No later than the defeat of Alex Salmond’s push for Scotland’s independence had been realized that the sane world was to witness another episode of this modern malady, that is, drive for secession from long-established nation-states. Such secessionist movements are spearheaded by “ethnic” leaders, whom upon close examination, reveal themselves to possess other unconscious needs. After all, what possible persecution could exist in any of the Western democratic countries against any particular ethnic minority? Here, the word Western is not meant to imply a specific geographic area but it is rather a conceptual idea. In fact, Western democracies also include Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Israel, and South Africa neither of which is located geographically in the West. And, of course, there is the East which includes the Middle East.
Presently, the secessionist malady and outcry for independence is heard in yet another parliamentary democracy; namely, the Kingdom of Spain.
We have observed in the news what happens when such tendencies take place in autocratic nations such as former Yugoslavia as well as former Soviet Union, which today is called Russian Federation. In the former, Western European countries discovered concentration camps and genocidal crimes purported by the anti-secessionists the likes of which had not been seen in Europe since World War II. In the later, a mere ultimatum of similar consequences was sufficient enough to discourage any secessionist tendencies, mostly by Moslems in Tataristan some 500 miles east of Moscow.
In democratic nations, however, as we have seen, there are firebrands whom if CIA was to conduct psychological profiles on them, it would demonstrate that these folks suffer from a condition that can only be termed as “lack of power” syndrome. In their own estimation, they have tired of being mere governors or provincial primers and have decided to stir up public sentiment in order to acquire supreme number-one status. Such was the dilemma with Alex Salmond in Scotland until cooler heads both Scottish as well as English, prevailed and prevented the 350-year socio-political as well as economic and cultural union from disintegrating in the United Kingdom.
Now we have another political power aspirant in the serene Kingdom of Spain where democracy has prevailed since the passing of General Francisco Franco, 1892-1975. Franco, despite often being demonized by intellectuals, except in Spain, kept his country out of both World War I and II. He had vowed to keep his people fed while the rest of Europe suffered unspeakable hardship, bloodshed and starvation for nearly a half-century. Prior to his death, he invited the last Spanish Bourbon monarch, exiled in Italy, to return and become King of Spain. Thus, Juan Carlos returned to Spain, and upon his coronation, became King Felipe VI of all of Spain. Thereafter, Spain was formally admitted to the European Union (EU) one of whose elemental requirements is a democratic political system.
Señor Artur Mas (notice his name is Spanish!) has declared that he wants to put in a referendum to declare Spanish province of Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, an independent nation! Barcelona, that very Spanish “Venice” that has been part and parcel of Spain since the Visigoths and Moslem Moors invaded Spain in 410 AD and 711 respectively is now claimed by Señor Mas to be an ethnically separate enclave after a mere 1600 years of union! The idiocy of the campaign is such that even the Spanish leftists have ridiculed Señor Mas and compared him alternately to Charlie Champlain and Adolph Hitler.
Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, has called Mas’ referendum and tactic opportunistic as well as illegal. He has vowed to challenge Artur Mas’ referendum before Spain’s equivalent of our Supreme Court, which the Spaniards call Constitutional Court. I am sure Señor Rajoy will use many citations and precedents by using the American Civil War as an analogy.
But I am sure thinking Spaniards and residents of Barcelona as well as Catalonia will reject Artur Mas’ referendum so they could stay with their King and within the democratic boundaries of Spain. This, of course, would be the third failure by secessionists within the confines of democratic nation-states in the West. Many still recall French-Canadian René Lévesque of the Parti Québécois who tried to make the Canadian province, Quebec, independent but who failed miserably in 1995. The interesting was that in Canada, as well as in Scotland, not all French-speaking residents of Quebec, or the Québécois, were for independence and secession from Canada. In fact, the very Prime Minister of Canada at the time was a French-speaker by the name of Jean Chrétien whose position was a testament to the plurality and pragmatism of Canadian parliamentary democracy and which undermined Lévesque’s claims of ethnic discrimination in favor of English-speakers in Canada. The same thing obviously happened in Scotland where level-headed Scots rejected Alex Salmond’s call for independence from the grand Great Britain, world’s founder of democracy and mother of stability and judiciousness in the world today.
Now, what you might say is the relationship between the recent separatist movements in Europe and the Middle East? Well, in fact, several countries on the periphery of the Middle East have suffered disintegration and secession, to wit: Ethiopia and Sudan. Both nations broke up as a result of religious infighting. But one must not forget the fact that religious currents were, for a long time, fanned by Soviet and Chinese communist agents. At the end of the Cold War, the two adversaries very much withdrew from world affairs and focused on internal matters.
Separatism & Its Relevancy to the Middle East:
Today, we hear voices of “independence” from an ethnic group that until recently was as much part of one nation in the Middle East as Vermont, for instance, has been part of America. In 1510, Shah Ismael the Great consolidated various tribes and territories of Persia (today’s Iran), called it the Second Persian Empire and made it into a modern Shia Moslem nation-state. The neighboring Sunni Ottoman Caliph called the occasion bunk and demanded allegiance from what they considered a wayward Persian king who was disrupting the Sunni Caliphate.
Shah Ismael refused to pledge allegiance to the Ottoman Caliph and thus ensued a 250-year war between the Shia Persians and Sunni Ottoman Turks. During the debacle, no Persian Shah ever bowed down to an Ottoman Caliph, but Persia lost significant territories to the Ottomans to include Baghdad, the ancient capital of Western Persia as well as what is today Basra, Kuwait as well as all of eastern Anatolia which today constitutes eastern Turkey.
What laid in-between the Western and Eastern Persian Empire was a long mountain ranch called the Zagros, and upon it dwelled three major tribes of Kords (Kurds), Bakhtiars, and Lurs occupying the mountain range from north to south respectively. The Kords were the most populous of the three Persian ethnic groups and when Turkey and Iraq were formed as distinct nation-states, the territories those two countries took up consisted the land Persian Kords had once resided on. Henceforth, the Iranian Kords were scarred over three nation-states.
In 1945, after the Allied withdrew their forces from Iran, Russian Soviets refused to withdraw hoping to revitalize the long-Russian aspiration of capturing Persia and reaching the warm waters of the Persian Gulf. Additionally, Iran’s vast oil reservoir was an icing on the cake which could boost the Russians’ industrial expansion.
However, President Truman threw a monkey range into the Russian scheme and threatened them with an atomic attack if they failed to withdraw from northern Iran. The Russians backed off but left behind two Communist puppet regimes in the Iranian Kordistan and Azarbaijan. Within two years Mohammad Reza Shah of Iran, with assistance from the French, the British and the Americans retook the two provinces. But Soviets had effectively planted a web of well-organized Communist cells upon their withdrawal and which came to haunt Iran decades later. The Communists in Iran twice attempted to assassinate the Shah and came very close to it at one point. The Kordish branch of the Communists led the campaign for “ethnic awakening” of the Kords in Iran as well as in Iraq and Turkey. Today, buried beneath the cries of persecution, ISIS invasion, and freedom lay the attempt to create an artificial nation out of the territories Persia lost to the Ottomans and that have now become part of Iraq and Turkey.
As with Europe, such manufactured “ethnic awakening” by self-centered ambitious men should not be the groundwork for breakup of the Middle East, thus adding more fuel to the already powder-keg that is the Middle East.