They were expendable

Joost Hiltermann

  • Sold Out? US Foreign Policy, Iraq, the Kurds and the Cold War by Bryan Gibson
    Palgrave, 256 pp, £65.00, May 2015, ISBN 978 1 349 69552 2

Ever since the fall of the Ottomans, the Kurds have been a non-state nation, an insurgent population split across four sovereign states – Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran. Denied, as they see it, an independent Kurdistan by the cynical manipulations of the French and British colonial powers in the aftermath of the First World War, over the next hundred years they suffered serial and escalating repression: detention, torture and execution; the destruction of villages and bombardment with sundry weapons, including napalm and poison gas; and even – the ruling order’s last resort – genocide, as in the Iraqi regime’s 1988 Anfal counterinsurgency campaign, in which tens of thousands were systematically murdered. Yet every human disaster can be counted as a political step forward in the Kurds’ pursuit of their historical entitlement to statehood. Their recent successes in Syria and Iraq – against Islamic State, and territorially – have been met with considerable sympathy, even romantic idealisation, in the West.

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