August 9th, 2014
11:39 AM ET

Why U.S. should help the Kurds

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

The situation in Iraq today is perilous, but also chaotic and confusing. Should the United States do more to help the communities under threat of destruction? If it does intervene for humanitarian reasons here, then why not in a place like Syria, which has seem many terrible atrocities and massacres as well? How should we think through the issue?

I have been cautious about urging the United States to get back into Iraq, but I believe that in the current circumstances, the Obama administration should intervene more forcefully and ambitiously, use air power, offer training support and weaponry if needed.


The humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iraq is terrible enough. But sometimes, as in Syria, it is unclear whether U.S. military intervention could really help matters, whether there’s a clear plan that would work. In Iraq now there is such a path, one that also offers the strategic rationale for U.S. action.

What is now at stake in Iraq is crucial to U.S. interests – the survival of the Kurdish region in that country.

Since 1991, for 23 years, the United States has protected the Kurds of Iraq from being attacked and destroyed as a community. In that period, the Kurds have built up a modern, increasingly liberal, pro-Western and pro-American oasis in the Middle East.

The largely autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq has become an open, cosmopolitan, forward-looking place with a booming economy – construction cranes, car dealerships and fast food chains sprout up every day.

The American University in Sulaimani is a place marked by a modern educational outlook and open dialog. Kurdish leaders have been responsible in their efforts to secure their future – not declaring independence, working to end Kurdish terrorism in Turkey, supporting humanitarian efforts for Syrian refugees. They have been a force for stability in a region in chaos.

One of the lessons of American foreign policy over the last six decades has been that interventions work when the locals are led by popular, legitimate leaders and they want to fight for their cause. Think of South Korea compared with South Vietnam – they don’t work when the locals simply will not fight.

The Kurds want to fight for their freedom, for their independence. They have a strong, well-trained army. Their leaders are popular and legitimate, they have been close allies of the United States. Now they urgently need America's help. The Obama administration should answer their call.​

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Topics: GPS Show • Iraq

soundoff (125 Responses)
  1. J. Halgren

    Hey, Zak, Americans in West Virginia also "America's help. The Obama administration should answer their call.​" These are crazy opinions and crazier people. What we all need is sanity and balance and knowing the right way to live.

    August 9, 2014 at 7:40 pm | Reply
    • Maybe

      Maybe West Virginians should start voting Democrat.

      August 11, 2014 at 10:11 am | Reply
  2. J. Halgren

    Hey, Zak, there's many people in West Virginia who need help from America, in fact, more than the total number of the minority tribal peoples of Kurdistan. Got that, buddy? Go write with a bit more honesty on who should be solving whose problems and when.

    August 9, 2014 at 7:43 pm | Reply
    • Timothy C

      While that may be true, those in West Virginia are not in any imminent danger of being slaughtered en masse. There is a difference.

      August 9, 2014 at 8:15 pm | Reply
      • Bakhtiar

        When Kurds fight ISIS , they are fighting them for America & the West too. ISIS is a threat to all humanity * the WEST in particular. Better to fight them there now thru arming Kurds than they come to America. They more hard core & vicious than AlQaeda.

        August 10, 2014 at 2:48 am |
    • K Wolf

      West Virginia's problems can't be solved with JDAMs.

      August 10, 2014 at 10:19 pm | Reply
    • g


      August 11, 2014 at 2:19 pm | Reply
  3. Peter Breslin

    Very cogent, well articulated opinions about the Kurdish in Iraq, Fareed. You are 100% correct about USA support for Iraqi Kurds right now. We must also assist the Turks to understand and agree, for we know that they are very skittish about the Kurds. Frankly, I believe that we should support a "greater Kurdistan" to promote regional stability.

    August 9, 2014 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  4. J. Halgren

    Zak, indeed, interventions work when the locals are led by popular, legitimate leaders and they want to fight for their cause." A good example is what's happening in MA where locals are demanding that local corporations display fair treatment. So let's do this in our own country where there is much suffering. We cannot bail-out every country, like we did our banks since Main Street suffers! Let the Kurds handle their own affairs so we can handle ours–no more treasury for wars!

    August 9, 2014 at 7:49 pm | Reply
    • Paolo

      Who's Zak?

      August 10, 2014 at 12:50 am | Reply
      • Bakhtiar

        This guy calls Fareed Zakeria Zak

        August 10, 2014 at 2:50 am |
      • Zak

        Wait, I'm Zak! You talkin to me buddy?

        August 10, 2014 at 11:57 pm |
  5. Fred Phred

    I agree except for one point – NO WEAPONRY.

    Have we not learned yet that each time we support an arab/muslim ally with weapons that it's not long before those weapons are turned on us? Let's learn a lesson from history for once. We'll support you by keeping ISIS off the main roads with drones and airstrikes and let's leave it at that.

    August 9, 2014 at 7:50 pm | Reply
    • Ross

      I understand what you mean, but one thing to think about is that these are Kurds. Kurds have never attack the US or showed any intention of doing so; matter of fact, they have always worked with us for decades while we turn our backs on them. I believe they do need advanced weaponry to combat the weapons the IS holds. Supporting Kurdistan would be building a country to fight FOR America not against.

      August 10, 2014 at 2:08 am | Reply
      • Bakhtiar

        Kurdistan & America can become inseparable like nail & finger. They share common values .

        August 10, 2014 at 2:46 am |
      • Fred Phred

        Look folks, you have to learn from history. The second the Kurds want to carve out parts of Turkey and Iran and form a country. If you think for one second that they won't stab some Americans in the back to achieve this goal, you're sadly mistaken.

        The Kurds are the best of a bad lot.

        August 10, 2014 at 3:19 pm |
    • Rashwan

      If you do not send weapons to Kurds for fighting ISIS right now, ISIS will become more dangerous than Qaeda and will be able to carry out attacks against US and its Western allies. So, helping Peshmarga fighters is helping yourself and your interests here.

      August 11, 2014 at 6:17 am | Reply
  6. Sand

    He is right, the Kurds are the only reliable ally left in the entire region. The trouble is for best effect the aid should have been delivered over a month ago. In this fast moving campaign the interest will be paid in innocent blood.

    August 9, 2014 at 8:22 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      That's why we need to help the Kurds set up their own home state just as the Israelis did back in 1948, Sand. Who in their right mind would disagree with me?

      August 9, 2014 at 9:20 pm | Reply
  7. knightforx

    Agree 100%.

    August 9, 2014 at 8:35 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      So do I.

      August 9, 2014 at 9:11 pm | Reply
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

        @ My Troll,
        You know that I would not say that about Israel.
        In 1948, I was ten years old in the Bible Belt, so I accepted Zionism without questioning it. Eight years later, I would have recommended establishing a state for displaced Jewish Europeans somewhere that was not in Palestine, and perhaps in Europe.
        Fortunately, the USA and its allies won World War II. I know many Jewish persons who lived well in Europe after the war.

        August 10, 2014 at 7:30 am |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

        @ My Troll,
        Had I understood the West's various motivations for the founding of Israel after the war, I would have known that the new state's existence would be to my personal advantage, in spite of its harmful effects on Palestinians.
        Now, of course, Israel is where it is, and it has a right to remain there as long as it can defend itself, as all nations must in order to endure.

        August 10, 2014 at 7:45 am |
  8. truthseeker

    You have regressed once again. I had stopped watching GPS and happened to watch a couple of weeks ago and was pleasantly by the balance that I observed but it did not last long. Was it a bate and switch?

    There was a story with significant global economic implication this week. It was that of the profoundly great economic growth and infrastructure building in some countries on the continent of Africa (not Asia but Africa). One of these countries, according to the World Bank, even had a GDP greater than that of China. How do you overlook such a story and instead for your segment on What The World choose to speak on the elections in Indonesia and the of course of India, referring to them as "the most important countries in the world". The American airways should be used fairly and honestly not just for promoting your country of origin endlessly. Asia is where it is, India included, because of the West's financial, educational and trade support at the expense of the countries in Africa. The same countries that they had colonized & robbed blind. So, here you are indirectly perpetrating the same thing in the TV hypnotized subconscious of the American people. It looks like your aim to continue to keep the West focused only on your homeland. Where does the bottomless greed of you and your compatriots end ????

    August 10, 2014 at 2:38 pm | Reply
  9. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    I am happy that work accomplished in countries like India, China, and J span has contributed so much to the USA's quality of life.

    August 10, 2014 at 6:28 pm | Reply
  10. Nathan Barnes

    These good people deserve our support. Financially and logistically. A free and friendly Kurdistan may actually add another functional and intelligent democracy to the middle-east region. Any chance is better than no chance. Let's help 'em out!

    August 11, 2014 at 12:42 am | Reply
  11. Karo

    there are some facts that Americans do not know about Kurds; Kurds are not Arabs; they have been in war against each other for decades. Kurds do not accept Arabic ideology; as a Kurd, I am proud to see multicultural, multireligious, bilengual, and modern society of kurds nowadays. For whoever go against the help needed for Kurds nowadays, please read about whoever you know that have been in the reagion. Almost all of my professors at the American University in Sulaimaniya support aid to Kurds... You dont know what kinds of creatures these ISIS members are unless you visualize there actions... We call them monsters in kurdistan...regards

    August 11, 2014 at 6:14 am | Reply
  12. bobcat2u

    It's been said that "War makes strange bedfellows." Turks fighting the Kurds. FSA fighting Syrian government. At the present time, all these players are facing a common enemy. The clear and present danger now is the Islamic State. It would seem logical that they would put their personal grudges on the back burner for now and form alliances to combat what nobody wants. And in the process of working together, they may actually discover some common ground to bridge thei own differences.
    This is still their backyard to clean up. But if we must arm anyone in the area, I agree with it being the Kurds. At least they've shown they won't cut and run.

    August 11, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Reply
  13. ge

    ISIS are these the same folks from Syria ,McCain fought to arm ,right they stole American weapons RIGHT

    August 11, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Reply
  14. Ferhat Balkan

    Humanitarian aid – Yes
    Providing them with weapons – No
    Here's why: Weapons can fall into the wrong hands just as easily as humanitarian aid. The only difference is you can't use humanitarian aid to kill other people.

    August 11, 2014 at 5:31 pm | Reply
  15. sandstorm

    USA needs to draw a line no genocide isis should be stopped with air power and maliki can take his stuff and go home he is fired its incredible that people are willing to commit genocide has for Kurdistan as a independent region no way but the situation on the ground needs urgent helping this saudi supported usa supported isis these are the same people that you are supporting in Syria needs to be stopped with air power be it Syrian Turkish Iranian or any other does not matter these Yazidis need humanitarian help right now this is an disgrace.

    August 11, 2014 at 6:32 pm | Reply
  16. Raymond Nolan

    The problem with an Iraq focused strategy to deal with ISIS is that it is in my opinion doomed to failure. Assuming "success" in Iraq, and that may be an elusive goal, we still have a porous Syrian-Iraqi border akin to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, with the opportunity for Syrian safe haven for ISIS. US policy has attempted to weaken the Assad government, which in retrospect has facilitated evolution of ISIS. One possible approach, although likely not feasible in the Washington political arena, would be a total revamping of our alliances, accepting Assad and accepting whatever support his Russian allies might offer, and working cooperatively with Iran, with whom we have similar goals re ISIS. Somehow I cant see American policymakers making this leap, however, so I remain pessimistic.

    August 12, 2014 at 1:06 am | Reply
  17. Bob Lesburg

    -The Kurdhish people have no allies on any of their borders.....they live because they resist. They have most likely aided the US in many covert operations for both IRAQ wars, and Afghanistan, etc. and more. You will likely not hear or read about much of that in the media. Even their border with Turkey (a member of NATO) is tenuous with much blood spilled on both sides. Their history is one of conquest and subjegation. They have no aims of conquest over their neghbors only the existance of a Kurdish state in which to live in peace. Strategically they occupy an area in which the US and NATO could base military operations from to handle the recurring problems that crop up in Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, and Iraq. If you took a poll of our Special Ops pesonnel they would likely tell you the Kurds are the closest people we have as friends in the Middle East. We should foster them as allies, for our strategic interests in the area, nurture and aid their goal of autonomy, and in turn support their desire for a separate Kurdish state and this would include the military milght of the US.

    August 12, 2014 at 1:23 pm | Reply
  18. Matt


    September 4, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Reply
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  20. Randy Mueller

    Listening to GPS this week it dawned on me that the proposed Kurdistan isn't the only nation which should be created to house its indiginous population.

    I suggest Palestine be re-established as a balance to the scales of justice.

    Kurdish oil for mideast peace. Isreal will hate this as much as will Iran.

    And in a mockery of the UN's creation of Isreal on other peoples land....Iraq's lands will be stolen to return some of palestines.


    September 24, 2017 at 11:19 am | Reply
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