Kurd Sellout Watch, Day 232

Has Turkey changed its mind?

Still no word on when or where the United States will deploy Turkish troops to Iraq. Turkey’s decision to grant the Bush administration’s somewhat desperate request for troops has Kurds up in arms because of Turkey’s long-standing opposition to Kurdish autonomy of the type currently enjoyed in Northern Iraq. Tensions are so high between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan that proximity would surely lead to bloodshed.

Since the agreement between Turkey and the United States was struck two weeks ago, conservative hawks who had been solicitous of the Kurds in the past, such as William Safire and the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, have been telling the Kurds to suck it up and welcome the Turks. This suggests that the unilateralist right loves the Kurds less than it loathes the idea of ceding control of Iraq to the United Nations—a prospect made more likely if the Turks don’t come, since almost any other nation will demand greater U.N. control as a precondition to sending troops, which are badly needed.

Kurdish leaders have been screaming bloody murder since the agreement was reached, and so, less rationally, have many other Iraqis who fear the coming of a second Ottoman Empire. The United States has shown no outward signs of paying them any mind, but Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced this weekend that he won’t send troops if Iraq doesn’t want him to. “If the Iraqi people say, ‘We don’t want anybody,’ there’s nothing else we can do,” Erdogan said. “If wanted, we’ll go, if not wanted, we won’t go.” Does this mean the deployment really may not happen after all? Or is it a feint meant to pressure Americans with whom Turkey is currently negotiating over how free a hand the United States will give Turkish troops to suppress the PKK, an extremist Kurdish faction that has waged a long-standing guerrilla war in southern Turkey? If it’s the latter, news that the PKK is now thought to be behind last week’s bombing of Turkey’s embassy in Baghdad will probably make the Americans more wary. (The Turks, of course, are well within their rights to demand that somebody—if not them, then American troops—punish severely the responsible parties.)

Then there’s the Rummy Factor. All evidence suggests that the defense secretary is losing influence over Iraq policy, but his views on a Turkish deployment surely matter at least somewhat. And Donald Rumsfeld is still stubbornly insistent, against all available evidence, that the United States is in no need of foreign help. Although maintaining that he is “very pleased” that Turkey will send troops to Iraq, Rumsfeld emphasized in an Oct. 16 briefing that “whatever ends up has to have been tested and agreed on by the Turkish government, military, and the Central Command that’s working with them, and the Iraqi Governing Council.” It’s hard to see how Civil Administrator Paul Bremer can get the Iraqi Governing Council to approve Turkish troop deployment, when reportedly it took heavy-handed pressure from Bremer to keep the council from officially condemning it a couple of weeks ago. Is Rumsfeld the Kurds’ last friend in the Bush administration?

Kurd Sellout Watch Archive:
Oct. 7, 2003: Day 219
July 27, 2003: Day 147
July 23, 2003: Day 143
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?”