Michael Gunter: I donot regard PKK as a terrorist organization

By: Sarwar Salar Chuchani (www.sarwarkurd.blogfa.com)

Kurdish version was Published on Sivil Magazine in Hewler, Kurdistan (September 19th 2009)

(*)- How is the Situation and the political weight of Kurds in Iraq & Middle East now in your viewpoint?
The Iraqi Kurds have become a “player” in Iraq and the Middle East as they have become stronger than ever before. However, they are still in a perilous position given the hostility of their regional neighbors and the coming U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. More immediately threatening is the growing strength of the Baghdad government under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who seems determined to centralize the Iraqi government at the expense of the KRG. Indeed, KRG President Massoud Barzani is not even on speaking terms with al-Maliki since Barzani told al-Maliki that he was beginning to smell like a dictator. Given the horrific history between Baghdad and the Kurds, Barzani had every right to say this.
(*) What are the main pitfalls of Iraqi Kurdish politicians after 2003 and American occupation?
The main pitfall of the Iraqi Kurdish politicians after 2003 has been reaching too far in trying to annex Kirkuk and the surrounding area to the KRG. Since Kirkuk is not just inhabited by Kurds, the needs of its Arabs, Turkomans, and Christians must also be considered. More to the point, however, is that the Arab Iraqis have gradually been regaining their strength and are simply not going to give Kirkuk away to the Kurds. Even if the Kurds somehow took it, it would result in a Pyrrhic victory as the Arabs would never accept it. Kurdish politicians must understand this situation and adequately explain it to their people.
(*) Why Kurds have no friends but mountains most of the time?
The Kurds usually have no friends but the mountains because the Kurdish goals of autonomy or independence challenge the territorial integrity of those existing states (Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria) they inhabit. Furthermore, even states more friendly towards the Kurds such as the United States are not going to support the dismantling of other states because of the dangerous threat to their own security such a doctrine might present.

(*)What are the dangerous threats of Kurdish independence on American security?
Dear Sarwar, The dangers to the US entailed by Kurdish independence of course are just theoretical. However, no state would approve of the doctrine that ethnic groups in an established state can break away and create their own new state because this would in theory threaten the territorial integrity of any and all states including the United States itself.

(*) Should Iraqi Kurds fight Iranian and Turkish Kurds in order to preserve Kurdistan Regional Government and its achievements?
It would be the height of folly and betrayal for the Iraqi Kurds to fight against the Iranian or Turkish Kurds in a misguided effort to preserve the KRG. The Iraqi Kurds actually tried to do this when they supported Turkey against the PKK in 1992 and the result was disastrous on Kurdish morale throughout the world. On the other hand, the KRG cannot be seen as giving outright support to the KRG or PJAK. What is needed is astute diplomacy and compromise on this issue. The KRG must explain and argue that the problem is not the fault of the KRG, but that of Turkey and Iran for their failure to grant their ethnic Kurdish populations their minimal rights.
(*) personally, do you regard PKK as a terrorist Organization?
I do not regard the PKK as a terrorist organization. In the case of the PKK, it is largely a propagandistic term used to brand opponents as illegitimate. When I met and interviewed Abdullah (Apo) Ocalan in March 1998, he admitted that on occasion the PKK had used terrorist tactics, but rightly declared that if you studied history you would see that the real terrorists were the states that had so egregiously mistreated the Kurds over the years. All parties to the Kurdish problem should move beyond mere name-calling and seriously open negotiations in an effort to satisfy legitimate Kurdish demands within the existing borders. This means real democracy for the states in which the Kurds live.
(*)Should Kurds depend on American policy on Iraq? And before that, do you think there is something present to be regarded as American-Kurdish alliance in Iraq?
The Iraqi Kurds have no choice but to cooperate with the U.S, policy in Iraq. The Kurds would not have all the achievements of the KRG they now do if it were not for the United States. Of course, this does not mean that the Kurds cannot diplomatically and discreetly debate and argue behind the scenes when U.S. policy seems to be sacrificing the core goals of the KRG such as federalism for Iraq. Given the long-standing American admiration for the Kurds and the specific gratitude for Kurdish support in the 2003 war to remove Saddam Hussein from power, there is a de-facto U.S.-KRG alliance, which the Kurds can call upon. However, as I have already stated, the Kurds must use this de facto alliance in a diplomatic and discreet manner or risk losing it. After all in geopolitical terms, Turkey and Iraq are more important to the United States than the KRG.
(*)In your opinion, among the Kurdish politicians, who is the most successful player in his role?
Although there are a number of successful Iraqi Kurdish politicians, Barham Salih might be the most successful as he has combined a sense of intelligent and modern governance for the people with the overt backing of the existing leadership, which is now being challenged by Nawshirwan Mustafa’s Change List. In this sense, Barham Salih has not only played a most important and intelligent role in Baghdad as well as the KRG, but he has also done so without challenging what many would see the founding fathers of the KRG. Of course, I am saying this before we know the results of the KRG elections on July 25, 2009, so we will have to await these returns to see what Barham Salih’s future will be.
(*)How you see Kurdish future?
In general, I am cautiously optimistic about the future of the Kurds in general. For the first time in their modern history, the Kurds in Iraq and Turkey at least are cautiously ascending which is the title of my latest book on the Kurds! There are two basic reasons for my cautious optimism. (1). The creation of the KRG in Iraq; and (2). Turkey’s EU candidacy is having the fortuitous side effect of granting that state’s ethnic Kurds their full democratic rights.

Professor Dr. Michael M. Gunter
Tennessee Technological University
to read the Kurdish version click here

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