Kurd Sellout Watch, Day 52

Are Turkish troops headed for Baghdad?

On April 18, Chatterbox noted a report in the Turkish daily Zaman stating that the United States had requested assistance from the Turkish military in rebuilding Iraq. In the Zaman story, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin and Defense Minister Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul both acknowledged that the American request for Turkish troops, though unofficial, had been made. This lent the report at least the appearance of credibility. Given the potential for violence between Kurds and Turks in Iraqi Kurdistan, Chatterbox felt the situation bore watching.

Has the United States really said “Come on down” to the Turkish army? Nobody Chatterbox has communicated with seems to know the first thing about it, and there doesn’t seem to have been any news coverage outside of Zaman. The matter hasn’t been raised at any press briefings at the State Department, the Pentagon, or the U.S. Central Command. “Obviously inviting Turkey in would be stupid,” Peter Galbraith, the Kurd-friendly former U.S. ambassador to Croatia, e-mailed Chatterbox from Baghdad, “so I hope it ain’t so.”

The latest news from Zaman suggests that if it is so, it’s not as bad as Chatterbox feared. According to Zaman, the troops would be placed only in Baghdad and its environs—not in northern Iraq, where one could easily imagine Turks and Kurds fighting for control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The Turkish soldiers would apparently work on health, construction, and irrigation. There remains, of course, the question of how the Turks would get to Baghdad. Traveling south by tank through Iraqi Kurdistan would be a very bad idea. But assuming the Turkish soldiers were flown in, the situation could be manageable. Still, Chatterbox is keeping his eye on this (and is beginning to wonder why no one else is).

[Update, April 24: A U.S. request for Turkish troops was reported in Hurriyet and Sabah, two liberal Turkish publications, according to Hurriyet reported that the request was made in a “general question text” sent “to all coalition countries,” which would include Turkey. So perhaps Zaman overplayed the story’s significance, which, as described by Hurriyet, would be marginal. Possible evidence in support of that hypothesis is that the April 23 Zaman story saying the Turkish troops would go to Baghdad has now disappeared from Zaman’s Web site. Chatterbox will continue to keep an eye on this.

Meanwhile, Zaman has published what Chatterbox considers the greatest headline  of Gulf War II: “Turkish Embassy Defenders Sacrifice Sheep, Host Journalists.”]

Kurd Sellout Archive:
April 18, 2003: Day 47
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?”