‘President-Elect’ Biden and the Kurds


Americans are gearing up to elect their president in November 2020, for a four-year term beginning in January 2021.

The choice will be between the current president, Republican Donald J. Trump, or one of 23 declared Democratic candidates.

Leading the Democratic contenders is Joseph R. Biden who actually knows Kurds and speaks a political language that respects our struggle for freedom in the greater Middle East.

If Kurds are your concerns, he will make a good president, and Kurdish-Americans who are Democrats should consider helping him become the next president of the United States.

If you want reasons, here are four of mine:

One, he is the only candidate with the Kurdish capital. He knows, for example, not only the name of our president but also his children and grandchildren, according to Ben Rhodes’ recent book: The World As It Is.

Two, his definition of foreign policy dovetails with our practice of statecraft abroad: “All foreign policy is an extension of personal relationships.”

Trade may enrich, but these personal touches have their way of sealing foreign policy deals that may mean freedom or subjugation in the life of vulnerable nations like Kurds.

Three, Biden has not only broken our bread, sipped our tea, and tasted our watermelons, but he has also shared his bread with us.

He welcomed Masoud Barzani, our first president, to his house on Massachusetts Avenue for breakfast back in 2015.

If he is nominated and elected, our new first family may even get an invitation to his house, this time on Pennsylvania Avenue!

Four, of all the American politicians who could possibly occupy the White House, he is the only one who has published a Kurdish-friendly op-ed in the New York Times—2006.

He compared Iraq to Bosnia and thought a decentralized government in Baghdad would usher in stability and a semblance of peace between not only Kurds and Arabs, but also Sunnis and Shias.

Two years later, he was in the White House, but as Obama’s vice president. Alas, he was not given the leeway to test his stated ideas in spite of America’s clout in Baghdad.

But knowing Biden and honoring him as a friend of Kurds may have cost us some opportunities as well.

Obama, his boss, had opposed the war in Iraq and thought by removing the American troops from the country, he would enable Iraqis to come together and restore law and order to their republic.

The fact that Iraqis were horrifically abused for decades and needed a disinterested helping hand was, alas, disregarded.

Biden was used, there is no better word for it, to persuade Barzani not to rattle the British construct called the state of Iraq.

The burning issues that needed addressing, such as the status of Kirkuk and the disputed territories, were postponed for the sake of war-weary Obama in the White House.

That is now history between Barzani and Biden. We should, if Americans vote for Biden, still welcome his presidency for the good that it might still do in the Kurdish Middle East.

His opinion relative to the state of Bosnia has stood the test of time and may be needed again, given the turbulent politics of not just Iraq, but also Syria, Turkey, and Iran.

I have so far tried to outline what a Biden presidency would mean to the Kurds and Kurdistan inside the Middle East. If you decide to help Biden, it could also mean a great deal to you as a Kurdish-American inside America.

Imagine witnessing the mechanics of a presidential campaign from the beginning to the end! And if you shine in it, you may also be rewarded with the prospects of a job.

That is what happened to Ben Rhodes. He joined the campaign of candidate Obama at the age of 27 and moved into the White House as a staff when he was 29.

He served President Obama for eight years. That is a 400 percent return on the down payment of two years while working at one of the most important addresses in the world.

“Foreign policy makes no sense,” says Leslie Gelb of Council on Foreign Relations. He is not trying to be facetious. Whatever you think: let honesty and integrity be your principles in dealing with the subject.

This is particularly relevant given the controversies that surrounded the last presidential election. Heads have not exactly rolled, but a few have been thrown behind bars, and a presidency may be in jeopardy as well.

If 2016 repeats itself in 2020, let no one accuse you or convict you of wrongdoing.

“Honesty,” said Thomas Jefferson, the author of Declaration of Independence, (yes, you are allowed to hate the artist and love his art—given his relationship with Sally Hemings and his views on Native Americans), “is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”

Let that be, not only the first chapter in the book of Kurds but the last also.

Kani Xulam is a political activist based in Washington DC. He runs the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN).

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Kurdistan 24.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany