There is some horrible news out of Kurdistan today. Ekurd.net reports that Mawloud Afand, editor of an Israel-Kurdish magazine called Israel Kurd “disappeared ten days ago in [the] Kurdistan region of Iraq.” Israeli news sources say he was kidnapped by Iranian intelligence in the city of Sulaimaniyah. Ekurd.net claims that Iran had told the Kurdish government to shut Israel Kurd down and it refused.
The Kurds have long been accused of Zionist collaboration owing to their mostly cooperative relationship with Israelis. In fact, one popular argument against a safe and autonomous Kurdistan is that it would be a “second Israel” in the region. There are obvious commonalities between the Middle East’s Kurds and Jews. Both are overwhelmingly pro-American (the Kurds rightly credit the U.S. with saving them from Saddam), largely inclined toward democracy, and have histories as persecuted minorities. Afand’s interest in an Israeli-Kurdish connection is representative of a not-so-quiet sense of Kurdish solidarity with Jews. He also, from what I can gather, has some Jewish family. There are Jewish Kurds, some of whom claim that Abraham of the Hebrew Bible was Kurdish.
The current Kurdish relationship with Iran is tricky. As the American presence in Iraq dwindled and then disappeared, Iran took the opportunity to increase its political influence both in Baghdad and with the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq. Among the Kurds, this manifests in day-to-day commercial ties and an increased oil trade with Iran. While the Kurds would be far happier to deal with Americans on both a commercial and political level, their precarious status leaves them few options about whom to accept as business partners. Many political decisions for the Kurds are a matter of survival, not prosperity (something else they share with Israelis). Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is Kurdish and there are reports that Tehran is pressuring him to save the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from a no-confidence vote. The idea that Iraq is now an Iranian satrapy is way over the top but there’s no question that Iran has a troubling amount of influence on Iraqi affairs.
If Afand was kidnapped by Iran it stands as yet another tragic consequence of the United States’ failure to maintain a presence in post-war Iraq and especially to build up our relationship with our most eager and appreciative Muslim allies. It also highlights the singular bravery and decency of the Kurds that they make mortal enemies of the fanatical Iranian thugs to whose will they refuse fully to bend. Last, it’s another reminder of the Iranian regime’s implacable and ever more brazen savagery in a world abandoned by the leadership of the American superpower.