Time to play politics

How have we been so badly outmanoeuvred? Why is it that two of the west's staunchest friends in the middle east - Turkey and the Kurdish states of Iraq - are on the point of war? And why is the US Congress taking action which seems timed to worsen the situation?

The answer is simple. We aren't playing politics effectively. Kurds in Turkey are not well treated, and the Kurds in Iraq would like to help them. It is not hard to see why. But the Kurds in Turkey are much freer than Kurds in Syria or Iran. If Iraqi Kurdistan is to be used as a base to stir up trouble among Kurds in other countries, it could be far better directed than towards Turkey.

There is, for example, no immediate prospect of success in Turkey. Syria, by contrast, is a struggling dictatorship.

Turkey is no threat to the freedom of Kurds in Iraq. Syria and Iran both sponsor terrorism in Iraq.

If the Kurds want to hang on to the levels of self-determination they have and bring freedom to a greater number of Kurds, they would be best off focussing on Syria for the moment, and Iran next. The way to stop Syria and Iran interfering in Iraq is to retaliate. Support anti-government forces in both countries with guns and dollars. Begging them to stop punching us is not going to work. Punching back will.

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