Dozens of people from Kirkuk protested outside the US Consulate in Erbil on October 21, against the Iraqi army incursion into their city. Photo: Rudaw
Yes, Kurds felt abandoned and betrayed when the Iraqi army and militia groups attacked in mid-October, but I don’t think it is fair to only blame the United States. Some of the blame, or in fact most of it, must be put on Europe. They too had a moral obligation to stand by the Kurds. It is not in any universal constitution that only America should come to the rescue of others.
Europe has more at stake in Kurdish losses than the United States does. Had the Iraqi forces succeeded in entering the Kurdistan Region at least a million people would have become refugees and headed straight to Europe. Many of those internally displaced Iraqis, too, would have left the camps and joined the influx.
Europe is closer to the epicenter of Middle East events, including the Kurdish question in Iraq, and therefore any political disaster would affect them directly and in ways that may never affect America. Yet Europe continues to fail to act and asks the United States for help. And in most cases when the US does something they jump in with a long list of criticism and condemnation.
The Europeans are closer to the Kurds geographically. With many Kurds living in Europe and Europeans being in this part of the world for decades they are aware of the grievances and aspirations of the Kurds more than America is.
Why should the United States always be the one to intervene and do something? Europe too, especially France, Britain and Germany consider themselves world leaders and have the weapons, military, manpower and political and economic clout to do good.
The United States may be accused in some cases of indifference, as is now under Donald Trump. But at least in the case of the US business deals and money hasn’t always been at the center of politics as it is with the Europeans.
Europeans render their own democracy and rights of nations hollow as soon as they see a chance for selling cars or planes or the renovation of an oil refinery in the Middle East.
Europeans have a bigger share in the economic, political and social problems of this region. They were the ones drawing the maps of the Middle East and propping up dictators. They should not evade responsibility and rely on America to fix things.
When the Kurds of Iraq faced the terrifying prospect of losing everything to an advancing Iraqi army and militia groups last month, there wasn’t so much as a hiss of protest from Europe. They would have certainly held emergency meetings in Brussels if a million Kurdish refugees had shown up at their gates. And now with Kurdistan Region’s airports shut and new economic sanctions imposed almost on a daily basis Europe’s radio silence continues. Closing airports and banks and borders is as much about human rights as economics.
The Europeans betrayed the Kurds last month more than the United States did. The betrayal was not their failure to stop the Iraqi aggression. It was rather their rhetoric about freedoms and people’s right to choose their future, which somehow still manages to fool generations of oppressed people around the world.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.