On 17 MAR 16 Defense Secretary Ash Carter testified on the Defense Department’s proposed fiscal year 2017 budget during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington. Speaking to the panel, Defense Secretary Carter listed Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and terrorism as the five evolving strategic challenges that are driving the DoD’s planning and budgeting. http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/696449/carter-outlines-security-challenges-warns-against-sequestration
Shortly after after Ash Carter’s testimony, Mr. Adel Mourad, secretary of the Central Council of the Patriotic Kurdistan Union (PUK), met with Russian Ambassador Elijah Morkanof in the KRG and told the Russian representative that the Kurds in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey are allies of Russia.
Over the past 25 years, the U.S. Air Force has served as a de facto air force for the various Kurdish groups fighting in Iraq and Syria. The DoD has spent billions of dollars to help the Kurds realize their aspirations in the region. Today, the majority of Pentagon service personnel who served a year or two with the Kurds in Iraq are still willing to fall on their swords for Kurdish leaders and fighters who couldn’t care less about the American regional interests and the sacrifices these Americans who defend them now have made on behalf of the Kurds.
When the U.S. asked Iraq’s various ethnic and religious groups to work together to create a new nation, the Kurds armed themselves and held referendums to split away from Iraq. When the U.S. asked those same groups to share the economic resources of Iraq, the Kurds extracted and sold oil from the Kirkuk and Mosul fields to Turkey and kept the earnings for themselves. When the KRG was told to be more democratic and recognize other minorities’ rights, they jailed most of the leading Yazidi and Christian activists and set up a lobby group in DC to push for a larger Kurdistan. What’s more, KRG President Masoud Barzani was working to suppress internal opposition within the KRG even as American soldiers were fighting–and, in one notable case, dying–on behalf of the Kurds.
That “notable case” was Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, a decorated and experienced Delta Force operator who was killed in a raid on an ISIS prison compound where Kurdish fighters were supposedly being held. But no Kurds were found in the compound: ISIS had moved them to another location prior to the raid, a fact known in advance to the Kurds but not revealed to the Delta operators for reasons that remain both unclear, and wholly suspicious.
The death of one of our finest soldiers gave Barzani the political leverage to assert that the U.S. was willing to stand by him, regardless of the opposition. At the same time Barzani has cultivated his relationship with the Russians. This relationship has historical roots going back to the end of the Second World War. In 1946 Kurdish leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani was exiled to the Soviet Union. Thirteen years later he assumed the leadership of the Kurdish people. Today his son is in charge and does not seem interested in giving up his position anytime soon in a democratic fashion. The Barzanis know that were it not for the Soviets providing weapons and safe haven to Mullah Mustafa Barzani, Masoud Barzani would probably not be in charge of the KRG today.
The mind boggles at the thought that, even though the Kurds are always telling us that their interests supersede U.S. interests in the region, we still regard them as an enduring partner in the region. We are, in a sense, cuckolds in a relationship with an unfaithful wife. Someday, maybe, we will realize that the Kurds are dealing with us, taking our money and accepting our support, even as they are cozying up with the Russians. But, sadly, it seems just as likely that we will see the light after the Kurds have had their way with us and told us to go home. Their Russian lover is now meeting the needs we had met for a short period of time. Welcome to the Middle East where your partner is your partner only for as long as she can use you to get what she wants.