Tensions between Turkey and the Kurds, which increased last week after the Kurds took Kirkuk, have dropped out of the headlines. Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said earlier this week, “The situation in Kirkuk is calm. The peshmerga [i.e., Kurdish troops] are out of there.” Still, there are signs that the Kurds have taken over the city’s municipal government. The Washington Post reports that the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan now inhabits the former Baath Party headquarters and that a portrait of PUK leader Jalal Talibani has replaced a portrait of Saddam. The PUK has also taken over three hospitals and is “repairing local radio and television station offices,” according to Agence France-Presse.
The U.S. military “has the upper hand on every decision,” according to one Army major quoted by Agence France-Presse. Maybe so. But regardless of who’s running things, the Turkmen minority and the Arabs whom Saddam forcibly relocated to Kirkuk have clearly suffered lately at the hands of Kurds. There have been killings and seizures of property unsanctioned by Kurdish leaders—how extensive, it’s hard to say. Patrick Cockburn of the London Independent, whose reporting on this region has been exemplary, sees “a murderous ethnic conflict which will go on long after the Anglo-American war to remove Saddam Hussein is over.” Chatterbox hopes he’s wrong. Meanwhile, Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party—which governs the half of Iraqi Kurdistan not governed by the PUK—has taken some verbal potshots at the PUK and Talibani.
If Kurdish violence and internal bickering don’t end soon, the Turks could lose patience. Ankara issued a statement this week expressing fury at some very ill-advised taunting by Talibani and Barzani. It probably wouldn’t take much further provocation for the Turks to send troops south.
And now, as if the situation weren’t tense enough, the United States is rumored to be asking Turkey for military assistance in Iraq! When Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul was asked about this April 17, he avoided a direct answer but reaffirmed that “It is in our interests to restore stability and calm in the region.” Clearly, the Turks wouldn’t have to be asked twice. Why would the Pentagon want the Turks in Iraq? According to the Turkish daily Zaman, Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin
explained that it was a non-diplomatic, non-written request and that the needs of the U.S. were in the areas of Arabic-speaking nuclear experts and military and medical assistance. The minister said: “Would we send military, transportation, medical aid, computer experts and communications personnel? These are the basic questions.”
Is a Kurd sellout in the making? It’s obviously way too early to say. But the situation bears watching.
Kurd Sellout Archive:
April 10, 2003: Day 39
April 3, 2003: Day 32
March 26, 2003: Day 24
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?”