Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said it’s time for America to realize the Iraq of years past is long gone, and that the best foreign policy going forward would be for the United States to support the Kurds in their quest for independence.
He made the remarks during a chat on Sirius XM with Raheem Kassam and Steve Bannon.
And he spoke of the long-time friendship America’s maintained with the Kurds as part of the reason the United States shouldn’t turn blind eyes to their fight for independence now.
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“The Kurds are one of the largest ethnic groups in the world that has never had a nation in contemporary times,” Bolton explained. “Just two days ago, they held a referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan and voted well over 90 percent for independence. I think the United States should support independence for the Kurds. They’ve been friends of ours in the struggle against Saddam Hussein and the struggle against international terrorism. I think they’d be an important buffer against Iran.”
“And let’s face it: the state of Iraq as we have known it doesn’t exist anymore, and it’s not coming back together,” he added. “The Baghdad government is controlled by the ayatollahs from Tehran. The American strategy to defeat ISIS, which has relied so heavily on the Baghdad government, I think has been a mistake.”
“I think it’s a mistake for the State Department now, as it did before the referendum, to tell the Kurds ‘don’t hold it,’ and opposing now the inevitable consequences. They’re now going to be de jure independent,” said Bolton.
Bolton agreed with Bannon’s salute of the Kurds as a reliable U.S. ally over the past three decades.
“They asked, in early days, ‘please just give us weapons.’ Of course, the Obama administration didn’t want to do that for the longest time. Now we are, and I think that’s right,” he said.
“This referendum has created a new reality. I just don’t see the State Department at this point acknowledging that, even though it benefits the United States,” he lamented.
Bannon said the situation was even worse than that, quoting a New York Times report that the State Department tried to stifle the Kurdish independence vote because it didn’t want to upset Iran and Turkey.
“This is Obama administration thinking, reflecting the obsession with the Iran nuclear deal and not wanting to do anything that might cause problems there, and reflecting the idea that the Turkey of today is the Turkey of 30 or 40 years ago,” Bolton responded.
“During the Cold War, Turkey was a loyal ally of the United States, but under Erdogan, they are moving toward becoming an Islamic state, and unfortunately moving at a very rapid rate,” he said. “Independence for the Kurds in Iraq has implications for the very large Kurdish population, particularly in eastern and southeastern Turkey. That would have worried me 20 years ago. It doesn’t worry me today, given the Erdogan government in Turkey.”
“There’s simply no doubt that this will have an impact in Turkey,” Bolton said after Kassam noted the Kurds are a significant element in the European refugee crisis. “I’ve been to that region, that border between Turkey and Iraq, which is entirely Kurdish. The only Turks in that region are the Turkish military. This is a long-standing dispute that goes back centuries.”
“Erdogan has been entirely cynical. He allowed these Syrian refugees free passage across Turkey over the past couple of years to get to Greece, to get into the Balkans, to get into Europe. He knew exactly what he was doing. He was trying to relieve pressure on his own regime. Getting rid of the Kurds for him is maybe even better than getting rid of the Syrians in the refugee camps inside Turkey,” Bolton said.
He said Erdogan has been moving toward making Turkey an Islamic state throughout his presidency, and during his tenure as Prime Minister before that.
“He has successfully purged most of the judiciary of the secular judges who were upholding Kemal Ataturk’s secular constitution,” Bolton noted. “Even before the most recent failed coup attempt, he had been purging the military of secular – at least in their political views – secular generals and replacing them with Islamicist generals. He’s all but said he wants a caliphate.”
“When he was mayor of Istanbul back in the 1990s, he famously said, ‘Democracy is like a streetcar: you ride it to the stop you want, and then you get off.’ I think he’s getting ready to get off, and I think re-establishing the caliphate is definitely on that agenda,” he predicted.
As for the fragile Iraqi state, Bolton said it was important to destroy the Islamic State “caliphate,” while also considering “what the region looks like once we defeat ISIS.”
“Unfortunately, following the Obama administration strategy, which the Pentagon and the State Department are still doing – by expanding control of the current Iraqi government, we’re giving Iran the possibility of an arc of power, a land bridge from Iran to Iraq, to Assad’s Syria, to Hezbollah in Lebanon that threatens Israel and threatens the oil-producing Arab governments of the Arabian peninsula,” he warned.
Bannon said that Iran has effectively gained control of four Arab capitals: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, and Sanaa in Yemen.
“Yemen, although it doesn’t get a lot of attention in the United States, people should think of it as a backdoor to the oil-producing countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” Bolton advised. “That’s why they’ve focused on trying to destroy the Houthi rebels in Yemen, which are the surrogates for Iran.”
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