Time for a New Persian Gulf Strategy
The policy of dual containment of Iraq and Iran has run its course, a lack of normal relations with Syria is counterproductive to the Arab-Israeli peace process, and unless we seek an overall solution to the Kurdish problem it could explode in our faces. Continuing this policy that lacks coherence and clear purpose not only undermines our strategic interests in the Middle East, it strains our relationship with our allies both inside and outside the region.
Much has changed in the Middle East since the Iran revolution in 1979 and specifically since sanctions were imposed on Iraq in March 1991, but we have failed to change with time by modifying our policy and approach while remaining true to our ultimate goal. It high time I believe, for the United states to reassess its Persian Gulf policy and develop a new strategy that should have Four clear objectives: First, in the context of trying to find a way to restore the work of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCM) to search and destroy weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq we should focus on undermining Saddam Hussein's hold on power, on the one hand, and alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people by lifting the sanctions against Iraq. Second, to further enhance our strategic interests throughout the region we should lift the sanction against Iran and seek normalize relations between Washington and Tehran based on mutual respect and strategic interests. Third, It is time we normalize relations with Syria by developing a strong bilateral relationship that could not only enhance the Israeli-Syrian peace process but improve our overall strategic interest in the region. Fourth and finally, We can no longer ignore the plight of the Kurdish people. To avoid another major ethnic explosion in the Middle East we should develop a plan that would lead to a solution to the Kurdish problem in their countries of residences.
First, Normalizing Relations With Iran:
Although the anti-American reflex remains powerful among Iran's ultrareligionists and many conservative members in Congress are still haunted by the memory of the U.S. hostages and take the Iranian establishment's abusive language against us at face value, we cannot let hardliners on both sides determine our policy and thereby jeopardize our interests. But based on the presumption that it is up to the clergy to come to grips with U.S. demands, the Clinton administration appears willing to live with the tortoiselike progress that has ensued since Mohammad Khatami's election as President of Iran two years ago. Our government charges that Iran (a) actively seeks to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD); (b) supports terrorism to undermine the interests of the United States and its allies; (c) engages in subversion of governments friendly to the United States; (d) violently opposes the Arab-Israeli peace process, and (e) actively attempts to undermine our presence in the Gulf. There is no question that Iran has previously been guilty to a high degree of all these charges. If we want to hold Iran accountable for past misdeeds, then, probably we should change very little in our current policy of containment and sanctions.
Although much has changed since the Iran revolution in 1979, we have failed to change with time. As instructive as the past may be, we must not rely solely on our prior experience with Iran to chart a future course of action. Changes in Iran have accelerated since Khatami's election as President. The emergence of a vibrant critical press and the formation and free election of city councils, the foundations of participatory democracy, offer only two examples of the reformist movement's gains which, despite some setbacks including the closure of three newspapers, appear to be irreversible. The government too has made significant progress in areas of concern to us. For example, the government has stated that it would accept a peace agreed to by the Palestinians and respect Syria's decision to make peace with Israel under any terms the Syrian government deems acceptable. In addition, Iran has eradicated its poppy crop, an action that led to the removal of its name from the State Department's list of major drug producers. President Khatami has also publically denounced terrorism and condemned the killing of innocent people including Israelis; by all accounts not a single terrorist activity has been attributed to Iran since he came to power.
Moreover, he has spoken repeatedly in support of human rights, and Iran's record in this regard is better than that of most of the Gulf states. On WMD, Iran has now ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, requiring it to provide detailed information about its chemical weapons programs. Further, the government has ratified the Biological Weapons Convention and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which subject Iran to intrusive international verification and inspections. It is important to note, however, that Iran is hardly alone in the race to obtain a sophisticated weapon systems, and any criticism of Iran in this regard should be made in a regional context. In his testimony of June 8, 1999, before the House International Relations Committee, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Martin S. Indyk suggested that we have reciprocated every conciliatory move of Iran: "We fully support the U.N. drug control program's plans to increase its cooperation with, and activities in Iran," he stated, adding, "We also continue to work with Iran in the six-plus-two forum at the United Nations on Afghanistan. We noted with interest Iran's improving relations with the Arab world and supported greater contact between our two peoples. We have streamlined our visa policies and supported academic and athletic exchanges. And we are pleased that Iran has opened its doors to increasing numbers of American visitors–wrestling teams, scholars, graduate students, and museum officials." Indyk also remarked: "President Clinton decided to exempt commercial sales of food, medicines, and medical equipment from future and current sanction regime."
Granted Iran has not met all of our demands, but we must not underestimate the progress that was achieved, a fact we should acknowledge. This progress, I believe, underscores that now is the time for us to abandon a strategy that isolates us rather than Iran; strains our relations with our European allies; undermines our efforts to contain Iraq; excludes us from exporting and investing in Iran while we forfeit the opportunity to explore major oil projects in the Caspian. Our current policy also puts us at odds with Russia over its cooperation with Iran on nuclear weapons and missile technology at the same time that it limits our ability to develop a meaningful dialogue with reform-minded leaders in Iran.
Easing sanctions and encouraging cultural exchanges, as the administration has done over the past few months, is a welcome beginning. But we need to encourage the reform minded movement by pursuing a more aggressive policy of engagement and take unilateral, and concrete steps to demonstrate our change of policy, including formally lifting sanctions and reaching a settlement on Iran's frozen assets in American banks. Such bold actions are critical now especially in view of the fact that in February 2000 Iran will hold parliamentary elections during which a showdown between the reformists and the ultrareligionists is expected. We can strengthen the hands of the reformists by our actions, and the sooner we act, the less we would appear to be meddling in Iran's internal affairs.
On the occasion of his visit to New York for the United Nations General assembly annual meeting in late September I asked Dr. Kamal Kharrazi the Iranian Foreign Minister, since Iran feels the aggrieved party in its relations to the United states, what specific and concrete measures does his government expect us to take to pave the way for normalization of relations? "The list is long," he said, "But in particular the United States should lift the sanctions against us, unfreeze Iranian assets in American Banks, stop interfering in our internal affairs, and cease the practice of penalizing companies that do business with Iran." And in an answer to another question the Minister suggested that "although the Iranian government is not willing to commence a government-to-government formal dialogue with the United States before America meets Iran's basic demands, it is willing to reciprocate to any positive and concrete measure the U.S. takes." It should be noted that, notwithstanding Khatami's efforts or intentions, neither he, nor any other Iranian leader, will be in a position to reverse twenty years of intense anti-Americanism overnight, especially as Iran remains divided between ultrareligionists and reformers. The sanctions against Iran perpetuate the insecurity of the clergy, and no friendly U.S. good will gesture, short of lifting sanctions will restore the confidence. I have yet to speak to a single Iranian, regardless of political affiliation, who does not recognize the clergy's continued sense of vulnerability. "It is an extremely heavy burden to be chastised by the only superpower who can effectively destroy you," one Iranian official confided in me, citing the Gulf War and, more recently, American involvement in Kosovo, an action watched closely by the Iranian regime. Given our power, Iran's only defense against us is defiance. For the clergy, then, continued defiance of the world's only remaining superpower creates a sense of power while serving as a kind of glue cementing the internal cohesiveness of the revolution. Such a belief does not mean that the revolution will unravel once sanctions are lifted. The opposite is, in fact, true. Because Iran considers itself the aggrieved party, lifting of the sanctions will accord the clergy the legitimacy they seem to need and as such provide them with the "sense of victory" that will gradually open the way to normalization of relations between the two nations.
To underscore this point, as one Iranian official at the U.N. told me, "We know how powerful America is, and as long as the sanctions remain in force, we will never be in a position to negotiate from a position of equality. Even though they are no longer effective, only their removal will restore a measure of dignity to our bilateral relations." Honor and dignity loom large in Islamic religion and culture. President Sadat of Egypt would probably never have journeyed to Jerusalem if he had not been handed a political victory by the Nixon Administration in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. By denying Israel total victory and allowing the Egyptian Third Army to remain on the east side of the Suez Canal, Sadat could claim victory. The ability to make this claim permitted him to enter peace negotiations with Israel as an equal.
The dramatic removal of sanctions will create a momentum of its own, leading to formal dialogue between the two governments. Discussions on past mutual grievances, especially the American hostage crisis and the U.S. role in the 1953 coup in Iran, should head the agenda. Dissolving the psychological hangups that these two events precipitated is a critical component in reconciling the differences between the two parties. Finally, to stress the seriousness of these renewed relations, civility must govern public utterances about each other. Although we should adapt such a new strategy regardless of who rules Iraq, for the present the better our relations with Iran–Saddam's sworn enemy–the more vulnerable he will feel.
One of the world's oldest civilizations, Iran sees itself as the center of the universe. Notwithstanding the rhetoric to the contrary, its government must accept that our military presence in the Gulf is not only permanent, but contributes to the stability of the region. Iran must learn to live with us and tolerate our presence in its sphere of influence. But it is up to us to find the modus operandi that will accord Iran the recognition sought so urgently by its clergy. We should not continue in our ad hoc approach nor be guided by the whims of some misinformed members of Congress toward a country with such a vast territory and a population of nearly 70 millions, that also occupies a strategic location with huge oil reserves. We need to also keep in mind that Iran has the largest concentration of Shiat Muslims. It is and it will remain an Islamic state for as long as we can gauge the future because religion, as an institution, is deeply ingrained in the life of every Iranian. The only difference in governing Iran in the future will occur in the extent of the clergy's hold on power. For now their reach permeates every level of Iranian social, political, and economic life, as shown by how easily they quelled the students' reform movement. Certainly, Iran must respond to the lifting of the sanctions by fully adhering to the conventions and treaties that forbid the acquisition and development of WMD, especially nuclear weapons, and by improving its human rights record and supporting the Arab-Israeli peace process. Better relations between Washington and Tehran, however, is an evolutionary process. Only the United States as the dominant power can first change course without losing face.
Second, Establishing A Mew Relationship With Syria:
We need to fully normalize our relations with Syria (another staunch foe of Iraq). Secretary of State Albright's inability during her visit in August to Damascus to persuade President Assad to resume negotiations with Israel stems from America's misunderstanding of his priorities and what he really wants to obtain, other than regaining the Golan Heights, by making peace with Israel. Although Assad has seen the attainment of a Syrian-Israeli peace as a strategic choice, peace, in and of itself, is only part of his strategic calculation. Assad wants a strong and productive bilateral relationship with the United States that must include major economic assistance and normalization of relations.
In the nine years since the Syrians attended the Madrid peace conference, they have nothing to show for their dramatic change of heart about the Arab-Israeli peace process. From their perspective, it is critical to note in this context that Syria has gone through a remarkable transformation during the five decades of its conflict with Israel, moving from being a sworn enemy bent on its destruction to acceptance, accommodation, and now to reconciliation. Syria has been repeatedly told that it could count on the U. S. support of U.N. resolution 242, which calls for the "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict" (1967), in exchange for "the establishment of a just and lasting peace," We have also counseled Assad to be patient and stay the course. Although these reassuring words were offered by former Secretary of State Warren Christopher and then reiterated by Albright and President Clinton, three years of Israel under Natanyahu, effectively shutdown the Israeli-Syrian negotiations. During this period Assad was entirely dependent on Israel's whims and helpless to move the peace process forward. However much Barak may now wish to accelerate the process, Assad needs some sort of "down payment" before he plays the only strong card at his disposal– stipulating the conditions under which Syria will resume negotiations.
Syria wants peace now, not because Assad is ill and frail, or because he wishes to smooth the way for his son Bashar to succeed him. His desire for peace is rooted in Syria's recognition that no viable military option is left for Syria to regain the Golan. Given this reality, Syria has much to gain economically from the United States in the event of peace. That said, whatever the status of Assad's health and the uncertainty surrounding his succession, they do not change Syria's bottom line or timetable. With the choices available to him, he prefers to conclude peace with Israel, but only if the Israelis withdraw to the 4 June 1967 lines and Syria receives a substantial economic package from the United States. Assad, who lost the Golan under his watch, wants to be remembered as the leader who recovered every inch of territory for peace or as the leader who never surrendered a single inch of the national matrimony just to make peace.
It is time for the United States to recognize Syria's transformation, albeit for strategic reasons, for this transformation is the key to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. Guided by our recognition of this fact, we must now depart radically from our previous policy towards Syria. First, we need to publically support Assad's bottom line–full withdrawal for full peace. Second, we should reward Damascus by removing Syria's name from the Department of State's list of countries that sponsor terrorism, thereby opening the way for trade, investments, and so forth, with Syria. That Syria is gearing up to resume negotiations with Israel and has ordered all terrorist groups to cease their anti-Israeli activities provide us with the rationale and the opportunity to justify this step. Third, we can support Syria's desire for a role in regional affairs while recognizing its special status in, and relationship with Lebanon. Fourth, we should normalize our relations with Syria with a promise of major economic assistance following the completion of the peace agreement.
There are those who argue that normalizing relations with Syria prior to establishing peace with Israel will diminish any leverage the United States might have to press Syria to be more flexible on issues deemed critical to Israel such security and normalization. On the surface this may appear to be the case. However in reality Syria has established its bottom line and consistently maintained the same position regarding Israeli full withdrawal to the 4 June 1967. Any limited modification to this line designed to provide Israel a greater territorial depth east of the shores of the Sea of Galilee may have to be compensated by offering Syria an equal parcel of Israeli land so that the Syrian authorities could still claim to have recovered "every inch of territory." I have been told repeatedly by Syrian officials that Syria is willing to show considerable flexibility as long as the Israeli withdrawal is full and no traces of Israeli occupation are left behind particularly an early warning station.
As to the argument that once Syria normalize relations with the United states may become disinclined to make peace with Israel or negotiate in earnest to achieve an equitable peace agreement, this argument too has no merit in reality. Israel will trade the Golan for peace only, and only if it feels that its national security has not been compromised and that adequate security measures have been established in place, including normalization of relations, to prevent unexpected development from threatening its national security in the future. Although Assad wants and needs to normalize relations with the United states, he also wants to recover the Golan. But Assad knows that he cannot recover the Golan through the use of force and there is price to paid for regaining the Golan. Therefore, to suggest that beginning the process of normalization of relations between the United states and Syria prior to achieving an Israeli-Syrian accord would undermine the prospect of an Israeli-Syrian peace is simply untrue.
Probably no other time has existed when direct presidential involvement in the Israeli-Syrian peace efforts was more necessary. Surely, there is political risk for Mr. Clinton if he becomes personally involved in such a difficult and volatile situation. But we can ill afford to let such an opportunity slip by, not only because we risk the heavy investment of resources, time, and energy we have made in the Syrian-Israeli peace process but because of the danger to our overall strategic interests in the region. In addition, Assad knows that President Clinton alone can exert the leverage needed to keep Israel's Prime Minster Barak on track. Moreover, Assad understands that he will not achieve what he wants when he wants to without such direct involvement by the President. Mr. Clinton, therefore, has to decide now if he wishes to achieve a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace to crown his tenure. If so, he must move swiftly to establish the parameters for the resumption of the Israel-Syrian negotiations.
Once normal U.S. relations is developed with Syria and Iran will complete the encirclement of Saddam Hussein by the rest of the countries that surround Iraq and who are friendly with the U.S.–Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait.
Third, Establishing A New Strategy Of Containing Iraq Without Sanctions:
Economic Sanctions Against Iraq are no longer working. It is time for the United States to agree to replace them with a new strategy that will rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein, alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people, and bolster our strategic interests in the Gulf. The danger of having no United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) to search and destroy all weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq far outweighs the benefits that Saddam Hussein may derive from our lifting the sanctions. We must lift the economic sanctions, provided that he agrees to restore UNSCOM inspectors or to a similar arrangement (he has said he would), pay a specific amount (to be determined by the UN Security Council) on a monthly basis to the war reparation compensation fund, and agree not to challenge the no-fly-zone. Meanwhile, we need to develop a long-term strategy designed to squeeze him out of power while enhancing U.S. strategic interests in the Gulf.
Our insistence on maintaining sanctions until Iraq is declared free of WMD, and until we bring about Saddam Hussein's ouster, is no longer a viable policy, if, indeed, it has ever been. Although nine years of sanctions have severely undermined Iraq's economy and crippled its health services, they have not had their desired effect. Rather, the Iraqi leader has kept his people deliberately hungry because this arouses such strong sympathies in the Arab world and elsewhere. I say "deliberately" because U N. resolution 986 authorizes Iraq to sell $5.26 billion in oil every six months. Even though 30 percent of the proceeds is deducted for the Reparation Compensation Fund, the remaining 70 percent is allotted for food and medicine, more than enough to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people if supplies are efficiently and equitably distributed. In addition, Mr. Hussein has had ample opportunity to divert other resources from unauthorized trade and the sale of oil in pursuit of his own agenda.
The ineffectiveness of our policy is illustrated by our response to Iraqi provocations in the no-fly-zone in northern and southern Iraq. U.S. and British pilots have for the past nine months attacked more than 400 targets and fired more than 1,200 missiles in Iraq, about two-thirds the number of missions that NATO flew this spring over Yugoslavia. But Mr. Hussein remains defiant. Through a combination of his people's resiliency and ingenuity to rebuild and his own audacity, Iraq continues to persevere. In sum, there appears to be no end in sight to the war and to the embarrassment of the Clinton Administration.
The result is that Saddam Hussien is as entrenched in power as ever. His defiance of the United States is legendary to millions of Arabs. His stature is in fact rising in the Arab world; Iraq, for example, will chair the next Arab League meeting of Foreign Ministers in Cairo. Moreover, in the absence of UNSCOM, he is free to pursue his WMD program with little or no interference. For these reasons the United States should pursue a new strategy to that would lead to Saddam Hussein's ouster while alleviating the suffering of the Iraqi people and enhance our strategic interest.
First lift the sanction completely because keeping the sanctions in place only provides him with the excuse he needs to use his own people as pawns in his battle to survive. Meanwhile, the sanctions no longer have the full support of all permanent members of the United Nations Security Council; the Western Community is divided over them, pitting France in particular against the United States, and there is a unified outcry from the Arab States to lift them. Scores of countries, including India, Belarus, France, Russia, and China, to name but a few, are standing in line to do business with Iraq. Any plan that offer Iraq a limited relief from sanction for allowing a anew regime of inspection to be expanded subject to Iraqi compliance will meet the same fate that UNSCOM met. Only complete lifting of the sanction would make it possible of the security council to demand an open ended inspection regime which in the short and the long run will prove to be more effective than an inspection regime depended on Mr. Hussein's wits. Moreover, removal of the sanctions will alter the situation dramatically in a way that will allow the United States to focus on a long-term strategy
Second, to oust Saddam Hussein we have to strengthen our position in the Gulf, and to do that we must improve our relations with Iran. Although abandoning our policy of containing Iran is critically important in and of itself to U.S. strategic interests in the Gulf, it is also key to our strategy to undermine his power.(see the section of Iran). Similarly, we have to normalize relations with Syria The normalization of our relations with Syria and Iran will complete the encirclement of Saddam Hussein by countries friendly to the U.S.–Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait. Third, we need to extend full logistical and monetary support along with political organizational expertise to Iraqi opposition groups, especially the Iraqi National Congress. These groups should meet in Iraqi territory (probably in the Kurdish area in the north), under American protection and bolstered by our commitment not to abandon them in any circumstances. The question of whether the United States will deliver should the Iraqi people rise up against their leader looms high among the concerns of all Iraqi opposition groups. We need to provide concrete plans and assurances to alleviate their anxiety. Their past experiences with the United States have not been encouraging; hence their reluctance to throw caution to the wind.
These opposition groups should establish a transitional government with shadow ministries and be prepared to take over the reins in Bagdad. After assuming power they must commit themselves to hold free general elections within one year. Meanwhile, the Iraqi people need to be kept fully abreast of the existence of their shadow government through our information services, such as the Voice of America, augmented to communicate with far greater frequency and reach than at present. The impact of this campaign, if effectively projected, will be tremendous on Iraqi civilians and military alike.
Fourth, To avoid any misunderstanding, we should place Saddam Hussein and the international community on notice about how we will respond if he attacks any of our friends or allies or violates the Kurdish areas in the North or the Shiat areas in the South. I believe that had Saddam Hussein understood how we might have reacted to his design to invade Kuwait he would not have, in all likelihood, ventured into Kuwait in the first pace. It was our ambiguity and lack of resolve at the time that led him to believe that he could get away with such a reckless venture. Sooner rather than later the United States must decide if it is not better and less dangerous for us and our allies in the region to resume inspections without the sanctions than to maintain the sanctions without inspections.
Fourth, The need for a long term strategy to solve the Kurdish problem:
The capture of Abdullah Ocalan offers an unprecedented opportunity to solve the Kurdish problem through political dialogue and human rights reform in the four main countries in which the Kurds live–Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. The United States should develop a long-term strategy to solve the overall Kurdish problem not only because it is the right thing to do, but also to prevent a new and otherwise inevitable Middle East conflagration.
Since World War l the Kurds have struggled unsuccessfully for self-determination or independence. It is time that we restore faith to the more than 38 million Kurds who have continuously suffered indignities and the gross violation of their basic human rights at the hands of their host governments. Among these rights violations were the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussien against his Kurdish minority in Iraq, especially the gas poisoning of entire villages. Turkish authorities have not behaved much better. Human rights abuses, including severe restrictions on free expression, excessive use of force during arrest, torture, and death in detention constitute business as usual in Turkey. The burning of entire villages, when no suspects are arrested or even found, has become a common place in the treatment of Turkish Kurds. Government forces have to date burned more than 2,500 Kurdish villages.
A solution to the Kurdish crisis in Turkey can open the door to an overall solution of the Kurdish problem. To this end the United States must use whatever means at its disposal to press Turkey to change course and respond favorably to the principles enunciated in Ocalan's opening statement to the Turkish court: "We want to give up armed struggle and have full democracy, so that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) can enter the political system. . . . From this moment on, I do not want a single soldier or PKK militant to die." If it seriously wants a resolution to the Kurdish problem, the United States must remain committed to a resolution of the entire problem and not relent in its efforts because of political expediency or fears of treading on Turkish sensitivity. The main reason for pressing for such a solution is simple: The Kurdish problem throughout what used to be called Kurdistan is not going to die natural death. If we wish to avoid another major conflagration in the Middle East, we need to take take the following critical steps:
I. Persuade Turkey not to carry out Ochalan's death sentence. The fate of Ochalan is probably the most critical and immediate issue affecting the prospect of a settlement of the Kurdish crisis in Turkey. His execution simply cannot improve Turkey's position. It will, in fact, diminish, if not eradicate, any goodwill on the part of the PKK to search for a mutually acceptable formula for peaceful settlement. Executing Ocalan will create a martyr, making his followers more determined than ever to fight the injustices of the state. Ocalan alive and in jail can influence his people to give up arms for peace. His execution may offer some comfort to the tens of thousand of grieving family members of those Turks who died because of his militancy. But the death of 30,000 Turks and the loss of $100 billion in fighting the Kurds will all be in vain if the present opportunity is missed. Surely, it is conceivable that another 30,000 soldiers and civilians may die in a desperate campaign that neither side can decisively win. For these reasons Turkey should view Ocalan's capture as a turning point in its struggle with its Kurdish minority. But it is a victory the government can build on only as long as he is alive. If he is executed, Turkey will have squandered its great chance to gain a breakthrough in its long and continuing struggle as his death will pave the way for the inevitable rise of a new Kurdish leader who will in all likelihood resort to more extreme methods to press his people's cause.
2. Exert pressure on Turkey to abolish laws curbing civil liberties. The Kurdish problem began with the birth of Turkish Republic itself, when it established a single Turkish identity for the national Muslim population. As Muslims, Turkey's 12 million Kurds were denied the same cultural rights granted to other minorities, such as, the Jews, Armenians, and Greeks. According to Amnesty International, the State Department and the U.N. Committee on Torture, the Turkish government has often resorted to summary executions and torture. "A tragedy of the human race is going on," said Yasar Kemal, Turkey's best known novelist, "and nobody– neither the U.S. nor Europe pays any attention." Systematic denial of the Kurds' basic human rights and the deliberate policy of discrimination preventing them from sustaining their traditional way of life, gave rise to a resistence movement known as the PKK. For more than fifteen years the PKK led by Ochalan has engaged in violent activities against Turkish targets, causing havoc and tremendous human and material losses. For the Turks to negotiate with the enemy they have been fighting so fiercely for fifteen years would understandably be extremely difficult, given the agony of the loses sustained at the hands of PKK. But then all Turks must honestly ask themselves this question: Is it realistic, or even desirable, to force the Kurds to submission, and erase by brute force their cultural identity when all they seek is to hold onto their cultural heritage and live freely within the Turkish community? The clear but painful answer is surely, "No." It follows that the Turks must finally recognize that the Kurds are a separate and distinct people and that denying them there identity galvanizes rather than weakens Kurdish resolve.
Only ten years ago no one, except a handful, would have dared to suggest that after four decades of intense enmity and bloodshed that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people Israel and the Arab States would gradually make peace. Like some leading Turks today, in relation to the Kurds, Israel's former Prime Minister Golda Meir denied that there was such a people called the Palestinians with a separate identity. But the Palestinians existed, they have fought for and won international recognition regardless of Golda Meir's denial. Their rightful place as a separate people within the community of nations is being established because both Israel and the Palestinians have finally concluded that the alternative to accommodation and reconciliation is too disastrous to contemplate. The Kurdish situation is no less ominous. Unlike the Palestinians, even though the Turkish Kurds have separate identity they are not seeking independence but equal access and equal rights. Turkey must understand that even if it successfully suppresses the Kurdish movement, the next generation of Kurds will rise up. This is why the Turks must now move towards giving the Kurds the opportunity to live their lives in freedom within the Turkish Republic. The government to this end needs to recognize that paying lip service to human rights is not enough. Its Islamic affiliation notwithstanding, Turkey, if it wants be admitted to the European Union, must first demonstrate in words and deeds a commitment to human rights, an issue taken very seriously by the European community. Moreover, Turkey must begin to understand how a policy of inclusion that acknowledges the rights of its Kurdish minority strengthens, rather than weakens, the state.
The Turkish Republic can put itself on a peaceful course when it faces these truths and begins building confidence in civil organizations, encourages the development of democratic institutions, and establishes a fair judiciary to make Turkey an open society. The army–the custodian of Turkey as a secular democratic state–has yet to recognize that neither the state, on whose behalf it is acting, nor the military itself has any future if the army turns against its own people. The announcement by the PKK of a cease-fire and its readiness to convert the PKK from a movement involved in guerrilla warfare to one focused on political struggle should be seized upon. The army especially should consider this development as a major triumph and be magnanimous in victory.
3. Take a public position on the Kurdish problem. The United States has usually voiced its criticism of Turkey in private. This strategy, we need to admit, has proved ineffective. True, Turkey is an extremely important ally, as a NATO member and because of its strategic location and its role in regional security. The United States, however, must not hesitate to speak out loud and clear about the need for Turkey to start a new era of reconciliation with its Kurdish minorities wherever they reside. What other options are available? If the United States does not resort to public diplomacy to exert pressure, no other country will step in to replace us. Although quiet diplomacy through official channels has its uses, we need to create international awareness of the plight of the Kurdish people, for the last seventy-five years. How many, for example, know that the Treaty of Severs, signed with the defeated Ottoman Empire in 1920, allowed for the creation of an independent Kurdish state. Following the defeat of the Greek army by the forces of Kamal Ataturk, who consolidated the Turkish state, the Treaty of Severs was replaced with the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. The new treaty completely ignored the issue of Kurdish independence. The United States must press the Kurdish cause, not simply because we have a moral obligation to do so, but because our strategic interests demand that we find an all-encompassing solution to the Kurdish problem. To do otherwise is to let political expediency win out over a sound long-term strategy to avert a disaster in the making, a decision bound to return to haunt us.
4. The states-plus-nations framework solution. It is unlikely that any of the states where the Kurds reside is willing to relinquish a single inch of territory to satisfy Kurdish national aspirations for an independent state–a concept that only a few Kurds take seriously anyway. Although Kurds from all continents are planing to create a National Congress of Kurdistan– representing every Kurdish faction–to protect Kurdish culture and interests, there are no plans or any driving force to establish the state of Kurdistan. The Kurds themselves will probably not unite and rally behind a single leader. Blind ambition, greed, and the thirst for power seem to insure that factionalism and intense rivalry will remain a Kurdish reality for some time. The danger of a Kurdish explosion, however, lies not in their inability to attain statehood and reestablish Kurdistan, but in the substandard conditions and discriminatory treatment of the Kurds in their countries of residence. That is why the focus of a new strategic policy should be on resolving the Kurdish problem on a country-by-country basis and in the process seeking solutions consistent with the special conditions that exist in each country.
The states-plus nation, a concept that was advanced by Gidon Gottlieb as way by which some ethnic conflict may be resolved may be applicable to the Kurdish problem even though it may initially seem a far-fetched. Considering the adversarial relations between the main players in the Kurdish equation, that is, between Syria and Iraq, Iraq and Iran, Iran and Turkey, and Turkey and Syria,. nevertheless, we now have a golden opportunity to place the Kurdish problem on the international stage. First, we need to persuade Turkey to reach an agreement with its Kurdish minority. Second, we must court Syria and Iran, two of the key players in the overall Kurdish local and regional stage to act constructively. Third, we must push to institutionalize Kurdish autonomy in Iraq through a new constitution to be created in the post-Saddam period, (see the section of Iraq). One other piece we need to put in place to is improve relations between Syria, Iran, and the United States.
The idea behind the states-plus-nation solution is to offer the Kurdish communities autonomous rule in four countries where they reside–Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Iran, without violating the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of these nations. As such, the Kurds will continue to live in their own historical homeland, and exercise the freedom and rights accorded to other minorities– speak their language, run their own schools, listen to their own music, and celebrate their own holidays. They will preserve their national identity and national rights within functional spaces and zones in the four states. All four states have until now cooperated in one form or another to prevent the Kurds from establishing an independent state and acted to suppress the notion of autonomous rule that could lead to independence. The problem, as this suggests, is multiple and so cannot be dealt with without a major shift of policy based on the recognition that there is both a local (in each of the four countries) and a regional Kurdish problem. Would it be possible for Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey to work in concert in the search for an overall solution? Given the prevailing geopolitical conditions, the socio-political environment within the Kurds, and the lack of international support for Kurdish independence, I think such cooperation is possible. Moreover, the states-plus-nation solution will be based on an agreed-upon political and economic framework among the parties involved that carefully spells out the scope and the limitations of this arrangement leaving no room for a serious breach. Finally, if the agreement is fair and equitable, and one to which all parties freely subscribe, they will have every incentive to maintain it. Thus, the new framework will preserve the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of each state while permitting the Kurds to enjoy the rights of mobility and free association.
No one really believed that Israel, the Arab states, and the Palestinians would send a delegation to Madrid for a peace conference in 1991. But all did because the Bush administration recognized that a window of opportunity had opened in the aftermath of the Gulf War. These countries and the Palestinians also realized that in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union there was only one superpower that they could turn to–the United States. The capture of Ocalan offers a similar opportunity. The Clinton administration should seize it to develop a Kurdish strategy that leads to a permanent solution.
The resolution to the Kurdish problem, like the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, may take years. More open societies in Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Turkey will certainly greatly help. The process, nevertheless, should start now. A change of government in Iraq, a more moderate clergy in Iran, a Syria at peace with Israel, and a Turkey at peace with itself will contribute significantly to that end. The fact that Turkey is a frontline state for American and Western security interests and is a member of NATO situated in the most volatile region, makes it particularly critical for the U.S. to be directly involved in ending the Kurdish problem. Without an alternate solution, Turkey's inability to crush the rebelliousness, will only "force the government with presumed justification" to continue with its repression. The decade old strategy of systematic repression did nothing but breed more resistance resulting in a vicious cycle of violence and unspeakable human rights abuses. The most dangerous consequence of these acts is that hundreds of thousands of Kurds are pushed into joining the ranks of the Welfare Party – an Islamic fundamentalist faction. In the 1994 elections the Welfare Party captured 19.3 percent of the popular vote while winning the mayoralties of Ankara, Istanbul and 29 other major towns along with 400 smaller ones. It is ironic that Turkey, as a secular and democratic state which casts itself as a buffer and as a bulwark against revolutionary Islam, is itself threatened by Islamists.
If Turkey chooses to remain secular and democratic and build closer economic ties with the European union, it must offer its substantial Kurdish minority of 12 million full autonomous rule. The Kurds are entitled to live their lives as they see fit as long as Turkey's territorial integrity is not compromised.
The establishment of an "independent" national Kurdish entity in Iraq following the Gulf War owes much of its continuing existence on Turkish goodwill. A similar arrangement of a soft functional space for the Iraqi Kurds based on the states-plus-nations framework will be consistent with their special relations with Turkey. Once the allied protection comes to an end, this arrangement will be more likely accepted by current or future Iraqi regimes as long as the Kurds do not challenge the unity of Iraq as a state. In Iran and to a much lesser extent in Syria, where the Kurds are subject to a less pronounced repressive rule they will find the concept of the states-plus- nation attractive once the relations between Iraq-Iraq and Iraq-Syria improve. The Kurdish issue is very delicate for the U.S. which finds Turkey- an important strategic ally – objecting to giving the Kurds more control over their own affairs. The U.S., however, cannot afford to shirk its responsibilities. The Clinton Administration must use its influence to moderate Turkey's behavior and warn Ankara about the risks involved should the Kurdish problem be allowed to fester.
Offering an expanded self-rule to the Kurds will free the Turkish government to focus on its economic and political problems and blunt the growth of the Islamic fundamentalist groups. Otherwise the government will continue to fight an aimless war against the Kurds which only strengthens the Islamists and permanently tarnish Turkey's secular and democratic foundation to its own detriment and that of its allies.
Fifth, The indispensable role of United States. Never in the history of mankind has a country possessed such a great capacity for good or evil as the United States has today. And not since the Roman empire has a single country been able to wield such powers globally. Having emerged the ultimate victor from the ashes of World War II., the United states could have chosen to crown itself as the world hegemon and subject other nations to its imperialist design, or adopt a strategy of inclusion linking its own well being to the well being of other nations. We have chosen the later and developed the conviction that American freedom and human rights cannot be secure unless freedom and the right of the individual is spread everywhere, that American prosperity depends on global prosperity, and that our national security is connected to international security. Its this view of ourselves and the world which provides the foundation for American "hegemony" and the framework by which we project our power. Translated into policy, this conviction also sets us apart from past empires, such as the Ottoman, British, German and the Soviet and might also shield us from meeting their fate. However American position is assessed by the detractors or supporters of our supremacy, no one dispute a number facts about America's status– that America is the most powerful nation militarily, the most prosperous economically, and is by far the world's leader in soft power because of its technological advancement and unsurpassed ability to collect, process disseminate and act upon information.
1. Leadership require moral authority. Support democracy and human rights: To live up to these responsibilities we must act with a moral authority. Moral authority, however, is not bestowed but earned. which we can earn only if we remain consistent with and act by a certain moral standards. We are often criticized because we do not seem to apply the same moral standard in dealing with what may appear equally compelling situations. We can explain why we went to Bosnia, Kosovo, or why we chased Saddam Hussien out of Kuwait but how do we explain why we did nothing to stop the genocide in Rwanda, or end the senseless civil war in the Sudan. We need not to apologize when, at times, we must act inescapably in a situation where our national interests are intertwined with our moral commitment to friends and allies, such as Kuwait, we must be bold enough and flexible enough to change our policy when such policy is clearly leading to a dead. The policy of dual containment of Iran and Iraq falls squarely in this category. We cannot experiment, for example, with the future security and well being of, Saudi Arabia, Israel, or Jordan. We must always be clear about our intentions so that friends and adversaries know what to expect. Our resolve to act should never be in doubt.
2.Balancing unilateral strategic interests with our global responsibility. Perhaps unlike many other countries, we do have national and strategic interests around the globe that drive our policies. By emerging, however, as the only superpower, in the wake of the demise of the Soviet Union, we inherited a far greater global responsibility than before.
3. Protecting the security of our friends and allies. has a moral responsibility to safeguard the security of its allies and friends in the Middle East as well as its own vital strategic national interests in the region.
4. Actively helping in building a more prosperous world with American values
5. Working with other powers and international organizations to develop a more stable world order.