Sunday, March 25, 2007

Turkey Threatens to Open Another Front in Iraq

Simon Tisdall reports that the United States is trying to avert a Turkish invasion of Iraq. The Turks are threatening to invade in the name of self-protection. A group known as the PKK has been carrying out terror attacks in Turkey and they think that the invasion of Kurdish Iraq is just as reasonable as the U.S.'s invasion of Afghanistan, acts of self-defense against terrorists.

The US is scrambling to head off a "disastrous" Turkish military intervention in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq that threatens to derail the Baghdad security surge and open up a third front in the battle to save Iraq from disintegration....

Turkish sources said "hot pursuit" special forces operations in...northern Iraq, were already under way... The last big Turkish operation occurred 10 years ago, when 40,000 [Turkish] troops pushed deep into Iraq. But intervention in the coming weeks would be the first since the US took control of Iraq in 2003 and would risk direct confrontation between Turkish troops and Iraqi Kurdish forces and their US allies.

Several other factors are adding to the tension between the Nato partners:

The firm Turkish belief that the US is playing a double game in northern Iraq. Officials say the CIA is covertly funding and arming the PKK's sister organisation, the Iran-based Kurdistan Free Life party, to destabilise the Iranian government.

US acquiescence in plans to hold a referendum in oil-rich Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Turkey suspects Iraqi Kurds are seeking control of Kirkuk as a prelude to the creation of an independent Kurdistan.

Plans by the US Congress to vote on a resolution blaming Turkey for genocide against the Armenians in 1915. Faruk Logoglu, a former ambassador to Washington, said that if the resolution passed, relations "could take generations to recover".

Record levels of Turkish anti-Americanism dating back to 2003, when Turkey refused to let US combat forces cross the Iraq border....

"If [the Kurds] are killing [Turkish] soldiers ... and if public pressure on the government increases, of course we will have to intervene," said Ali Riza Alaboyun, an MP for Mr Erdogan's Justice and Development party. "It is the legal right of any country to protect its people and its borders."

US support for Iranian Kurds opposed to the Tehran government is adding to the agitation. "The US is trying to undermine the Iran regime, using the Kurds like it is using the MEK [the anti-Tehran People's Mujahideen]," said Dr Logoglu. "Once you begin to differentiate between 'good' and 'bad' terrorist organisations, then you lose the war on terror." But he warned that military intervention might be ineffective and could be "disastrous" in destabilising the region. A recent national security council assessment also suggested that senior Turkish commanders were cautious about the prospects of success....

General Joseph Ralston, the US special envoy dealing with the PKK issue, was less upbeat, admitting that "the potential for Turkish cross-border action" was growing. "We have reached a critical point in which the pressure of continued [PKK] attacks has placed immense public pressure upon the government of Turkey to take some military action. As the snows melt in the mountain passes, we will see if the PKK renews its attacks and how the Turkish government responds ... I hope the Turks will continue to stand by us."

But a Milliyet journalist, Kadri Gursel, said: "The US attitude has really pissed off the government and the army. The US really doesn't understand how exhausted and fed up they are." |Guardian|(emphasis added)
Hot damn, this whole Iraq situation is about to get a lot more interesting. Horrible for everyone involved, but very interesting.

To make things more interesting, it turns out the U.S. is supporting another group inside Iraq that the U.S. State Department has labeled as a terrorist organization since the 1970's when they were killing US personnel in Iran and supported the embassy takeover. The MEK is lobbying to get the State Department to change this fact, since it's embarrassing to everyone.
American soldiers chauffeur top leaders of the group, known as the Mujaheddin-e Khalq, or MEK, to and from their compound, where they have hosted dozens of visitors in an energetic campaign to persuade the State Department to stop designating the [MEK] as a terrorist organization. |WaPo|

The U.S. finds the MEK a useful ally against Iran, so the war on terror is really only a war on terrorist groups we don't like.

What I find interesting is that we claim we won't even TALK to the Iranians because they once took over our embassy there. You have to draw the line somewhere on evil, right?

But the MEK also had a role in the embassy takeover, and we not only talk to them, we defend them. See the Council on Foreign Relations' MEK page.

Politics makes strange bedfellows and I think this shows how hypocritical the whole "war on terror" is. The U.S. acts in its own interest (as all countries do), what I object to is the way we dissemble. I contend that an honest foreign policy that engages with countries like Iran and North Korea is the better strategy.

We may not like them any better than they like us, but we have to talk to them to reach compromise positions on situations like Iraq. We should also own up to the importance of militias in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. The problem with the current Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al Malaki, is that he has no militia, no army. His only military support is the U.S. Army, and when they leave, he's finished. Neocon delusions of of democracy blossoming in Iraq and Bush's retardation has seriously derailed the entire effort.

The invasion of Iraq seems to have lit the fuse on a regional conflagration, much like Vietnam did. I don't think there's a best way out of Iraq anymore, all of our options are bad, and they seem to get worse by the day.

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