Dr. Colin S. Gray is Professor of International Politics and Strategic Studies at the University of Reading, England. He worked at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (London) and at the Hudson Institute (Croton-on-Hudson, NY) before founding the National Institute for Public Policy, a defense-oriented think tank in the Washington, DC, area. Dr. Gray served for 5 years in the Ronald Reagan administration on the President’s General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament. He has served as an adviser to both the U.S. and British governments (he has dual citizenship). His government work has included studies of nuclear strategy, arms control, maritime strategy, space strategy, and the use of special forces. Dr. Gray has written 25 books, including: The Sheriff: America’s Defense of the New World Order (University Press of Kentucky, 2004); Another Bloody Century: Future Warfare (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2005); Strategy and History: Essays on Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2006); Fighting Talk: Forty Maxims on War, Peace and Strategy (Potomac Books, 2009); National Security Dilemmas: Challenges and Opportunities (Potomac Books, 2009); The Strategy Bridge: Theory for Practice (Oxford University Press, 2010); War, Peace and International Relations: An Introduction to Strategic History, 2nd Ed. (Routledge, 2011); Airpower for Strategic Effect (Air University Press, 2012); and Perspectives on Strategy (Oxford University Press, 2013), which is the follow-up to Strategy Bridge. Dr. Gray is a graduate of the Universities of Manchester and Oxford.
The below Reuters report describes one of the emerging regional complexities being unleashed by the Syrian civil war. At issue is Syria’s Kurdish Question — yet another legacy of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire that continues to haunt the Middle East and the world after almost 100 years. President Wilson’s reckless promises of nationhood to all minorities in his 14 Points were not fulfilled by the machinations and back room deals of the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919. Today the Kurds, with a population of about 25 million, are the world’s largest ethnic group without a state. But this population sits astride the modern borders Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria, as the map below shows. And so, the Kurdish Question is grounded in the tectonic fault lines of (1) Turkish-Arab-Persian-Kurdish cultures, (2) the shared Fertile Crescent water resources of the Tigris/Euphrates watershed, (3) the larger Sunni-Shia religious schism (most Kurds are Sunni, but some Kurds in Iran are Shia), (4) the wealth and poverty of the northern tier of the Persian Gulf oil basin, and (5) the toxic legacy of Western colonialism (including the Israeli poison pill inserted into the region by an opportunistic then guilt ridden West). In recent years, most of the world’s attention has been focused on the Kurdish subquestions in Turkey and Iraq, and to a lesser extent in Iran (don’t forget the US sellout of the Iraqi Kurds with the help of the Shah of Iran, who had his own Kurdish problem), while Syria’s Kurds have been the most forgotten of these minority questions — but as the attached report shows, the Syrian civil war has unleashed a new dimension to active Kurdish separatism that greatly complicates an already complicated regional situation.
BY ERIKA SOLOMON AND ISABEL COLES
BEIRUT/ARBIL Mon Nov 11, 2013
(Reuters) – With a string of military gains across northeastern Syria, a Kurdish militia is solidifying a geographic and political presence in the war-torn country, posing a dilemma for regional powers.
Long oppressed under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his father before him, Kurds view the civil war as an opportunity to gain the kind of autonomy enjoyed by their ethnic kin in neighboring Iraq.
But their offensive has stirred mixed feelings, globally, regionally and locally, even among some fellow Kurds, who say the Kurdish fighters have drifted into a regional axis supporting Assad, something they deny.