There is no such thing as a heartless “good cause”

(To be published in Arabic for Arabi21)

Walking in the streets of Istanbul, I am frequently greeted by strangers with “as-Salaamu ‘alaikum” as they pass.  If you go outside with small children, you very quickly realize that Turks assume a sense of collective responsibility for them.  You will never lose a mitten or a baby shoe, because inevitably someone will notice that it has been dropped, and either tell you, or bring it to you.  Exclamations of “masha’Allah” come from passersby as they dote over your babies, whether old men, women in flowing abayas, or girls in t-shirts and jeans.

I have lived in the Muslim world for a third of my life, and been in many Muslim countries, and I have never seen a society that is as fundamentally decent as Turkey.

Last night a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a stadium in Taksim, Istanbul, followed in less than a minute by a second blast; nearly 30 people were killed, and 166 injured.

Whenever something like this happens, I always find myself thinking about what both the victims and the perpetrator were doing a few hours before; they woke up, dressed, ate, talked to friends and family, laughed, noticed things, had thoughts, feelings. It does my head in. Someone they made smile in the morning was screaming about them a few hours later, weeping, praying for their safety.

And whoever carried out the attack; were there not hundreds of things permeating his senses that should have made him change his mind? Things that should have awakened his reason, his human compassion, his desire for another path in life?  How can you believe your “cause” is right (whatever it is), if you have to shut these things off in your heart and mind, or in the hearts and minds of your followers and supporters?  If you are right, why do you have to brainwash anyone and dehumanize them so much that they dehumanize others?

As of my writing this, no one has claimed responsibility for last night’s attack.  The usual suspects, of course, will be the PKK, Da’esh, or the radical communists.  They take turns knowingly or unknowingly serving the West’s agenda to destabilize Turkey.  They have proved to be incapable of noticing that these tactics have never positively benefited their own “causes”, and never will.

These groups, and I think, the West, have not understood the greatest lesson from the July 15th coup attempt.  The Turks assume a sense of collective responsibility for their society; just as they do for small children in the street.  Whatever differences some may have politically with the government, they are generally unified when it comes to the country’s stability.  Any opposition group should learn from this.

When any group resorts to dramatic acts of violence, it revels their weakness and their inability to convince anyone to support their objectives; it is an attempt to blast their way out of the margins, but it just marginalizes them even more.  If you want your cause to succeed, you cannot do it by a process of dehumanization.  You need to build connections between your group and the general public, not sever them.  Help them, don’t harm them.  Empathize, don’t dehumanize.  Don’t turn your group into cold-hearted, brainwashed automatons serving their leaders; but rather compassionate, intelligent servants of the community. And if you cannot do that without it detracting from your “cause”, then you should recognize that your “cause” is wrong.

Blood in, blood out: you don’t get to just walk away from neoliberalism


(To be published in Arabic for Arabi21)

When the AK Party came to office in Turkey under the leadership of Recip Tayyip Erdogan in 2003, they inherited a government obligated to repay over $20 billion in debt to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and other major international lenders.  The loans had been acquired largely by the former government’s economic minister Kemal Dervish (who had previously worked for the World Bank), and Dervish had put together a “National Plan” for restructuring Turkey’s economy to enable the government to service these loans.  Dervish’s plan was a classic neoliberal formula; the standard macroeconomic structural reforms demanded by the IMF of all its debtors.

The plan included large-scale privatization of state-owned enterprises and banks, and opening them up for foreign investors; as well as slashing social spending, stopping agricultural subsidies, freezing public sector wages, and so on. When the AKP came to power, this plan was already underway, and, since the debts were already hanging around Turkey’s neck. Erdogan’s government continued with the neoliberal program.

As a result of these policies, superficial economic data from Turkey went from strength to strength for the last 10 years.  Foreign investors were happy, the IMF was happy, and the AK government was almost universally praised.  The story of the real economy, as is most often the case under IMF structural adjustment reforms, was rather different.  By 2010 real wages in manufacturing were 12% lower than they were in 1998; household debt has increased, purchasing power has decreased, the gap between rich and poor has widened.  The richest 100 families in Turkey own wealth equivalent to the total wealth of the poorest 15% of the population (about 11.25 million people).

Since the Ottoman times, business in Turkey has functioned under a kind of patronage system, with the state operating as a key facilitator, or even as a sponsor for favored groups of elites. Any type of entrepreneurial activity in Turkey has always been based on government relations.  Thus it has been said that in Turkey they do not have political parties per se, but rather they have patronage networks.  The Islamists have, therefore, always been locked out of this game in Turkey, as the anti-religious government exclusively patronized secular nationalist businessmen.  One of the common features of the neoliberal program is that it redistributes wealth and power within a society disproportionately to a small handful of locals who collaborate with the reform process and reap its benefits.  When the AKP took over the government, this altered the direction of patronage and has led to the creation of a new class of Islamist financial elites in Turkey, aided by the already skewed effects of neoliberal reforms.

Throughout the rise of Erdogan and the AKP, the Gulen Movement (Hizmet) played a key role.  In fact, it would not be inaccurate to say that the AKP harvested the political crop planted by the social and educational work of Hizmet in Turkey. Erdogan and Fethullah Gulen were essentially allies in the effort to loosen the grip of religious intolerance and to revive Islamic feeling in the society. As long as this was the case, the AKP had no objection to Hizmet members moving up the ranks in state institutions, replacing hardline anti-religious elements in the army, the police, the judiciary, and in higher education and the media.  Tensions between Erdogan and Gulen began when it started to emerge that Gulen had political ambitions himself, and that placing Hizmet members in key state institutions was actually part of a coordinated plan to seize power and declare his version of an Islamic state in Turkey, with himself as supreme leader.

Both because Erdogan is a democrat and because the sincerity of an Islamic state is questionable when its leader is living in luxurious, self-imposed exile in the United States, the tacit alliance between Hizmet movement and the AKP was broken.

Just prior to the split, in 2013 Erdogan successfully completed full repayment of the IMF loans because of which the government had subordinated its economic policy for a decade; and almost immediately, Erdogan’s attitude towards neoliberalism appeared to change. He rails against the IMF, relentlessly criticizes the Central Bank, advocates a zero percent or a negative interest rate, advocates much more populist economic policies, and wants greater economic sovereignty for Turkey. International business suspects that Erdogan is not the committed neoliberal they thought the was.

Within the AKP, there are at least two factions now; the neoliberals, and the populists.  Erdogan’s neoliberal advisors talk about “restructuring the industrial sector to boost value-added exports”, which is a complicated way of saying “suppress wages”, while the populists talk about trying to increase household savings and grow domestic consumer activity, which is another way of saying “raise wages and improve the quality of life”.  Whenever Erdogan does something politically which is perceived as consolidating his personal power, foreign investors get nervous, and this can only be because they are dubious about whether he will use that power to serve their interests or instead the interests of Turkey.  In fact, you can almost trace when Erdogan started to face criticism in the international media to the moment he released Turkey from IMF bondage and started to express a different economic vision.

All of this is important background to understand what happened on July 15th, the failed coup attempt by Gulenists, and the subsequent crackdown on their members within state institutions.

Fethullah Gulen is being hosted by the United States, living in a compound in Pennsylvania; and the popular perception in Turkey is that he has become an asset to American intelligence.  When the coup attempt was underway, the US embassy in Turkey issued an emergency warning to Americans in the country under the title “Turkish Uprising”; a rather conspicuously premature description of a strictly military attempt to overthrow the government.

It would seem to indicate that US intelligence anticipated that Gulenist  civilians would turn out in support of the puschists, to make the seizure of power appear like a popular uprising. It was reported on CNN during the night of the coup attempt in an interview with former CIA agent Bob Baer, that he had actually discussed the possibility of a coup in Turkey with Turkish military officers just a few months earlier. So, it appears that something of a consensus may have emerged regarding the desire to remove Erdogan from power because of the increasing doubts about his commitment to neoliberalism’; and it was believed  that the sprawling Gulen network would be able to deliver this result.

الخلفية الاقتصادية للانقلاب الفاشل             Economic background to the failed coup

هناك أمر هام لابد من إيضاحه فيم يتعلق بحزب العدالة والتنمية وأردوغان، لقد قلت في الماضي أنهم في الأساس نيوليبراليين (مثل جماعة الإخوان المسلمين عمومًا)، ولكني أخشى أن أكون قد أفرطت في تبسيط هذا التوصيف. لقد تطور حزب العدالة والتنمية على مر السنين، وكما كتبت في الآونة الأخيرة، فإن أردوغان نفسه يعارض بشدة صندوق النقد الدولي، وهذا يعكس تطور الحزب، بل والمواقف المختلفة داخل الحزب.

محاذاة الاقتصاد مع النيوليبرالية بدأت في السبعينات من القرن المنصرم، ثم تسارع الأمر في الثمانينات في أعقاب الانقلاب العسكري الذي حدث في عام 1980.  تركزت العناصر الرئيسية للبرنامج على تقليص الأجور وترويج الصادرات، وأعقب ذلك التحرر المالي الذي حدث في التسعينات… أما في عام 2001، فقد بدأت تركيا تسير بأقصى سرعة على طريق الإصلاحات النيوليبرالية تحت عنوان “البرنامج الوطني” لوزير الاقتصاد كمال درويش.

وتراكمت الديون على البلاد لصندوق النقد والبنك الدولي، وتعهدوا بخصخصة البنوك العامة، وإنهاء دعم المزارعين، وتجميد الأجور في القطاع العام، وخفض الإنفاق الاجتماعي، وخصخصة جميع الشركات الكبرى المملوكة للدولة في كل قطاع وأتاحتهم للمستثمرين الأجانب. وعندما جاء حزب العدالة والتنمية إلى السلطة، سار على خطى خطة درويش بشكل أو أخر.

وتقريبًا مثل الإخوان في مصر، فقد قبلوا فكرة النيوليبرالية بدون أي أسئلة، وأدى هذا إلى “المعجزة الاقتصادية” التي تحدثت عنها النخب، ولكن تحت القشرة الخارجية كان الوضع بالنسبة للشعب التركي يتدهور، وأصبح الاقتصاد الحقيقي أكثر ضعفًا من أي وقت مضى.  معدل النمو الاقتصادي على مدى السنوات الـ 10 الماضية كان يعتمد إلى حد كبير على الاستثمار الأجنبي ومشاريع البناء، وراحت القوة الشرائية تتناقص باطراد، وارتفعت الديون الشخصية على نطاق واسع، وانخفض التصنيع المحلي، وأخذت الفجوة بين الأغنياء والفقراء في الاتساع.

قبل صعود حزب العدالة والتنمية، احتكرت النخب المعادية للإسلام السلطة السياسية والاقتصادية، وكانت رعاية الدولة دائمًا عاملًا رئيسيًا في القطاع الخاص التركي، ومع صعود حزب العدالة والتنمية إلى السلطة، أوجد هذا الأمر شبكة تجارية إسلامية جديدة من النفوذ.  بعبارة أخرى، فقد استخدم أردوغان وحزب العدالة والتنمية برنامج النيوليبرالية، التي يستفيد منها دائما حفنة صغيرة من النخب المحلية، لتشكيل كوادر من الرأسماليين المسلمين يملكون المال والنفوذ للتنافس مع العلمانيين. وبعد أن حقق ذلك، على مدى السنوات الثلاث الماضية أو نحو ذلك، أصبح أردوغان يأخذ مواقف كثيرة تعكس شخصيته الحقيقية، كشعبوي، كإسلامي، وكمستقل، وبطريقة واضحة كمعادي للنيوليبرالية.  فعلى سبيل المثال، أصبح يدين صندوق النقد الدولي الآن كمؤسسة لها هيمنة سياسية، ويريد كبح جماح البنك المركزي، وخفض أسعار الفائدة، كما أنه رفض بدون أي مواربة “إصلاحات” التقشف.

لقد أصبح أصحاب رؤوس الأموال العالمية متشككون على نحو متزايد في الطريق الذي ستسلكه تركيا تحت استمرار قيادة أردوغان وحزب العدالة والتنمية، مما قد يخبرنا الكثير والكثير عن القصة وراء محاولة الانقلاب الفاشلة يوم الخامس عشر من يوليو.


تنويه: هذه النسخة منقحة ونهائية!  


It is important to clarify something about the AKP and Erdogan.  I have said in the past that they are essentially neoliberals (like the Muslim Brotherhood generally), but I’m afraid that I may have been over-simplifying in that characterization.  The AKP has evolved over the years, and as I wrote recently, Erdogan himself is strongly opposed to the International Monetary Fund; and this reflects the evolution of the party, and indeed, differing positions within the party.

Aligning the economy with neoliberalism began in the 1970s, and accelerated in the 80s following the 1980 military coup.  The main elements of the program focused on wage suppression and export promotion. This was followed by financial liberalization in the 1990s.  In 2001, Turkey went full-throttle into neoliberal reforms under the “National Program” of economic minister Kemal Dervish.

The country went into debt to the IMF and World Bank, pledged to privatize public banks, end subsidies to farmers, freeze public sector wages, slash social spending, and privatize all major state-owned enterprises in every sector and open them up to foreign investors. When the AKP came to power, they more or less followed Dervish’s plan.

Rather like the Ikhwan in Egypt, they accepted the neoliberal idea with no questions asked.  This led to the “economic miracle” elites talk about, but below the superficial data, the situation for the Turkish people has been deteriorating, and the real economy has become more vulnerable than ever before. Economic growth over the past 10 years has been largely dependent on foreign investment and construction projects.  Purchasing power is steadily decreasing, personal debt is widespread, domestic manufacturing has declined, and the gap between rich and poor is widening.

Before the rise of the AKP, the anti-Islamic elites monopolized political and economic power.  State patronage has always been a major factor in the Turkish private sector, and with the AKP in power, this has created a new Islamist business network of influence.  In other words, Erdogan and the AKP have used the neoliberal program, which always benefits a small handful of local elites, to form a cadre of Muslim capitalists with the money and influence to compete with the secularists.  Having achieved this, over the past three years or so, Erdogan has been increasingly taking positions that must reflect his true character, populist, Islamist, and independent,  and in some important ways, anti-neolibberal.  For instance, he now condemns  the IMF as an institution of political domination, wants to rein in the Central Bank, lower interest rates, and he flat-out rejects Austerity “reforms”.

Global owners of capital have become increasingly dubious about the path Turkey will go under the continued leadership of Erdogan and the AKP, and this may tell us more about the story behind the July 15th cooup attempt than anything else.

شيطنة تركيا                                         Demonizing Turkey

الوضع الاجتماعي والسياسي الداخلي في أي بلد دائمًا ما يكون معقدًا، وبالنسبة لأجنبي يعيش في هذا البلد فبصفة عامة لن يكون قدارًا إلا على الفهم السطحي فقط، حتى لو غمس نفسه في المجتمع، فمع قدر كبير من الدراسة، قد يكون قادرًا على تحقيق قاعدة جيدة من المعرفة، ولكن، بطبيعة الحال، لن يكون قادرًا هكذا ببساطة على فهم الأمور كما يفهمها شعب هذا البلد.  أما إذا كونت رأي حول الوضع الداخلي لبلد أنت نفسك تعيش خارجه، فحسنا، هذا تمامًا كمن يطير وهو مغمض العينين.  وإن كنت أرى أن هذا الرأي صحيح عن أي بلد، فهو بالتأكيد يبدو صحيحًا بشكل خاص في حالة تركيا.

من الواضح أن معظم كتاباتي تكون عن أماكن لا أعيش فيها، لكن بشكل عام أنا أتجنب الكتابة عن المسائل السياسية الداخلية، وأكتفي بالكتابة عن الأجندات الخارجية التي يتم فرضها أو السعي إليها في تلك الأماكن، لأن هذا هو ما أعرفه.  حقيقي أنني أعيش في تركيا، ولكني لا أستطيع أن أدعي معرفة الكثير عن السياسة الداخلية هنا، وقد يستغرق الأمر سنوات من البحث والدراسة قبل أن أشعر بالثقة الكافية لتحليل أي شيء عن تركيا من وجهة نظر “شخص يعيش داخلها”.

ولكني أفهم إلى حد ما كيف تعمل الولايات المتحدة، لذا فأنا أنظر إلى الوضع هنا من هذا المنظور؛ أي كيف تراه الولايات المتحدة، وما قد تفعله… وهكذا.

أولا، من المهم أن نفهم أن الولايات المتحدة غالبًا ما تخطط مع منطلق الرفض لأي حقائق سياسية واجتماعية داخلية في أي بلد، فمحتويات الصندوق لا تعني الكثير للمطرقة التي ستستخدم لسحقه إلى قطع.  الولايات المتحدة لديها سمعة سيئة في اعتماد نفس النهج في أي بلد تسعى إلى زعزعة استقراره، بغض النظر عن الهيكل المحلي للسلطة والعلاقات المؤسسية في هذا البلد.  فهم مثل شخصية “الرجل الأخضر” في كتب التسالي، فقط يسحقون ويحطمون، وهو يفعلون ذلك، ولا يشعرون بالحاجة لتغيير نهجهم، ببساطة لأنه يؤتي أُكُلَه.

قد يجادل البعض بأن الولايات المتحدة لا تستطيع اتخاذ موقف عدائي مفرط تجاه أردوغان لأنها، من الناحية العملية، بحاجة إليه.  ولكن هذا مشكوك فيه، نظرًا لحقيقة أنها ربما تكون قد حاولت القضاء عليه كما رأينا.  فيبدو أنهم لا يشعرون أنهم بحاجة لأردوغان، ولكن بدلا من ذلك، هم بحاجة إلى التخلص منه.

لقد فشلت محاولة الانقلاب، الحمد لله!  وإذا افترضنا أنه كان مخططًا، أو على أي حال، مدعومًا من الولايات المتحدة (وأعتقد أن هناك ما يدعو إلى هذا الظن)، فالمخططون الأميركيون من المرجح أنهم سيبدأون بتقييم الحادث على النحو التالي:

  • حركة جولن، حتى لو كانت كبيرة ومؤثرة، فهي تفتقر إلى الإرادة لتقديم انتفاضة ناجحة، وإذا كانت الولايات المتحدة قد اعتمدت عليه من قبل، فهي ربما لن تفعل بعد الآن. من غير المرجح أن يقوموا بتسليم فتح الله جولن إلى تركيا، ولكن من الممكن أن يعطونه ظهورهم، أو قد يقوموا بتحييده بطرق أخرى (مثل تشويه سمعته في وسائل الإعلام، أو محاكمته بتهمة ارتكاب جرائم غير ذات صلة مثل الغش أو التهرب من الضرائب … الخ).
  • سيأخذون في اعتبارهم المعارضة واسعة النطاق ضد محاولة الانقلاب، والدعم الشعبي للحكومة، وسيرون أن هذا يشكل أكبر عائق لإزالة أردوغان.  لذا فالرأي العام التركي، سيكون بحاجة للتعامل معه وتطويعه؛ سيتم البدء في تقسيمه والتحريض ضد كل قطاع، بحيث يتم تقويض دعمهم للحكومة.
  • محاولة تصوير أردوغان باعتباره حاكم مستبد تسير على قدم وساق منذ فترة طويلة، والقالب الجاهز لسردية ما بعد الانقلاب كان معدًا بالفعل، وحاليا يتم بثه: “أردوغان يستخدم الانقلاب الفاشل للاستيلاء على المزيد من القوة ولتخريب الديمقراطية في محاولة بلا أي قيود لفرض دكتاتورية اسلامية متشددة في تركيا “.
  • حالة الطوارئ، وتطهير أنصار جولن، كل هذا بالطبع سيخدم هذه الرواية تمامًا، ولا يتطلب الأمر قدرًا كبيرًا من هذا النوع من الشيطنة لخلق الدعم المطلوب لفرض عقوبات اقتصادية ضد تركيا.  بالإضافة إلى ذلك، فيمكننا أن نتوقع اتهامات ضد أردوغان بدعوى أن يتعاون مع داعش، ثم تصبح تركيا فجأة “ملاذًا آمنًا للإرهابيين” الأمر الذي يشكل تهديدًا مباشرًا للأمن القومي الأميركي.  ولن يحتاجوا بعد هذا لأكثر من هجوم إرهابي في الولايات المتحدة يتم فورًا ربطه بتركيا، ليصبح بعدها أردوغان هو العدو رقم واحد… ومن الواضح أن هذا شيء يمكنهم تزويره بسهولة تامة.


تنويه: هذه النسخة منقحة ونهائية!  

The internal social and political situation of any country is always going to be complicated, and a foreigner living in that country will generally only have a superficial grasp of it, even if he immerses himself in the society.  With a great deal of study, he may be able to achieve a good base of knowledge, but, of course, he will simply never understand things as well as the people of that country.  If you form your opinion about the internal situation of a country while you yourself live abroad, well, you are basically flying blind.  While I think this is true about any country, it seems particularly true about Turkey.

Obviously, most of my writing deals with places where I don’t live; but by and large, I avoid writing about internal political matters; I write about the external agendas being imposed or pursued in those places, because that is what I know about.  I am living in Turkey, but I can’t pretend to know much about the internal politics here; I think it would take years of research and study before I could feel confident enough to analyze anything about Turkey from the perspective of an “insider”.

But I do understand to some extent how the US operates, so I look at the situation here from that perspective; how the US sees it, and what they might do.

First, it is important to understand that the US often plans with a dismissive attitude towards the internal political and social realities of any given country.  The contents of a box matter little to the sledgehammer being used to bash it to pieces.  The US is rather notorious for adopting the same approach to any country it seeks to destabilize, regardless of that country’s domestic structure of power and institutional relationships.  Like the comic book character Hulk, they just “smash”.  And they do this, and feel no need to alter their approach, because it works.

Some have argued that the US cannot take an overly hostile attitude towards Erdogan because, practically speaking, they need him.  This is dubious, considering the fact that they may well have just tried to eliminate him.  It would appear that they do not feel they need Erdogan, but rather, that they need to be rid of him.

The coup attempt failed, al-Hamdulillah.  If we assume that it was something planned, or anyway, supported by the US (and I think there is reason to believe so),  American planners will likely be assessing the incident as follows:

The Gulen Movement , even if it is large and influential, lacks the will to deliver a successful uprising.  If the US was relying on them before, they probably won’t anymore.  They are unlikely to extradite Fethullah Gulen to Turkey, but it is possible that they will turn their back on him, or even neutralize him in other ways (discredit him in the media, or prosecute him for unrelated crimes like fraud or tax evasion etc).

They will note the massive public opposition to the coup attempt, and popular support for the government, and see that this constitutes the most serious obstacle to removing Erdogan.  The Turkish public, therefore, will need to be dealt with; they will need to be divided  and incited, and their support for the government must be undermined.

The effort to portray Erdogan as an authoritarian ruler has been underway for a long time, and the template for the post-coup attempt narrative was already in place, and is currently being broadcast: “Erdogan is using the failed coup to grab more power and subvert democracy in a no-holds-barred attempt to impose a radical Islamist dictatorship in Turkey”.

The State of Emergency, and the purge of the Gulenists, of course, serves the interests of this narrative perfectly.  It would not take a great deal for this type of demonization to create support for economic sanctions against Turkey.  Add to this, and you can expect this to happen, accusations that Erdogan collaborates with Da’esh, then Turkey suddenly becomes a “safe haven for terrorists” which poses a direct threat to American national security. All they would need is a terrorist attack in the US that they can link to Turkey, and Erdogan will become Enemy Number One; and obviously this is something that can be falsified quite easily.

دولة رمزية وعبودية حقيقية             Symbolic statehood, real servitude


(To be published in Arabic for Arabi21)

Turkey was rocked in recent days by two bombings claimed by radical Kurdish groups.  First, on March 13th, at around 18:35, a car laden with explosives blew up in Ankara at a busy bus interchange, killing 37 people, and injuring at least 125.  On Saturday, a suicide bomber targeted Istanbul’s main pedestrian shopping district, Istiklal Street in Taksim.  The bomber was attempting to reach a crowded area, but suspicious police gave pursuit, forcing the terrorist to detonate he explosives prematurely, though 5 civilians were killed in the blast. The area was evacuated, and remained empty over the weekend, resulting in a loss to local businesses of millions of dollars.  The blow to Turkey’s tourism industry is expected to be considerable.

But I do not want to talk about the bombings, so much as the agenda behind them. The major Kurdish separatist group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the group claiming  the Ankara attack, the Kurdistan Freedom falcons (TAK), are engaged in a struggle for an independent Kurdish state.  This is a concept that deserves some analysis; not specifically the concept of Kurdistan, but the idea of establishing an independent territory at all, in the midst of existing economically, politically and militarily powerful states.

I am reminded of Chechnya in the 1990s and early 2000s, or Aceh, Indonesia. For that matter, we can talk about Quebec or Scotland seeking independence from Canada and the United Kingdom respectively.

The territory sought by the Kurds is a land-locked piece of earth situated between Iran, Syria, Iraq and Turkey.  Geographically, it is already questionable whether any degree of real independence is even plausible. The economy of Syria is devastated, but Iran is about the 29th biggest economy in the world, and Iraq is 48th.  Turkey is either the 18th or 17th biggest economy (depending on whose data you follow); so any way you look at it, Kurdistan is going to be surrounded by much bigger players, players who they cannot bypass. This same dynamic applies to Chechnya, to Quebec and Scotland and Aceh. At best, they can become independent satellites of their most powerful neighbors; which is to say, not independent at all.

Yes, Kurdistan has huge oil and gas reserves, but as a tiny “independent” state it would be in no position to negotiate with the major energy companies.  Already, Exxon, Total, Chevron, and others, are operating in their territory.  These three companies alone constitute an economic power roughly equivalent to the combined power of Iran and Turkey.  If the Kurds achieve their state, it would be little more than a corporate serfdom, which they may as well name Exxonistan.

It is worth mentioning that the Kurds have enlisted the help of lobbying firm Patton Boggs to push their agenda in Washington.  Patton Boggs is renowned for lobbying on behalf of high profile clients in the oil and gas industry, most notably, you guessed it, ExxonMobile.

If you notice, corporations are busy consolidating their power, swallowing into themselves smaller companies, conglomerating, becoming larger and larger; while states are becoming smaller, divided, partitioned, and broken up.  Iraq is split, Syria is dissolved, Libya is compartmentalized, and the Kurds want to break away and make their own statelet. Each new, smaller geopolitical entity will have to sit across the table with multinational corporations that are getting bigger, richer, and more powerful every day.

In this scenario, what does independence mean? It means little more than having the right to volunteer yourself independently as a subsidiary of global corporate power. Is that really worth fighting for?