Kurds & Kurdistan – A Geopolitical Perspective

Who are the Kurds? Why should the overthrow of the Syrian government be their objective? Are they on a quest for Kurdistan or are they just pawns in the game of geopolitical players? What are the implications of the Turkish Operation Peace Spring for India?

Historical accounts of the Kurds and Kurdistan have been a subject of mystery and perplexity for years, and have been seldom discussed by major Western media outlets until recently. Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the ongoing conflict in Syria, Kurds have been romanticized by mainstream media and U.S. politicians alike to justify a Western interventionist narrative in those countries.

Kurds & Kurdistan - A Geopolitical Perspective
Kurds & Kurdistan – A Geopolitical Perspective

Pawns in the Game


The Kurds are the largest group of nomadic people in the world that have remained stateless since the beginning of time. This fact has allowed Western powers to use the “stateless” plight of the Kurdish people as a tool to divide, destabilize and conquer Iraq and Syria, where colonial oil and gas interests run deep.

The U.S.-led coalition of war criminals is using elements of Syria’s Kurdish population to achieve its goal of destabilizing Syria, led by President Bashar al-Assad. Washington seeks to create sectarianism and ethnic divides in a country that, prior to the Western-launched war, had neither.

Kurdish YPG fighters near an American military vehicle
Kurdish YPG fighters near an American military vehicle

However, Kurdologists reject this characterization because it does not fit into their account of historical events that attributes a state to them at one point in time. Their estimated population is 30 million, according to most demographic sources. They also reject the idea that they are being used as pawns.

Divide & Conquer Strategy

Perhaps no other group of people in modern times has been as romanticized in the Western conscience as the Kurds. Consistently portrayed as “freedom fighters” who are eternally struggling for a land denied to them, the Kurds have been frequently utilized throughout history by other countries and empires as an arrow and have never themselves been the bow.

India in Cognitive Dissonance Book by GreatGameIndia
Kurdish fighters and US launch airstrikes in Syria
Kurdish fighters with the Y.P.G. militia coordinating airstrikes by the United States in Syria in 2015. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

In today’s case, the Kurds are being used by NATO and Israel to fulfill the modern-day colonialist aim of breaking up large states like Iraq into statelets to ensure geopolitical goals. When nations are divided into smaller statelets, they are easier to conquer by foreign entities. This is a signature move that powerful imperialist nations use for the purpose of colonizing smaller and less influential nations. The Kurds have been utilized as pawns in this “divide and conquer” strategy throughout history and continue to allow themselves to be used by colonial powers.

Kurdish Uprising


In an article written in 2007, NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr stated that the Kurds of Iraq have a long history of being used as pawns in regional power struggles. Now, they are finding themselves in the middle of a contest between the United States and Iran for dominance in the Middle East.

In 1973, President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had the CIA instigate a Kurdish uprising in northern Iraq against Saddam Hussein. The United States walked away from the rebellion when Saddam and the Shah of Iran settled their differences, leaving the Kurds to face their own fate. Interestingly, the Kurds seem to have developed amnesia by once again choosing to cooperate with Washington, which has repeatedly used them solely for its own benefit.

Kurdish Uprising and George Bush
A Kurd kisses a picture of United States President George W. Bush during celebrations in the streets of Sulaymaniyah, northern Iraq Wednesday April 9, 2003. Celebrations broke out in at least two cities in the Kurdish autonomous region, as people took to the streets to celebrate what they believe is the end of President Saddam Hussein’s regime. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

In the Gulf War over the Iraqi seizure of Kuwait in 1990, President George H.W. Bush appealed to the Kurds, as well as the Shiites in the south, to rise up in rebellion against Saddam.

Victorious in that war, the American military permitted Saddam to retain his helicopter gunships, which he used to retaliate against the Kurds, along with Shiites, by the hundreds. American public opinion eventually forced the administration to establish northern and southern no-fly zones to protect the two populations.

Kurdish loyalty to America

Kurdish loyalty to America has cost them quite a bit, and so it is with a certain narcissism that the Bush administration presumed to tell the allegedly autonomous Kurds what kind of relations they could entertain with other countries in the region, including American rival Iran. But the Kurds appear to be finding themselves in a contest between the U.S. and Iran for dominance in the Middle East yet again.

Andrew Exum, a former top Pentagon Middle East policy official who served as an Army Ranger, stated ”… this decision — to arm a group closely associated with a foreign terrorist organization, and one that has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state — will likely reverberate through U.S. relations with Turkey for decades to come.” The Turkish government has long insisted that the Kurdish militia is closely linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a separatist group known as the PKK. That group is listed by Turkey, the United States and Europe as a terrorist organization.

The Quest for Kurdistan


The quest for independence is intrinsic to Kurdish identity. However, not all Kurds envision a unified Kurdistan that would span the Kurdish regions of four different sovereign countries. Most Kurdish movements and political parties are focused on the concerns and autonomy of Kurds within their respective countries. Within each country, there are Kurds who have assimilated and whose aspirations may be limited to greater cultural freedoms and political recognition.

Quest for Kurdistan
In this Thursday, March 20, 2014 Iraqi Kurds with a giant flag Kurdish celebrate Nawruz, or the New Year, in Dahuk, 260 miles (430 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. Nawruz celebrations date back to Zoroastrian times marking spring and the start of New Year festivities for Kurds all over the world. (AP Photo)

Kurds throughout the Middle East have vigorously pursued their goals through a multitude of groups. While some Kurds established legitimate political parties and organizations in efforts to promote Kurdish rights and freedom, others have waged armed struggles. Some, like the Turkish PKK, have employed guerrilla tactics and terror attacks that have targeted civilians, including their fellow Kurds.

Internal Divisions

The wide array of Kurdish political parties and groups reflects the internal divisions among Kurds, which often follow tribal, linguistic and national fault lines, in addition to political disagreements and rivalries. Tensions between the two dominant Iraqi Kurdish political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) escalated to a civil war that killed more than 2,000 Kurds in the mid-1990s.

Major Kurdish Political Movements
Major Kurdish Political Movements

Political disunity stretches across borders as well, with Kurdish parties and organizations forming offshoots or forging alliances in neighboring countries. Today, disagreements over prospects for Kurdish autonomy in Syria or Iraqi Kurds’ relations with the Turkish government have fostered tensions that have pitted the Iraqi KDP and its Syrian sister organization, the KDP-S, against the PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD. Still, adversarial Kurdish groups have worked together when it has been expedient. The threat posed by Daesh has led the KDP-affiliated Peshmerga to fight alongside Syrian PYD forces.

Kurdish groups have, at times, bargained with not only their own governments but also neighboring ones – in some cases at the expense of their relations with their Kurdish brethren. The complex relationships among Kurdish groups and between the Kurds and the region’s governments have fluctuated, and alliances have formed and faltered as political conditions have changed. The Kurds’ disunity is cited by experts as one of the primary causes for their inability to form a state of their own.

Operation Timber Sycamore


The West claims that the Kurds are one of the most moral and dignified forces in the Middle East fighting against Daesh. But if their focus is on defeating Daesh, as they claim, why are they committing genocide against Syrians in the process? Taking this into consideration, it is hard to justify the West’s persistent claim that armed Kurdish terrorist groups are trying to help Syria. The reality on the ground contradicts these empty compliments, which the West uses to save face while supporting these terrorist organizations. This false narrative was in fact used to arm the Kurds in Syria in order to create instability and division.

Operation Timber Sycamore is the codename of a covert operation officially authorized by Obama in June 2013 to train and equip the anti-Assad rebellion, but which actually started in October 2011, when the CIA was operating via Britain’s MI6 to avoid having to notify Congress that it was arming the rebels in Syria. Originally, the CIA and MI6 (the British foreign intelligence service) set up a rebel arms supply network in Syria from Libya — a plan that involved intelligence agencies of 15 countries.

Weapons Supply

For much of the conflict in Syria, several Kurdish militias have become some of the U.S.-led coalition’s closest allies within the country, receiving massive amounts of arms and heavy weapon shipments, as well as training from coalition members. Kurdish militias also dominate the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the U.S.-backed group best known for leading the coalition-supported offensive targeting the Daesh (ISIS) stronghold of Raqqa.

CIA weapons supply to Kurds
Well-armed Kurdish Peshmerga fighters fire a weapon toward the strategic town of Sinjar, northern Iraq. Bram Janssen | AP

The weapons that the United States has provided Kurdish and Arab fighters in the anti-Islamic State coalition include heavy machine guns, mortars, anti-tank weapons, armored cars, and engineering equipment. There have been several credible reports since the U.S.-led military alliance formed to help combat Daesh in Syria and Iraq of American-supplied weapons falling into the hands of unallied militias and even Daesh itself.

German Weapons in ISIS hands

Reporters from German broadcasters NDR and WDR found several G3 assault rifles and a P1 pistol, all engraved with the initials “BW” for Bundeswehr – Germany’s military – in the northern Iraqi cities of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.

German weapons supply to Kurds
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier pledges German military support to the Kurds in northern Iraq during a meeting in Erbil with Masoud Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

The weapons apparently came from stocks that the German government delivered to the Kurdish autonomous government in northern Iraq. The weapons were intended to be used in the fight against the Daesh. Several members of Germany’s Green and Left parties have long raised concerns in parliament that arms delivered to Peshmerga fighters could fall into the wrong hands.

Narcotics Trafficking

The PKK is one of a growing number of terrorist organizations with significant stakes in the international drug trade. In October, the U.S. Treasury Department added three PKK/Kongra-Gel senior leaders to its list of foreign narcotics traffickers. The PKK, along with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is one of only a few organizations worldwide designated by the U.S. government as both a terrorist organization and a significant foreign narcotics trafficker.”

Drug smuggling is reported to be the main financial source of PKK terrorism, according to the organization International Strategic Research, whose detailed report can be seen here.

Kidnapping Minors

Kurdish families are demanding that the PKK stop kidnapping minors. It started on April 23, the day Turkey marked its 91st National Sovereignty and Children’s Day. While children celebrated the holiday in western Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) kidnapped 25 students between the ages of 14 and 16 on the east side of the country, in the Lice district of Diyarbakir.

PKK kidnapping Kurds
Protesters shout slogans during a demonstration against Turkish security forces in the Lice district of Diyarbakir province, June 29, 2013. Recent confrontations over the construction of a gendarmerie outpost in Lice have led to a string of kidnappings by the PKK. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Although the PKK has kidnapped more than 330 minors, the Bockum family was the first in the region who put up a tent near their home to start a sit-in protest, challenging the PKK and demanding that it return their son. Sinan was returned to the family on May 4. Al-Monitor reported this incident from the beginning in great detail.

Targeting Civilians & Fellow Kurds

The PKK is also killing Kurds under the guise of protecting their rights. “Senior PKK leader Cemil Bayık, in an interview with the Fırat News Agency (ANF) on Aug. 8, said, ‘Our war will not be confined to the mountains like it was before. It will be spread everywhere without making a distinction between mountains, plains or cities. It will spread to the metropolises.’ Terrorist Bayık’s statement signaled that the PKK would take increasing aim against civilians, targeting civilian areas more than ever. And it is happening. Since July 15, the day when the Gülenist terror cult, FETÖ, launched its failed military coup attempt to topple the democratically-elected government, the PKK perpetrated dozens of terrorist attacks, killing 21 civilians and injuring 319 others – most of them Kurdish citizens.”

PKK targeting Kurds
Security and forensic officers work at the explosion site after a car bomb struck a bus in Diyarbakir, Turkey, Tuesday, May 10, 2016. Turkey’s state-run news agency says a car bomb attack targeting a bus carrying police officers in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir has killed at least three people. Anadolu Agency over 20 other people were wounded in the attack in Diyarbakir’s Baglar neighborhood. The agency says the attack was carried out by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.(AP Photo/Mahmut Bozarslan)

According to The Washington Institute “On November 18, FBI Director Robert Mueller met with senior Turkish officials to address U.S.-Turkish efforts targeting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), also known as Kongra-Gel. A press release from the U.S. embassy in Ankara following the meeting stressed that U.S. officials ‘strongly support Turkey’s efforts against the PKK terrorist organization’ and highlighted the two countries’ long history of working together in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime.

The Shootdown of Syrian Su-22 Bomber

On June 18, a U.S. jet shot down a Syrian Su-22 fighter-bomber near the city of Tabqa. The U.S.-led coalition said the Syrian aircraft attacked SDF positions, adding that the coalition downed the Syrian jet as part of “collective self-defense of coalition partnered forces,” according to Sputnik News.

Syrian Airforce Su-22M
The fin and rear fuselage of a Syrian Airforce Su-22M, The same type of aircraft shot down by US forces while engaging ISIS targets fleeing Raqqa, Syria. Photo | A.V.

However, the SAA stated that they were, in fact, attacking Daesh, not the SDF. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) then sent in a rescue mission to retrieve the downed pilot. Al Masdar News (AMN) reported that they encountered intense resistance from the SDF, which would imply a serious escalation between the two.

The Syrian Army General Command responded with an official statement that the flagrant aggression undoubtedly affirms the US’s real stance in support of terrorism which aims to affect the capability of the Syrian Arab Army- the only active force- along with its allies that practice its legitimate right in combating terrorism all over Syria.

The case of Joe Robinson

In another example of Western support for the YPG, Joe Robinson, an ex-soldier and UK national, recently returned to the UK after spending five months in Syria fighting with the group. He was detained and arrested by Greater Manchester Police officers on suspicion of terrorism offenses as soon as he returned. He joined the British military when he was 18 and toured Afghanistan with the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment in 2012.

British Military Officer Joe Robinson with ISIS in Syria
British Military Officer Joe Robinson is on the far left, holding his weapon while his fellow YPG comrades are holding a Daesh/ISIS flag. The writing on the wall speaks volumes about the relationship between Israel, the Kurds and the United States.

He left the UK when an arrest warrant was issued after he failed to appear in court. Robinson is pictured here in Syria with YPG fighters.

SDF working with Daesh/ISIS

The most evident contradiction to be noted is that the Kurds in the SDF are working with the U.S. through its so-called “Operation Inherent Resolve,” which is the official name for its anti-Daesh operations. But at the same time, the U.S.-led coalition, including Kurdish armed units, lets “militants of the Islamic State terrorist group leave Raqqa instead of killing them,” according to Sergey Surovikin, the commander of Russia’s force grouping in Syria.

SDF working with ISIS
The loosely-knit coalition of Syrian rebel groups, including Kurdish factions, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), are armed, trained and backed by the U.S.

“Instead of eliminating terrorists guilty of killing hundreds and thousands of Syrian civilians, the U.S.-led coalition together with the Democratic Forces enters into collusion with ringleaders of ISIL, who give up the settlements they had seized without fighting and head to the provinces where the Syrian government forces are active,” he said.

Sputnik Arabic was able to talk to Husma Shaib, a Syrian expert on armed groups in Syria who explained why the SDF is comparable to the al-Nusra Front and what the actual aim of their operations in Syria is.

“In Syria, we regard these forces as unlawful military formations which operate outside of the legal environment. They are the same a terrorist units like al-Nusra Front and Daesh. The Syrian Democratic Forces do not coordinate their activities with the Syrian Army. We regard them as terrorists,” Shaib told Sputnik.

Israel – Kurdistan Axis


Since at least the 1960s, Israel has provided intermittent security assistance and military training to the Kurds. This served mostly as an anti-Saddam play – keeping him distracted as Israel fought two wars against coordinated Arab neighbors – but mutual understanding of their respective predicaments also bred an Israeli-Kurdish affinity. All signs point to this security cooperation continuing today. Israeli procurement of affordable Kurdish oil not only indicates a strengthening of economic ties, but also an Israeli lifeline to budget-starved Erbil that suggests a strategic bet on the Kurds in an evolving region.

Israel Kurdistan Axis
Ethnic Kurdish Israelis protest outside the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, July 8, 2010.

In 1966, Iraqi defense minister Abd al-Aziz al-Uqayli blamed the Kurds of Iraq for seeking to establish “a second Israel” in the Middle East. He also claimed that “the West and the East are supporting the rebels to create [khalq] a new Israeli state in the north of the homeland as they had done in 1948 when they created Israel. Interestingly enough, history is repeating itself with their present-day relationship – the existence of which is only acknowledged in passing by either side for fear of retribution.

Both historical and modern day ties between Israel and the Kurds have brought benefits to both sides. In the past, Israel has obtained intelligence, as well as support, for a few thousand Jews fleeing Ba’athist Iraq. The Kurds have received security and humanitarian aid, as well as links to the outside world, especially the United States. The first official acknowledgment that Jerusalem had provided aid to the Kurds dates back to Sept. 29, 1980, when Prime Minister Menachem Begin disclosed that Israel had supported the Kurds “during their uprising against the Iraqis in 1965 to 1975” and that the United States was aware of this fact. Begin added that Israel had sent instructors and arms, but not military units.

The Oil Deal

Ever since the U.S. invaded Syria, the U.S. and Israel have supported the semi-autonomous Kurdistan, with Israel purchasing $3.84 billion dollars worth of oil from them, a move that could have geopolitical and economic ramifications for both parties.

Crude Oil Reserves in Kurds held Iraq
Crude Oil Reserves in Kurds held Iraq

In 2015, the Financial Times reported that Israel had imported as much as 77 percent of its oil supply from Kurdistan in recent months, bringing in some 19 million barrels between the beginning of May and August 11. During that period, more than a third of all northern Iraqi exports, shipped through Turkey’s Ceyhan port, went to Israel, with transactions amounting to almost $1 billion, the report said, citing “shipping data, trading sources, and satellite tanker tracking.”

The sales are a sign of Iraqi Kurdistan’s growing assertiveness and the further fraying of ties between Erbil and Baghdad, which has long harbored fears that the Kurds’ ultimate objective is full independence from Iraq.

Role of Israeli Intelligence

In January 2012 the French newspaper Le Figaro claimed that Israeli intelligence agents were recruiting and training Iranian dissidents in clandestine bases located in Iraq’s Kurdish region. By aligning with the Kurds, Israel gains eyes and ears in Iran, Iraq and Syria. A year later, the Washington Post disclosed that Turkey had revealed to Iranian intelligence a network of Israeli spies working in Iran, including ten people believed to be Kurds who reportedly met with Mossad members in Turkey. This precarious relationship between Israel and Turkey persists today.

Plot to topple Iranian Government

Documents leaked by WikiLeaks in 2010 suggested that Israeli Mossad Chief Meir Dagan wanted to use Kurds and ethnic minorities to topple the Iranian government. The Israeli spy service was aiming to create a weak and divided Iran, similar to the situation in Iraq, where the Kurds have their own autonomous government, the spy chief told a U.S. official.

As Hersh noted in 2004: “The Israelis have had long-standing ties to the Talibani and Barzani clans [in] Kurdistan and there are many Kurdish Jews that emigrated to Israel and there are still a lot of connection. But at some time before the end of the year [2004], and I’m not clear exactly when, certainly I would say a good six, eight months ago, Israel began to work with some trained Kurdish commandos, ostensibly the idea was the Israelis — some of the Israeli elite commander units, counter-terror or terror units, depending on your point of view, began training — getting the Kurds up to speed.”

Oded Yinon Plan

The Kurds are allied with Israel – whose planned Greater Israel project coincidentally aligns almost perfectly with the Kurds’ plans for “Kurdistan.”  In the Oded Yinon plan, which is the plan for a “Greater Israel,” it states the imperative use of Kurds to help divide neighboring countries in order to aid in their plans for greater domination. Interestingly enough, Kurds brush this alliance off as being just another step in achieving their ultimate goal of creating an autonomous Kurdistan.

Implications for India


Role of Gen David Petraeus

The Pentagon project Operation Timber Sycamore that created ISIS was the brainchild of former CIA Director General David Petraeus. It is now coordinated by the investment fund KKR, established by Henry Kravis and whose military activities are led by Petraeus.

KKR where former Petraeus sits as Chairman belongs to the equity partners who owns 80% stake in NXP Semiconductors whose chips were imported by ECI for EVMs used during current elections in India.

Gen Petraus is also credited to have trained former United States National Security Advisor Herbert Raymond McMaster who is responsible for pulling India into the Anglo-American orbit as a “major defense partner” implemented through ‘Washington’s Man in New Delhi’.

Gen Petraeus is also the key player in the ongoing plot for an Anglo-American Airbase in Kashmir under the trusteeship of the United Nations – a policy drafted by Mountbatten himself. When asked about US intervention in Kashmir, then US Central Command Chief Gen Petraeus disclosed in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Kashmir: “Together with my great diplomatic wingman Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, this effort actually has started”.

As per intel with GreatGameIndia, Petraeus is the pointman for Deep State in India. In 2018, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and former CIA Director David Petraeus together formed strategies for the “dramatic transition of India in the New World Order” at a six-day Raisina Dialogue also attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Recently, a high-level conference was organized in London to chart our the strategies for this transition. Needless to say the key speaker for this UK-India Summit 2019 was Petraeus. The event is well known in intelligence circles to be organized by British intelligence. We would urge keen readers of GreatGameIndia to look into all the bigwigs from India who attended this event.

It were such meeting, albeit secret that took place in London in the late 90s where the blueprint for the return of East India Company was drafted. Called Vision 2020 the scheme was a brainchild of an American consultancy firm born out of US military, McKinsey and the Big Four. Fortunately the project was met with a lot of opposition and as a result was stopped in its tracks. Since then they have their eyes set on Kashmir now.

The ISIS Hydra Spillover

In addition to the question of international terrorism and its role in the turmoil of nation-states, there is also the second very critical dimension of radical internal changes to the main body of the country’s society via the Fethullah Gulen and associated organizations. This was the second and perhaps far more serious existential danger realized by Turkey. In the context of India, Hemant Karkare had compiled a report extending to several thousand pages on this deep penetration into India as well, which today our Ministers have got classified and do not want the people of India to know. This will be discussed in a later reports of this journal.

This is the context of the warning given by the Turkish Ambassador and by the Turkish Foreign Minister to India, which India should take with extreme seriousness. Turkey itself was nearly taken over by US-sponsored Saudi brand of terrorism. True it is that this brand of terrorism will be anyway opposed and possibly wiped out by the Ankara-Teheran-Baghdad-Beirut-Moscow axis, but in the process the hydra will spill over to other nations especially into India, into Balochistan the no-man’s land, into Afghanistan and into Baltistan. Then on it will be fully utilized by our Western neighbor to disrupt and destabilize the Republic of India starting with Kashmir.

There is always a good possibility that this Hydra will morph itself as Balochistan or Baltistan freedom fighters and will get all their support to re-invigorate themselves – paradoxically from India itself. Only to disrupt India first and then strike straight at Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey from the backdoor, in consonance with the geopolitical aims of their highest masters.

Based on the explosive book La guerre de l’ombre en Syrie (The Shadow War in Syria, published in French by Éditions Erick Bonnier) by Maxime Chaix and the research conducted by Sarah Abed for MintPress.

GreatGameIndia is a journal on Geopolitics and International Relations. Send in your tips and submissions by filling out this form or write to us directly at the email provided.

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