The Kurdish Spring: A New Map of the Middle East
by David L. Phillips
New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2015. 268 pp. $74.95 ($24.95, paper).
Reviewed by Ofra Bengio
Moshe Dayan Center
Middle East Quarterly
The Kurdish Spring adds to a long list of recent books on the Kurds. This scholarly theme has flourished in the early twenty-first century in sharp contrast with most of the twentieth century when the subject was all but ignored by scholars and politicians alike.
Phillips draws a panoramic picture of the Kurds in all four parts of Greater Kurdistan: parts of southeastern Turkey, northern Syria, northern Iraq, and western Iran. This is the book's strength because it provides a comprehensive picture, but it is also its weakness because the author seems to have bitten off too much resulting in mistakes. To give just two examples, Philips claims that the British used chemical bombs against the Kurds in the 1920s whereas according to David Mcdowall, they used delayed bombs. Similarly, Phillips writes that the Society for the Revival of Kurdistan (Komeley Jiyanewey Kurdistan or JK) was established in Iran in 1944 while Abbas Vali states that it was established two years earlier.
The author's main thesis is that since the Kurds play a very important role in the region, the United States should support them. In the case of the Kurds of Iraq, Washington should support their independence because Iraq is no longer a viable state. In the case of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan or PKK) in Turkey, the U.S. government should remove them from the terrorism list. Washington should also support the Kurds of Syria who are actively fighting the Islamists.
The author analyzes the root causes of the Kurdish problem in the aftermath of World War I and briefly sketches the situation of the Kurds in the four states until the end of the 1990s. He describes the achievements by Kurds in certain parts and examines the collapse of the Iraqi state, which could pave the way to an independent Kurdistan.
The book is written with empathy and understanding toward the Kurds and as such might be an important contribution for lay readers and even to policy makers. However, for a more scholarly and knowledgeable audience, it is too sketchy; it seems to have been written in haste without consulting serious studies on the Kurds.
 David Mcdowall, A Modern History of the Kurds (I.B. Tauris, 2004), pp. 154-5, 179, 180.
 Abbas Vali, Kurds and the State in Iran (I.B. Tauris, 2011), p. 20.
Related Topics: Iraq, Kurds, Syria, Turkey and Turks | Ofra Bengio | Fall 2015 MEQ
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