Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Adding Fuel to the Fire

This bit of news courtesy of the blog formerly known as NewsHog (now known as The Newshoggers.)

Thursday April 12, 2007 7:01 PM

AP Photo ANK104


Associated Press Writer

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Turkey's military asked the government Thursday to approve attacks on Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, signaling growing frustration over a lack of action against the guerrillas by Iraqi and U.S. forces.

Such action could put an overstretched U.S. military in the middle of a fight between two crucial partners, the Turks and the Iraqi Kurds. A recent surge in Kurdish attacks in southeastern Turkey has increased the pressure on Turkey's military to act.

``An operation into Iraq is necessary,'' Gen. Yasar Buyukanit told reporters.

Buyukanit said the military already has launched operations against separatists in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeastern region bordering Iraq.

``Our aim is to prevent them from taking positions in the region with the coming of spring,'' he said, adding the rebels generally intensify attacks as melting snow opens the mountain passes.

Recent clashes have killed 10 soldiers and 29 Kurdish guerrillas, Buyukanit said.

His call steps up pressure on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to take a harder line against Kurdish guerrillas and their leaders in northern Iraq. There is strong public support for such a move, but the possibility of high casualties could make the government nervous ahead of elections that must be held by November.

If Erdogan's government does ask parliament to approve an incursion, a key consequence would be strained ties with Washington - which fears an offensive would provoke a fierce reaction from Kurdish groups in Iraq that are key allies of U.S. forces.

The United States also sees Turkey as a crucial ally, strategically straddling Europe and the Middle East. But some Turks question just how strong their ties should be with Washington if it refuses to side with them against the rebels.[...][Guardian Unlimited]

The Turkish leadership has apparently been living in a cave for the last four years. They've apparently learned nothing from neither Israeli nor American misadventures regarding counter insurgency. 3GW tactics, network-centric and effects based operations aren't going to marginalize the PKK. Quite the opposite. Any incursion into northern Iraq by a Turkish force will simply galvanize Kurdish ethnic resolve in much the same fashion Israels boobish pounding of Lebanon last summer popularized Hezbollah. To say nothing of the political fallout in terms of NATO membership, US alliance and EU membership.

More via Newshoggers:

By Shamal Aqrawi

ARBIL, Iraq, April 14 (Reuters) - Iraqi Kurdistan's prime minister sought to ease tension with Ankara on Saturday after Turkey's top general called for a military operation in northern Iraq.

The head of Turkey's military General Staff called for the operation days after Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said Iraqi Kurds would interfere in Turkey's mainly Kurdish cities if Ankara interfered in northern Iraq.

Ankara is worried by what it sees as moves by Iraqi Kurds to build an independent state in northern Iraq, with the multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk as its capital, fearing this could reignite separatism among its own Kurdish population.

Barzani and other Kurdish officials have repeatedly indicated that the issue of Kirkuk is an internal Iraqi affair in which Turkey should not interfere.

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani adopted a softer approach:

"The Iraqi constitution has specified the road map to solving the issue of Kirkuk. What was taken from us by force, we will get back by democratic means," he told a news conference in Arbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

"If Turkey is worried about this issue, we are prepared to eliminate its fears," he said, adding he wanted bilateral talks.

A referendum on the status of Kirkuk, which sits on some of Iraq's richest oil fields, is due by the end of 2007.

Washington has reacted coolly to the Turkish general's remarks and earlier called Massoud Barzani's comments "unhelpful".

The continued escalation in rhetoric has worried U.S. officials who see Kurdistan as a stable front in northern Iraq.

"We are watching what is going on. There is a history here that we all understand. It is being viewed with a careful and cautious eye. There is interaction with members of the Iraqi government," said Rear Admiral Mark Fox, U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

Kurdistan has foreigner-friendly investment laws and many companies operating in the largely autonomous Kurdistan region are Turkish.

The Kurdish premier also said Ankara could continue to expect preferential treatment for its companies in Kurdistan if it eased its position.

"It is important to us that Turkey deals with the current situation in Iraqi Kurdistan," he said.

"And it is possible that priority be given to Turkish companies working in the oil and construction sectors now and in the future to operate in Kurdistan," Nechirvan Barzani said. (Additional reporting by Ross Colvin in Baghdad)[ReutersUK]

Turkey needs to realize the philosophical divisions regarding the PKK and the effectively sovereign Kurdistan as the former is decidedly Marxist where as the latter embraces capitalism. As the article states, a good deal of international enterprise in Kurdistan is of Turkish origin. Furthermore Turkey is in the unique situation in that it can leverage it's concern regarding PKK terrorism to realize lucrative oil trade agreements. That's a window of opportunity that won't last long in light of American thirst for hydrocarbons or even Chinese and Indian hyper-development. Any military incursion will certainly shut that window for the foreseeable future.

Turkey stands at a very important crossroads of foreign policy. It can invoke, even solidify Kurdish ethnic resolve through a military kinetic approach or it can kill the ethnic connection Kurdistan maintains with the PKK with love. By flooding the Kurdish economic infrastructure Turkey could divide Kurdistan from the PKK, enjoy lucrative oil deals, expand it's freshwater economic initiative, marginalize the French opposition to it's EU membership and not go head to head with America.


aelkus said...

Yes, but the Turks (just like the Israelis and our country) don't think straight when it comes to terror. The Israelis could have neutralized Hamas and the PLO a long time ago, but they chose not to because it plays better politically to be "tough on terrorism." Over here, Bush milked 9/11 for all it was worth to justify a wasteful pre-emptive war. The Turks aren't going to realize the opportunity they have: they see a threat on the border and they are going to crush it. Unless the Kurds do something to cut back on the PKK, I'm afraid we're going to see something incredibly ugly and violent happen in Northern Iraq.

aelkus said...

To be fair though, it's also hard to be objective when you're taking fire. Societies tend to panic (justifiably) when confronted with terror, and politicians learn to play to that. I just don't think it'll be any different in Turkey than it was here, in Israel, Europe, India, Sri Lanka, or the Middle East, where terrorist actions triggered massive overreaction.

Jay@Soob said...

Thanks for the cogent points.

One thing to consider is the fact that Turkey is facing something of a domestic "emergency" as massive demonstrations have occurred against Erdogan's seemingly Islamic principles. This buys some time as Turkey is unlikely to entertain any invasion until the election cycle ends. Furthermore, Erdogan will likely keep the secular armed forces busy enough politically as they join the secular resistance.