19 December 2007

Diplomatic Fiasco with Turkey, PKK, Iraq, and Kurdistan

Stressed-out Condi at press conference in Baghdad (note: I'm glad I'm not Secretary of State LT Nixon)

Here's a little background on this diplomatic quandary. The standoff between Turkey and PKK has been ongoing for decades, but recently flared up when some Turkish soldiers were killed near the Iraqi border in October. The Marxist-terrorist group PKK has taken to hiding in the mountainous Kurdish region of northern Iraq to scadaddle from the might of the Turkish military. Turkey seems to be a pretty nationalistic culture and the citizens were out for blood when the PKK killed some of their own. Iraq, America, and the EU all agree that the PKK is a bunch of terrorist yahoos, but a full-scale Ottoman-like invasion of Kurdistan is not desired since it's the most stable part of Iraq and has enjoyed economic prosperity after Saddam got the boot. Iraq, the US, and Turkey held a series of talks to address this and the US agreed to provide intelligence to help Turkey fight their enemy.

Now, Turkey is conducting airstrikes and even had a small-scale ground incursion to strike the PKK in northern Iraq. But these airstrikes hit Kurdish villages and reportedly a woman was killed. Iraq is pissed that Turkey used their airspace and didn't talk to them about it, but the kicker is that the US supposedly allowed Turkey into Iraqi airspace, and the Turks are using that to justify a green-light for the incursion. The US and Iraq have to walk a fine line, since Turkey is a key NATO ally, but we still are obligated to protect Kurdistan, oh yeah and we hate terrorists too. It should be noted that Kurdish President Barazani was not amused that the US let Turkey into Iraqi airspace, and refused to meet with Rice when she was in town yesterday.

It's times like this when I'm glad I'm some nobody LT who doesn't have to deal with situations like of this magnitude. What would you do if you were in charge of American foreign policy? Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was in town yesterday and she said this at a press conference:

Reporter: the Turkish Army entered the Iraqi territory today. Just when you were in northern Iraq. I wanted to know if, first, did the Turks inform you in advance of this operation and if U.S. helped them with intelligence?

Rice replied: Well, first of all, the United States, Iraq, and Turkey share a common interest in stopping the activities of the P.K.K. which threaten to undo the stability of the north which clearly have resulted in deaths in Turkey. And when we were recently together in Istanbul, we actually had a trilateral discussion about our common interest in dealing with this problem. This is a circumstance in which the United States has constantly counseled that we need an overall, comprehensive approach to this problem. That we should do nothing…that no one should do anything that threatens to destabilize the north. As to the activities, things unfortunately do go on along this border. As to the activity last Sunday, this was a Turkish decision and we have made clear to the Turkish Government that we continue to be concerned about anything that could lead to innocent civilian casualties or to a destabilization of the north.

I've badmouthed the Bush Administration and the neo-con machine many times before, but I think Ms. Rice has the right idea on this complex issue, iMHO. Limited military operations against the PKK by Turkey with prior approval from the Baghdad government is probably the best compromise. Turkey invests a lot in Iraq and the kurdish North, and it would be downright dumb for Iraq to snub their powerful neighbor. However a full-scale Turkish scorched-earth campaign into the mountainous north wouldn't be a very swell idea either since it would result in massive civilian casualties. It's not the best of both worlds, but hey, we need practical solutions to this diplomatic bag of dogsh!t. Well at least she didn't get heckled at the press conference by the Code Pinkos. If I could've hand-picked the heckler, it most definitely would've been the dude who heckled Clinton with the robot outfit and accompanying robot voice.

Extra: You can read Juan Cole's analysis of the Turkish incursion which he postulates that it was an attempt to embarrass Condoleeza Rice and the mission in Iraq (typical Juan Cole). Sounds a little "Building 7", "man on the Grassy Knoll", tinfoil-hat type conspiracy IMHO, but give it a read, since I'm not doubting that he's a smart guy (if you want to hear slams on Juan Cole, check out Iraq Pundit). I think it had more to do with Turkey's long-time hatred of the PKK and public pressure on the Turkish government.


gage said...

Hi, LT,
I'm bookmarking this article because it's the best exposition into the delicate situation in the north that I've read yet. Very clear. thanks.

One thing that really bothers me, though, (and I wrote this at I.Vet's blog), is that all of this was not only predictABLE, but it WAS predicted before the war even started.

I can tell you one thing, this is not going to do anything for the popularity of the war, and the sad thing their is what bodes ill for the public's opinion of the war ultimately bodes ill for the troops.

I wish Washington had the foresight and the cahones to use the success of the surge (which everybody I know over there, including you, says is going to be temporary) to just declare victory and get out.

It also bothers me that things are heating up in Afghanistan and I know we're going to have to put more troops in there. That's another reason to get out of Iraq pronto, before the troops are worn out and the public loses all of its stomach for war. I'm afraid the REAL war, in Afghanistan, isn't going to be won, then.

Timing is everything. This administration has a broken clock I'm afraid.

gage said...

BTW, it might be a hell of a thing for me to be talking about a "REAL" war to somebody who's over there fighting it. I don't mean it the way it might sound, I hope you know.

Stay safe, LT.

LT Nixon said...


Thanks for dropping in. Unfortunately, at this point getting out in a responsible manner will take at least a year if not two. It's the reality we have to accept. I wouldn't say I'm "fighting" the war, in that I hardly consider myself a soldier, rather a displaced sailor, but thank-you for your well wishes. However, I think terrorism is a war that has to be fought by all of us, it just hasn't registered with the American public yet, 6 years after 9/11. Thanks.

Grung_e_Gene said...

LT Nixon,

The Kurds. Present a huge problem. The Kurds do not consider themselves a part of Turkey and are the largest ethnic group without a "nation".

Turkey is not going to allow the Kurds in N. Iraq to turn Iraq into a loose Federation because the Kurds in E. Turkey would secede and the Turks haven't spent the last 80 years brutualizing the Kurds to allow them to go free.

Of course, there are other problems stemming from Saddam's resettlement of the Kirkuk area and the attacks on the oil infrastructure and overall claimsin to Kirkuk.

However, I find it odd to listen to Bush II blather on & on about freedom while ignoring the Kurds claims.

Stay safe...

LT Nixon said...


Thanks for swingin by. Good analysis. Guess that explains why the Biden plan to partition Iraq into Baghdad, Shiite south, Sunni North, and Kurdistan was only liked by...the Kurds. The Kirkuk issue is a mess. The referendum just got delayed another 6 months, and who knows how it's going to turn out.