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A problem of Turkey’s own doing

The news that Kirkuk, centre of the northern Iraqi oil industry, has fallen not to the coalition, but to US backed Kurdish Peshmerga has electrified the Kurds and horrified the Turks. I suspect that the Jash (pro-Saddam Kurds) are going to be cut to pieces unless they manage to find the few coalition troops in that part of Iraq to surrender to.

The Turkish foreign ministry has said any attempt by Kurdish forces to take permanent control of Kirkuk would be unacceptable to them. They are claiming on domestic Turkish TV that the US has promised remove the Peshmerga from Kirkuk once order has been restored, and that Turkish military observers will be going there to make sure this happens.

Firstly I do not for one minute believe a word the Turks are saying: I would be astonished if the USA was idiotic enough to make such a rash promise to the Turks, who frankly do not have all that much political capital to call on in Washington D.C. at the moment. The US would be insane to alienate the highly motivated Peshmerga, who it must be remembered have made great efforts to assist the lightly armed US forces in the north. What possible motivation does the US have to get in the middle of this?

Secondly, what Turkey finds ‘unacceptable’ in the Iraqi part of Kurdistan is unlikely to impress or intimidate the Kurds any more. The usual internal Kurdish squabbles have been replaced by the PDK and PUK actually fighting along side each other in displays of uncharacteristic unity (yesterday on TV I saw a veteran BBC reporter marvel to see soldiers from the two groups coming out of the same bus!).

The Peshmerga are not only better situated politically than any time in the last 25 years, they are also better armed, better organised and thanks to the US Special Forces, better trained. Once the Ba’athists are gone, the Kurds will be able to turn their undivided attention towards any Turkish incursions into Iraq and no prize for guessing who is scooping up all the heavy weapons and ammunition abandoned by the defeated Iraqi forces around Kirkuk. The facts on the ground are strongly in the Kurds’ favour.

This problem was entirely predictable and is entirely of the Turkish state’s own making. As I have written before, I have no sympathy for them and it is hard to see how it would be in the interests of the US or UK to try and crush the legitimate desires of Kurds for self determination.

21 comments to A problem of Turkey’s own doing

  • mike

    If U.S. forces had been able to get to northern Iraq, through Turkey, this would not have been a problem.

  • Orcy Know-whats

    That is what he said in the article he linked to.

  • Exactly. The Turks caused the problem for themselves twice over.

    By denying northern access for the Coalition, they forced the US to rely on Kurds (1) and gave the US reason to be irritated, rather than grateful, to Turkey (2).

  • I pretty much agree with this analysis. The US is interested in setting up a stable government in Iraq, right now. For that, they’re going to need the Kurds’ help more than they’ll need Turks’. Why go against the group you’re going to need to form a legitimate governing institution in Iraq? “Unacceptable” or not, there really isn’t much Turkey can do over a Kurd-controlled Kirkuk. Let them whine, they’ll get over it eventually.

  • Sandy P.

    *The world* wants Iraq’s borders to stay the way they are.

    As long as they both stay on their side of the fence, what’s the beef? Besides, if the Kurds become successful, more Kurds will emigrate to Iraq. Why should Turkey have a problem w/that?

    Other than envy.

  • S. Weasel

    Kurds or Turks. Eh. I wouldn’t pretend to be an expert on the region, but a lifetime’s casual observation tells me there are no good actors in the area. Which is why we have to justify having been one-time backers of all sorts of distasteful persons, from Osama to Saddam. We sized up the situation, we chose what we perceived to be the lesser of evils, and we invariably backed a bad guy. The best we can hope is that the other guy was an even badder guy.

    I don’t know how we overcome the inertia of bad government in Iraq this time. I’m afraid it’s going to involve keeping our muddy boots on their soil for quite a while.

  • Is it possible that the Kurds in Iran and Turkey will see the prosperous Kurds in Iraq and move there? Wouldn’t that solve a lot of problems? Or do they want the land they’re on now?

  • Kevin

    This begs the question. Who gives a flying F— what the Turks think? We would never tolerate a foreign state interfering in the internal affairs anywhere else. Why would anyone indulge the Turks at this point?

    Here’s a radical concept: Kurds are legitimate citizens now of a free Iraq. They and their fellow citizens can arrange their internal affairs, and the Turks can take their complaints to Chirac.

  • Arjuna

    I don’t think we can alienate the Turks, we will need their bases and cooperation for a while yet. This is not to say we can sell out the Kurds, but you have to balance the two. That and the fact that you do not want your new allies (the Kurds) massacring Assyrians, or Turkomen. Its going to be hellishly difficult to rebuild Iraq, and your going to have to keep all of them from murdering each other.

  • Letting the Kurds have thier own state would be interesting. They have been mercilessly persecuted by everyone in the region. If the Arabs are so concerned about “minorities” in the Middle East, why don’t they do something for the Kurds. I notice the left don’t seem to give a shite about the Kurds either…wonder why?

  • David Mercer

    The Turks are worried about the Kurds because they just finished a 15 year civil war against their (very oppressed) Kurdish seperatist population.

    And Saladin was a Kurd.

  • Scott Cattanach

    This begs the question. Who gives a flying F— what the Turks think? We would never tolerate a foreign state interfering in the internal affairs anywhere else. Why would anyone indulge the Turks at this point?

    That’s right dammit, other nations can’t interfear in the internal affairs of Iraq. Oops……..

  • snide

    Oh right, I get it… all interventions are the same. Intervening to stop a mugging is the same as intervening to rob a person.

    Think before pressing the keys Scott, because remarks like that just devalue everything intelligent that you have to say.

  • Arjuna

    The PUK said it would withdraw tommorow.

  • Larry

    The Turks have been good allies for a long time. They know full well they screwed the pooch with us this time. Coalition needs to maintain control until Iraq is secure.

    Reports I heard said we told the Kurds not to attack without us. They got there first and there was minimal resistance, so they did wht comes naturally and took the win. Tempest in a teapot, I think.

  • Byron

    other nations can’t interfear in the internal affairs of Iraq.

    They certainaly can’t interfear, whatever that is.

  • The fact is that ‘the Kurds’ can ‘withdraw’ just by driving a few ‘technicals’ and a couple captured APC’s out of Kirkuk for the TV cameras, whilst at the same time just taking de facto civil control… will the PUK really be ‘gone from Kirkuk’? Of course not. The overtly armed Peshmerga will be gone from the streets (or more accurately ‘out of sight’) but the civil face of the PUK will sure as hell still be there regardless of what is promised.

    The only real leverage is that the PUK might like to get some support from the US in any power struggle down the road with the PKK, so they may be at least a bit accommodating.

    Many of the Peshmerga do not even have to take off their uniforms as they were not wearing them in the first place, other than an armband.

    The Kurds are in control in the north, and will remain in control after the fighting has ended regardless of what anyone else wants, and nothing can disguise that. Turkey had better get use to it or they could end up pushing people into the arms of the factions backing complete independence at the expense of those who will settle for full autonomy within a nominal unitary Iraq.

  • “The Kurds are in control in the north, and will remain in control after the fighting has ended regardless of what anyone else wants, and nothing can disguise that.”

    If by “in control” you mean that they’re the ones who live there, well that’s true. I doubt their indepence will last much longer though. Sometime within the next few months, Proconsul Garner will explain to the Kurdish leaders that they are expected to be cooperative citizens of a united Iraq… or else. Anyone Kurds who object will be invited to take the matter up with Mr. Abrams.

  • That is ridiculous, Ken. The Kurds are quite sophisticated enough to tell Garner ‘yeah, sure’ and simply ignore him. Do you seriously think US troops will start shooting at the Kurds in the full glare of CNN, simply over the shape of internal Iraqi politics post-Saddam? Also do you seriously think the Kurds are really frightened of the US? Get real… the US only goes to war against The Boogyman (Osama, Saddam, Slobodan, Adolf etc.). To ‘destroy’ US military power in Kirkuk, all the Kurds need to do is have a hundred pretty singing Kurdish girls and dancing children throw flowers at “Mr. Abrams” whilst the TV cameras look on.

  • And all the US has to do is declare the Kurds to be “The Boogyman.”

  • Larry

    People still watch CNN?