For now, at least, it appears that the United States will not sell out the Kurds. Chatterbox’s read of the situation is as follows. President Bush tried to sell out the Kurds (to Turkey) but lacked the Kissingerian finesse to pull it off. When the Turks spurned Bush’s request to allow U.S. troops in, Bush withdrew his offer to allow Turkish troops into northern Iraq. In his fury at Turkey, Bush rediscovered his loyalty to the Kurds.
An alliance that relies on pique at someone else lacks a sturdy foundation. In this case, though, events should go well for the Kurds provided the war starts very soon. Further delay could give the United States time to change the Turks’ minds and let U.S. troops in. In a press briefing today, Secretary of State Colin Powell indicated that he hasn’t given up trying. And an Associated Press report indicates that the Turks suddenly feel the need to act “urgently.” Reuters, however, defines “urgently” as “next Monday.” Presumably the war will have already started by then, leaving the Kurds in an excellent position. Lacking any sense of obligation to the Turks, the United States will come down hard on any Turkish troops that enter Iraqi Kurdistan. For several days running, Bush administration officials have been quoted in the press warning the Turks to stay the hell out of Iraq. The Turkish newspaper Zaman reports that Greece and Iran have now said the same thing.
In today’s Washington Post, Daniel Williams reports that U.S. troops have started working actively with Kurdish fighters—something the Kurds have sought for many years but have never achieved. Chatterbox suspects one result of this intermingling is that the United States will put many weapons into Kurdish hands and, once Saddam’s troops are dislodged from northern Iraq, won’t insist that the Kurds give them back. William Safire, anticipating that something like this might happen, writes today, “It is no retaliation [against Turkey] for us to provide arms to the free Kurdish forces in northern Iraq to fight Saddam, ending our foolish policy of demurring to Turkish paranoia about such help leading to an independent Kurdistan.”
It’s still conceivable Bush will find some motive to screw the Kurds after the war starts. But the likelihood that the Kurds will get screwed before the war is now very remote.
[Update, March 18: Things are happening very fast today, most of them apparently beneficial to the Kurds: 1) Saddam Hussein rejected President Bush’s “get out of Dodge” ultimatum, which means that Bush won’t have to wait the 48 hours he’d granted the Iraqi leaders. The war could start pretty much any time now. 2) The Turkish daily Zaman reports that Turkey will meet tomorrow with Iraqi opposition leaders, including Kurdish leaders, to discuss, among other things, the disposition of northern Iraq. This suggests that it’s at least possible both sides are groping toward a peaceful and mutually beneficial solution to the problem. 3) The Kurdistan Observer is reporting (perhaps erroneously) that some sort of deal has already been struck between Turkey and the United States that will keep Turkish troops out of Iraqi Kurdistan and yet allow U.S. troops to invade Iraq from Turkish bases. In exchange, Kurdish troops must stay out of oil-rich Kirkuk and Mosul. Presumably this deal, if it exists, must be approved by the Turkish parliament. 4) The Associated Press now says that parliamentary vote will occur today or tomorrow.]