We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Future of Kurdistan

Major challenges for the Kurds: The world's largest ethnic group without its own country sitting in a region resembling pre-World War 1 Europe and United States winding down its global oil based empire due to becoming energy independent.

Poor Kurds. Living in an era that requires novel supranational construction and deepening international cooperation on regional, continental, and global levels (to make up for US built global system unwinding over the next 20 years as American elites attempt to gradually socioeconomically re-organize and re-industrialize without a major collapse).

Poor Kurds. No country for them even when tiny Scotland is about to vote on political independence (not just autonomy) while remaining within continental framework of nations. And even Spain's Catalonia is moving in this direction.

Poor Kurds. Kurdistan sort of looks like Poland of the Middle East (pre-1914 once again), partitioned yet with potential for large expenditure of human herd energy if unified. Pre- 2003 invasion political structures in Iraqi Kurdistan for instance were more futuristic and advanced than those in Baghdad itself. A key component of solid nationalism is not only belief in uniqueness and belief in gently superior functionality of the ethnic group's way of life but actuality of this functional superiority. Even their insurgent groups and banned parties seem a bit futuristic. It is interesting that the most effective pan-Kurdish political party in the region, PKK, is secular and socialistic in nature (at a glance, like a more effective Baath party which explains why it was less tolerable for them to live under a regime perceived as less civilized). Let's go further with gently tongue in cheek analogies: If Poland is also the Ireland of central Europe (Catholic and long under the boot of fellow white skinned oppressors) then Kurds are a bit like their Gaelic cousins as well as their Polish cousins (even the supposedly more "primitive" mountain Kurds in Eastern Turkey compared to their Turkish overlords in Istanbul got that highlander thing going).

But let's get serious.

click to enlarge and read the pure madness
Unlike with say, Western Ukrainians, there was never an attempt by a regional power to artificially bolster Kurdish nationalism at any point (Soviets for instance even created alphabets for some people in central Asia to create artificial nationalisms for political reasons). This desire for a Kurdish nation is primordial and real. It is not postmodern economic nationalism as it is with the above mentioned Scottish case, as seen with some Northern Italians, or as was the case with Bellorussians seceding in the early 1990s. It is genuine nationalism born from centuries of struggle and many partial victories.

Poor Kurds. Having higher birthrates in Turkey than Turks themselves and expanding their share of the population (from over 15% in 2000 to over 18% today) yet having their activists and journalists taught the meaning of freedom in the crudest of ways. As Slavoj Zizek points out in the passage to the left.

And even for those Kurds outside Turkey (whose fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers haven't repeatedly fought Istanbul), there is a danger that Syria will soon disintegrate into Libyan style enclave chaos resulting in former Syrian territory coming under Turkish sphere of influence if not outright partial occupation. The new post-Kemalist neoliberal Turkish regime of Erdogan is even more abrasive in its belligerence in many ways due to being new and growing. Turkey has been rivaling Saudi Arabia in human rights abuses recently which we don't hear about it due to it being a NATO member. As American imperial perimeter continues to shrink and controlled chaos destabilization wars of Obama are left lit, we should see Istanbul begin to really flex its muscles for the first time in a long while (we see the start of this in Istanbul's slightly more abrasive tone with Israel and its adventure in Syria). This should rattle Kurdish nerves throughout the region. If Assad's very multicultural regime is to survive in some form, it may depend on Kurdish cooperation.

A More Rational Middle Eastern Map?

Once oil and gas from oil/fracking becomes plentiful and cheap (there is roughly 7 times more oil and frack gas in the world than of current traditional deposits and technology to extract it gets better and cheaper by the day), lots of monarchies in the Middle East are likely to get replaced by republican forms of government due to instability. The Pragmatist has done a very in depth article when it comes to oil price and its relation to violence when it comes to Iraq. The hereditary mafias of various Middle Eastern kingdoms left behind as British-American proxies during the Cold War will be in for a rude awakening (especially considering half their populations are borderline slave migrants). Shale oil stands to lower price of oil to as little as $50 per barrel (in today's dollars) before 2020s (with US and primarily Texas as the epicenter of this revolution). Gas price may dramatically tumble even further as US becomes LNG exporter again.

These developments in energy markets should allow pan-Arabism to re-emerge as a way out of the crisis and for construction of a pan-Arab economic union as a supranational device for regional economic survival and instability management. Once solar, small modular fission reactors, and thorium reactors come online and Middle Eastern budgets completely messed with, we should see remnants of regional monarchic absolutism end fully. Frankly speaking, tourism to medieval anti-social libertarian destinations wont save the various chubby "princes" and "kings". The list of tangible demands that The Pragmatist offered to the Middle Eastern protesters should have included Republicanism.

What does this do to the map of the Middle East?

The end of Jordanian monarchy may make Jordan the true center of a Palestinian state considering the roughly 2 million Palestinians residing there and the multiculturalism of the kingdom. If Gaza isn't swallowed up by Egypt, Jordanian territory with remnants of West Bank should provide more than enough resources for a functional Palestinian nation with Gaza being a sort of Kaliningrad-esque exclave (Gazans should really look at vertical farming tech).

But the Kurds?

Return of Pan-Arabism when it comes to construction of a regional economic union does not interfere with emergence of Kurdistan too much. Arab on Kurd clashes occur on periphery of the Arab world and it is the Persians and the Turks who will have to deal with the Kurdish question most fully.

Kurds are on the periphery of the Arab world and
future Pan-Arab economic unions. They also
partially straddle the Shiite-Sunni border 
Iraq's future is in jeopardy since its intelligentsia has fled, since Baghdad has been ethnically cleansed of Sunni and Ba'ath remnants, and since Iraqi Kurdistan is autonomous enough to have provided a political safe haven for an Iraqi Sunni vice-president who fled a death sentence made by the current Iraqi ruler, prime minister Nouri al-Maliki (leader of a former insurgent organization that sided with Iran during Iraq-Iran war[!]). This means that the only thing preventing Iraqi Kurdistan from declaring full independence is unsettled questions over the oil spoils on Iraqi soil and of course fears over a military alliance of Baghdad and Istanbul to co-invade and re-integrate Northern Iraq in the manner that Saddam Hussein would be proud of.

Don't think that such things don't happen. Recently, an Arab Spring spill over revolt in Bahrain by Shiites was brutally crushed by Bahraini government with tanks sold to it by Germany. With US leaving the region (some of the more radical artificially created "fiscal cliff" solutions involve up to 30% closures for American military bases abroad), we'll see major regional players taking matters into their own hands regardless of what the American powered "West" thinks. Iraq may survive though, language is stronger than religion and Iraq is mostly Arab even if it's dominated by Shiite Arabs. Thus Iraq is the fuzzy border zone where Pan-Arabism ends much like Ukraine is the fuzzy borderzone where Russia sort of ends. Persians and Turks face two difficult options.


Kurdish flag.. Got a cool sun in the center
1) Create a very complicated and sophisticated 21st century pan-Islamic (including all Islamic branches) economic zone that extends influence into Turk and Persian language influenced Central Asia. Turkey is 20% Shiite and Turkish-Iranian cooperation would allow a major counterbalance to re-emergence of Pan-Arab structures if it also takes Kurds into account as relevant players. Kurds have a strong Sufi representation although most are Sunni. This option means keeping Kurdistan fragmented yet with Kurds receiving more cultural and economic rights and advantages. Some pan-Islamic understanding will be necessary anyway for regional stability. For either Istanbul or Tehran to press for cooperation based on it should provide prestige and political magnetism. Just like Europe from Ireland to the Urals has a unifying Christian heritage, policy makers in Middle East and Central Asia (who are all secular hedonists like any intelligent person) will have to reach a similar understanding. Even under rapid, inevitable, Internet led secularization (individualism building "corruption") of the younger people, Pan-Islamism is still a tool to co-opt conservative Muslim groups.  [This option is also ridiculously optimistic pie in the sky given Turkish-Israeli-American cooperation for a long time preventing Turk-Persian cooperation and considering residual imperial influences from US, Russia, China, Europe, etc. and human nature. There is also the issue of secular reversals in the name of stability.]

2) Shrink as nation states and give up any efforts at securing imperial regional "depth" and growth in the vacuum created by absence of Anglo-American forces. This means allowing Kurdistan to exist in greater and more tangible form, parting with parts of territory, and allowing Chinese and/or Russians to become the new diplomatic mediators in the region. This option is a rather involuntary one forced upon Istanbul and Tehran by economic necessity, level of Kurdish resistance, and outside pressure. [In the end, giving up imperial pretensions may allow Persian and Turkish people to have dramatically higher standards of living IF this reduces violence in the region or conversely if reduction in level of violence makes giving up imperial pretensions/territorial control more palatable.]

In the end, Beijing and Moscow will be key players in deciding how Tehran and Istanbul acts towards the Kurds (and correspondingly, how Baghdad and Damascus acts). SCO nations do sufficient levels of business with both capitals and will be left to clean up Washington's mess for years to come (in 2009 I speculated about the Afghan war being an integrative welfare life support system for the obsolete NATO structure). Although Washington's attempts to destabilize the region (if they cannot control it) may create a temporary brain drain beneficial to the West, there should be enough brains left to create a more permanent and indigenous regional security structure and to neutralize Islamic radicalism from spreading (just as it was in 1990s following Soviet defeat in Afghanistan).

Poor Kurds. Or maybe in the future, Cool Kurds? (can't believe the analysis is ended like that)

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