It is not uncommon for political enemies to end up becoming allies. Middle Eastern politics are at a historic juncture right now, with long-standing alliances being shaken up and new deals being brokered between fervent enemies. UN Security Council Resolution 2231 incorporates the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, informally known as the Iran nuclear deal, into international law, finally opening up doors between Iran and the West that have been shut since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Similarly, recent coordination between the Kurdish PKK party, the U.S. and Turkey, the former being labeled a terrorist organization by the latter two for decades, against Daesh will certainly have an important impact on the future of politics in the Levant. Will these alliances last or will they backfire? Some thoughts:
Iran v. the West
The Iran Nuclear Deal will lift trade sanctions against the nation in exchange for full-access inspection of Iran’s nuclear power plants by the IAEA and a 10-year moratorium on enriching uranium, a key component to building nuclear weapons, among other provisions. Although I initially found the deal a cause to celebrate, since it represents decades of negotiations over the matter of nuclear weapons, I find the Iranian government’s responses to be quite troubling. Although President Hassan Rouhani seems to be quite gung-ho about the whole thing (indeed, could you ever have imagined former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad agreeing to the deal?) Grand Ayatollah Ali Khameini’s remarks that Iran will still stand vehemently against the West, in particular America, should be critically considered. If his recent Tweet posting a picture of Obama with a gun to his head is any indication, post-Deal politics are probably going to be a lot less diplomatic and a lot more dirty.
The average Iranian citizen seems overjoyed by the deal: photos and videos showed men and women together in the street, dancing and cheering. But the average Iranian’s opinion clearly is not represented in the government, especially where the religious ayatollahs are concerned. Not for nothing, but Iran was the birthplace of the Islamic Revolution that bubbled up out of the country and across the Muslim world. The Islamic Revolution was a response to the Westernized Shah and Western values, hijacking Islam to support what was really just a move for power. Is there not, then, a parallel between 1979 Iran and Daesh? The Iranian government’s resolutely-against-peace stance and enforcement of a strict interpretation of Islam on its people is hardly Islamic; Daesh has certainly co-opted Islam to strengthen its appeal and gain supporters and legitimacy, but religion isn’t really what’s on the groups mind: it’s power.
Does the nuclear deal mean that Americans will be able to safely visit Iran, and Iranians will be able to properly travel to and from their country? No, it does not: Khameini made it clear that the Deal does not change Iran’s stance toward America, and that the American embassy would not reopen. He blatantly “said the slogans “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” would continue to be heard in the streets of Iran;” how is this diplomatic? Or encouraging? He will not negotiate with America on “most issues,” blatantly thumbing his nose at world peace and negotiation (actually this sounds like Israel, which doesn’t like to negotiate either). If you want America to “die,” I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t be allowed to make a nuclear weapon now, nor in 10 years time, if that’s your way of thinking. Because that’s basically what his speech insinuates–that once the 10-year limit is done, Iran gets to have its nuclear program. What does the UN Security Council envision will happen in 10 years time? Do they foresee preventing Iran, once again, from developing weapons 10 years from now? Do they expect another coup in Iran? The death of Khameini? I feel the rift between Sunnis and Shias will continue to grow even if Daesh is stopped.
“You are making a mistake now — in different parts of this region, but especially about the Iranian nation….Wake up, stop making mistakes. Understand the reality,” Khameini said in his July 18th speech, without offering to enlighten his apparently stupid American counterpart as to what, exactly, we are doing wrong. What ‘mistake’ about Iran are we making, besides perhaps (if his intentions are dishonest) pushing this deal? I agree that Obama has definitely fumbled in the Middle East: our back-and-forth support of Egypt’s revolution; the American embassy deaths in Benghazi; failing to be tough on Erdogan in regards to closing Turkish borders to Daesh; and failing to take any concrete action where Syria and Daesh are concerned. But America is not alone in this fumbling: what about the rest of the Security Council P-5 nations?
The fact that Iran has spent so much energy on negotiating and hiding its nuclear activities just because it wants to use nuclear energy to power the country is Unbelievable, to be honest. Why is nuclear energy so important for the Iranian infrastructure when most of the world’s nations do not use nuclear energy as a power source? Their insistence on nuclear energy means either that one, they want to build nuclear weapon; two, they have honest intentions and believe strongly in national sovereignty. Actually, they do apparently hold strong beliefs in national sovereignty, but I don’t think their intentions are completely honest. I’m no expert, it’s just my opinion.
Will the Iranian government try to spread its propaganda worldwide once sanctions are lifted? Will it clamp down harder then ever on restricting human rights? More importantly, what does the Iranian government-no, what does Ayatollah Khameini-really, really want? Like really, really want? Does he want to bomb America? Does he want America to apologize for the 1952 coup and not extraditing the Shah back to Iran? Does he want to convert the entire Western world to his brand of Shia Islam? Does he want to be Suprême Ayatollah of the Universe?
Who’s angry about the Iran deal? Well, it’s probably the first time Israel and Saudi Arabia have ever been on the same side: both nations are ticked off. Israel, naturally, has been more vocal: overdramatic President Benyamin Netanyahu threatened to “kill himself” if the deal went through, but alas, he didn’t do himself in yet, probably because he’s holding out hope that the insane amount of lobbying Israel has been doing in the US Congress will pay off. I have never, ever understood why Israel has such close ties with the United States Congress: If anything, Israel should be harassing Britain, since the UK is hugely responsible for creating the state of Israel in the first place. The United States should stop playing bodyguard to Israel, because what do we get in return?
Those opposed to the Iran Nuclear Deal, including Israel, have called Iran a terrorist state. This is the only other time I found myself agreeing with Khameini’s speech: “Americans can support the child-killing Zionist government, and call Hezbollah terrorist? How can one interact, negotiate, or come to an agreement with such a policy?” Indeed, Israel is the pot calling the kettle black: I realize that no nation on this Earth is innocent, but Israel point-blank refuses to cooperate with international human rights law and keeps kicking people off of their land. THEIR land. The atrocities of Gaza and the West Bank and Israel’s flouting of the United Nation’s warnings is just as bad as the shit Iran does. And Israel already has nuclear weapons; might the Arab states be wary that this tiny state might use them?
Saudi Arabia’s anger also seems to be that of a spoiled, immature child who is worried that their big brother is starting to favor another sibling. Their anger at the deal stems from a dislike over the Iranian Shi’ite regime, especially since it has been accused of arming the Houthi rebels in Yemen. But Yemen is not Saudi territory. Saudi does not want Iran to have greater influence in the Middle East; do they have a problem with power sharing? Both regimes are equally oppressive of their people. Both regimes follow fantastical, overblown ideologies that bear little resemblance to traditional Islam as interpreted through the Qu’ran (again, there is a strong parallel to Daesh). I found it rather amusing that French President Francois Hollande commented that he hoped Iran, with the newfound wealth it will gain unfettered by sanctions, will be instrumental in pummeling Daesh. Why hasn’t Saudi Arabia been pressured to actually do something about Daesh? Or filthy-rich Qatar, or the Emirates, or Bahrain, or Kuwait? These countries have so much money, and yet they do nothing to stop the conflict, nor to help any of the other suffering Arab nations. If they want to prove themselves as leaders, why don’t they do something?
Turkey v. the PKK
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has proven to be the most effective tool so far in battling Daesh (the Islamic State): their guerilla tactics lead to the rescue of the Yazidis on Sinjar mountain last summer, and they have recaptured several cities from the Daesh. Their success on the ground, according to a Wall Street Journal article on the subject (see the Sources below), has led the U.S. to form an alliance with the group and its affiliates, which is seen as critical to stopping Daesh. Turkey, while understandably more wary given that the PKK wishes to establish an independent nation of Kurdistan within the bounds of Turkish borders, seemed to be begrudgingly “tolerating” this coordination as it has finally joined the fight against Daesh (to what I can only ask, WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?) Yet given the recent mass arrests of PKK members on Saturday, July 25, not to mention the bombing of PKK military bases by the Turkish military, Turkey no longer seems to be in the mood to cooperate, and neither does the PKK: the cease-fire they brokered but a few years ago has now been broken.
Will Turkey threaten the U.S. to end its newfound alliance with the Kurds and revoke its permission for the U.S. to use its military bases at Incirlik, Diyarbakir and Batman-a decision that was only just made (again, FINALLY) this past week? Will Turkey’s attack on Kurdish forces prevent the Kurds from continuing their success against Daesh as they are forced to turn their attention elsewhere?
Should the U.S. be working with the PKK? The group’s past terrorist acts are condemnable, even if, as a spokesperson put it to the Wall Street Journal, “We have been defending our people against the denial and elimination policies of the Turkish state against the Kurds. Our struggle has always been on the basis of legitimate self-defense.” The recent killing of two Turkish policemen, simply because the PKK believed the Turkish government did nothing to prevent a recent bombing by Daesh, is despicable. These policemen were in no way responsible for the bombing, nor were they high-level government officials who have any say in Turkey’s military affairs. The act was terrorism, plain and simple.
The problem is the PKK and its affiliates are not a group of local citizens bent on defending their homes from the evils of Daesh: they are a political group with a long history and concrete goals that go beyond driving out these militants. The Kurds want their own state, a state which would encompass land from not one but several different nations. When the Syrian Civil War and fight against Daesh end, inchallah, they will not fade away into the dark night: depending on the outcome of these conflicts, they will most likely ask for the land, in Syria and Iraq at least, to be redrawn. If the Kurds are instrumental in stopping Daesh, it would not be surprising for them to think of their own nation as a big fat “thank you” gift for doing the work that the Iraqi military is unable, and the rest of the world unwilling, to do.
The U.S. government, I’m guessing, probably doesn’t see the PKK as a threat: unlike Daesh, the Kurds don’t want to take over the world. Unlike the Taliban or al-Qaeda, they don’t suppress women: there are plenty of skilled female Kurdish fighters leading the battles. They are not a devoutly religious group: in fact, they seem more devoted to their “leader,” the imprisoned Abdallah Ocalan, and the ability to rule their own land than anything else. The latter I can empathize with; the former I think is quite creepy; it reminds me of the reverence for Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. But given their desire for a classless, agrarian society originally based on “Democratic Confederalism” and Marxist principles I find it rather amusing and questionable that the Center of Capitalism-America-would consider working with them. Isn’t it still our goal to stomp out anything smacking of Communism?
I’m quite curious, if not a bit frightened, to see where all of this leads. Do we care if the State of Israel throws a tantrum? Who else are they going to turn to for babysitting a l’americaine? Do we care if Saudi Arabia and the Gulf cool their relations with us? Not unless they decide to take over Iran’s role as the region’s chief trouble maker (Daesh aside, of course); I mean, it’s time we give up oil already unless we don’t want to have a planet to live on anymore.
Political backstabbing, on an international level at least, in theory should be tougher to do, given the threat of weapons/sanctions/I’ve-got-your-back “perma” alliances. In the case of the Iran Nuclear Deal, backstabbing won’t get anyone what they want: if Iran bombed Israel, they would get bombed back by the U.S. in retaliation. If Iran gets caught trying to circumnavigate the system, I would expect there to be extreme retaliation from all nations of the world. The situation with the PKK is a little bit trickier to remotely predict, since the PKK’s next move post-war would depend on the outcomes of the crisis in the Levant.
It’s the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, ya nas. Let’s get it together and live together.