Kurd Sellout Watch, Day 143

How far will Bush go to keep the U.N. out?

No doubt regretting the president’s zesty “Bring them on!” when asked earlier this month about U.S. soldiers getting shot at (“[W]e’ve got plenty tough force there right now to make sure the situation is secure,” Dubya elaborated), the Bush administration is now stepping up efforts to get other nations to share the peacekeeping burden in Iraq. But India, France, and Germany won’t contribute to a multilateral force unless it’s under U.N. command, which the Bushies are not yet willing to accept. What to do? How about inviting the Turks in? It’s good for the United States, because Turkey doesn’t care about putting the United Nations in charge (indeed, it may prefer that the United Nations stays out). It’s good for Turkey, because it provides an opportunity to mend relations with the United States, which have been tense ever since the Turkish parliament refused to allow American troops to invade Iraq from the north. But it could be very, very bad for the only ethnic group in Iraq that holds the United States in high regard: the Kurds.

Negotiations between Turkey and the United States about allowing Turkish troops in are real, and they are proceeding as this is being written. The New York Times reported on July 21 that senior military officers discussed the matter this past Friday, and that the Turkish paper Hurriyet had said the number of troops being discussed is 10,000. Turkey’s foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, is in Washington to discuss this and other matters with Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and possibly Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The big question, of course, is whether Turkish soldiers will be allowed into Iraqi Kurdistan. Asked about this on July 21, State Department deputy press spokesman, Philip Reeker, said, “I just, at this point, wouldn’t want to speculate on anything. … Let’s continue to have these talks with our Turkish allies and see where we go, if there is any more news after the meetings this week.” Today, Hurriyet reports that Ankara is essentially demanding to be made a full partner with the United States. The Turkish government won’t send troops in unless

a) one of two deputies to Ambassador Paul Bremer, the top American civil administrator in Iraq, is Turkish;b) one of two deputies to Gen. John Abizaid, the new commander of the U.S. Central Command, is Turkish; andc) the Kurds are denied a separate budget within Iraq.

All three demands are obvious deal-breakers, but they’re probably just an audacious opening bid.

As c) makes clear, the Turkish interest in entering Iraq consists mainly in keeping a tight leash on the Kurds, whose ambitions for autonomy—even when expressed, today, as a limited form of autonomy within the state of Iraq—are seen as a threat to peace in southern Turkey. This threat is not purely imaginary; the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a violent and radical Kurdish group, fought a guerrilla war against Turkey for many years in hopes of carving out a separate Kurdish state there, and the PKK maintains some presence in Iraqi Kurdistan. But the Turks define the enemy with a broad brush, encompassing not just the PKK but all Kurds. They demonstrated this earlier this month when the United States captured 11 Turkish special forces who reportedly had sought to assassinate the new Kurdish governor of oil-rich Kirkuk (a city that Turkey desperately wants to see kept out of Kurdish hands, but that Kurds regard as their Jerusalem). Letting Turkish troops into northern Iraq, then, could very easily create a bloodbath. We must not do it.

Kurd Sellout Watch Archive:
May 16, 2003: Day 75
May 1, 2003: Day 60
April 25, 2003: Day 54
April 23, 2003: Day 52
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?”