Report from Paris: The Kurdish Conference

by Sami Zubaida
published in MER163

“There’s not much talk about the Kurds because we have never taken any hostages, never hijacked a plane. But I am proud of this.” So wrote Abd al-Rahman Qassemlou, the Iranian Kurdish leader who was assassinated in Vienna last July. The Kurdish Institute of Paris and France-Libertes, a human rights foundation sponsored by Danielle Mitterand, organized a conference in Paris October 14-15, 1989, precisely to remedy the cynical international neglect of the Kurdish question. Some French government quarters clearly had misgivings, particularly concerning the impact on relations with Iraq. A measure of French sensitivity and Iraqi pressure was an attempt to introduce into the conference the president of Iraq’s so-called Kurdish Autonomy Zone.

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Culture, a Weapon System on the Wane

by Rochelle Davis
published in MER264

The concept of “culture” took on new life in US military strategy in 2006. At the time of the US invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, cultural knowledge and training played no role in US military calculations; it was simply not part of the vocabulary of war. Culture became an official element of the US military’s arsenal with the 2006 publication of Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency, referred to colloquially as “the COIN manual.” Under the COIN rubric, cultural knowledge functions as a tactical asset for troops and military strategists.

In Between, Fragmented and Disoriented

Art Making in Iraq

by Nada Shabout
published in MER263

It is argued that the celebrated Arab protest movements have changed the path of visual arts in the region. Headlines predict that art inspired by the uprisings will be freer and more critical. Artists have partaken in the displays of mass dissent, demonstrating in the streets and protesting further through their work. Inflated claims notwithstanding, and despite unfulfilled hopes, the protests have indeed directed welcome attention to art scenes in Arab cities. Change, many still hope, is finally possible.

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Human Rights Briefing

by Ömer Karasapan
published in MER168

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Washington Watch

by Fred H. Lawson
published in MER168

House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Lee Hamilton (D-IN) offered the first criticism by a Washington insider of the Bush administration’s handling of the Gulf crisis when, on September 18, 1990, he blamed Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs John Kelly for not sending a firm signal to Iraq that the United States would come to the defense of Kuwait if it were attacked. Kelly had told the committee two days before the Iraqi invasion that the US had no formal commitment to protect Kuwait from outside threats.

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Syrian Kurdish Cards

by Denise Natali | published March 20, 2012

Upheaval in Syria has given Kurdish groups new opportunities to advance their nationalist agendas while serving as proxies for neighboring states. In Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK has taken advantage of the rift between the regime of Bashar al-Asad and the Turkish government by turning to the former to help it launch its armed operations. In Iraq, after some delay, Kurdish elites have entered Syrian opposition politics as well, highlighting the ironies and internal tensions of their own position. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is keen to persuade Turkey, its key regional patron, that it can contain the PKK elements based in Iraqi territory and moderate Syrian Kurdish demands, while also assuring its Kurdish brethren that it will support their claims. And in Syria itself, Kurds have created the Kurdish National Council in parallel to the main opposition body, the Syrian National Council (SNC) -- a reaction to the possibility that the SNC will morph into a successor regime led by Muslim Brothers under Turkish influence.

Khalil, Republic of Fear

by Peter Sluglett
published in MER167

Samir al-Khalil, Republic of Fear: Saddam’s Iraq (California Press, 1989).

This book, first published a year ago at a time when -- with a few honorable exceptions -- most criticism of Iraq and its president was strangely muted, is a sophisticated and brilliantly savage denunciation of Arab populist politics, a politics of hate, lies, fantasy, brutality and despair. It shows how the larynx becomes a people’s mind, its consciousness and the mainspring of its action, how individuals are suborned, coerced, made instruments, stripped of will and dignity.

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Iraq Since 1986: The Strengthening of Saddam

by Marion Farouk-Sluglett , Peter Sluglett
published in MER167

In June 1986, we wrote that the situation in which Iraq found itself “underlines the vital need for the establishment of democracy...however broadly this may be defined.” Four years later, this plea has become more urgent; the regime has become even more powerful and repressive and has now extended its rule to Kuwait, initiating a crisis whose possible consequences for the region, if not the world, are fearful to contemplate.

Continuity and Change in Soviet Policy

The Gulf Crisis and the Islamic Dimension

by Alain Gresh
published in MER167

The day after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and US Secretary of State James Baker announced what they termed “an unusual step.” They issued a communique “jointly urging the international community to join them and suspend all supplies of arms to Iraq on an international scale.” The Gulf crisis, the first major post-Cold War international crisis, provides a concrete measure of changing Soviet strategy in the Third World. While Soviet policy can be explained in large part by a desire to maintain good relations with the United States, one cannot disregard, in the short or the long run, the weight of Moscow’s relations with the Middle East and how they affect its strategy and tactics in the region.

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Why War?

Background to the Crisis

by Joe Stork , Ann Lesch
published in MER167

Since August 5, 1990, we have seen the most extensive and rapid US military mobilization since the end of World War II. As of early October, more than 200,000 US troops in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf region are drawing combat pay. President Bush declares this deployment was necessary to defend Saudi Arabia, but the size and composition of the US forces clearly pose a threat of offensive military action against Iraq.

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