Monday, October 29, 2007

Iraq and Turkey

But even logistical flows remain uninterrupted, despite the fact that Iraqi Kurdish leaders have some of the most precise and extensive intelligence networks in the country. As the war has worsened, the United States has come to depend increasingly on the Kurds as partners in running Iraq and as overseers of the one part of the country where some of their original aspirations are actually being met.
Iraqi Kurdish officials, for their part, appear to be politely ignoring American calls for action, saying the only serious solution is political, not military. They have taken their own path, allowing the guerrillas to exist on their territory, while at the same time quietly trying to persuade them to stop attacks.
"They have allowed the P.K.K. to be up there," said Mark Parris, a former American ambassador to Turkey who is now at the Brookings Institution. "That couldn't have happened without their permitting them to be there. That's their turf. It's as simple as that."
The situation poses a puzzle to the United States, which badly wants to avert a new front in the war, but finds itself forced to choose between two trusted allies -- Turkey, a NATO member whose territory is the transit area for most of its air cargo to Iraq, and the Kurds, their closest partners in Iraq.

The above is from Sabrina Tavernise's "In the Rugged North of Iraq, Kurdish Rebels Flout Turkey" in this morning's New York Times. As noted already over the weekend, the reports on Friday of a decision to wait on any action until the Turkish prime minister and the Bully Boy could meet in DC November 5th fell apart. Skip notes Barbara Miller's "Iraq, Turkey wrangle over PKK crisis" (Australia's ABC):

But weekend talks between Iraqi and Turkish officials have broken down.
Last week, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari pledged to work together with Turkey to help deal with what he called the menace of Kurdish PKK fighters, who have been launching attacks on Turkey from bases in northern Iraq.
He said no group would be allowed to poison relations between Iraq and its neighbour.
But this week those tones have changed markedly.
Mr Zebari says talks on the weekend between Iraqi and Turkish officials failed because Turkey was not interested in a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
"This crisis is dead serious," he said.
"Meeting my colleagues who went to Ankara to engage the Turkish Government in a serious, substantive discussions all to agree on a number of practical measures to actively help Turkey, the Turkish side was not responsive to the proposals of ideas."
Michael McKinley is a senior lecturer in international relations and strategy at the Australian National University. He says the chances of Turkey and Iraq agreeing on dealing with the PKK insurgents were slim from the outset.
"The Turks actually demanded some very strict action from the Government of Iraq," he said.
"They demanded that certain PKK and Kurdish leaders be handed over. Now that really is a very heavy demand on the current Iraqi Government and it's not one that many governments would be all that agreeable to at the best of times.
"So basically it looks as though the Iraqis have baulked at all of the Turkish demands, the Turks clearly have shown their disgust and that's what's led to this statement that Turkey is no longer interested in a diplomatic solution. ["]

So in an echo of the Bully Boy, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and countless others, Turkey's official position currently is all options are on the table.

Dominick notes Lara Marlowe "Turkish troops kill 20 rebels as Kurdish crisis deepens" (The Irish Times) who explains that Turkish troops (reportedly 100,000) remain on the border and the falling apart of Friday's reported agreement. On the latter:

Relations between Turkey and Iraq continue to deteriorate, as Turkish leaders reiterate their intention to invade northern Iraq to pursue 3,000 PKK fighters if the problem is not solved quickly. Forty Turks have been killed by the PKK in the past month. More than 30,000 have died since the PKK began its war against the state in 1984.
Talks between Turkish and Iraqi officials collapsed on Friday. Turkey is demanding that Iraq turn over PKK leaders sheltering in northern Iraq. "Turkey has shown no interest in discussing Iraqi proposals," Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari told the BBC. "They say the Iraqi government should hand over key figures of the PKK. They are not under our control. The only way to get them is to go and fight them."
Earlier, Mr Zebari told Newsweek he suspected Turkey "may have some other, ulterior motives, to disrupt the Kurdish regional administration, to cripple the infrastructure." He claimed the PKK was infiltrated by outsiders, including the Turkish military and intelligence services.
The Turkish national security council decided last week to consider economic sanctions against Iraq, which could include electricity, and exports needed for reconstruction. Iraq said it would retaliate by cutting off the Ceyhan pipeline to Turkey.

But it's only bad news for some -- including those potentially caught in the crossfire. For others?
AP reports, "Oil prices rose above $93 a barrel to a new trading high Monday in Asia on growing political tensions in the Middle East, a weak dollar and worries about the supply outlook ahead of winter." BBC also notes that crude has broken $93 a barrel.

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