits. In one video, a prisoner is shot in the back of the head; the rest have their heads sawn off with a knife. In a deliberate twist, no doubt relished by the leadership of the so-called Islamic State, the killers were themselves Kurds. ‘You all know the punishment for anyone who fights the Islamic State,’ says one. ‘It is death.’

The executioners did not wear masks and were quickly identified by Kurdish intelligence. Retribution followed. In an incredibly risky operation, a small team of Kurdish special forces slipped into Isis-held Mosul and killed one of the men who had wielded the knife. ‘We sent them a message,’ said the Kurdish official who told me about the hit, a tight smile of triumph on his face.

The Kurds are ‘our plucky allies’, often outgunned by Isis yet still taking the fight to the enemy. If you visit Kurdish northern Iraq, the politicians and their commanders are not just accessible but hospitable. Many speak English, having been refugees in Britain or the US in Saddam’s time. Everyone loves the Kurds and so they have benefited from uncritical, sometimes fawning, coverage of their war with the jihadis. This has led to serious problems being glossed over.

The war against Isis began badly. During the Isis blitzkrieg two years ago, the vaunted Peshmerga — literally ‘those who face death’ — fell back again and again. A western diplomat told me the first to run were the officers, ‘some with quite famous names’. They fled Sinjar, leaving the Yazidis to their fate. It even seemed as if the Kurdish capital, Erbil, might be abandoned; it was saved only when the US began airstrikes. One analyst explained it by saying that Peshmerga recruits, just like teenagers anywhere, were now more likely to have played Call of Duty than to have fired a real weapon. To some, the myth of the Kurdish mountain warrior was just that.

I’ve seen the reality first-hand. That summer, while filming a report at a little town called Jalawla, I found myself cornered with half a dozen Peshmerga fighters in a filthy, rubbish-strewn basement, Isis on both sides of the building. For an agonising 15 minutes, it seemed we would be overrun. I crouched on the stairs, looking up in terror. A fighter next to me was shot in the thigh. If we survived the gun battle, all of us expected to end up in the orange jumpsuits. At times, the Peshmerga seemed gripped by panic. I can’t blame them. But such a firefight would probably look very different today, with the Peshmerga’s two years of combat experience.

The Kurds have pushed Isis back, taking territory they hope will one day form the borders of an independent state. The Arabs who live there are seen as a threat to that ambition. A report from Amnesty International last month is a reminder to western governments that in supporting the Kurds they are intervening to help one side in a civil war. Amnesty accuses Kurdish forces of ‘destroying entire villages’ in areas captured from Isis in northern Iraq, something it says may amount to war crimes. ‘When the Peshmerga retook the village the houses were standing,’ one Arab resident tells Amnesty’s researchers. ‘Later they bulldozed the village. There is nothing left.’ There are dramatic satellite pictures: one before-and-after image of a village shows 95 per cent of the buildings razed.

The report details such destruction in the countryside around Jalawla, where our frightening brush with Isis took place. A Kurdish general there told me the town and its villages were 90 per cent Arab because Saddam had colonised the place in the 1970s. And most of the Arabs sympathised with Daesh (Isis), he said. He was probably right on both counts. But that makes it no less of a crime that, as one recent visitor to the region told me, houses are daubed with graffiti saying ‘Kurds only — Arabs out.’

The Kurdish representative in Washington, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, is acutely aware that the West went to war twice, in Bosnia and in Kosovo, over ‘ethnic cleansing’. Brought up in the UK, she was a journalist on the Observer in London at the time. She tells me that where damage has been done, ‘in all cases, either the village has been destroyed by Daesh or by airstrikes.’ She also says that many Arabs chose to leave voluntarily ‘because frankly they know they shouldn’t have been there in the first place’.

She points out that Kurdish northern Iraq is sheltering more than a million displaced Arabs. Sometimes, ‘the men have gone to the Daesh side and they have sent their women and children to the Peshmerga. They know we will put their women and children somewhere safe and leave them alone… Kurdistan is a multi-ethnic, multi–religious society. Whether we’re part of Iraq, whether we’re independent, we have to live with the Arabs, the Turkmen and everybody else.’

The Peshmerga are really two different forces loyal to the main Kurdish parties, the KDP and the PUK, which fought each other in the 1990s: ‘the darkest and most shameful period of our history’, Ms Abdul Rahman calls it. There are once again tensions between the two factions. ‘I am not at all convinced that the Kurds’ own civil war is over,’ says Professor Gareth Stansfield, an expert on the subject. This doesn’t mean they are about to stop fighting Isis and (absurdly) start fighting each other. But ‘they’re just a quick step away from reverting back to their old command structure. Everybody knows who is KDP and who is PUK. That’s a very big problem.’

The fragile accord was nearly ripped apart in the autumn when President Masoud Barzani of the KDP decided to remain in office, despite his second and ‘final’ term having expired in 2013. There were street protests — though they were as much about salaries as the political crisis. The Kurdish economy is in trouble. Oil, the main source of income, has fallen to $30 a barrel, from around $100 when Isis was on the offensive. The central government in Baghdad has stopped sending money to the Kurds. Wages for government workers, including the armed forces, haven’t been paid in months.

A foreign visitor attended a dinner recently hosted by some senior Kurdish officials. He watched as they uncorked several bottles of Château Margaux, a wine that costs anything from £200 a bottle to £1,200, depending on the vintage. ‘We’re sitting there drinking the Château Margaux and a minister says to me: “We don’t have enough money to pay our Peshmerga.” ’ The dinner had both members of the KDP and the rival PUK present — it’s no surprise that the street protests are directed in part at the whole political class as much as any one party. Diplomats refer delicately to ‘transparency issues’ — that is, corruption. There has yet to be a ‘Kurdish spring’, says Professor Stansfield.

President Barzani has seized the opportunity presented by Isis, promising to go ahead with a referendum on Kurdish independence. This might have been an attempt to distract people from their economic misery — or he might have been acting on the long-held and deep desire of Kurds for the safety of their own state. Regardless, western governments hope he is not serious, because they have always insisted on the territorial integrity of Iraq. ‘This leaves British policy in a shambles,’ says Professor Stansfield.

Iraq, though, is simple compared with Syria. There, the US-led coalition is bombing in aid of a Syrian Kurdish militia called the YPG, the most effective ground force against Isis. But the YPG are in a tacit alliance with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. They are advancing not just against Isis but against a range of rebel groups, including some armed by the Americans. In Syria, the US is involved in a proxy war against itself.

The Turks — whose chief fear is not Isis but Kurdish nationalism — have been shelling the advancing YPG. Which means that the US is backing both a Nato ally and the militia that ally is attacking. The YPG, for its part, may not be too keen on Kurdish independence in Iraq, because they hate President Barzani — who would be father of this new nation — and are allied to the rival PUK. The YPG is more concerned about Turkey than Iraq, which is not surprising given that it is effectively the same organisation as the PKK, the Kurdish nationalist group inside Turkey. Because the PKK is internationally proscribed as a terrorist organisation, Britain and other western governments have to pretend the two — the PKK and the YPG — are different.

That is a fiction, as Iraq is itself these days, and Syria too. But Iraq is a necessary fiction. The alternative might be truly bloody ‘sectarian cleansing’. One Sunni tribal leader told me he feared the genocide of millions of Sunnis in Baghdad. The truth is that both Iraq and Syria long ago ceased to exist as nations. ‘Iraq is broken,’ says Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman. ‘People talk about, “Oh the Kurds want to break up Iraq…” First of all, it’s broken already, and second, we didn’t break it. It was broken from the day it was created. It’s never worked as a country.’

The Kurds are putting that belief into action in the disputed territory of their future border. Consumed by the battle against Isis, all that western governments can do is to avert their eyes.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Paul Wood is a BBC Middle East correspondent.

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Show comments
  • dutchnational

    What the author, perhaps necessary because of lack of space, forgot to explain is to why the kurds want independance or autonomy.

    Discrimination, persecution, ethnic cleansing and attempt of genocide by all their arab, turkish governments.

    • Ben

      You can make that argument for Kurds in Turkey, most definitely. But the Kurds in Iraq, along with the Shi’a majority of Iraq, suffered under Saddam. The italicised part is always omitted for some reason. Since 2003 and the absence of a brutal (western-backed) dictatorship, there has been no reason to support a Kurdish state in Iraq based on the ethical argument you’ve provided. Moreover, ethnically-based nationalist states often spell doom for its minorities, especially those haphazardly carved out and are cause for antagonism with neighbouring states. What we’ll get is another Israel, with emphasis on the negatives.

      • Caviar luvvie

        The world would benefit greatly in getting more Israels!

        Instead, it’s feverishly Islamonizing itself – because that’s such a wonderful idea, as we can see from all the muslim-run successful countries…

        • Ben

          I did say “with emphasis on the negatives”. If you would prefer a different example, replace Israel with Turkey and its gross mistreatment of minorities (which includes Kurds).

          • Caviar luvvie

            There is nothing in the world that is comparable with the destructive self-harming death cult, especially not a free and democratic country that puts the safety and protection of their citizens first.

            Instead of comparing Israel to Turkey, maybe we should start comparing Britain, home to Rotherham, Rochdale, Lee Rigby, Sharia Law areas, etc to any given Muslim country. It fits better, since Britain spends more on ‘aid’ for Pakistan, and the building of more mosques, because 2,000 aren’t nearly enough, than the armed forced.

          • Ben

            Actually, the world does need fewer Israels. It is a disgusting Apartheid state, and one which consistently violates international humanitarian laws and consistently abuses other international norms. It is also the worst offender of espionage against friendly countries such as ours and the US; it’s literally up there with Russia and China, and was singled out as the top espionage threat according to the Snowden leaks. It’s time you abandoned your wonky rose-coloured view of the state.

          • Caviar luvvie

            Long Live Israel, may you choke on it.

          • dutchnational

            If you are consistent, then you must advocate getting rid of all muslim states as their behaviour is much worse than Israel, you must want the US destroyed for taking the lands of the indians as recent as 125 years ago, the same for Russia, China, Australia, all tqking lands from others, having second class citizens, no real democracy etc etc.

            Will there be any lands, except for Iceland, left once you are done?

      • dutchnational

        As I said independence or autonomy.

        However, the regime in Baghdad remains sectarian, corrupt and the mood could very easily swing towards kurdophobia again.

        The shia ignored their own constitution to resettle arabs taking lands during Saddam and have a vote thereafter, the latest in 2007, on rejoining the disputed areas, including Kirkuk, to the KRG.

        The Assads had the same policies and up till now nobody in Syria outside the SDF wants rights for kurds.

        So, till today all kurds in arab and turkish lands are being discrimated against and only the weakness of the Iraqi government prevents them from actively fighting kurds.

  • mickey667

    Disgraceful and irresponsible.

    The smearing of the Kurds begins so we can betray them again. Turkey are gearing up for an all out war against the Kurds, already conducting massacres of their regions inside Turkey and rolling tanks into other autonomous areas and hey presto the Spectator comes up with an ‘alternative’ view of our plucky ‘allies’.

    Cowardly article

  • mickey667

    The YPG are secular, democratic leftists who want, not a state but an autonomous zone for a Kurdish polity to flourish for which they’re fighting. Even in the heat of war, they have democratic councils freedom of religion and gender equality.

    They are a shining beacon of civilisation in a region of apocalyptic theologically driven death. All the while the Turks continue to stab them in the back and we allow it.

    We should back them to the hilt. Even if they want to expand their territory to include historic Kurdish areas. This is a moment in history for a serious choice.

    Back the Kurds or be damned.

  • hiwa baban

    I’m a Kurd and I’m completely disgusted by the comparison of the Kurds with the Israelis. This article, on the other hand, although containing a lot of facts with which I have to concur, can by no means do justice to the Kurds. Being in a single battle in Jalawla with a single frightened Kurd cannot represent the whole nation in all the countries where Kurds live. You all have to be reminded that the Kurds in general should be set apart from the organizations which run them. There is more to the truth than presented in this article.

  • thetrashheap

    How are the Kurds our Ally when we are letting a nato member bomb the crap out of them?

  • sidor

    Sounds like Saudi-sponsored pro-Turkish pro-ISIS propaganda.

  • DellerboyNZ

    Bit like the ‘French Resistance’?

    • E.I.Cronin

      Hi Deller! I couldn’t find a way of sending a file. But if you like, email me on ”australia.thebook@gmail.com”. Just in case spammers pick this up, don’t send any links or pics when you email. Will delete this message as soon as I hear from you.
      Haven’t had a chance to talk to others about inviting Murray out but will be seeing a few people here in the next 2 weeks. Cheers!

  • Alex Sosa

    Here we go, another failed war correspondent that is on the payroll of the islamofascists of Turkey and Qatar/Saudi Arabia. Thank God for the internet and how it has opened up the minds of the people who are aware of this smearing campaign that by a coincidence takes place right now. The Sultan must be frustrated when he tried to send ISIS to Kobani but failed, and then tried to accuse YPG of the bombing in Ankara which then turned out to be a lie (the suicide bomber was born in Turkey and had no links to the YPG). Now, the islamofascists are trying to portray themselves as moderate beheaders and are trying to use the media to discredit the Kurds.

    P.S. there are so many flaws and half-truths in this article I don’t even know where to start. However, I must remind this failed reporter that the rebel groups that the Kurds are fighting in Syria are not better than ISIS and are ideology wise identical to ISIS, hence why the US and Western powers are slowly moving away from their support of them.

    • sidor

      To be exact, it isn’t the correspondent which is on the Saudi payroll: it is his employers. The Saudis quite efficiently use their billions to control the Western media and politicians.

  • marph45

    it beggars belief to read such simplistic narrative on Kurds. It is very clear that the only group on the ground in Syria who has been chasing and hunting IS murderers are the Kurds. As Islamist Turkish Erdogan blames everything on Kurds. The author of this piece is tempting, but without any corroborating evidences, to accuse Syrian Kurds as backers of Assad’s regime. I am baffled by this claim, sounds just like coming from Eddogan…etc The author, Paul Wood, BBC ME reporter is very naive and has not done his research, but only pushing BBC line on Syria. He has failed to mention the main culprit in this bloody crisis. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/turkey/11093478/Turkish-government-co-operated-with-al-Qaeda-in-Syria-says-former-US-ambassador.html




    • USNVO

      I believe he said the are in tacit alliance. Put another way, their interests currently align and they are fighting other forces that are opposed to the Syrian government as well as ISIS. Of course by his logic, the US is also in alliance with the Syrian government since ISIS is not just opposed to the present government, but are one of the most successful factions. A better way of looking at it is that the Kurds, and everyone else, are acting in their own interests which should come as no surprise to anyone.

  • Widespreadhaze

    Do you really think that the West went to war in Bosnia and Kosovo to prevent ethnic cleansing? The West never goes to war for humanitarian reasons.

  • Tamerlane

    BBC journalist pines for pluralistic, liberal democratic Iraq of happy-clappy multiculti-ethnocentric-peace-loving-lady-respecting-gender-neutral non-gay bashing chappies…so long as they pay their TV tax or it’s prison and a criminal record for you…

    Meanwhile…in the real world…

  • Tickertapeguy

    The Kurdish militants and the concept of “Kurdistan” pose an equal if not greater threat than ISIS and the concept of the “Caliphate”

    • marph45

      That is what xenophobic Islamist Erdogan says…it might be wise to unmask your conviction further…

      • Tickertapeguy

        I will keep it brief:
        -Since the 1916 Sykes Picot agreement that brought down the Ottoman Empire and drew the lines of the Middle East the Kurdish people were left out.

        -Since then they have fought for a homeland. In order to get that homeland where large numbers of Kurds reside in every Middle Eastern nation (except Israel) the Middle East has a few choices:
        -Allow the Kurds to carve out large chunks of their lands for form “Kurdistan” which will create a greater crisis than the Syrian war including massive migration.
        -Engage in purging the Kurds out of their lands or simply put “genocide”
        -Fight the Kurdish movement as they have done for so many decades

        This does not do away with the Caliphate created by ISIS and could end up with both Kurdistan and the Caliphate existing side by side.

        • Alex Sosa

          The evidence is against you on this one. The YPG and the KRG has not even been close to committing what is defined as “genocide”. Every arab, turk and persian is waiting and looking for the slightest evidence of that taking place, and if that had taken place they would have reported it a long time ago in order to shut down the support for the Kurds once and for all. The only thing even remotely close to the “genocide” you are warning about is the levelling of some villages that were inhabited by Arabs but originally were Kurdish (Saddam forced the Kurds out as a part of the “Arabisation” of Kurdistan). The Kurdish Regional Government was clear to emphasise that these villages that had already been destroyed by ISIS mortar fire.

          Meanwhile, the state of (islamic) Turkey is based on the genocide of millions of Armenians, something which Turks deny to this day.

          • Tickertapeguy

            Mine was just a hypothesis. Yes I know of Saddam gassing the Kurds and the horror of the (Christian) Armenian genocide. Hope I am wrong.

          • tom_billesley

            Kurds were willing helpers of the Ottoman Turks in the genocide of Armenians and Assyrians.

          • Alex Sosa

            Do you mean the whole Kurdish population? All of the Kurds in Turkey supported the Turks against the Armenians? Even the ones in Iraq, Syria and Iran? Or was it some bands of Kurds that were under the control of the Turks?

            The Kurdish irregulars were a small part of the then (in early 1900s) approximately 5-10 million Kurdish population of Turkey. And these irregulars were the same tribes that were under the control of the Turkish government and which later were used to massacre other Kurds who wanted to secure rights for the Kurds based on their culture.

            And the HDP ( the main Kurdish party in Turkey and the only thing standing between Erdogan and a complete islamisation of Turkey) have recognised the Armenian genocide and the Kurdish role in it, and have apologised for this. Meanwhile, Turks don’t even recognise the genocide. Source:http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/armenian-genocide-kurdish-leaders-set-moral-example-turkey-by-facing-their-crimes-1498053

        • marph45

          If you revisit their history, most Kurds are secular liberal and hospitable people, that is part of their custom and culture…During the ME’s bloody history, Kurds have always been betrayed by big powers and still are…It may be dubious for you, but that is the fact. Do you think they do not deserve peace and democracy? Your hogwash comparison is out of context, to view them as ruthless coward Islamist IS murderers…Turkish Erdogan prefers IS rapists as neighbours instead of Kurds, but his policy would take Turkey into the world of oblivion. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5087293e-db1c-11e5-a72f-1e7744c66818.html

          • Tickertapeguy

            you lost your point with the word “hogwash”. you do not know. your comment is biased.
            today on Asia Times the kurdish militants painted the “Kurdistan” flag on an ancient monument in Syria. Lands that they capture from ISIS they keep.
            the Kurdish militants also have been fighting the Turkish army for decades
            and finally get over your high horse about the brutality of ISIS. you know diddly nothing.
            Hindu India has 15 million bona fide slaves. They also have a rising Hindu militant movement of the RSS which has 51 thousand training camps just in India and 150 in the US. they have camps across the world and they are ruthless. the MSM makes a big deal of the brutality of IS but they never cover the brutality around us. What little I gave you on Hindu India should be a wake up call but I doubt it for people like you. Anyway before you spew out your next biased opinion I am an American and a Catholic, so lets not jump to the conclusion that I love these IS or am a Muslim

          • marph45

            I merely tempted to point out facts about Islamist Erdogan’s destructive policy. I detest disingenuous narrative but simply stating the true picture. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/erdogans-foreign-policy-ruins

          • Tickertapeguy

            NO. I answered you politely that maybe I am wrong and I hope I am wrong. I thought that ended our chat. Oh no. you come back with your “hogwash” and your attitude and expect me to take that. Forget Erdogan and Turkey and Ankara. Kurdish populations are scattered across that region
            for Kurdistan to form either the Arab nations, including Iran has to purge them or when Kurdistan forms they will purge Kurdistan of everyone who is NOT a Kurd.

          • Lawrence James.

            Indeed. At the Cairo conference Churchill and TE Lawrence supported a Kurdish state and they were right.

      • Tickertapeguy

        Forgot to clarify why there will be a larger migration to Europe than now if Kurdistan is formed. the Kurds will purge non Kurds out of the lands confiscated to form “Kurdistan”.

    • chris chuba

      Really? The Kurdish population is less than 30M how can they be as dangerous as the potential 1 billion Sunni Muslims that would be potential recruits for a Caliphate that wants to spread chaos in western Europe and America?

      • Tickertapeguy

        Do you know how silly your comment looks?
        let me show you
        Subcontinent (If you knew your geography that is the largest peninsula in the world and lies below the Himalayas. The Subcontinent is NOT part of the Middle East – I hope you know how to read a map)
        has 185 million mostly Sunni Muslims in Pakistan
        has 189 million mostly Sunni Muslims in India
        has 160 million mostly Sunni Muslims in Bangladesh. That is a total of 525 million Sunni Muslim in the ‘
        Subcontinent. Got that? that is 1/3 of the entire population of the Muslim world of 1.5 billion.

        Indonesia has 250 million people 95% plus are Muslims. Same with Malaysia in percentage of Muslims. That is in the eastern side of the subcontinent. It is very easy to find that on a map.
        The middle East is around 200 million people most of them Muslims. ISIS is Sunni Muslim

        North of the Subcontinent are the Central Asian Muslim nations. So we are dealing with the Middle East NOT the entire Muslim world. Try that and then come back to me with an answer God is education in Britain that bad?

        • JohnJ

          Nice argument. AS you well know, the Caliphate, if it gains Mecca will be ‘worshiped’ by all Sunni Muslims. The Caliph will rule all of those people that make up those fascinating figures you give. If he calls for a Jihad, then every single Sunni Muslims, including your mates down the road who sell you your milk, the ones who work as security and baggage handlers at your local airport, the ones who clean your office and the street, the ones who deliver the machinery to the building sites, the ones in your military and security services, the ones who work at your holiday ‘destination ‘……. yep ever singe one will have to decide if they obey the Quran and the Hadith and follow the Caliph or if they become apostates and the real possibility of death.
          The Kurds, on one hand, are a nation who actually could not care less about you and me.
          ISIS, on the other hand, is winning around the world and they “care” a lot about the likes of you and me. That my friend is the difference.

          • Tickertapeguy

            I like the end of your comment for many reasons
            -first. it is the end.
            -second. there are many differences. where I live we all have lots of guns and there are no Muslims, only Christians
            -Third. the disaster of the ripped and shredded middle East would be a catastrophe for mulicultural loving Europe
            -Fourth when we have Trump they will not get in here
            -Fifth: The Kurdish militants do not guarantee the end of the Caliphate at all, but it could mean we have both the Caliphate and Kurdistan. or 2 new power centers in that region

          • JohnJ

            Yes – thanks for ‘liking’ – it wasn’t actually meant just for you. You provided the opportunity.The extended tribal war ( the Kurds) , ongoing in the ME is one thing and the rise of an ideology that is almost everywhere, spreading rapidly and about to morph into Kharijite version is totally different
            It sounds as though you are safe (that must be nice) as long as there are no conversion of the young people in town but then again, how would you know?
            You can celebrate another end now!

          • Tickertapeguy

            Okay lets deal with the Caliphate

            It cannot be destroyed by force. If you destroy ISIS who created the Caliphate (which existed in the minds of Muslims for generations) all you will do is create a more potent and violent force to replace them. Remember ISIS was born from Al-Qaeda and the Al-Qaeda was supposed to be destroyed by now after we took out Osama. That did not happen

            But what will destroy the Caliphate is the rise of militant Nationalist Christianity in Europe. that movement will push back the Muslim migrants and limit the expansion of the Caliphate to that region. It may go east into the Subcontinent but there is a good chance that a potent counter rise of Christian fundamental ideology in the West will be the only force to limit and eventually extinguish the Caliphate
            tame it to such a level that we can live with it.

          • JohnJ

            So invest in Bibles? Good luck with that. Christianity has almost destroyed itself. The priests, the fawning clergy ( “dialogue with Islam”), the new age Christians… I cant see it. A few countries will hold out – Russia, Hungary, Slovakia… But the rest, Germany, France, Italy England ?
            People will convert in droves.
            The Universities will be the first to go as the male Professors of Post Modern Philosophy get tired of their Habermas and Hegel and choose four young wives instead. The female Professors will convert when they see the strapping sexy Jihadis with their loosely slung AK47 and certainty in their stare.
            The press is already there. Politicians will go with the trough.
            Also you need to take into account the rest of the world and its gradual submission Once they take the wealth of Nigeria, Libya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan (East and West) and indeed Indonesia, their money supply will be endless.
            As to Al Qaeda, ISIS – this is just the frontline of the Muslim Brotherhood (the old Ikhwan) and their mates.
            The redeeming feature , if that is what you can call it, is that those who have certainty (the last word of God) will kill each other with no guilt or delay in preference to killing the ignorant (i.e. me). So let them go for it. The Kurds will never surrender to ISIS because they are almost the same.

          • Tickertapeguy

            I do not see it that way
            It is militant nationalism with Christianity. The youtubes I see include European youth wearing crucifixes but not the type to go to church. Many look like Skinheads but they are the first wave
            i believe it may take a few years if not a couple of decades for Europe to wake up. that is continental Europe.
            when Putin drove the Jews away, he also prevented multiculturalism from taking hold of European Russia. The Eastern Orthodox church of Russia is more conservative and the European Russians act like a tribe. Radical Islam has no place there.
            Names like Martel the Hammer and Marco de Aviano the monk is now heard more often than ever. As you know Martel the Hammer drove out the Muslims from France around the 7th century Ad and Aviano helped Vienna drive out the Ottoman turkish Muslims in 1683. That is the kind of militant nationalistic Christianity I see.
            Across Western Europe pro European laws are being passed, Far right wing parties gaining ground,. That is what I mean.

          • JohnJ

            Great – Mr Martel and co existed under a strict religious hierarchy with almost zero fellow travelers and fifth columns, a fighting army that included every man standing if necessary and a dissolute Islamic extended empire. He didn’t throw them out. They just stopped when the rewards of plunder were not worth the cost.

            We are up against a strong every expanding core of Jihadis, a huge fifth column in every part of the world.
            What do we have? a feminized career oriented military, with purposely ignorant commanders, politicians who seek votes from the enemy, no religious hierarchy, oh and a bunch of anarchic skin heads with crosses. Yo!

          • Tickertapeguy

            History rhymes not repeats. During Martel’s time there was far more that was not than was. I do not know what part of my comment you did not understand but I commented that those in Europe who are fighting back are using these historical figures as examples. An iconic symbol of a 21st century movement.

          • alabenn

            Chinese or Russian nuclear weapons could also destroy it.

          • Tickertapeguy

            Not the ideology
            example if we killed Hitler, Goering and Himmler we may not have destroyed the ideology of Nazism. What Hitler did leave behind is a template of a modern nation who creates a modern system for the extermination of people. That has never died.
            what is taking place with the creation of the Caliphate is an old concept held by many Muslims. Personally I doubt brute force will end it. It may actually contribute to its survival

            The “Caliphate” is a nation formed by an ideology. We are called the ‘Great Satan” which is an ideological term. ISIS cannot have it better to have the “Great Satan” try to destroy her. Our coalition has also created an alliance of terrorist groups with ISIS. now ISIS, Al-Qaeda & the Taliban have merged into one.Google that.

          • Tickertapeguy

            In other words the only way to deal with the ideology that supports the Caliphate is an opposing counter movement of equal weight and gravity in ideology and faith.This is the classical war of religions.

          • Tickertapeguy

            You destroy the Caliphate not by force alone but by Faith

          • Lawrence James.

            Really ! So there was no connection between the defeat of Ottoman armies and the Allied occupation of Constantinople in 1918 and the end of the last caliphate and the eventual exile – via a British destroyer – of the last Caliph/Sultan.

          • Tickertapeguy

            Ironically when we sent our jets and advanced armies to deal with ISIS and the Syrian civil war it created a tsunami of refugees
            which in turn pillaged and plundered Christian Europe
            which in turn
            gave rise to European Nationalist Christian backlash
            and that will be the solution.

          • Tickertapeguy

            One last comment on this issue
            when we first formed the coalition I already knew we cannot defeat an ideology.
            we did not have it in our secular based culture to artificially create a religious fervor to counter ISIS and the Caliphate’
            it had to be an organic evolution purely created due to effects of radical Islam and ISIS
            Only when Europe was vandalized did that “organic reaction’ happen. Only then did I realize how this Caliphate can be limited. end of my theories bye.

          • AraucaniaPatagonia

            “when we have Trump they will not get in here”—– Three things in this life are constant: death, taxes and politicians blatantly breaking their promises. Trump is a politician like any other and, like any other politician, he *will* let you down, if given the opportunity.

          • Tickertapeguy

            Trump is a businessman and
            been a politician
            His father gave him a million and Trump took that Million and made it into 10 Billion. He paid his father back that 1 million dollars
            His brother also got a million but never made anything of it
            So you are wrong. Trump is not a politician
            and Trump does not take money from anyone. he funds his own campaign.
            As for letting me down by politicians. That has been the case all my life. In that sense NO one except Trump qualifies to run for President.

    • SocratesWept

      Threat to whom? Certainly not the UK.

      • Tickertapeguy

        Keep saying that when refugees pour into the UK

  • Jack Kalpakian

    Here comes the utterly predictable wave of anti-Kurdish narratives from the Ankara-worshiping British press.

    • chris chuba

      Be fair, some of them are Saudi worshiping. I figured that the press would turn on the Kurds once they crossed the ‘Red Line’ of not being Russo/Assad-phobes.

  • 013090

    War is often morally ambiguous. The Kurds are right when they say those Arab villages were part of Saddam’s forced Arabization of ancestral Kurdish lands. Is it ideal that the Kurds are demolishing those villages? No. But do I not understand their sentiment? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t.

    They aren’t perfect, but look around at all of their neighbors. For that part of the Middle East, they are about the best you can get right now.

  • Sicarius

    The ongoing conflict in the region and the complexity of it, gives by all means, the Kurds and their endeavor of establishing a Kurdish independent state or autonomy, new hope. The support which the kurdish resistance are getting by both the US and the Russians, doesn’t really mean that much. In the end the allegiance will be kept, the Russians with Assad and U.S with Turkey – leaving the Kurds for the most part empty handed.

  • Athelstan

    Back Assad, the rest are mad.

    • Bryan Harper

      The fact of the matter is that the Kurds are not allied with Assad. This article is completely be biased and based on the old British colonial policy. The YPG group can not wage war on both sides (Jihadi rebels and Assad forces) at the same time when it’s already being hit on three fronts (from Jibhat al nosra, Isis, and Turkish army). Once everything comes to Isis and Assad, they will have to fight both since Assad’s aim is to take back the whole country and he’s not agreeing with a Federal state and Kurdish rights.

      P.S. Kurds had been prosecuted for many years by Assad regime before the uprising stated.

  • thomasaikenhead

    “‘This leaves British policy in a shambles,’ says Professor Stansfield.”

    No surprise there, the same applies to Afghanistan, Libya, and Iraq too!

  • William Haworth

    We need to get past this idea that there are nice people in the Middle East (with the exception of the only democracy in the region, and even they’re not very polite). Nobody there is our friend. Nobody there wants anything from us apart from being left alone to murder each other in peace. If it weren’t for oil and Jerusalem, that’s precisely what we’d be doing.
    This idea that the Kurds are on our side, so therefore they aren’t wicked towards the Arabs, is absurd. The world is full of evil racists; many of them have dark skin.

  • Cyril Sneer

    Ah an apologist for Turkish instigated ethnic cleansing.

  • MC73

    I see few problems with the Kurds based on this article. Good luck to them.

  • Polat Urundul

    your ally is Turkey. Not f-king terrorists!

    • Anna

      Turkey is a terrorist country. They force Islam on their citizens, deny their citizens their language, religion, and culture. The only reason they changed a bit is because of the UN’s condition for joining EU. If you look at all the open cases (Turkey has the most open human rights violations– more than Russia), they haven’t changed much. They just like to dust under the rug to make the room seem clean.

      • Alex Sosa

        Turkey IS THE terrorist. So you are right in some sense, our fellow NATO member terrorist-Turkey is our ally. Shame on us for throwing the Kurds under the bus for this islamofascist country. We have done it over and over again throughout history and we will do it again.

    • Bertie

      Turkey supports Al Nusra and ISIS.
      Turkey is not our ally.
      The Kurds are our allies,and I think Erdogan needs to get used to this.

    • Cyril Sneer

      Turkey supports terrorism so our allies are terrorists.

  • iand

    Well, there all as bad as each other, so we have to pick a side and stick to it. To the best of my knowledge, the Kurds don’t want to come to my country and force me and my family to become Muslim. From news coverage I see Arabs do, bye bye Arabs.

    • Alex Sosa

      You are very right. Most of the Kurdish women and men have stayed to fight for their lands and rights. And their culture is not an expansionist culture as far as my experiences with them go.

  • StrategyKing

    Ah, more divide and rule, the usual British tactic. Now you are finding a problem with the Kurds. And hinting at the Kurdish spring – so just more disorder and anarchy for them then. There is always somebody and something isn’t there? Has it occurred to you British that it the problem might be you? Lets take the end of the article; “First of all, it’s broken already, and second, we didn’t break it. It was broken from the day it was created. It’s never worked as a country.’” Ok, fine, lets accept this premise. Well, how was the country created? Why is that not mentioned in this piece? Of course, because then you would have to acknowledge that it was British duplicity that created it. Heard of Sykes-Picot?

    Give it up people. Here are a couple of tips. First, the Kurds are our allies and far nicer than any other allies we currently have. For that we might want to be grateful. But then, this much is also clear from this article. We shouldn’t need to worry about allies for while the middle east is a mess and needs to sort itself out, there is no role for the British to play in sorting out middle east affairs. One hundred years of ruinous meddling have been more than enough. Good lord, if you had any dignity you would voluntarily excuse yourself. Stay out Britain, you are not welcome.

    • Bryan Harper

      Well said StartegyKing!

      It was the British themselves who created this mess in the first place, namely with that famous “witch” Gertrude Bell. She even ordered to bomb the Kurds in the early days of the creation of Iraq suppressing their rebellion against her plan.

      • StrategyKing

        And here we are, a hundred years later, and the British are still blathering on in the same way. Blegh.

        Just stay away, Britain.

        • Bertie

          I think you’ll find britain has been staying away and it’s the Turks / Russians who are dominant in attempting to reshape the region – with some assistance from US on the sidelines and Iran..

          • StrategyKing

            This is a joke right? Britain, clinging on to the coat tails of Uncle Sam, or yipping at the heels in the case of Libya, has been at the forefront of hair-brained regime change schemes for the last decade, with neither a thought nor a plan for what comes next. Russia has only stepped in five years into the Syrian war, when it looked like it was going to collapse altogether into complete anarchy. And you claim Britain has been staying away?

          • Bertie

            Britain hasnt been involved in Syria – it’s been primarily Turkey,with Erdogan intent on overthrowing Assad for the last 5 years or so..

            So no, it wasn’t a joke.

            Suggest you go do some research on Trukey’s Syria operation ,its aiding of ISIS, buying of ISIS oil etc etc. Quite an eye opener

            Russia stepped into assist Assad – and has done far more, I hate to say, than US/UK or Turkey in hitting ISIS. Note Turkey hasnt actually attacked ISIS regularly yet!!! Too busy focusing on Kurds – they’ve been hypocritically invading Iraqi airspace to hit the Kurds as well!

            You recall british bombing of Syria was vetoed by parliament.

            Show me evidence of where Britain has actively been involved in Syria. I’m not disputing libya, which was pointless.

      • Bertie

        I think you’ll find the French helped us!
        post WW1 Sykes – Picot, followed by 1923 Treaty of Sevres.
        Turkey shouldn’t have been appeased post WW1, it should have been stamped on properly. It’s appeasement and relative let off saw the Kurds not getting the independence they were promised.

        Carving up Iraq and Syria along non sectarian lines has resulted in the current situation fermenting away since 1916.

        Syria and Iraq need to be carved up along sectarian lines – Turkey needs to be told where to get off vis their Kurds (who will be assimilated into a greater Kurdistan if they so vote to be) – Ditto the Syrian Kurds and Iranian Kurds.

        Syria and Iraq are both post WW1 constructs and need to be consigned to the bin of history.

        • Lawrence James.

          Indeed. So was Yugoslavia, another failed state.

          • Bertie

            Agreed -and what a great job the EU did there!

        • StrategyKing

          There you go again, trying to stick your nose where it doesn’t belong. Please, just stay away.

          • Bertie

            You’re a senstitive soul atren’t you! It’s a discussion forum – so I’m perfectly entitled to comment where I wish (as indeed you presume you have a right to!)

      • Lawrence James.

        TE Lawrence and Churchill wanted a Kurdish state, but were overruled by Indian officials who plumped for Iraq, which, it was foolishly hoped, might attract Indian immigrants. The new Middle East was a construct that served Anglo-French interests and depended upon the armed forces of both countries to enforce it. By 1945 France was a broken flush and Britain’s power had evaporated by 1956.Unfortunately, the successor states of the Lebanon, Syria and Iraq seem content with borders decided in 1922.

    • Lasse Riise

      The last act of Brits should be to massivly arm the Kurds. Then leave it to the Kurds to sort out the Middle-East. They will take care of business. This is the only way for westerners to finally honor their promises given in the treaty of Sevres. Although it might come a century delayed. Better late than never.

  • Jacobi

    An informative article, which confirms what has emerged in the last two years. Iraq and Syria have out-lived their usefulness. We have a war between Sunni Arabs and Persian Shias. The main group is Sunni Saudi- Arabia, Qatar, ISIL and Turkey.

    The elimination of all non-Sunni elements is their aim. Conclusion? The 80 year old oil-based hegemony of Saudi Arabia, has out-lived its usefulness.

    Our immediate problem is the push by Sunni Islam to Islamise the West. Turkey is the active agent in this, ensuring an ever increasing supply of Muslims religious migrants into Europe. Two immediate steps must now be taken.

    Disarm Saudi Arabia/Qatar/IOSIL/ and Turkey.

    Create an effective, humane, blocking and internment process to stop and return religious and other similar Muslim migrants to their own regions.

    • Lasse Riise

      And masivly arm the Kurds with the most modern heavy weapons, so they becomes enabled to defeat the Sunni proxies of Saudi and Turkey a give them a really good beating.

  • Kasperlos

    Just yesterday a score of illegal Kurdish migrants were caught stuffed in an arriving lorry at Wexford, Ireland. Seems the lure of free everything in Ireland is worth more than the strife in Turkey/Syria/Iraq. Only when Ireland runs out of the free stuff what happens to these trained militants then? I guess they could work for Sinn Fein.

  • plainsdrifter

    The Arabs are cruel, racist, misogynist torturers and slavers who have more to fear from each other than any one else. Just play on that.

  • Robert Basset

    The myth of the unbiased, unbought journalist.

  • AraucaniaPatagonia

    Confused? You won’t be, after this week’s episode of…

  • Lasse Riise

    Arabs has proven they’re only able to behave civilized under firm colonial rule. Handing both Iraq and Syria to the Kurds and give them free hands to rule the Arabs is the only way to bring Peace and stability to the region. After a while, like children, the Arabs themselves will discover just how tremendous their lives will improve under firm Kurdish rule.