Kurd Sellout Watch, Day 24

Have the Turks backed off?

Has the long-awaited surrender come? Chatterbox refers not to Iraq but to Turkey, which has been threatening for weeks to send troops into Iraqi Kurdistan, ostensibly to handle the refugee overflow from the war. A massive incursion of Turkish troops would surely lead to bloodshed between the Turks and the Kurds and might also encourage Iran to invade. For now, though, that isn’t likely to happen, according to Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, chief of staff for Turkey’s armed forces, which hold considerable sway over events in that country.

The New York Times headline, “Turkey Says No Immediate Push Into N. Iraq, Pledges Cooperation,” overstates things slightly. Ozkok didn’t actually say the Turks would stay out, for now. He merely suggested that was the case. Here’s the actual quote, according to the Turkish daily Zaman:

Possible attacks on our forces in northern Iraq, a possible flood of refugees depending on developments in the region and a possible instability due to one of the [Kurdish] armed forces’ attack on civilians or on the other [Kurdish armed] force are our most important security concerns. I see that, in the event of these possibilities or similar incidents taking place in the region, and in the event our forces there cannot handle them, the Turkish Armed Forces could send additional forces to the region. However, since our ally, the United States, is already fighting in the region, our actions will be coordinated with the US [forces], and necessary precautions will be taken in order to avoid creating any speculation [or misunderstandings]. If developments in the region reach the aforementioned point, we will not enter northern Iraq for combat or for occupation. We do not have any intentions of creating a buffer zone.

As you can see, Ozkok has left himself considerable wiggle room to decide that new circumstances justify an invasion. For this reason, is downplaying Ozkok’s remarks. But Ozkok’s pledge to coordinate his efforts with the United States should keep Turkey out of Iraqi Kurdistan, provided the United States is firm in telling Turkey to stay out. (Those who’ve been following this series know that the United States’ emphasis on this point has varied.)

The Times speculates that Turkey has been bought off by the $1 billion in grants and up to $8.5 billion in loans and loan guarantees in Bush’s proposed war budget. Apparently, the $1 billion is conditional on Turkey being more cooperative on the war, and the $8.5 billion in loans and loan guarantees may be, too. (The latter are also conditional on meeting various requirements of the International Monetary Fund, which doesn’t care what Turkey does with its troops so long as its debt load is manageable.) Chatterbox, who yesterday mocked this dollar diplomacy, prefers to think that Turkey has been either reassured or scared off by the United States’ beefed-up activity and presence in Northern Iraq. It would be nice to think that this letter from Human Rights Watch helped change Turkey’s mind, too. But that’s pretty unlikely.

Kurd Sellout Archive:
March 25, 2003: Day 23
March 23, 2003: Day 21
March 21, 2003: Day 19
March 20, 2003: Day 18
March 17, 2003: Day 15
March 14, 2003: Day 12
March 11, 2003: Day 9
March 6, 2003: Day 4
March 4, 2003: Day 2
March 3, 2003: “How Screwed Are the Kurds?”