The Assyrian community and the Kurds of Iraq have staked a claim to areas throughout the region, including the Nineveh province in the State’s north. Due to the Islamic State’s surge through the country, geopolitical ramifications have caused both entities to make aggressive claims in hopes to secure particular lands for the future of their people and their progeny.
Breitbart News spoke with Dr. Michael Rubin, a renowned Middle East expert at the American Enterprise Institute, hoping to sort through and create a clearer picture of the Assyrian-Kurd dispute.
Geographical issues arise immediately when the it comes to finding a state for the Assyrian people. Rubin explains, “There are problems–perhaps insurmountable–to Assyrian demands to carve out a province or state of their own. First, the Assyrians are scattered around the area; there is no band of territory in which they form an absolute majority.”
Assyrian identity is a complicated matter in and of itself, Rubin explains, and the communities’ leaders do not share a consensus as to what it means to be Assyrian. “While Assyrian leaders often describe their community as a cohesive whole, there are serious questions as to identity,” said Rubin. “I have had Assyrians claim that they represent an ethnicity and not simply a religion, but then explain that any convert to Islam would simply become Kurdish,” he added.
He added that the Kurds, on the other hand, “have traditionally lived in half of Mosul, and also in areas stretching toward Jebel Sinjar, where the Islamic State recently massacred the Yezidis.
Kurdish leadership has in the past abused the Assyrian people, creating deep qualms between the two tribes. Rubin told Breitbart, “That said, Assyrians have reason to distrust the Kurdish leadership.” The AEI expert explained that corruption is rife within the upper echelons of Kurdish leadership, especially at the top. “Kurdish President Masud Barzani will protect Assyrians only so much as they subordinate themselves completely to his dictates,” he said. “When Assyrians disagree with Barzani, he simply creates fake “store front” political parties which he falsely claims represents Assyrians. Like any dictator, Barzani brokers no dissent.”
Rubin forecasts that the odds are strongly against the Assyrians when it comes to securing any independent land of their own in the near future. He explains, “Unfortunately, there will be no happy endings for the Assyrians. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will travel to Jerusalem and celebrate Shabbat dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the Assyrians will get any territory of their own in Iraq despite the best efforts of the Assyrian diaspora.”
Michael Rubin is the author of the new book Dancing With The Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes.