Thursday, October 18, 2007

War Drums In Kurdistan - Turkey Prepares to Invade Iraq

By an overwhelming majority, the delegates to the Turkish Grand National Assembly handed the Erdogan government the authority, valid for one year, to order the Turkish army to mount operations in Kurdistan.

"Our patience has come to an end," Erdogan said on the day before the vote, summarizing the general mood. "If Iraq wishes to prevent a Turkish military campaign, it must take clear action against the PKK," the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party who have been conducting raids into Turkey for what they claim is repression of Kurds in that country.

In response,the Kurds in Iraq held massive protests against threat of Turkish attack and have vowed to use their army, the Pesh Merga to defend against any attack by Turkey.

This is a mess, to put it mildly.

Kurdistan is one of the most stable and democratic parts of Iraq, and a long-time US ally even before the invasion. And Turkey, via the US leased Incirlik air base is the major source of the US resupply effort for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Turks are already livid over the proposed US congressional resolution recognizing the massacre of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915 as genocide, have recalled their ambassador and are now threatening to disrupt US strategy in Iraq by closing off shipments from Incirlik as well as the proposed military strikes in Kurdistan.

The Bush administration is in crisis mode over this. They are already searching for alternative supply routes via Kuwait or Jordan, even though both proposed routes are a lot more dangerous, inconvenient and expensive. Over the weekend, Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman, the former US ambassador to Turkey and Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried met with senior Turkish government officials to work on convincing them that an invasion of Iraq would not be in Turkey's interest.

Unfortunately, it might just be in Islamist Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's interest. He just won an election after massive protests by the opposition parties against the increasing Islamization of Turkey and facing outright warning from the strongly secular Turkish military about proceeding farther in that direction. Now, the US resolution and the hard line against the PKK had given Erdogan issues to unite Turkey and get the army on his side...they've been itching to go after the PKK for a long time now.

Erdogan and ex-Foreign Minister and now president Gul have never been friends of the US and have sought for a very long time to distance the Turks from the West and to align Turkey more with the mainstream of the Muslim world.

Another side benefit for Turkey might involve a seizure of the oil rich city of Kirkuk..only about a hundred miles from the Turkish/Kurdish border. Especially if they want to be in position if Iraq splits to gather their share of the booty.

The last time the Turkish army made an incursion into Kurdistan back in June of 2007, the US removed all its forces from northern Kurdistan but maintained a presence in Kirkuk for precisely that reason.... to remove a powerful incentive for a wider Turkish invasion.

The US is in a difficult position. If they lay down a hard line to the Turks, they endanger a valuable resupply route for Iraq and Afghanistan, and strengthen an Islamist government with no great love for the US. If they knuckle under, they lay themselves open to further pressure.

The US will have to take a middle line, leaning on the Kurds to crack down on the PKK and diffuse the situation. And perhaps try to buy themselves some time to develop alternative resupply routes.

One alternative, and something I've suggested for a long time is for the US to place its bets on our real ally in Iraq and put its bases in Kurdistan. If Iraq does split and the Shiite government the US put in power is unable to successfully share power with the Sunnis and Kurds, a strong, independent Kurdistan with US bases would provide America and the West with a major ally in the region.

It should have been done long ago, and things would be much different in Iraq now if it had been.


Anonymous said...

i thought the idea of sending the fourth ID through turkee was a dumb idea.
it turned out to be just that.
however, ff is mistaken about one key point. the bush administration is not in crisis mode. the bush administration is only waiting for instructions from riyadh on what to do, if anything.
this would not be a crisis and the situation would not exist if we had a president.
supply routes would be where we made them and the danger would be the other way around if we had a president.
imo, this will be the last straw for the kurds. never trust a bush. and never trust the cutnrun USA. the only allies the kurds have are the hills.

Anonymous said...

"Knuckling under" is definitely not the way to go. I agree that our best bet would be to fully support our only real ally in Iraq, which is Kurdistan.

In order to pull off full support for Kurdistan will require tremendous moral courage on the part of the President and other US leaders. Turkey is going to invade Kurdistan regardless what the Kurdistan or the US does or does not do. Tureky wants Kirkuk and other oil rich areas in Kurdistan. The PKK is no offensive threat to Turkey, however, they may provide an effective defense for Kurdistan. Turkey is using the PKK as an excuse to carry out a war of conquest against its neighbor. In other words, if the US fully supports Kurdistan, the US will probably eventually be involved in a military confrontation with Turkey. Many Americans simply don't have the stomach for this. Also, the pro-Islamists main stream news media will probably be very unhappy with staunch American support for Kurdistan. They do not want the US or the West to have a reliable buffer against Islamic terrorists. In the event of staunch US support for Kurdistan, we should expect American officials who support Kurdistan to be viciously attacked within the main stream media. In additon to this, we should expect vicious attacks from the same media against Kurdish officials who support the US. I hope and pray that the President and other American officials will have the courage to support Kurdistan.

Rosey said...

We have abandoned the Kurds in the past. I predict, IMHO, we will abandon them, again...We need the base there though. No 2 ways about it...