WWIII, the Kurdish Question and the Mosul Operation

By Selahattin Erdem

– World War III has also come full circle like WWI, and the spotlight has once again fallen on Mosul. The struggle to determine who will take Mosul after Daesh (Islamic State/IS) and how it will be shared is raging on.

– Turkey is trying with all its might to prevent Kurdish activity in Mosul and make sure that the city falls into the hands of Sunni Arabs. It sees that Daesh is going to be banished from Mosul and wants it to remain under the control of a similar force to Daesh.

The impending ‘Mosul Operation’ is on everyone’s agenda. According to media organs and statements by political circles, the ‘operation to liberate Mosul from Daesh is imminent! The matter of which forces are going to be involved in the operation is without doubt an important one. Why? Because there is not yet an obvious military force that has the capability, nor are there any concrete preparations to rid Mosul of Daesh.

Despite this being the situation and despite Mosul still being in Daesh’ hands, discussions are being waged around who will take over Mosul after them. In fact, the biggest bargain and sharing deal in recent history is being fought over. On one side we have Baghdad, its ally Iran and the Paramilitary Shia Forces allied to Iran. On the other side there is the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) its ally Turkey and Sunni Paramilitary Forces trained by Turkey. And in the middle we have the USA, which is trying to reconcile these forces.

Turkey doesn’t want Kurds in Mosul

The Iraqi administration, within this framework, is trying to get to Turkey to withdraw its soldiers from Bashiqa so that Sunni Paramilitary Forces are left without Turkish support. If they succeed in this and Mosul is taken from Daesh then Shia Arabs will become more influential in the administration of the city. Furthermore, within this environment of conflict the influence of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas will also have the chance of developing and Kurds will also have a say in Mosul’s administration. Which is why the Turkish state does not want the influence of free Kurds in Mosul at at any cost. So much so that it is attacking the Iraqi administration in a manner unheard of before.

The Mosul bargain with Daesh

So, these are the current conditions of the Mosul operation. People are waking up every day thinking the Mosul operation will begin that day and each day that passes makes it clearer that liberating it will not be so easy. So how will Mosul be liberated? At this point the Turkish state and its AKP government come to the fore and their recent aggressive rhetoric becomes more comprehensible. Turkey has shown, with its recent Jarablus practice, that it can take control of Daesh-controlled areas by reaching an agreement with the group. For this reason we can safely assume that those already bargaining over Mosul, believe and trust that the Turkish state can reach an agreement with Daesh to leave the city.

WWIII now depends on the Mosul Question

This is one aspect of the daily discussion around the so-called Mosul operation, but the other more historical aspect is its relation to World War III and the Kurdish question. On going for a quarter century, WWIII has now come to rest on the Mosul Question and by extension the Kurdish question, which is inseparable from it. If we look carefully, we can see that those who are bargaining over who will control Mosul even before it has been saved are also trying to prevent Kurdish participation and influence in the city. This endeavour is being pursued first-hand by Turkish nation-state fascism, whose policy is the denial and eradication of Kurds.

It is important herein to comprehend the Mosul question in all its complexity: its history and contemporary political content and relation to the Mosul operation but also that it is the base of the Kurdish question itself. It is also crucial to remember the significant part Mosul played in ending WWI and its substantial role in making capitalist modernity the global hegemonic system.

How the Mosul war ended

The Kurdish question, as is well known, used to be called the Mosul question. At the beginning of the 20thcentury, Kurds were the majority population in Mosul Province. Despite WWI ending in 1918, the Mosul war did not end until 8 years later in 1926. Although the English administration and Kemalist Movement signed the Lausanne Agreement in 1923 to draw Turkey’s borders, it wasn’t until the 1926 Ankara Agreement that the Turkey-Iraq borders were settled upon. From 1920 to 1926 WWI continued unofficially as the Mosul war.

So how did this war come to an end? The Sheikh Said Rebellion [in 1925] and Turkey’s fear of this played a very significant role. Anxious about the Kurds’ demand for freedom and fearful that Kurds’ developing influence in Mosul would strengthen this, the Turkish administration left Mosul to the English, with who they had been fighting for control. In return the English promised to adopt the Turkish state’s policy of Kurdish denial and eradication and turn Mosul into an Arab Province.

The Arabisation of Mosul

Before this agreement Mosul had been part of the National Pact (Misak-ı Milli) of 1920. The majority population in Mosul was Kurdish and the National Pact had been defined as “lands lived in by Turks and Kurds,” which included Mosul Province. However, because it was afraid of Kurdish freedom and had adopted a strategy to deny and eradicate Kurds, the Turkish state, in return for certain benefits and so that the English would not raise any objections to the Kurdish genocide, gave Mosul to England. In this way the Kurdish genocide policy was cemented and Mosul was turned into Arab lands.

The Arabisation of Mosul was also the ground on which many policies were realised. The changing of demographics was one of these. The division of certain parts of Mosul into other provinces during the formation years of Iraq under English supervision left the Kurds as a minority in Mosul. This is how Kirkuk, Sulaimani, Hewler (Erbil) and Duhok Provinces were formed. Mosul’s lands were divided into smaller provinces to make Kurds a minority in Mosul Province.

Now the focus of WWIII has fallen on Iraq, Syria and Turkey and foregrounded the Kurdish question, which in turn has entered the fray as the Mosul Question. This history is why the Mosul operation has become so prominent and why there is a war over it. The Erdogan regime wants to restore Turkish nation-state fascism on anti-Kurdish foundations and is bargaining for this in Mosul.

Mosul in return for Kurdish genocide

As I mentioned earlier, the Turkish state and Erdogan regime, like previous regimes, is doing everything in its power to prevent Kurdish influence in Mosul. In return for support to carry out the Kurdish genocide and to continue his stay in power Erdogan wants to give Mosul and Daesh to the global capitalist powers led by the USA. For this reason they are trying to make sure that Mosul falls into the hands of Sunni Arabs. On principle Turkey has no problem with Mosul being in Daesh’ hands, but because it sees that the group is going to be ousted, it wants to place Mosul in the control of a similar force that is under its influence.

Therefore an operation to rid Daesh doesn’t really exist. What exists is the bargaining over Mosul in return for a Kurdish genocide. If this bargaining doesn’t break down, then it is the Kurds who are once again going to be the biggest victims of it, like they have for the past 90 years. And amongst the Kurds it is going to be theSouthern Kurds [KRG-Iraq] who are going to suffer the most. If the bargaining over Mosul is completed according to the Turkish state’s wishes then South Kurdistan’s (KRG) current status is going to be impossible to maintain. Primarily the KDP but also all other Southern groups and people need to see this fact and stand against these policies.

Note: The word genocide is used in the widest sense of the term: leaving Kurds without political status and recognition, cultural assimilation, death, persecution and life as sub-humans. (see Halabja massacre, Anfal or Dersim massacre.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.