Rebirth of the Mosul Vilayet? (Parts I, II, III) Interview with J. Anton Keller

Iraq's demography in 1920


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Ekopolitik (Murat Sofuoğlu): What is the Mosul Vilayet Council (MVC)? And what is your relation to it?

J. Anton Keller: As an outside observer and adviser on the genesis, evolution and outlook of the Mosul Vilayet and its Council (, it seems proper and indicated to introduce myself briefly. Before going into some details which may be helpful in the current situation. And I wish to offer in advance my apologies to all those who may miss their name and contribution to be mentioned in this very personal account. Or who may see themselves differently or feel offended, even though that, of course, was in no way my intention.

Tongue in cheek, some have called me a specialist for lost causes, a lateral thinker in the sense of Edward de Bono, the management consultant with the different hats. That is probably because of my parallel diplomacy work relating to the Teheran hostage crisis, the Falklands/Malvinas conflict and the first Iraq-Kuwait Gulf war which is illustrated in my recent obituary of a meritorious Swiss diplomat(.../edouardbrunner.htm). For some 25 years now, I've been Secretary of the Good Offices Group of European Lawmakers(.../a33a.htm), and for the venerable International Committee for European Security and Co-operation(.../ICESC.htm), I also serve as Permanent Representative to the United Nations. That has involved mostly consultative work with lawmakers from America, Europe, the Near East and Switzerland and footwork at the United Nations Human Rights Commission. I am a Swiss citizen, prefer wine to Coca Cola and, to the best of my knowledge, have 12 grandchildren.

If there is such a thing as a typical lateral thinker, he or she is probably fond of leaning back - physically and mentally -, thinking things over, doing research and concentrating on what happened in the past, in order to find out what might happen in the future on any given matter. The aim of this exercise is to identify the available options and their ramifications, i.e. to assist current decision makers who occupy positions of political, social or economic responsibility. It is someone who is not easily qualifiable and cannot easily be fixed on the political, religious or other spectrum. Being not married to any particular cause, creed or ethnic group may make some people uncertain, perhaps even uncomfortable. That may be the reason for Öcalan's alleged recent smearing of my name and work, even though I never had any contact with him.

As an authoritarian leader with his cultural background, Öcalan may indeed not have had many opportunities to become accustomed to truly independent minds and persons. Yet, history has taught me not to rule out - and to give everbody the benefit of doubt until proven otherwise - that changing circumstances and the individual evolutionary process can transform anyone from being a part of the problem to becoming a part of the solution. If you talk to Mehmet Dülger, he can also tell you what I mean.

I have been working on many subjects. I am trying to look at things in a theoretical way first, focusing on a matter with all available intellectual resources. As an illustration: in 1960, we were a bunch of architecture students at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich who were dissatisfied with the proposed schemes to save the Nubian monuments from the Aswan High Dam effects. And we came up with the alternative idea to divert and backup the Nile in a side valley. Eventually, my thesis focused on the optimum water management of the Nile river. To that effect, I changed my studies to include hydrology, water law and economics and even studied the peaceful application of nuclear explosives for digging the necessary Gabgaba Canal. So you can say that, over the years, I've become a generalist. I can use this mechanism, this particular way of thinking and approaching problems by sniffing out links where nobody even suspected any. This system of thinking onside and inside sometimes produces both outlandish and practical ideas, though they are sometimes out of sync with current realities and have to await more accommodating circumstances.

Iraq is one of those headaches whose time may be approaching. It continues to come to the forefront of my mind because it is an increasingly important part for the current macro-political development I'm interested in. It needs to be seen in relation with other elements involving the Ottoman Empire, Palestine, and Israel - in other words, it's solution may not be found inside the adopted terms of reference. And while there exists that fundamental Iraqi document of 30 May 1932 which may hold the key to a road-holding solution, that piece of paper was unknown even to Kurdish authors until 1992. Worse, the powers that be have only recently started to open their mind to pathways which they haven't already worn down to the point of making them unusable.

In the wake of the first Gulf war, in late 1991, I started to study the issue of how Iraq came about. I came pretty quickly to expect the existence of a very interesting document from the time Iraq was created. The clue came from a historical atlas which showed the Mosul Vilayet to be a specific entity at that time. My experience told me that the League of Nations must have done extensive social, economic, cultural and other studies prior to its decision to grant independence to the Kingdom of Iraq. There must be an instructive report about its borderline with Turkey which was mentioned already in the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 and which reflected controversies by the powers at that time. As Iraq was the first creation of the League of Nations, it must have been exceptionally careful to analyze the varying demands by the constituent communities of the Mosul Vilayet in particular. Their needs and legitimate aspirations could not be left unattended.

Finally, when the UN library opened again on January 16, 1992, I found within one hour the key document which I was looking for. After this discovery more and more people became interested in the idea of the Mosul Vilayet concept. Indeed, there are formal reservations and international minority protection and private property guarantees written into Iraq's basic Declaration of 30 May 1932 (.../a3a.htm#DECLARATION). It is still valid in international law, and it is still fully binding and takes precedent over any Iraqi constitution and laws. This was an enlightening moment for me. But it has also proven to be a sobering one for all concerned, when considering the many-facetted resistance by the powers that be when it came for them to recognize, explore and eventually apply these international guarantees.

* * *

Now to your questions. Let me begin with a personal vision for the Mosul Vilayet and its perennially down trodden inhabitants. What is now Northern Iraq has been a religious, cultural and economic crossroad area since Suleyman the Magnificent, Alexander the Great and the Pharaoh Akhenaton. God willing and due to hard work, vision and determination of its constituent communities and their leaders and neighbors, the Mosul Vilayet will be the core area from which the Middle East will be reshaped in line with its traditions and obliging inheritance and in accordance with the needs and legitimate aspirations of its peoples. To be sure, we are not talking about a resurrection of the Ottoman Empire, but I expect the Mosul Vilayet leaders to carefully build on still relevant roots - like the Ottoman land registry- and draw much inspiration from that experience as well. Accordingly, the Mosul Vilayet Council has been intended and is set to serve as vehicle for this vision to become reality. In fact all MVC members have formally pledged to contribute their part for the Mosul Vilayet to evolve into the secure, stabilizing and universally beneficial center properly reflecting its enlightening past.

In a nutshell, this is the wider dimension of the problems, of the opportunities at hand. For we are living now in the whole Middle East with wars. One very knowledgeable colleague, Richard Anderegg, has called them the "wars of Ottoman Empire succession." I'm inclined to recognize some of their currently again very influential roots to go back much further in history. I mean one can see in what's happening around us less in terms of residual waves of what's called the fights of the Diadochs, than as Akhenaton succession wars (.../a1.htm). That, of course, is a far wider perspective and requires opening up our minds and the angle of our lenses. But as we may see later, it may be worth it if we are serious about unlocking the current Mid-Eastern gridlock.

So for now, lets content ourselves with the more recent history. As I mentioned before in various writings - and as I persistently come back to that when the opportunity presents itself - there are still open wounds from the break-up of the Ottoman Empire. They have only been plastered over, but never given a chance to be healed. Maybe that is because our leaders never found an opportunity to properly address the regional problems on a long term basis, with proper consideration of the peoples' background, their cultural specifics, and their fundamental needs and legitimate aspirations.

In this perspective it is worth noting the MVC’s Third Declaration of October 20, 1992, which states that in Ankara on May 15, 1992, the Mosul Vilayet Council "was formally brought into existence as the supreme secular authority of the Mosul Vilayet, wherein all indigenous Arabs, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds and Turkomans have the right to be equitably represented by their own leaders."

Five hundred years ago Switzerland was in a state similar to that of Northern Iraq today. We were also having competing forces, not many admitted that others could also have a good idea. Each one was king himself. The culture of cooperation, of accepting the other as an equal to you, and of real power sharing, took hundreds of years for catching roots and eventually turning Switzerland into what it is today. In our case of Northern Iraq we are far from that, but maybe we can helpfully point to this example and, in the event, to assist those interested in accelerating the realization of this aim.

Seen from this - albeit inconclusive - vantage point, it would not appear to be helpful if the international community were to grant the Kurds their independence now. To begin with, it would ignore the lessons of history and, instead of promoting regional stability, it might in fact cause the opposite and turn out to be a huge disservice to both the Kurds, their brethren in One God, and their neighbors. They seem to need at least a generation for healing their wounds, reconciling themselves and developing the institutions for self-government and non-violent resolution of overlapping land claims in particular. Like the Mosul Vilayet's autochthon Arabs, Assyrians, Turkomen and Yezidis, they are keenly aware of the imperative need to overcome centrifugal forces among these constituent communities as an indispensable precondition for international recognition as a sovereign entity and a sovereign people. I told it to all my Arab, Assyrian, Kurdish, Turkomen and Yezidi friends that they should not count on anybody to solve these basic problems for them, and that the Mosul Vilayet concept is an externally supportable, but not the only one with which they may get to the point not of fake democracy but of genuine self-government based on an informed, cooperative and responsibility-assuming citizenry.

Assuming the structure of the MVC to become the generally agreed political way forward, how do the present leaders, such as Barzani and Talabani fit into this equation? Why should they accept the MVC as a force to reckon with?

The MVC is not a real force now. But all current leaders are familiar with Victor Hugo's saying: "No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come." Thus, the MVC can be better described as a virtual force and a force in the making. That is because Saddam took too long to ponder his position on it, and in the wake of his departure, the externally imposed conditions have so far not been favorable to the implementation of the Mosul Vilayet concept. However, conditions are rapidly evolving and the above vision may become reality in our lifetime. I don’t want to comment on how the current leaders perform and to give them unsolicited advice over public channels. I trust that each of them tries his best under difficult circumstances and, for the time being, they have for their own reasons decided to do what they are doing. They are party members, sign things…But that’s all.

What about the Kurdistan Conservative Party? Is it related to the MVC?

Yes, in the limited sense I outlined at the beginning, there is a KCP link. For members of the Kurdistan Conservative Party - if you want to call it a party - have indeed been instrumental in the creation of the Mosul Vilayet Council. In my view, many parties are like families, and given the over-arching tribal background, they would be better described as political tribes. At least they are not political parties in a Western sense.

The term political tribe is probably valid for most of Iraq. Or is it specific to Northern Iraq?

I understand it to be valid for most of Iraq. However, this is a critic, if I may, which is addressed primarily to those in our Western capitals who have fooled themselves all along. And for my Iraqi friends, I do not want anybody to take this personally but to be an observation which arises from basic historical facts. Iraqis have not been given much opportunity to get acquainted with democratic processes and institutions. Essentially, they have only learned to try to impress foreign leaders, and to achieve that they must speak English well. They must have some sort of democratic terms or terms linked with democratic notions in the name of their party or in its statutes. That usually qualifies them for some recognition as a democratic party. Moreover, some of our current Western leaders and their advisers are what some call flat earth fellows, i.e. persons who believe or act as if the world were flat. Each Iraqi community has concentrated on its own value structure. And their leaders have only recently begun to recognize that other peoples, too have legitimate interests other than their own, and their own perception of things is not necessarily the only valid one, neither for themselves nor for others. Therefore, we have a sort of clashes of many ignorances.

Ignorance is known to be sought occasionally to be covered up by playing up. As long as Saddam's iron claws were in place, that might have worked for internal consumption. In 1991, some Kurds got into a situation where they found themselves exposed in various ways. The term Tsash (meaning donkey) made its rounds - twelve years later Baa'th membership took on a similar social and political stigma. One who was following orders blindly. A bad name for Kurdish tribe leaders who went with Saddam at that time. They were the ones who let themselves be convinced by Saddam. Some call it political opportunism. It is an opportunism which in many cases was inevitable. They have had trade relations with Turkey. They have been in Istanbul where they have houses and branches. I am talking about the Sourchi family.

They have no political experiences in the sense of our Western society. They've had power relations and force relations among themselves and with Saddam, and the Kalashnikov has always been a means to change that. That’s their background. They were in a situation in the 1991 uprising where they found themselves fingered by other Kurds, having been the executioners of Saddam's wishes and whims.

Essentially they wanted to get out of that situation, so they created the party called Kurdistan Conservative Party in Kalakin. On 29 April 1992, they initiated a tribal organization called the Conservative Party. They wanted to go to Saudi Arabia to get financial and political support. They wanted to make some handshakes. They were all driven by a need and desire to change the situation for themselves, for their tribe and for Iraq. But intellectually and politically, they were not really equipped to get very far. The only person who had some experience and roots in Western thinking was Muhammed Siddiq. He is a writer and poet. Although not a member of the Baa'th party - according to him - he held high political functions under Saddam: minister for agriculture, adviser to Saddam, and governor of Dohuk, before turning against Saddam in 1991. Still, he is one of the founding members of our Council. He was at the Ankara meeting too.

How did this Ankara meeting of May 1992 come about?

Together with an Englishman and an exiled Kurd, I was on the way to my first visit to Iraq. In Ankara we stayed at the same hotel as did the Conservative party’s tribe leaders who were on the way to Saudi Arabia. None of us had any contact with the other, knew of the other or had any plan to meet. If chance exists, we met by chance. We were coming from outside of Iraq and they were coming from inside of Iraq.

In Ankara I had a meeting with President Özal's brother, the finance minister who some years before was a comrade-in-arms against an Orwellian scheme cooked up by some taxmen at the OECD (.../Orwell.htm). I was also visiting Mr.Mehmet Dulger who I had met the summer before at the Forum of Crans-Montana. Anyway we met in Turist Hotel in Ankara. The Kurd in our group was Sardar Rostam Pishdare with whom I got in contact the summer before because of my human rights work at the UN in Geneva (.../a33b.htm).

Is he Turkish ?

No. He is an Iraqi Kurd with some Iranian roots as well. He is from the Pishtari tribe and he told me he is the tribe leader.

Is Sardar living in Northern Iraq?

No. He still lives in London. He is a refugee. He washed his hands and said he had no links with Saddam. And he tried to recreate himself. He was interested to get onto the UN floor to make a flash there and to make a TV clip, so his "importance" could be demonstrated to his own people. I said "Look! I am not ready for such a game. But perhaps I can help you in other ways, e.g. by searching for documents, research, analyzing data, making contacts, etc. That might be more helpful than simply showing off and, in effect, misleading people." He agreed and we made some headway - to the point to interest a company called Occidental Oil. They paid for our trips.

The oil company was interested in us because we obtained a permission from the UN to demonstrate the technical feasibility to pump oil from the bountiful fields in Northern Iraq (.../a33b.htm#feasibility).

So basically this company is related to the UN?

No no. At that time this oil company was not related with the UN. We tried to interest them to come to explore oil and help the Kurds to heat their own houses to develop their own oil sources independently of Saddam. They became interested in it after we had discovered the private property protection clause in the Iraqi Declaration of 1932. This guarantee hit their imagination - and perhaps even more so the prospect of pumping Iraqi oil from under the nose of Saddam. They said let’s give it a chance; if there are oil fields already discovered, maybe we can get them to flow. In the event, a mobile refinery was also planned to be brought in. That was the basic background.

So the three of us had come to Ankara: Sardar, Occidental's oil man and me. We ate and talked. I asked what are you trying to achieve? They said we want to have independence and we want to create Iraqi Kurdistan.

Who said that?

Omar Sourchi, the head of the whole group who was also the founder and president of the Kurdistan Conservative Party.

Did Omar Sourchi bring them to Ankara?

Yes. They came on their own, as far as I remember. They had their own money. Sourchi was then still a wealthy family.

Is he still alive?

Yes, he is alive.

Does Omar still influence the politics or has he withdrawn from the political scene?

I understand he is no longer politically active. I respect him for what he did then and will always honor his and his family's contributions to the common good. Nevertheless, I must admit that he is one of those who made me understand that regardless of their individual capabilities, many of these leaders lack basic skills to effectively act outside of their tribal environment. Regretfully, being inapt and deficient in these matters often made, and still makes them unwitting but effective pawns for others. And while some may have been fully aware but have had no alternative under Saddam, others may even now be unaware. But that doesn't exclude that they are full of themselves, with the common good not really their first priority.

After the First Gulf War, because of his relationship with Saddam, I understand Omar to have been in a delicate position. Eventually he overcame that and got some credibility back by way of some mutually beneficial arrangements with Jalal Talabani. Another comrade-in-arms and leader of the uprising, Muhammad Siddiq, reportedly assisted Omar in organizing the new party.

Basically, after the First Gulf War, these people led the rebellion against Saddam right?

He was one of them. There were several. Now everyone says he was the one who initiated it.

M. Siddiq or Omar Sourchi?

M.Siddiq was a key figure. After all, he was Saddam's governor of Dohuk. He switched sides at considerable personal risk and as such is known to have become a leader of the uprising.

What was the role of Omar Sourchi in this uprising and who do you think initiated it? Basically Martin Von Brunessen who is an expert on Kurdish politics says in his writing that the Kurdish uprising was organized by the members of what later was to be the Mosul Vilayet Council. Is that the case?

As I said, I am not qualified to assess who did what when and to render a judgment on the relative significance of each other's role. That is a task only serious scientific research can accomplish, and if it is to contribute to genuine reconciliation, stability and peace in the area, it must be done under the guidance of an independent commission. When things go right everybody is the big one. I would not want to be the one who awards anyone with something he or she may not deserve. It is a very touchy subject. I want to be out of this debate. All I can say is that I have no doubt that like in the case of most other Kurdish tribes and families, members of the Sourchi tribe were in the vanguard of the uprising and that they, too were thus a contributing force for its ultimate success.

Is Muhammad Siddiq, are the other founders of the MVC still alive?

Yes, excepting General Aziz Rashid Akrawy who died in 1999. Siddiq is currently in Suleymaniye. The others include: Sheik Salar Al-Hafeed, Taher Gazee Fatah, Mohammad Mahmood Harony, Ibrahim Ali Malo, Hussein Mohammad Othman, Said Mahmood Khaleefa, and Moushir Hadi Ahmad from the Syan & Mama Seny tribe in the Kirkuk area. His tribal lands cover half of the Kirkuk oil fields. As such he is a pivotal person for a negotiated solution regarding the Kirkuk land and oil property issue.

Could Moushir Hadi Ahmed help resolve the problems pitting the Arabs, Assyrians, Kurds and Turkomen against each other over Kirkuk and its land and oil resources?

Like all members of the Mosul Vilayet Council, he is formally committed to achieving that result, and I, as his adviser, keep my eyes on the ball and am ceaselessly working in that direction, with determination and confidence.

What is Moushir's position regarding the oil problems?

Essentially, his position is waiting until the powers that be will be enlightened and make good on the international guarantees given to all Iraqi minorities notably with regard to their private property, including their oil rights (.../a3a#rights). He is confident that the legitimate interests of all Arabs, Assyrians, Kurds and Turkomen can and will be fully covered by way of a negotiated solution based on the above-mention Iraqi Declaration of 30 May 1932. That might have been achieved even while Saddam was still in power. And now it should be even more feasible once the reluctance of some decision-makers to face facts will be overcome. I am speaking not only of American, but Iraqi, British, French, Turkish and other nationals' reluctance to recognize anything related to the League of Nations. They are becoming less dogmatic and more result-oriented now, but they are still not yet in that mind set where they can say okay maybe we shouldn't claim a monopoly for good ideas. Maybe past politicians and diplomats have not all been duds but have left us also with instruments we can still put to good use. And maybe the ideas and preparatory work developed by the Mosul Vilayet Council are worth exploring and being put to the test - as Saddrudin Aga Khan had suggested already in 1992 in his Sorbonne speech (.../Sorbonne.html).

Suppose the Turkish government decided to renew its interest in the League of Nations documents on Iraqi land and oil rights, how could that play out?

As interested parties, Turkish holders of Iraqi land titles, the Iraqi Turkomen community and the Turkish Government are seen to be legitimized to bring onto the table of the UN such matters as how to settle overlapping land claims in Iraq in light of the corresponding international guarantees, as contained in article 14 of the Iraqi Declaration of May 30, 1932 (.../a3a.htm#rights). The pathway would be the UN General Assembly, where a corresponding follow-up to the UN General Assembly Resolution 24 (I) of 12 February 1946 may be decided (.../UNGA.htm#1946).

Actually, the Assyrians finally managed to stand up and obtain significant support in the US Congress for similar proposals covering all Iraqi religious and other minorities (.../ashur.htm). Thus it is no longer inconceivable that - particularly with Turkish support - even the current US Government might shortly launch a corresponding initiative at the UN. But the Turkish Government might also find it proper and indicated to take a military-backed diplomatic lead in this matter. The more so as, in international law, conditions are still fully applicable with regards to these guarantees and property rights. And as this pathway offers a viable solution for all the constituent communities, including the Turkomans. For the families which left the country there is also renewed hope as their land titles might thus finally be recognized. In this evolution of things, only the export of the oil resources would be handled centrally by common consent, with all conflicting land claims to be resolved by negotiation on the basis of Iraq's constitutive Declaration of 1932, in combination with the related agreements concluded under the aegis of the Mosul Vilayet Council (.../UNITY.htm).

At present, the Turkish Government weighs its options on how best to secure its border with Iraq, and how best to protect the legitimate interests of its Turkomen brethren in Iraq. How can this Iraqi Declaration of 1932 make a dent and eventually affect the decision to either resort to military means or to stay put and to work out things through the diplomatic channels?

Turkey has a along and proud history, and its current generation of political, military and diplomatic decision-makers is not in need of external public advice. Thus, if they feel comfortable with their current Iraqi partners, if the agreements thus obtained are satisfactory for the Turkish side, I am confident that the current problems relating to the Iraqi-Turkish border, the Turkomen and the future status of Kirkuk will be resolved without military forces moving across the borders beyond the limits agreed upon in the Iraqi-Turkish border area policing agreement concluded some 60 years ago.

On the other hand, President Demirel was not the first - and probably not the last either - to declare in Parliament that the externally-imposed Iraqi-Turkish border is wrong from the beginning in 1926. And one doesn't need to be married to the Turkish cause, or be paid by the government, in order to conclude, as the I.C.E.S.C. did in its Written Statement to the UN Human Rights Commission of March 3, 1995. "Human Rights Situation in Iraq and in the Mosul Vilayet" (E/CN.4/1995/NGO/52; .../a3b.htm#revoked):

"Resolution 24 (I) of 12 February 1946, i.e. those powers providing for the effective enforcement of said international obligations in those territories over which - in international law - Iraq never acquired full sovereignty, particularly in the Mosul Vilayet whose conditional attachment to Iraq may thus promptly be revoked, reversed or otherwise changed with appropriate unprejudicial interim measures (E/CN.4/1994/NGO/48), in accordance with the legitimate interests and aspirations of the peoples concerned, and in line with the applicable rights and UN Charter provisions"

But it equally befits a neutral observer to draw public attention to a less encouraging fact: namely that the same Turkish Government which gladly availed itself of this independent non-governmental assessment has yet to acknowledge or to make use of offered similar non-governmental communication and conflict resolution services. Chief among them are those which have been put on the table by the Mosul Vilayet Council whose members, with its Declaration of May 15, 1992 (.../a31.htm#4):

"invite the Turkish Government to avail itself of the good offices which the Mosul Vilayet Council may be able to provide towards an early cease-fire and a mutually advantageous lasting solution of Turkey's 'Kurdish Question'".

Under these circumstances, as a researcher and adviser of the Mosul Vilayet Council, I am less certain than I would like to be that the Iraq Declaration of 1932 is really being put to good use by the powers that be, and is not in fact misused for justifying military operations which might not be necessary if parallel diplomacy were given its due chance.

I understand your concern for some zealous government officials with a private agenda to blatantly cherry-pick, to fail to properly consult with the authors of a promising idea, and thus to unwittingly jeopardize a historic chance for both Turkey, Iraq and the whole Middle East. What do you propose for such a political calamity to be avoided?

Perhaps the matter should be looked into in the perspective you just outlined, not only at the involved ministries, but also by the corresponding parliamentary bodies.

And should the Turkish Government finally decide to go beyond said "cherry-picking", which foreign country do you see best suited for the related initiatives at the UN?

Russia, if you are good at playing chess and triangular diplomatic moves, eventually making good use of political catalysts and parallel diplomacy - a tall order. And France, because it has a revivable historical root in the Mosul Vilayet. Moreover, it is expected to become the most influential leader in key EU areas of interest to Turkey. A successful French-Turkish partnership for securing the access to Europe's strategic oil reserves in Iraq would likely work wonders on Turkey's future relationship with whatever emerges from the European Union - which may actually not survive as such but be replaced with a more appropriate structure, as proposed already in 1991 by the then-Presidents Mitterrand and Havel in the form of a European Confederation (.../a2.htm#Prague).

I don’t remember with whom but in 1994, I talked to a governmental adviser and professor at Bilkent University. He told me "No, they (Turkish officials) do not want to touch this Mosul issue because it is still emotionally super-charged - and super-charging. It would rekindle Arab suspicions and sentiments against us." I think that situation has since changed somewhat. The argument of not wanting to risk avoidable problems can now be examined in a different light. With the situation in Iraq deteriorating by the day, and the spillover effects becoming apparent even for the one-eyed, the priority concerns of many Arab leaders have since shifted drastically. The Arabs would thus seem to be welcoming any serious initiative which offers the prospect of a rapid re-stabilization of Iraq's society.

You know the wisdom: "when in a hole, stop digging". However, currently, in Iraq many forces are unleashed who seem hell-bent to dig further. That still doesn't exclude those in charge of the occupying forces. They still haven't liberated themselves of dogmatic constraints in their search for viable options and pathways. One of the clearest options is to look at the historical roots of the problem and to define in that light the ultimate aims and ways to get there.

So what I am saying is if the Turkish Government is determined to use diplomatic means and go in the direction of having people draw inspiration from their historical roots, it will also enhance whatever chance it may have to eventually recover or set up special relations with the Mosul Vilayet. And it could profile itself as a stabilizer in a woefully destabilized region. That is for me not a question, that is a given. It is a natural course, like the rising sun in the morning.

In this sense, and as outlined in 1994 in a contribution to the UN Human Rights Commission under the title: "PROPOSED CONFLICT RESOLUTION PATHWAYS FOR IRAQ", perhaps the Hashemit family could take a salvatory role in relation to Iraq (.../a3b.htm#E/CN.4/1994/NGO/48). As preached in the desert at that time, there are many options around that general pathway, including a United Kingdom of Iraq and Jordan. Whether the powers that be will remember, or listen now, remains to be seen. At least we’re not there, yet.

In the same order of things, Iraq's Declaration of 1932 offers a pathway. The Mosul Vilayet would be the common denominator. The matter would have to be raised at the UN General Assembly, which could thus recognize the international minority protection and private property guarantees as key vehicles for unlocking the current gridlock. The International Court of Justice might be called upon to provide an advisory opinion on this issue. And key questions to be addressed would be: How are these rights and obligations going to be pursued? How are they going to be observed? How are they going to be enforced? And by whom? Is it by the Security Council, the General Assembly itself, the Trusteeship Council or by some other body of the UN?

These are matters that have to be discussed among the potential partners for action on the UN level. Once you get the General Assembly to make corresponding decisions, Turkey could be the key mover behind the scenes, or even in front of the scenes. Before that, Turkey may want to chose its partners, be it Russia or France or whoever. Turkey might also go on its own to prepare and make such a move after proper consultations in and outside of the General Assembly or, eventually, the Security Council.

Okay, how about Barzani and Talabani? What would Barzani and Talabani want to do if Turkey starts a campaign like you describe? What are your expectations?

As indicated, the Turkish Government, the people in the foreign ministry are knowledgeable people with a long experience with the constituent parts of the Turkish society. They thus know how to deal with people like Talabani and Barzani, even if the latter have by now - and for the time being - been favored to take on the coat of power in a neighboring country.

Are they going to be integrated into the eventual Turkish campaigning for Northern Iraq?

Look! In 1992 I was in Ankara and had a meeting in the office of Talabani. The current vice prime minister of Iraq, Barham Salih was also an adviser and Talabani was present. Sheik Salar Al-Hafeed, one of the co-founders of MVC, was present too. Talabani was asked whether he’s willing to support the Mosul Vilayet Project.

The first reaction was "Well, I had this idea long before you." I said okay "show me the documents. Show me even the term Mosul Vilayet only." It was clear and it was exactly the reaction like that by any other Kurd. "Ooo.. It is something I had already before." All want to be bigger than the other one. It is a natural human reaction. The downside is that, abroad at least, this dominant reaction has given the Kurds not only an unfavorable reputation, but has played heavily against them being recognized as a reliable partner. Anyway modesty is not one of their characteristics. Every one claims to be the first one who had that idea. For some strange, but human reasons, Kurds in particular seem to have difficulty admitting that another Kurd can have a good idea - as if that diminished one's own standing.

Second, Talabani said "Look if we get another government to support this idea" and then paused and continued "No, I don’t need any government but I need the Turkish Government." Then, "No, I don't even need the Turkish Government but only certain Turkish generals to support it" he said, and he put his 10 fingers on the table as a swearing sign, meaning: I am swearing to God and on the heads of my children.

Talabani was absolutely convinced this is the pathway to success. He was convinced then and I trust him that he meant what he said, that he said what he meant, and that 13 years later he basically still pursues the same idea. One of his high-ranking colleagues, ... I can’t remember the name…


Yes Kosrat. He is totally in favor of this.

In favour of what?

In favor of our Mosul Vilayet project. Both in 2002 and 2004 when I visited Iraq, Kosrat asked me why I'm not calling for a conference? In 2004, I had prepared reconciliation resolutions for both the Baghdad, Basra and the Mosul Vilayets (.../recres.htm), and I had come specifically for preparing that reconciliation conference (.../invitation.htm). Kosrat offered comprehensive security services, and from Barzani's party I got a similar offer. So we had the invitation and the whole structure of the meeting was well advanced when it was hijacked by the UN. With essentially the same agenda and participants but without our Council. So maybe because of that it didn't accomplish anything visible.

Kosrat genuinely supports the Council or…?

Yes, he is, and I trust him also, even though - like Moushir, Harony and other members of our Council - he doesn't speak English. We have all the parties’ signatures. Maybe I shouldn't say this but from your neighborhood you are familiar with the culture. Like most other people, they can all be convinced, each one of them can be lead to better insights. This is not necessarily done with money. You can convince them in many other ways. Saddam used both torture and political carrots. Others play on unfavorable information or on one's ego. Mutual back-scratching can also help. And whether you call this arm-twisting, corruption, bribing or mere convincing is mostly secondary.

Basically, if you offer anyone a deal they can't refuse - e.g. because it foreseeably, genuinely and fairly covers their current and their foreseeable long-term legitimate interests - it would be anormal if you'd refuse. And so I'm confident that all those Arab, Assyrian, Kurdish, Turkomen and Yezidi community and party leaders who have already signed up for the Mosul Vilayet project will be happy to confirm and honor their decision as soon as circumstances will no longer stand in the way but favor this course of action. Particularly as this pathway is moored in solid historical roots. As it has roots in international law and is attractive for all of the Mosul Vilayet's constituent communities. That’s why I told them at the beginning when they said they want independence and Kurdistan: "Look, I have something that may eventually prepare your community for that road and lead you there in some ten generations. But if you are serious about wanting to go onto that road, I am offering you a practical model for the time being in the form of the Mosul Vilayet, coupled with this advice as a conditio sine qua non: Don’t ever mention the words Kurdistan and independence. They are politically no-nos, political tabus. Forget them and strike them from your writings and debates!"

Good advice.

They said "Yes, we want it." And I cautioned them by saying: "I don’t want you to simply say ‘yes’ now and tomorrow say ‘no’."

The word ‘genuine’ loses its meaning in this political environment.

Who has the word genuine in the party name? Kurdistan Democratic Party, etc is not genuinely democratic. Like most others, it is a political tribe. They have the structure of social and ethnical tribes with the responsibilities and powers that go with it. But they are only a political tribe with none of the very serious constraints laying on the shoulders of any genuine leader of any genuine ethnical tribe.

Basically you are saying that if the Turkish Government decided to actively explore and eventually push the Mosul Vilayet project on the international arena, Barzani and Talabani and any other significant so-called Kurdish leaders would follow this political campaign?

I have no doubt. Saddam discovered and mercilessly exploited that. We did not discover it. Saddam simply knew it. They are mostly still in a mindset where they can all be brought to sign on the dotted line of almost anything, if the conditions are right, that is. Things should be convincing. They must be standing on their own. And if they are attractive and can seriously be expected to produce lasting benefits, you can bank on that!

I outlined strict preconditions for genuine power- and fruit-sharing, for lasting reconciliation and for regionally radiating internal stability and religious harmony. I told them they have not only to recognize each other as Kurds, but also their Arab, Assyrian, Turkomen and Yezidi brethren as partners on the same level of power. There was no discussion, only nodding. That’s why we were able to set up the Council as the highest representative organ of all these constituent communities, with all its some 350 members to be exactly on the same level. In our structure, the current tigers on the block are all cut down to their size, with Talabani, Barzani and others finding themselves recognized as no more - but also as no less - than ex-officio members of the MVC. At that time they headed the PUK and the KDP respectively. As such they, respectively their successors will be equals inter pares, as duly elected representatives of their own organizations with identical Council rights and obligations.

Meanwhile, Barzani and Talabani have smelled blood in the sense of political power. Accordingly, they may now be more difficult to be convinced and to effectively join hands. Talabani is known to be a fox; but one can do business with him. Barzani may be less amenable. When you shake the hand of Barzani, you know with whom you are dealing. Essentially, he is the son of his father. Period. In this sense it is more difficult to do business with him. Every time he goes to the States he is said to inquire about the Mosul Vilayet project and what the US Government's position is on this. And as he mostly meets ignorant flat earth fellows or people toeing the party line, he never ever got the American green light he always thought was indispensable. He's always given me the impression to expect others to tell him what to do. Though he is his son, he doesn't seem to have the historical dimension of the legendary Mustafa Barzani. But then again, I may be happily wrong. And if that happened, I'd be glad to admit it.

Rebirth of the Mosul Vilayet? (Part II)

Ekopolitik (Murat Sofuoğlu): If the Mosul Vilayet project were to succeed, we'd need more than a few capable Arab, Assyrian, Kurdish, Turkomen and other leaders who genuinely represent their communities. Experiences to date are not encouraging. Even with full support by the Turkish and other interested governments, there simply is no substitute for such genuine representation as can be observed in the tribal communities where their leaders are still selected in very effective ways. Take the Kurdish community, where it was mostly external forces who secured their ascension to and maintenance in their current positions. Exit those external forces, and Kurds all over the Mosul Vilayet would probably impose significant changes. Am I wrong?

Keller: Let's say your analysis is at least not far off the mark. I appreciate in particular the fact, that in your question you haven't even mentioned the word democracy, but showed respect and understanding for other time-tested forms of representative government. As a sovereign Swiss citizen, I have of course no monopoly on, but I have some experiences with real democracy, with really democratic institutions and processes, and I'm attached to real democratic values. As such I'm that more sensitive and worried if I hear these words being misused by others who thus seek to advance their own misguided agenda. This being said, you shouldn't look for genuine leaders only among those who speak English or for other reasons have become visible on the surface.

I am ready to forget about those who are currently in responsible positions and, for better or worse, dominate the headlines. But even you are saying with regard to leadership qualities, there are now not enough qualified people in your Council either.

The current in limbo or stand-by situation of the Mosul Vilayet Council (MVC: is indeed not revealing the enormous talents and resources that can be mobilized on this pathway. The current draft MVC Statutes of 1994 (.../a31.htm#STATUTE) provides for the tribal selection and election process to remain key, with each tribe, town, professional association, and religious and ethnic community electing its leader according to its own rules and procedures. That leader then will ex-officio be MVC Member. And those leaders will then elect, from among themselves, the Executive Committee which will be assisted by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and the Registrars, and it will direct the Coalition Government for Reconstruction and Development. And while all of this is no guarantee for anything, it is a structure which is seen as the biggest chance for getting all communities under one hat, for mobilizing their constructive, conciliatory and cooperative forces, and for bringing to the fore the most competent personalities. And to the extent that they need any foreign assistance at all, there are some near-by brethren who may not only command respect and lasting positive memories from the First Gulf War when Iraqis were globally isolated and missed the solidarity of others, but who could provide much of the reconciliation, reconstruction and development skills needed, and who now themselves are in urgent need for genuine solidarity. I'm speaking of the Palestinians who, as suggested before (.../a3b.htm#Shiite) and below, might become an important catalyst not only for the successful Iraqi way forward but also for the future Middle Eastern equation as a whole (.../salve.htm).

I understand that. But do you think there is anybody?

Yes, from my observations, there are in fact many, some of them - for the above reason of forced passivity - are not even now in the Council.

Who are they?

Typically, they genuinely reflect Iraq's society, but they now serve their public outside of the limelight. They include teachers, mayors, doctors, officers, clerics, judges, farmers, social workers, lawyers, human rights workers, etc. They will be presented to the public in due time.

In sad contrast to that - and from the beginning in 1991 - our American friends have given some who speak English a free ride for leadership, regardless of their character, background and competence. None of them has impressed me as exceptionally qualified. And neither they nor others now in power have distinguished themselves as fundamentally different from Saddam. But that hasn't surprised many who are familiar with the ancient Hammurabi Code. Still - and denying the evidence and putting our heads into the sand on this isn't helpful for anyone - as a rule, the leaders now in power do not enjoy the respect and genuine adoration the majority of Iraqis manifestly had for one of their own, i.e. Saddam. In fact, many of them are merely small wannabe Saddams. Nothing more. Nothing less. No illusion about that. On the other hand, there are people who are real pearls for the leadership positions that need to be filled. But again, you will not find them in the limelight now.

They have to be backed up and they have to be supported by outside people who want to advance this campaign.

Yes, but not in a way which makes them appear as foreign stooges, as handymen of neo-colonialists, or as promoters of some flat earth or other fundamentalist insult to human intelligence. Moreover, while proper external support is of course helpful and welcome, in this preparatory phase there appears to be something even more important and in fact indispensable, and that is the formulation of a generally supported realistic goal and its proper representation with one voice.

The first order of business was thus to focus my Iraqi colleagues' mind on what their background really is, what realistic objective they earnestly want to pursue, and thus to define a clear, defendable and viable goal. This generally supported goal, this nail which had to be forged exclusively from within and by themselves, had then to be hammered into their Iraqi ground, so that all foreigners, friends and foes, had to adopt their agendas to accommodate this political fact on the ground. All Mosul Vilayet declarations reflect this process. Unfortunately, the other side of Victor Hugo's medal soon overshadowed the one I've mentioned before. This other side says: "No force in the world can push through an idea whose time hasn't come."

So, from the beginning, we've been shot in the back, notably by some of our English and American friends. Essentially, it was always the same, whether they worked at White Hall, or Downing Street, on K Street, or at the Pentagon, Foggy Bottom, the Hill or at the White House. They hadn't thought of it before, it was "not invented here", and/or it had something to do with what they remembered only - if at all - as a failed international organization they didn't want to associate with, namely the League of Nations. The more street-wise among my discussion partners had at least a sense of appreciation for what one of them, Saddrudin Aga Khan, had brought out already in 1992 in his noted Sorbonne address (.../Sorbonne.html), namely:

"Some writers [e.g. Danilo Türk] ... suggest that minority protection obligations put in place at the time of the League could perhaps be a means of reinforcing UN resolutions and that certain relevant treaties and obligations under the League should be considered as remaining valid. They contend that the UN, as the legal successor of the League, can accede to League instruments through simple General Assembly resolutions.The argument is advanced that League obligations could be applied with respect to Iraq and the former Yugoslavia... It would be helpful if international law experts were to examine the validity of this proposal. If it were valid, this might strengthen the UN's position. Indeed, some observers have argued that UN Security Council resolutions are not an adequate basis for intervention on the scale carried out in, for example, Iraq."

Is there any way we could persuade our American allies to help shape the future by drawing inspiration from the past, as suggested by Saddrudin Aga Khan?

Yes, we might persuade Bush 43, but not automatically the most influential people around him. And to this effect, we even might find diplomatic support from Israel and France. We thus have an opportunity. Bush has very limited time left. He wants to make it into history as a positive president. He wants to get out of this situation - if possible without resorting to another big bang. He wants to deconstruct all the negative memories that are associated with his presidency. If we can get to him with a formula providing a face-saving withdrawal from the Iraqi mess, we have not only a chance for our project, but we might significantly help him, the American people and, last but not least, the Iraqis. If the Turkish Government were to decide on such a course of action, it would know how to go about it. In the event, it might find in the Assyrians an interested but unsuspected ally for this task (.../assyriansawake.htm). And an even more surprising - and helpful - message is seen in the methods and means the American Assyrians have been applying for overcoming traditional adverse US reactions to any proposal linked to the League of Nations.

Indeed, lack of appreciation of what the League of Nations really was, what it did and failed to accomplish, and the lessons to be learned from this 20th Century attempt at international peace-making are seen to bedevil current policy and decision-makers here and there. Thus, it has been timely for the American leadership of the global Assyrian Diaspora to draw attention to the related misunderstandings surrounding a truly great American statesman, Henry Cabot Lodge(.../cablodge.htm). And though the first miracle has yet to be achieved, i.e. explicit support from all Assyrian, Chaldean, Nestorian, Syriac, and other associated Christian communities spread over the world for the proposed Joint Congressional Resolution on the Assyrian People(.../ashur.htm), it is to Senator John Nimrod's credit that the US conservative communities may thus finally come to see their political Godfather Cabot Lodge differently, and thus lend a hand to this imaginative Christian initiative.

To be sure, Senator Cabot Lodge was not the isolationist some have since painted him to be. Yes, he wrote in his 1919 Philippika to President Wilson:

"The United States is the world's best hope, but if you fetter her in the interests and quarrels of other nations, if you tangle her in the intrigues of Europe, you will destroy her power for good and endanger her very existence. ... for if we stumble and fall freedom and civilization everywhere will go down in ruin."

But, as Senator Nimrod points out in his letter to the Members of the US Congress (.../cabotlodge.htm),

"... as powerful chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Cabot Lodge probably would not have allowed successive administrations to lead the United States astray from existing security, reconciliation and cooperation arrangements. Particularly not when they were successfully negotiated with and by the ethnic, religious and cultural communities directly involved. Regardless of whether these texts have an American seal dangling from it. And he wouldn't have been kind to current office holders here and there who treated history as bunk or would have forgotten about past and still valid international agreements. Yet, in the case of Iraq, that is precisely what is still happening, with valid international minority protection and private property guarantees waiting to serve the cause of peace."

What does your experience say about the Turkish Government? If they'd like to push the Mosul Vilayet project, what could it, what should it do? Before the July 22 elections, the Turkish army voiced its concerns about where Turkey was heading under a leadership which openly veered from Turkey's secularist traditions. For the AKP was thus seen as redirecting Turkish policies from a basically Western to a more and more Eastern orientation. AKP responded essentially by saying they represent a new generation in Turkish politics, a class which is conservative and aware of its religious roots, but is also business-oriented and moderate. They say in Turkish society power balances must be allowed to change in favor of the people. They claim AKP to have initiated this process. Anyway now there is some tension between the army and AKP. You may have heard that the army issued a warning on April 27. They said if necessary we can intervene since you are on the wrong track. According to the army, this kind of intervention is their constitutional right….

From what I know, this is not only their constitutional right but it is also their constitutional obligation…

But in this fundamental matter, regrettably, there seems to be no consensus yet between the army and the current government. Another unfortunate incident involves the Foreign Minister who availed himself to become President. He was selected as the AKP's candidate for the Presidency, and the opposition party referred the Parliament's vote on this election to the Constitutional Court. The Court then concluded that the vote was indeed invalid. What is so weird about the whole process is that a Turkish citizen who serves his country as a Foreign Minister was blocked from becoming President let’s say because his wife wears a headscarf. Under these conditions I doubt that citizen to be willing to engage in such a risky policy like the Mosul Vilayet project.

As a Swiss citizen, I would resent any unsolicited foreign suggestion on what we should or shouldn't do, particularly on election matters. And so, you may forgive me for not wanting to even appear to meddle in internal Turkish affairs. Nevertheless, I, for one, see the Mosul Vilayet not as a dividing but rather as a uniting issue. Therefore, if the Foreign Minister is as smart as I'm sure he is, he could do it. If he knows enough about the Mosul Vilayet, he even might want to do it - as I would, if I were in his shoes. Remember: President Demirel said publicly: "Turkish-Iraqi border is wrong." (Hürriyet, 8 October 1992) When he said that in Parliament I heard that some people were crying. That’s for me a very strong and positive signal. As you must know well, this is a very emotional issue which totally transcends all party lines and internal conflicts.

If there is a solution, in my opinion, that could be to make this issue a national cause in terms of your thinking. But here there is a thin red line. When you decide to make this issue a national cause, you risk to fuel rather than temper ethnic nationalism which is currently on the rise in Turkey. An eventual unilateral Turkish intervention into Northern Iraq which would strengthen ethnic nationalists in both Turkish and Kurdish circles might thus endanger Turkey in its core, both from within and from the outside. I believe we have to avoid that kind of disaster at all costs.

History, and the current Iraq war again tells us that there is no denial of the risk of fundamental destabilization of a mixed society in particular if the government of any country - be it that of the United States, Russia, Turkey, etc. - does not behave wisely and in the interests of society as a whole, or if it jeopardizes legitimate interests of a constituent part of society over an extended period of time. In this sense, I agree with you. But you don't need to take my word for it. For everything we've done and failed to do in the past some 15 years proves that we mean to avoid particularly the kind of destabilization you mentioned. As pointed out before, while I, for one, am in the service of no neighboring or interested government, we have from the beginning worked out equitable cooperation and power- and fruit-sharing arrangements covering the legitimate needs of all communities which make up the Mosul Vilayet - by now, you know the alphabetically ordered refrain, i.e. from Arabs, to Assyrians, Kurds, Turkomen and Yezidis. This also embraces the Chaldeans, Nestorians and other communities, but it excludes the use of any monopolizing, domineering or exclusionary term like Assyrian Triangle, Kurdistan, etc.

If that were agreeable to the Turkish Government, it might thus consider facilitating the debate in the Kurdish and the Turkomen communities in particular on how to safeguard legitimate Turkish interests in light of current developments concerning Kirkuk. And none of Turkish society's constituent communities or institutions might thus feel compelled to call for or resort to military means. For Turkey, too, there is still a limited window of opportunity. If the Turkish Government would take proper initiatives in the direction of the Mosul Vilayet concept, it could indeed defuse the situation on both sides of the argument - not least by replacing the currently still raging but mutually unhelpful Kirkuk status debate with such practical proposals as the Registry pathway(.../registrars.htm).

If, however, the leaders of all involved Iraqi tribes, parties and communities were to reconfirm, recognize and support the Mosul Vilayet concept as the way to go forward and no external support would be forthcoming for this approach from such possible comrades-in-arms as France, Germany, Russia, UK and the US, the Turkish Government could then say: "okay, if they don’t want to go ahead with the Mosul Vilayet concept, which satisfies the legitimate aspirations and interests of the involved Arabs, Assyrians, Kurds, Turkomens and Yezidis, etc., then we can take this as a mandate and take it to the UN on our own." In my opinion we thus have under all circumstances an opportunity for an intelligently driven Iraq policy favored by a at least potential common denominator in the form of the Mosul Vilayet concept.

I try to explain to the people that this issue has a limited time frame. But what I recognize from my experience people have a limited brain frame too.

They are particularly driven by the fear to become the underdog of another fellow from the same ethnic group. The fears, uncertainties, and skeletons in one's own cave are also seen as factors for the characteristic expectation of more experienced others, notably foreigners to provide the guidelines, green lights and even orders and excuses for one's own actions and inactions. In one instance, we even saw one such leader to call in Saddam for trying to finally finish off the traditional pecking-order adversary. With this in mind, the Turkish government could think "Hey! We know our rights and interests, we know the worth of our American friends, and therefore we are not going to wait for them to give us a green light for doing what is proper and indicated under the circumstances." Indeed, Americans are now in such a non-enviable situation, that its leadership is seen to be hugely tempted to try any "Befreiungsschlag", i.e. any relief-promising diplomatic or even military initiative, not excluding opening up a new front against Iran(.../iran.htm). A properly prepared corresponding Turkish initiative could thus turn out to be a greatly appreciated political catalyst even across the Atlantic. Anybody who tells you this is not the right time now, or even suggests to wait for a green light from Americans, is just plain wrong.

I understand your point. Of course, any enlargement of the military theater is likely to make matters only worse. Tension is increasing here and elsewhere and there are very limited options.
There is also something else we should not lose sight of. Contrary to received wisdom, like the on-going conflict with Hamas and last year's war against Hezbollah (.../annan.htm#behave), the current build-up for a US/Israel-Iran war seems to be driven more by panicky people around the current US President than by Israeli hawks (.../meyssan.htm). Irrespective of who really pulls the strings on whom in that matter, the Israeli factor could provide some additional light for better understanding the issues under review here. And in the long-run particularly, that and related factors could fundamentally change the current chessboard notably in the Middle East. Viewed in a wider perspective, this could be seen as the final spasms of what begun with the introduction of monotheism by the Pharaoh, and what all along essentially amounted to Akhenaton succession wars (.../a1.htm).

Rebirth of the Mosul Vilayet? (Part III)

Ekopolitik (Murat Sofuoğlu): Where is Israel in the complex equation of Northern Iraq you described so far?

Keller: Here, you're indeed entering a very complex and even slippery terrain of vast size. Some of the related details and ideas may have to await to be discussed on another occasion. For one thing, please remember that this is supposed to be an interview, i.e. an introduction to an individual's always limited insights, observations and questions. It's not a book. And it's even less a library, even though it may turn out to be just that. Particularly, if I will make use of this wonderful but also thoroughly over-loading new instrument of communication which is the internet, and if I will add simple hyperlinks to some of my answers. Also remember that we're thus living in the age of information saturation which - even in such key fields as social and economic developments- prevents most of us from leaning back and thinking things over (

For another thing, I see the term Israel to be a code to many things - past, present and future. In a nutshell, I see it as an eye opener. But only for those who admit that God created them with eye lids - and with an obligation to fully apply their brain powers, even if that leads them to start questioning the religiously correct vision of their world. In other words, I find it necessary to warn and invite all readers to skip this part of the interview, unless they are completely open-minded and willing to venture beyond received wisdoms and sacred beliefs. For while this part, of course, is also intended not to offend anyone, and in no way offers certainties, conclusive data and absolute truth, it does point to what are seen to be established archeological and historical facts. And it raises questions which are left for the searching and discerning reader to ponder.

Thus: which Israel are you talking about, Israel, the man, Israel, the valley, or Israel, the current State? Is it the man Israel who reportedly had his name changed from Jacob, like the Pharaoh Akhenaton from Amenophis IV, who both are identified with the origins of monotheism in their society, and who both - intriguingly for the same number of 17 years - had made their marks on Egypt (.../a1.htm)? Is it Israel whose father Abraham is seen by some researchers as identical with Zarathustra? If you're talking about this mayor figure from the Holy Books, you're looking at a key project of serious religious debate in the Mosul Vilayet. For, on December 16, 1998,His Eminence the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Dr. Mohamed Sayed Tantaoui, responded with the following

Written Declarationon the proposal to set up, in the Mosul Vilayet, an international institute for the study of the roots of Islam, particularly those preceding Judean and Christian traditions, with the name of SLM Center: (.../slm.htm):

"Al Azhar welcomes every institute built on the good study for the sake of sincere worship of God, to follow the good moralities, to spread the kind virtues among people and to declare the spirit of Brotherhood, Tolerance, Freedom and Peace among all the members of human society. Besides that, Al Azhar thanks those who assist in building such kind of institute and preparing it for the good aims and purposes mentioned above."

Though the discussions with other religious leaders from the monotheistic family are expected to result in similar supportive statements, Tantaoui's declaration is the more significant as it demonstrates an openness at the top of Islamic scholars and institutions which is both unexpected and encouraging. More recently, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar also authorized the publication of a ground-breaking research on the Holy Quran's Code of 19 (.../alm.htm) which is said to offer the first scientific proof of the existence of the Almighty God and, as such, should go a long way to resolve notably the current Sunni-Shia and other intra-monotheistic conflicts. This global-impact project is expected to become a core institution of the above SLM Center which is planned to be located on the world's oldest known constantly inhabited ziggurat in the Mosul Vilayet's planned capital, Arbil (

For the time being, I know of no direct link to the Mosul Vilayet, if you're talking about the Israel valley in which Meggido is situated. "Jezreel" is mentioned apparently for the first time on the so-called "Israel stela" of the son of the Pharaoh Ramses II where we read: "Israel is laid waste, its seed is no more". However, further related insights might be gleaned from previously raised questions (.../a1.htm#questions) and the truly ground-breaking works of scholars like Jan Assmann ("Moses the Egyptian - The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism"), Israel Finkelstein & Neil Asher Silbermann ("The Bible Unearthed"), Ahmed Osman ("Moses Pharaoh of Egypt - The Mystery of Akhenaten Resolved"), Charles Pope("Ankh-em-ma'at (Living in Truth) The Gospel According to Egypt"), David Rohl ("A Test of Time"), William Theaux ("Akhnaton, Moses, Oedipus") and Barbara Thiering ("Jesus the Man").

Finally, if you're referring to current Israel's involvement in Iraqi matters, I'm left to either speculate or add one and one for my own private assessment. However, I might point to past census figures indicating the Mosul Vilayet to have had then a Sunni majority (82%), with significant Christian (8%), Shia (3%) and Jewish (2%) minorities (.../rebirth.htm#1920). To my mind, this indicates upcoming land-recovery claims and potential conflicts which reflect generation-old and newly created displacement wounds by Sunni and Shia Arabs, Kurds & Tukomens, Christian Assyrians, Yezidis and Jews in and outside of Iraq - not unlike the conditions currently experienced by Palestinians uprooted from their homeland.

According to population projections by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics for July 1, 2007, the Palestinian Territory inhabitants numbered 4,016,416, with 2,517,047 in the West Bank and 1,499,369 in the Gaza Strip. As of March 31, 2005, UNRWA listed 687,542 refugees for the West Bank and 961,645 for Gaza. Based on the last Census of 1998, the total number of Palestinians throughout the world was then 8,041,569 of which, then, 910,510 lived in Israel, 1,857,872 in the West Bank, and 1,039,580 in Gaza (Le Monde Diplomatique, December 2001). According to an UNRWA Report of January 2007,"The number of Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA is now more than 4.3 million", with 722,302 living in the West Bank and 1,016,964 in the Gaza Strip (UNRWA, December 2006). Other UNRWA Reports(e.g. April 2007) highlight the enormous efforts made notably by Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as by UNRWA and the European Union for alleviating the refugees' material and mental plight, and for assisting the Palestinian youth in their search for breaking out of vicious circles and becoming part of the overall solution.

Even though the above and other numbers may be discussed and seen in various lights, there appear striking parallels to migration trends which can be seen in the Assyrian and Jewish communities. In all three, those in the Diaspora has by now outnumbered those of the homeland (Jews 59% in 2006; Assyrians 70% in 2006; Palestinians 53% in 1988, now estimated at 60%). And at least in the case of the Assyrians - reportedly involving over 1'000'000 or about one third of the global Assyrian population - and the Palestinians, the pressure to leave the homeland and seek to build a better future abroad has accelerated dramatically in the last two years. As long as the root causes of these often painful emigrations are not properly addressed and eventually eliminated, i.e. as long as physical insecurity is rampant and, for the young in particular, as long as economic and social conditions are not there, or in sight, which offer realistic hope for a dignified and fulfilling life, the whole Middle East appears in a tailspin. However, the underlying mechanisms of this development are not seen to be limited to that area. In fact they seem to be comparable to what is shaping up for youth and societies in other, notably industrialized parts of the world. In Italy, for one, the related phenomena have become known under the title: "The €1000 Generation"(.../capitalism.htm#1000).

How then can this growing regional tailspin be broken, and what role could Israel play in this?

Now you're talking, these are the good questions! For us outsiders, whether we are friends or foes of Israel, first we may want to address the question of what lessons we've learned, from both the developments preceding, and from what happened since the creation of modern Israel by the United Nations, and what lessons our leaders have yet to translate into viable, mutually helpful policies.

In the wake of the Ottoman Empire breakup, not least Kemal Pacha Atatürk is understood to have felt the burden of history and to have assumed an ongoing responsibility for the many ethnic, cultural and religious communities which had made up the Empire. In an exemplary way that could then have been followed - and still could now serve as a source of inspiration - the Turkish National Pact of 28 January 1920 thus provided for essential minority rights to be strictly honored. Its article 2 specifies (.../a33c.htm#Pact):

"We accept that in the case of the three Sandjaks [Kars, Erdehan and Batoum] which united themselves by a general vote to the mother country when they first were free, recourse should again be had, if necessary, to a free popular vote." (J.C.HUREWITZ, The Middle East and North Africa in World Politics - United States Oil Policy in the Middle East, Yale University, London 1979, vol. 2, p.210)

Furthermore, the Lausanne Treaty of 24 July 1923, which is understood to be still binding on both Turkey and Greece, in its articles 37-45, provides for special protection and international guarantees concerning religious minorities in either country (.../lausannetreaty.htm#MINORITIES). However, according to the UN Secretariat's "Study on the Legal Validity of the Undertakings Concerning Minorities" of 1950 (.../a3a.htm#E/CN.4/367),

the United Nations Charter focused on and "recognized a new concept which did not appear in the Covenant of the League of Nations, the concept of human rights and non-discrimination. The protection of human rights is a substantial element in the protection of minorities. The obligations regarding the protection of minorities provided that minority groups should enjoy personal and civil liberties, in fact what has been termed human rights, and that they should not be subjected to discriminatory measures as compared with other elements of the population." "Consequently, might it not be said that the United Nations Charter, by adopting the concept of human rights, which to a large extent coincides with the idea of the protection of minorities, intended to substitute the former concept for the latter and thus implicitly abrogated the special obligations regarding the protection of minorities?"

The authors of said authoritative study answered themselves by saying: "The question might be answered in the negative ..." (op.cit, p.19). What's more, in the UN Working Group on Minorities, under the heading "Minorities Then, Now and Hence", it was pointed out on 30 August 1995 (.../a3b.htm#tensions):

"With the re-emergence of wide-spread identity problems in the form of ethnic, religious and linguistic tensions as telltale signs of inadequately organized or governed, unstable and potentially explosive societies, effective and trust-worthy minority protection tools involving international guarantees are more than ever called for. The trend towards ever more diluted and ever less enforced rights must be reversed and not favored, as would be the case if minority status were extended to refugees, asylum seekers, frontaliers, migrant workers, etc."

Indeed, article 8 of the UN General Assembly's "Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities" of 18 December 1992 (U.N. Doc. A/47/49 (1993)) stipulates unmistakably:

"1. Nothing in the present Declaration shall prevent the fulfillment of international obligations of States in relation to persons belonging to minorities. In particular, States shall fulfill in good faith the obligations and commitments they have assumed under international treaties and agreements to which they are parties."

More importantly, the International Court of Justice, in its Advisory Opinion on the South African mandate of June 1950, expressed the landmark opinion:

"These obligations represent the very essence of the sacred trust of civilization. Their raison d'être and original object remain. Since their fulfillment did not depend on the existence of the League of Nations, they could not be brought to an end merely because this supervisory organ [i.e. the Council of the League of Nations] ceased to exist. Nor could the right of the population to have the Territory administered in accordance with these rules depend thereon." (I.C.J. Reports 1950, p.133)

In light of all these authoritative sources, it would seem that, as indicated before, a properly prepared diplomatic Turkish initiative might successfully be based on Iraq's constitutive Declaration of 1932. For the co-guaranteeing signatories, this would have the additional advantage of already existing in international law and thus requiring no national ratifications which are often difficult to achieve. As such, it could also act to effectively blunt and even derail with diplomatic means some unhelpful and destabilizing initiatives some ill-advised entities have been taking across the Turkish-Iraqi border and in other sensitive parts of the Mosul Vilayet. A follow-up Advisory Opinion by the International Court of Justice on Iraq, and the Mosul Vilayet in particular, could constitute the effective and mutually helpful political catalyst. It would also provide indispensable leadership impulses for successfully venturing beyond worn-out tracks. And, most importantly, it would give realistic hope and a vision to the youth of the region that other regional questions would finally and effectively be addressed with fresh eyes. This is the more so, as article 3 of the Lausanne Treaty stipulates that:

"The frontier between Turkey and Iraq shall be laid down in friendly arrangement to be concluded between Turkey and Great Britain within nine months.
In the event of no agreement being reached between the two Governments within the time mentioned, the dispute shall be referred to the Council of the League of Nations."

And while this latter clause was indeed activated and eventually lead to the current borderline between Turkey and Iraq, it did not give the Council of the League of Nations powers which, in international law, are regularly reserved to sovereign states, and which the League had not acquired from other sources. Accordingly and particularly, theinternational minority protection and private property guarantees and obligations incurred by Iraq in 1932 with regard to the Mosul Vilayet, are seen to continue to provide a basis not for eventual territorial ambitions but for legitimate interests in that area which - as I've outlined before - the Turkish Government may validly raise in such international fora as the International Court of Justice and other United Nations bodies.

Now, how could such a history-inspired and law-based course of action helpfully impact the developments regarding the Palestinians and Israel's position? First, by demonstrating to all those concerned that history isn't bunk, as Henry Ford reportedly said. And that our forefathers also had good ideas which may only now become ready to fruition - if only we'd be willing to seriously consider them and eventually allowed them to blossom. On this track it shouldn't be too difficult to imagine that history and even forgotten legal instruments can thus be applied fruitfully as a vehicle for raising the root-awareness and mobilizing the imagination and readiness to test the terrain outside the visual problem's apparent borders. There is this adjacent puzzle to illustrate the point, and I usually let people discover it for themselves in order to reap maximum satisfaction from solving it on their own. But here it may be best to bring it up with the solution. The puzzle's author and origin isn't known to me (in the event, please share your related information or comments). So here is the problem: connect all nine stars with four straight lines without ever lifting the pen from the paper. Here is the solution: Draw the first - diagonal - straight line from any corner to its opposite corner of the square which is outlined by the 9 stars, continue from that opposite corner towards either of the remaining corners but continue this second straight line beyond the limits of the square for a distance measuring half a square side, turn around at that point and draw the third straight line in such a way that it covers two of the remaining stars but, by a distance of half diagonal line, again ventures beyond the square, turn again around at that point and draw the fourth straight line towards the fourth corner and beyond, thus covering the remaining stars. And here is what I think may, with benefit to all, be retained from such exercises:

As in most daily problems, looking for a solution within the problem's apparent confines is unnecessarily limitative, confines one-self to worn-out tracks and may not get you anywhere. Freeing one-self of artificial limitations is often the first order of business for creative and helpful thinking and actions. And though it amounts to an intellectual quantum jump to dare venturing, in the given problem, beyond the square's limits, it is in this case at least the only way to solve the problem. Remembering that may often be helpful - as may be training one-self in this challenging art and eventually adopting this discerning mindset.

On this background - and with this perspective only - you may begin to understand and appreciate the Written Statement by the International Fellowship of Reconciliation to the UN Human Rights Commission "Proposed Conflict Resolution Pathways for Iraq" of 25 February 1994 (.../a3b.htm#E/CN.4/1994/NGO/48) from which we integrated, into the Mosul Vilayet Council's Solidarity Declaration of 16 October 2001 (.../a31.htm#SOLIDARITY), the following passage:

"Also, in the cases of the Christian, Shiite and Sunni inhabitants of the Baghdad and the Basra vilayets, further developments are conceivable which seem worthy of these peoples' great cultural past. This might include interim solutions for Palestinians of all faiths who, in the event, may need complementary solutions and fallback positions. However, that road may be opened only by a deliberate - and sanctions-relevant - dissolution of existing structures into a federated state involving notably the Kingdom of Jordan."

Finally, how do you see your own future in relation to the Mosul Vilayet in particular?

I've come a long way and, from the peculiar points of view of many here and there, I may not have achieved much in this life, except perhaps to have brought forth ideas which were mostly out of sync or not to the liking of the powers that be. Assuming any of these ideas to have any current or future value at all, I thus may not even live to see much of a dent on anything to result from my labors. And if it will be decided otherwise, I intend to fulfill my end of the bargain and serve those who may choose to heed my advice, to see to it that everything is put on the rail and moving ... and that I will become superfluous as quickly as possible. Just as that medical professor Kauffmann who has found his credo inscribed in the aula of the University of Wuerzburg: "The supreme ideal of the dental profession should be to eliminate the necessity of its own existence."

To be continued (?)

(Ekopolitik, Murat Sofuoğlu, 4 Temmuz 2007) 


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