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The Great Betrayal: How America Abandoned the Kurds and Lost the Middle East

The Great Betrayal: How America Abandoned the Kurds and Lost the Middle East
David L. Phillips

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The twentieth century saw dramatic changes in the once Kurd-dominated Kirkuk region of Iraq. Following the discovery of oil at Baba Gurgur in the 1920s, Kirkuk became a central priority for successive Iraqi rulers. In the 1970s and 1980s plans for Kirkuk to be the capital of an autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan were decimated by the Baathist regime's Arabization programme which saw Arabs replacing the Kurds as the significant demographic majority. Despite having repeatedly relied on the Kurdish population of Iraq for military support, on three occasions the United States have abandoned their supposed allies in Kirkuk. The Great Betrayal provides a political and diplomatic history of the Kirkuk region and its international relations from the 1920s to the present day. Based on first-hand interviews and previously unseen sources, it provides an accessible account of a region at the very heart of America's foreign policy priorities in the Middle East. In September 2017, Iraqi Kurdistan held an independence referendum, intended to be a starting point on negotiations with the Iraqi Government in Baghdad on the terms of a friendly divorce. Though the US, Turkey, and Iran opposed it, the referendum passed with 93% of the vote. Rather than negotiate, Iraq's Prime Minister Heider al-Abadi issued an ultimatum and then attacked the region. Iraq's Kurdish population have been abandoned, once again, by their supposed allies in the US. In this book, David L. Phillips reveals the failings of America's policies towards Kirkuk and the devastating effects of betraying an ally.

Author Info

David L. Phillips is Director of the Program on Peace-building and Human Rights at Columbia University's Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He has worked as a senior adviser to the United Nations Secretariat and as a foreign affairs expert and senior advisor to the U.S. Department of State. His previous publications include An Uncertain Ally: Turkey under Erdogan's Dictatorship; The Kurdish Spring and Losing Iraq. He writes regularly for publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, and Foreign Affairs.


‘This excellent work by David Phillips has broadened the canvas of failed American policy by exposing the darkest period of our national honor in this new century. “The Great Betrayal” accurately portrays how our government treacherously delivered to Iran, the Iraqi Kurds, our only pro-American ally in a region of Iranian dominance. In October 2017 the U.S. President promised to get tough on Iran and to roll back their influence in the region. Immediately following that announcement, the administration stood paralyzed as the Iraqi Army, commanded by Iran’s leading general, Qasem Soleimani and supported by both Iranian and Hezbollah militias, overwhelmed the Kurdish Peshmerga in Kirkuk. Consequently, our nation’s cowardly policy has allowed Iran to extend their dominance from Tehran to the Mediterranean, a reach they have not achieved since the Medo-Persian Empire. Furthermore, it signals to both friends and enemies that America can no longer be considered a trusted and dependable ally. This book should be required reading for all government officials!’

- Jay Garner, Lt General (ret), U.S. Army

‘The Great Betrayalis well researched and written about the tragedy that has befallen the Kurdish people. The only real friend of the United States and the west, they fought and died with US forces fighting ISIS, yet, when they were attacked both, in Iraqi Kurdistan and in Afrin, the US declared, “we don’t take sides”, thus emboldening the Shia militias and the Jihadists in Syria.The Great Betrayalis a must-read for anyone interested in Middle East geopolitics.’

- Najmaldin Karim, Governor of Kirkuk


‘The Great Betrayaltells how the Trump Administration sided with Iran’s top general and a terrorist convicted of blowing up an American embassy against the Iraqi Kurds, America’s most loyal ally in the fight against the Islamic state. Like so much of Donald Trump’s presidency, this story—well told by long time Iraq expert David Phillips—wouldn’t be believable if it weren’t also true.’

Ambassador Peter W Galbraith, author of The End of Iraq


“This is not a work of detached – David L. Phillips makes that clear from the outset. But one does not have to agree with all his premises (I do not) to find great value in this book. Phillips has compiled an extraordinary amount of research that he weaves into his well- written narrative. It will be of great value to policy makers, pundits and historians alike - as well as to general readers seeking a better understanding of a complicated situation. As for the Kurds, spread among four countries that unite in opposition to an independent nation, they objectify the hard truth noted by Ernest Gellner many years ago: in this world, there are more nationalisms than nations.”

- Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.

ISBN: 9781788313971
Publication Date: 30 Nov 2018
Number of Pages: 272
Height: 216
Width: 135
Illustrations: 7 black and white illustrations and 2 maps

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