Monday, March 3, 2008

America Helps Turkey Invade Northern Iraq, Then Tells Them to Get Out

What do you do if you're Washington and have had a hellish Iraq "conflict" with the entire country except the Kurdish north region? Well, of course, go stir the pot in the most peaceful area of Iraq. That's what the United States is on course to do, as they provide intelligence to Turkish forces who have temporarily invaded the Kurdish portion of Iraq looking for members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

This story is a long one, as the Kurds have been under foreign rule since around the 7th century when the Ottoman Empire took over their area. Currently they are split into four nations: Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran. To say the least, it appears that the Kurds have not been treated as the other Arab inhabitants of the region and have turned to nationalism in an attempt to establish an autonomous Kurdish nation. Promises of a Kurdish state in Iraq in 1974 were reneged because the Kurds are sitting on a good deal of oil. Everyone knows about the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein upon the Kurdish people of northern Iraq in the Anfal campaign, one of the reasons that Iraq needed a "regime change" at the hands of George W. Bush.

The Kurds in Iraq's northern neighbor, Turkey, have not fared very well in that country, either. When the PKK went to war with the Turkish army, the Turks responded by not only crushing the PKK, but terrorizing Kurdish villages in southern Turkey. The Kurdish language was illegal until 1991, the Kurdish political party is illegal, Kurdish nationalism is deemed separatism and is illegal, and the only Kurd to make it to parliament back in 1994 was jailed for 15 years for calling attention to Kurdish issues. So for the Kurds, life in northern Iraq and southern Turkey has been no picnic.

Hence the PKK (which stands for Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan). The PKK is the radical and militant arm of Kurdish nationalists, which started as a Marxist-Leninist political organization but turned to more violent means in 1984. As stated previously, the PKK has been in a few wars with Turkish forces, but in 1999, after the capture of the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, they decided to stick to political means of reaching an autonomous nation. Since then, the PKK has split into separate factions, some violent and some not, all assumedly under the umbrella of PKK. The PKK has done some less-than-stellar things, such as some suicide bombings and other civilian-related violence in an attempt to harm Turkish economic interests and markets and are thus labeled as a terrorist organization by the UN, America, and the EU.

Recent attacks in Turkey have inspired Turkish forces to enter into Iraq to try to capture PKK militants who they suspect to be involved in a few attacks on Turkish soil. This involves going into northern Iraq, the Kurdish region of the country, and searching for the militant Kurds. This is where things get very tricky. The majority of Kurds in northern Iraq who do not commit any attacks on the Turks will not be pleased to see a major oppressive power (Turkey) rolling into their communities with weapons searching for the PKK. The United States really finds itself stuck in this situation.

Turkey is a key ally in the "War on Terror", mainly because of its prime location to the north of Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Additionally, Turkey has helped us out a bit during the Cold War by letting us build missile installations for American Jupiter missiles to scare the Soviets. So we've got this country that we should not piss off because they've helped us out in the past and we need them for the future (if we continue with Cold War II: Terrorism).

On the other side, there are the Kurds. Shat on by Iraq and Turkey for the past century and seeking an autonomous state, which they have already been promised almost 30 years ago, they are clearly being repressed by both countries. If Bush wants to export democracy to the Middle East, then helping the Kurds might be a good step (of course, communist paranoia still applies here and I am sure that the PKK's insistence on a Kurdish state and their Marxist-Leninist beginnings probably scare him). But helping the Kurds does not equal helping the PKK; in fact, it would help the Kurdish people and then invalidate any future action of the PKK because it would have a Kurdish state and would not have anything more to fight for.

So what do we do? We try to play both sides. The word from Washington was, in essence: go do what you need to do, but make it quick and don't piss too many people off. This way, they can say that they gave their blessing to Turkey (which they already did by giving them intelligence) and also say that they were acting in the Kurds' best interests by telling the Turks to not linger. It's basically like saying to one friend that they can go into another friend's house (after they told the first friend where the friend lives and what times he is or is not home) looking for something that is very hard to find as long as they don't make too much of a mess and are quick about it.

Plus, there is the whole issue of taking intelligence from the Americans on finding hidden peoples in mountainous regions in the Middle East. First of all, the Americans giving them the intelligence clearly shows whose side they are on. Second of all, why would you take intelligence information from a country that has not been able to find Osama bin Laden, despite having every chance at Tora Bora? Also, given that Cheney, Rumsfeld, and General Myers (Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff) all said that the Iraq conflict would be quick before we went into Baghdad, where does America find the authority to tell another country to be quick in their military efforts in Iraq? That's like OJ Simpson being outraged that Robert Blake got off.

In conclusion, America should not have helped out either side. Turkey has a lot to lose if they screw up as bad as America has fucked up in Iraq. They have been softening their repression of the Kurds in their country (including freeing the aforementioned jailed parliament member) in hopes of improving their chances of joining the EU. If they go into Kurdish Iraq and bungle it a-la America, then the EU certainly won't be accepting them anytime soon. Therefore, the Kurds are in decent position (obviously if the Turks completely disregard EU opinion and slaughter Iraqi Kurds, then the US, who is essentially in charge of the country, would have to step up). All in all, America really has little to gain in this predicament and should have stayed as neutral as possible, but now the Turks are on the defensive against accusations of bowing to American pressure to pull out of Iraq. Egos and diplomacy don't mix well.

Photos - The PKK flag (CRW Flags), General Yasar Buyukanit, the man in charge of Turkish forces, who has also vowed to rid Turkey of Kurdish separatists (, Map of Kurdish distribution in the Middle East (, United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates (

No comments:

Post a Comment