Kurdistan Taking Shape – with Israeli Support

July 2, 2017

We must support the Kurds’ aspirations for independence; they deserve it” (PM Benyamin Netanyahu)

An independent Kurdish state, an idea that the countries where the Kurds live – Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran – strongly oppose, has one strong ally namely Israel. It might be surprising that Israel has long promoted cordial relations with the Kurds, particularly the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq (KRG). From Kurdish side there is believe that Israel can be their best lobby in the West for the project of a Kurdish state.

On 25th September 2017, a referendum will be held on the future of the autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq – whether remain within the Iraqi state or become an independent state. This referendum will be the Kurds’ first step towards the realization over century-long dream of an independent Kurdistan.

The Kurds have suffered persecution and oppression in the countries where they reside: Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. The Kurds now constitute the largest national group in the world without a state to call their own.

In Iraq, after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the Kurds got a broad autonomy and also respect from outside especially due to the considerable assistance provided by the Peshmerga, the Kurdish military militia, to the war effort against ISIS.

Despite this the current Iraqi government more or less oppose Kurdish independence, according Bagdad the Kurds are an inseparable part of Iraqi society. One reason for this approach might be disputes between the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq (KRG) and the Iraqi government over oil ownership in Kurdistan and the reimbursement of funds demanded by the government for the sale of that oil.

Dr. Edy Cohen has recently published his analysis Kurdistan: From Referendum to the Road to Independence and concludes following:

For its part, Israel has an economic and security interest in supporting a Kurdish state. In view of the profusion of jihadist militias in Syria and Iraq, Jerusalem must be involved in developments in Kurdistan. It would be in Israel’s interest for the IDF to train and instruct Peshmerga soldiers in any future Kurdish state. One could go further – it might be sensible to build an air force base in Kurdistan for the state’s protection. Moreover, the independent Kurdish state may well allow the restitution of its former Jewish population, driven from Iraq for its plundered property, thus setting an important precedent for future Arab-Israeli peace agreements.

 

Israeli involvement with the Kurds is not a new phenomenon

In its search for non-Arab allies in the region, Israel has supported Kurdish militancy in Iraq since the 1960s. In 1980, Israeli premier Menachem Begin publicly acknowledged that besides humanitarian aid, Israel had secretly provided military aid to Kurds in the form of weapons and advisers. Israel and the Kurds also share a common bond through the Kurdish Jews in Israel. Prominent among them is Itzhak Mordechai, an Iraqi Kurd who was defense minister during Benjamin Netanyahu’s term nearly two decades ago.

Many Iraqi leaders accuse the president of the Kurdish autonomous region, Massoud Barzani, of collaborating with Israel, thereby hinting at the military assistance given by Israel in the 1960s and 1970s to the Kurds under the leadership of Mustafa Barzani (Massoud’s father) in their war against the central government. Israeli television has in the past broadcast photographs from the 1960s showing Mustafa Barzani, embracing the then Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan.   According to Eliezer Tsafrir, a former senior Mossad official, in 1963–1975 Israel had military advisers at the headquarters of Mulla Mustafa Barzani, and trained and supplied the Kurdish units with firearms and field and anti-aircraft artillery. Israeli media in 2004 reported about the meetings of Israeli officials with Kurdish political leaders when Massoud Barzani, Jalal Talabani and the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon publicly confirmed the good relations with the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

The president of the Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, answered a question while visiting Kuwait in May 2006 about the Kurdish-Israeli relationship: “It is not a crime to have relations with Israel. If Baghdad established diplomatic relations with Israel, we could open a consulate in Erbil.”

Former prime minister of Iraq (2006-14) Nuri al-Maliki, has repeatedly told the media pejoratively that Kurdistan would be a “second Israel.”

In a policy address in 2014, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported the establishment of an independent Kurdish state. He claimed that: “The Kurds are a fighting people that have proven political commitment and political moderation, and they’re also worthy of their own political independence.”…“We must support the Kurds’ aspirations for independence; they deserve it,” Netanyahu declared in a speech at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

The Israelis are also rumored to have provided weapons and training to the KRG. In addition, Israel helped the KRG by purchasing Kurdish oil in 2015 at a time when Baghdad threatened to sue anyone, who would trade with the Kurds.

We must openly call for the establishment of a Kurdish state that separates Iran from Turkey, one which will be friendly towards Israel,” Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said in late January 2017. She also called the Kurds “a partner for the Israeli people.”

Kurdistan

Globally, the Kurds are estimated to number anywhere from a low of 30 million, to possibly as high as 45 million, with the majority living in the region they regard as Greater Kurdistan. According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, Kurdistan covers around 190,000 km² in Turkey, 125,000 km² in Iran, 65,000 km² in Iraq, and 12,000 km² in Syria, with a total area of approximately 392,000 km².

After WWI, the victorious powers promised independence for the Kurds. This did not materialize mainly due to the opposition of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.

Modern Kurdish-majority governments (source and more in WikipediA) are as follows:

  • Kingdom of Kurdistan (1920) Kingdom of Kurdistan, which lasted from September 1922 until July 1924 The Kingdom of Kurdistan refers to a short-lived unrecognized state proclaimed in the city of Sulaymaniyah following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Officially, the territory involved was under the jurisdiction of the British Mandate of Mesopotamia.
  • Republic of Ararat (1927–1930)
  • Republic of Mahabad (1946) In December 1945 the Kurdish Republic of Kurdistan was declared by Qazi Muhammad, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Iran in Mahabad (northwestern Iran) which was under Soviet military control. In May 1946 the Soviet troops were withdrawn from Iran and all support for the Republic of Kurdistan was cut, in accordance with the Yalta Agreement. In December of that year Mahabad was finally overrun by Iranian troops, president Qazi Muhammad was hanged in Mahabad city along with his brother and a cousin, and a number of libraries containing Kurdish texts were burned.
  • Kurdistan Regional Government (1991 to date)
  • Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (2013 to date)

According WikipediA The Kurdish people are believed to be of heterogeneous origins combining a number of earlier tribal or ethnic groups including Lullubi, Guti, Cyrtians, Carduchi. Some of them have also absorbed some elements from Semitic, Turkic and Armenian people.

There is also theories/speculations/legends that Kurds are the closest relatives of Jews The Kurds are the descendants of Gutis, which in turn were the descendants of Israelites taken captive to Media. The Kurds are said to be the descendants of Medians. In modern time some scientists sampled Y-chromosomes from 18 populations and discovered that the majority of Jews around the world are closely related to the Kurdish people –more closely than they are to the Semitic-speaking Arabs or any other population that was tested.

Kurdish Jews

Immigration of Kurdish Jews to the Land of Israel initiated during the late 16th century, with a community of rabbinic scholars arriving to Safed and Galilee and a Kurdish Jewish quarter had been established there as a result.

Since the early 20th century some Kurdish Jews had been active in the Zionist movement. One of the most famous members of Lehi (Freedom Fighters of Israel aka the “Stern) was Moshe Barazani, whose family immigrated from Iraqi Kurdistan and settled in Jerusalem in the late 1920s. Lehi/Stern was underground movement in pre-state British Mandate Palestine and had armed fight against British administration.

The vast majority of Kurdish Jews were forced out of Northern Iraq in the early 1950s, together with other Iraqi Jewish community. The vast majority of the Kurdish Jews of Iranian Kurdistan relocated mostly to Israel as well, in the 1950s.

Kurdish Jews in Israel are immigrants and descendants of the immigrants of the Kurdish Jewish communities, who now reside within the state of Israel. They number around 200,000.

The Barzani (also Barazani) family is one of the Kurdish tribes in Iraq and has has been the leading light of Kurdish politics since the decline and final collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The sheikhs of Barzan are descendants of Bahdinan and of Yazidi origin are assimilated to Kurdish culture. The Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) speaks of the Barzani families Jewish Rabbinical roots.

My view

As consequence of still ongoing wars in Iraq and Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and EU met huge refugee crisis. However not so many Kurds were among refugees. One reason might be that Iraqi and Syrian Kurds had motivation to defend their homeland and they also had relatively good resources – oil, money and weapons – to do so. Related to manpower and describing Kurd society and culture the important aspect is that also women have significant role in military campaigns.

I share in the highest degree the ideas/visions of Abdullah Öcalan’s – leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party -paper on Democratic Confederalism for Kurdistan in future. He e.g. notes

that Democratic confederalism is based on grass-roots participation. Its decision-making processes lie with the communities. Higher levels only serve the coordination and implementation of the will of the communities that send their delegates to the general assemblies. For limited space of time they are both mouthpiece and executive institutions. However, the basic power of decision rests with the local grass-roots institutions.

Surrounded by enemies the Kurdish region, shares a border with Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. These countries, especially Iran and Turkey, all strongly oppose the establishment of a Kurdish state. They fear, that Kurdistan – which has managed to build a friendly island of calm and stability in an area surrounded by enemies and war – will indeed become that distasteful thing, a “second Israel.”

Kurdish feats on the battleground, have proven that the Kurds are a formidable barrier against dangerous anti-Israeli forces emanating from both Sunni and Shi’a Islamist radicals.

Edy Cohen concludes that

There are many commonalities between the Kurdish people and the Jewish people, both of whom have suffered continuous long-term persecution and are scattered throughout the world….in all probability, the state of Kurdistan will be an island of stability that is respectful of human rights. It will therefore differ substantially from the countries surrounding it…The Kurdish people must have a state of their own, and the sooner the better. The international community should support the independence of Kurdistan.

I fully agree this conclusion and recommendation.

Kurdistan

 

Sources and more:

Kurdistan: From Referendum to the Road to Independence by Dr. Edy Cohen BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 507, June 24, 2017, View PDF,

Kurdish Daily News

Abdullah Öcalan’s Democratic Confederalism   and

WikipediA

 

 

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From Rojava to Ramallah: The trappings of statehood – Opinion – Jerusalem Post

December 20, 2015

Kurdisatan Middle East

What the Palestinians can learn from the Kurdish success story.

Source: From Rojava to Ramallah: The trappings of statehood – Opinion – Jerusalem Post


How Islamic State oil flows to Israel

December 3, 2015

enLogoOil produced by the Islamic State group finances its bloodlust. But how is it extracted, transported and sold? Who is buying it, and how does it reach Israel? 

See more at:

How Islamic State oil flows to Israel

By Al-Araby al-Jadeed staff

Date of publication: 26 November, 2015 

 

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Election Bazaar in Iraq ongoing

March 9, 2010

“democracies make elections, elections don’t make democracies”

The counting of Millions of votes cast in Iraqis elections is going on to choose the right ones from more than 6,000 candidates from 86 political groups to gain seats in the 325-member assembly. Some violence occurred – 38 citizens were killed and around 100 were wounded in result of bombings. The country’s electoral commission called it a “glorious day” and a victory for Iraq. While election hype and afterwards PM selection and government coalitions are taking headlines some other aspects before, during and after elections may have more effect for the future of Iraq.

Comments from West have praised democratic development and even the UN Security Council Monday hailed parliamentary elections in Iraq as an “important step” toward strengthening the country’s national unity. From my point of view democracy played minor role in elections and the outcome probably will be splitting ethnic/religious entities instead of national unity.

Background information related to Iraqi elections as well later the results can be found from following link , which includes an interactive map with Province Overview/Details, Political Coalitions, Seats Distribution and later with Winning Candidates of Iraqi elections 2010 made by Alsumaria Iraqi Satellite TV network.

The De-Baathification Campaign

The anti-Baathist campaign in Iraq was strong having its influence to selection alternatives. The Accountability and Justice Commission successfully banned hundreds of candidates from the March 2010 elections for alleged Baathist ties. Unlike the barring of candidates, which was of questionable legality, the February 2008 Accountability and Justice Act actually says that Baathists are not allowed jobs in the Interior and Defence Ministries. Many southern provinces that are controlled by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law list have also created their own committees to weed out former regime members in the local governments.

Parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq and his Iraqi National Dialogue Front, who were part of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement are the most prominent of those banned. U.N. mission in Iraq sent a letter to the Election Commission calling on it to reject the banning of candidates. Parliamentarian Mutlaq said that he would appeal his case to the courts. United Nations asked Accountability and Justice Commission to reverse its decision. They replied by telling the U.N. to stop interfering in Iraqi affairs.

Vice President Joe Biden criticized Accountability and Justice Commission and said that it wasn’t being impartial and suggested that banning candidates should be postponed until after the election. Head of the Accountability and Justice Commission Ali al-Lami rejected the idea. Government spokesman later said that the U.S. was interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs.

Press reported that of the 511 banned candidates, 72 were from former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement, and 67 were from Interior Minister Jawad Bolani’s Unity of Iraq Alliance. Later Accountability and Justice Commission reinstated 59 candidates saying that there were errors in their paperwork. On January American commander of the U.S. Central Command General David Petraeus said that the Accountability and Justice Commission was working at the behest of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force. Commission responded by accusing Petraeus of working with Baathists.

And where goes the oil money?

The key element to understanding the future development of Iraq is the struggle about oil income, which same time draws lines between central government and regional/local authorities. On December 2007 the Basra branch of the Fadila party reflected local regionalism sentiment and made an unprecedented demand for a one-dollar fee per locally-produced barrel of oil to be set aside for the governorate in a special fund. Basra holds maybe 60 to 70% of Iraq’s oil (currently producing more than 1,000,000 bpd) and despite remarkable oil income has one of the lowest standards of living in the country. Despite a failed referendum initiative in January 2009 the Maliki government indicated its preparedness to give Basra 50 cent per barrel of oil. When news about this broke last May, it was immediately followed by demands from Kirkuk, Iraq’s second biggest producer (maybe 600,000 bpd) for a similar half-dollar per barrel fee. The new article 43 of the budget was accepted and went even further: So one dollar will be paid to the relevant governorates for 1) each barrel of produced oil; 2) each barrel refined oil (the biggest refineries are in Bayji in Salahaddin province and Dura near Baghdad) 3) each 150 cubic metres of produced natural gas. And not only oil, but also, 20 dollars will be paid for each foreign visitor to the “holy sites” in the governorates!

Related to oil income struggle between Kurds and central government one interesting detail is that in budget some money has been set aside for the interesting separate heading of “oil exports via Turkey”. These funds are intended to enable the Kurds to at least cover the operating costs of the foreign oil companies (DNO and Genel) that briefly began exporting from Kurdistan last year but received no payment since Baghdad does not recognize their contracts, thereby forcing the the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to make any payments from its own purse.

The new election law could lead to troubling divisions over oil revenues. The law has created conditions for even greater Kurdish control over Kirkuk and oil resources in northern Iraq. Other oil-rich regions of Iraq, such as the largely Shia south, will also have a basis to agitate for oil revenues to flow to regional governments. With the Iraqi central government still relying on oil for more than 90 percent of its national budget, the long-term viability of the country is called into question even if elections signal short-term success.

Occupied oil field

One small episode related interests in Iraq politics and oil took place on December 2009, while Iranian soldiers occupied an oilfield called al-Fakka on the Iraqi side of the border with Iran in the Maysan governorate. Episodes like the Fakka incident ultimately serve as political theatre that will deflect attention from the more fundamental question about Iranian influence – at the level of high politics in Iraq, and through a constitution that works in Tehran’s best interest. One can only speculate about the possible explanations for the Fakka occupation itself, which may range from everything like local issues in the Maysan area via internal disagreements on the Iranian side of the border to the possibility that Tehran would like to test Maliki.

A similar lack of concern was expressed at the Nahrainnet website, which is frequently mislabeled a “Sadrist” website but in reality seems more like an Iranian-inspired pan-Shiite website that seeks to bring ISCI and Sadrists together over issues like support for the Huthis in Yemen. More in an article of Gulfanalysis.

Oilfields for sale

International oil industry is making its share with partitioning Iraq. The second licensing round for Iraqi oilfields was carried out recently by the oil ministry in Baghdad. On the one hand, the contracts won by foreign companies will prove controversial because Iraq remains in the middle of a chaotic process of political transition and has yet to agree on a legal framework for the oil sector. On the whole, the mostly unsuccessful first and partially successful second licensing round have ended up producing an outcome that seems more sustainable than if all the contracts on offer had been immediately awarded to foreign companies as planned. If that had happened, the whole package would have been attacked both for selling Iraqi oil on the cheap and for marginalising the domestic oil industry.

In the event, a more balanced picture emerged, even if some of the failed offerings from round one (including Zubayr and West Qurna Phase 1) have since been awarded to foreign companies in separate deals (led by Italian and US firms respectively). In addition to Rumayla which was awarded to a Sino-British consortium in the first round in June, the successful bids in the second round include most notably the giant project West Qurna Phase 2 (in Basra; awarded to a consortium led by Russia’s Lukoil and also including Norway’s Statoil in a smaller role) and Majnun (Basra; Shell), plus Halfaya (Maysan; CNPC), Gharraf (Dhi Qar; Petronas), Badra (Kut; Gazprom) and Qayara and Najma (near Mosul, both to Sonangol of Angola). The new agreements also include partnership stakes for Iraqi state oil companies, and the “leftover” fields that were not awarded will be developed by the Iraqis themselves as well (Middle Euphrates, East Baghdad, and a group of fields near Kirkuk).

The first licensing round for Iraqi oil produced surprises and what many analysts describe as a “meagre” outcome: Only one out of eight oil and gas fields was awarded, the giant Rumaila field in the Basra area where a service contract was won by a consortium of BP and the Chinese CNPC.The two last weeks have seen considerable confusion about the Iraqi oil ministry’s position concerning oil exports from Kurdistan, where the regional authorities have signed a number of exploration and drilling deals with foreign oil companies without consulting Baghdad.

Ongoing energy struggle across Eurasia via an embattled energy corridor (and a key pipeline) that runs from the Caspian Sea to Europe through Georgia and Turkey — and the Great Game of business, diplomacy, and proxy war between Russia and the U.S. that has gone with it. On the other hand, the Turkish leadership draws ever closer to Iran, which provides 38% of Turkey’s oil and 25% of its natural gas. Ankara and Tehran also have geopolitical affinities (especially in fighting Kurdish separatism). Together, they offer the best alternative to the Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Georgia) in terms of supplying Europe with Iranian natural gas. Iraq has also discussed northern export routes through Turkey, including linking up to the Azeri-Turkish Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum (BTE) line, the planned Nabucco (Iran-Europe) pipeline, and the ongoing Arab Gas Pipeline (AGP) project. The proposed AGP pipeline would deliver gas from Iraq’s Akkas field to Syria and then on to Lebanon and the Turkish border sometime in 2010, and then on to Europe.

Votes for sale

For many voters it seems to be too insecure to wait that their selections on election days would bring some change for their living conditions. According Uruknet some of the nation’s poor, the right to vote does not mean having a say in who leads the country; it means having something to sell to make desperately needed cash. With intensive campaigning now under way in what is shaping up to be a highly competitive ballot, votes have become a precious commodity, a fact not lost on many ordinary people who care little for politics but who struggle to make ends meet.

“Elections are a beautiful opportunity to get some money,” Ahmad Salam said. “There are lots of people willing to sell their votes, and lots of people who want to buy them.” A mechanic by trade working in the impoverished Sadr City slum of north-eastern Baghdad, Mr Salam has taken on the role of an election agent with a difference. He collects votes and then offers them en masse to whichever party is prepared to make the highest bid, taking a commission for his efforts. “I have 100 people who have given me their vote to sell,” he said outside the small garage where he is employed as a casual worker, earning a few dollars a day. “None of them cares who wins, none of them thinks it makes any difference, so they give me their vote, and I sell it.” According to Mr Salam, some of the poorest voters were prepared to take as little as US$5 (Dh18) to guarantee their allegiance in the election booth. Most charge more, between $20 and $100, depending on the number of voting-age adults in their family.

One other example is Zuhair Aqeel, also an election agent, who collects votes and sells to the highest bidder. “I have done this work in every election since the first in 2005. From the last elections I earned enough to buy a small taxi which has given me a good living. “This year I hope to do even better and I think I will be able to get one of the candidates to promise me a job in a government office or as an administrator in the police or army. If I get that, I will be comfortable; I’ll have a stable salary and a stable life.”

Federation option?

The basic question, related also to sharing of oil incomes, is if Iraq is heading now more towards a confederation or a federation. The Kurds want the former, with the only role of the central government to send them some regular development money. The Kurdish autonomy is well accepted by other Iraqis but think that at least in the oil sector there should be a role for the central government. The presidency council allows the Kurds to go on with their contradictory position of demanding confederation (and threatening with secession) even though they know that even the most optimistic geological estimates will leave them as the junior partner in terms of oil reserves.

The hot spot for development Kurdish autonomy is Kirkuk, which has been subjected to two successive policies of ethnic modifications during the past four decades: a planned and systematic arabization policy and ethnic modification in favour of the Arabs by the previous regime between 1968 and 2003; then a planned kurdification and ethnic modification in favor of the Kurds. For Iraqi Turkmens to be recognized as the third main ethnic community in Iraq, with rights and duties equal to those of the Arabs and Kurds in Iraq, namely: the recognition of the Turkmen language (Turkish) as the third official language of the country; the effective participation of the Turkmen community at all levels of power in Iraq, by the inclusion of their political representatives in the supreme institutions which govern the country, such as the Presidential Council, Government Council, Parliamentary Presidency, Supreme Council of Justice, Chief of Staff of the Army, of the Police and of the Security. Turkmens have been excluded from these institutions since the invasion of Iraq, as the political power, under the Anglo-American occupation, from 9th April 2003, has been attributed on an ethnic-sectarian basis and exclusively to the parties who collaborated with the Occupiers (Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis). More e.g. Uruknet.

The incorporation of Kirkuk into the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is seen as likely. Arabs, Turcomen, and other ethnic groups that left Kirkuk following the 2006 sectarian violence will no longer be eligible voters in Kirkuk. In 1957, Kurds made up about 48 percent of Kirkuk’s population; they are now almost certainly well over 50 percent. Shia members from the southern provinces also have an incentive to support a future Kirkuk petition, as this would help secure Kurdish support for a southern Shia region where substantial oil revenues would go directly to the regional government.

Same time with election mess the Slaughter of Iraqi Christians has started. Christian families are leaving the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in their droves to escape a concerted campaign of violence and intimidation. Chaldean Bishop Emil Shimoun Nona has said that Mosul is experiencing a “humanitarian emergency” and that “hundreds of Christian families” left the city Feb. 24 in search of shelter, leaving behind their homes, property, commercial activities, according to Asia News. The situation “is dramatic”, he said, and warned that Mosul could be “emptied completely of Christians”. lack of security is due to a political vacuum in Mosul, with Arabs running the city and not sharing power with the Kurds. He said he remains hopeful that peace could return after the elections.

My guess is that ethnic/religious groups will strengthen their positions as result of elections, the self-governance/autonomy of provinces will increase at cost of central government and if the country can avoid total splitting the future of Iraq will be that of federation/confederation.

My Conclusions

From my point of view there is some base for following conclusions related to Iraqi elections 2010 and events around them:

  • Elections showed some tendency towards democracy in Iraq especially if compared to some traditional allies of western powers in Arabic world
  • After successful licensing round for Iraqi oilfields with multiple winners there is good change to develop Iraqi energy field, sustainable economy and get wealth for further development
  • The role of occupying forces is declining and Iraqi people (or at least leading tribes) are taking development work more to their own hands; as consequence the stability of Iraq probably will increase
  • Coming deals regarding government, sharing revenues and administration will reflect the fragmentation of politics along sectarian and ethnic fault lines.
  • Iranian influence, its amount still unclear, will reflect how internal issues are intertwined with regional ones.
  • The final results will indicate whether Iraq has moved away from the sectarian climate of 2005 or will it continue with a slightly more national-sounding rhetoric.
  • The challenge for nation building is that Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis probably have their religious or ethnic identity, however it is questionable if they share an Iraq identity. This may result Iraq splitting into three entities/states a bit similar way like Bosnia after Dayton. The outcome may well be a confederation/federation of these strong entities.

Cantonisation – a middle course for separatist movements

September 17, 2008

This year trend in international politics seems to be different separatist movements around the globe. Kosovo’s unilateral proclamation of independence from Serbia last February played a key role in these developments, which we already have seen in Bolivia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia and probably many more waiting to spark. This trend has big potential, because it is estimated that there is about five thousand ethnic groups on globe. I think now it is time and worth to speculate some variations between independent state and occupied territory.

Last week the ethnic Albanian movement ANDI led by Nevzat Haliti made demand that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia rename itself into “Macedonia-Ilirida” in order to reflect ethnic Albanian demands for a formation of their own entity inside the country. The outcome of this has been described also dual-state, which is one more definition of some sort of self-governance.

Definition problem

Most common aim of secessionist movements is state. The general definition of state is, that it is a political association with effective sovereignty over a geographic area and representing a population. The states can be nation states, sub-national or multinational states. In Max Weber’s definition, state is that organization that “claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory”. Status as a state often depends in part on being recognized by a number of other states as having internal and external sovereignty over it.

States wishing to retain territorial integrity in opposition to ethnic or indigenous demands for self-determination or independence sometimes offer or impose limited territorial autonomy. Some +30 states have about 70 territorial autonomies with definitions of autonomous region or island, republic, principality, territorial autonomous unit, Kingdom, autonomous republic, special autonomous province, territorial collectivity, autonomous Monastic state etc. There exist also about 40 non-incorporated territorial autonomies.

Cantonisation

A canton is an administrative division of a country, e.g., a region or state. The most internationally well-known cantons – the Swiss cantons – are theoretically partially sovereign states. Because cantons are generally relatively small in terms of area and population this kind of administrative form could be he best middle way between independent states and occupied territory or tribe-/village-level societies. Of course there is exceptions like Kurdistan which covers area nearly as big as France and has population over 25 million and could claim to be a sovereign state as well than any other one.

Canton or region is a quite good unit in relation to self-governance combining both possibility to local participatory democracy and global activities. Also it is called EU as Union of Regions. Today’s EU Aid does not necessary need state as partner or facilitator. Aid and cooperation can be e.g.

  • Between regions according their living conditions like high mountain regions or periphery regions
  • Between sectors like culture, health etc
  • Between field of activities like agriculture
  • Between private and public institutions like in science
  • Between NGOs of special interest

Canton can have many variations suitable to present day’s complex situations. It can be nation or sub-national unit as well than part of multinational state. If circumstances favor, it can also cover a region with many ethnic groups.

Question about size?

How to estimate the size needed for canton? One aspect is to define population which can carry on some basic services. In Finland there is ongoing reorganization of municipalities because some smaller units can not anymore give social and health services to their inhabitants. From central level is guidelines that for delivering one kind of health services +20.000 inhabitants is needed, for more specialized health services +100.000 is needed. To apply this kind of approach one should first define the level and content of services in particular region and these needs can vary in different part of world.

Bottom line

From point of local self-governance a canton with widest possible autonomy could maybe be solution to manage different separatist activities at international level. The role of state would reduce itself only as one cooperation forum and maybe guarantor of basic minority/civil rights. The most important aspect anyway is that this kind of arrangements can offer a peaceful way out from current and coming conflicts.


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