Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Iraq & Turkey

Staring out by noting this from yesterday's snapshot:

In April 2004, The War Comes Home's Aaron Glantz was reporting for Pacifica that "American soldiers could be on the verge of fighting another war in the Middle East. In Washington for meeting with the US military leaders, the Deputy Chief of the Turkish Army General Staff demanded the US Army start fighting against approximately 5,000 Turkish Kurdish guerillas hold up in camps in the snow-capped mountains of Northern Iraq. . . . After meeting with senior American military officials in Washington, the Deputy Chairman of the Turkish Army faced reporters. The General, Ilker Basburg, told reporters the Bush Administration agreed to take what he called 'concrete steps' against the PKK before handing authority over to the Iraqi governing Council at the end of June."

Something worth remembering because the conflict brewing did not just happen.

Let's start with Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) because his report has the most nonsense. The PKK has offered a cease fire! Yes, Ned, we all saw that report yesterday. Most of us also saw that the web posting was denied by the PKK -- a detail Parker leaves out. Parker offers the following:

The PKK, which rose up in the 1980s in reaction to discrimination against Turkey's Kurdish population, carved out bases in Iraqi Kurdistan in the 1990s. Over the years, it has fought intermittent battles with both main Iraqi Kurdish political parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the two parties have allowed the PKK and its sister movement, the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, to operate in the frontier region bordering Turkey and Iran. The Kurdish regional government is believed to offer no backing to the PKK, but does little to limit the group's activities in the rugged borderlands.

That's a cute little summary. Not quite reality but not a surprise from a paper so dependent upon Kurds for stringers and so dependent upon Kurdish-Americans for so much of their Iraq coverage, right? And, it's the late seventies, Ned, not the 1980s. Do some homework on your own and don't just make phone calls to friendlies.

As Ruth pointed out yesterday, "on NPR's All Things Considered, Aliza Marcus spoke on the history of the PKK." It's an even-handed appraisal of the PKK and those reading the Los Angeles Times should listen to it and should also wonder why Parker's bending over backwards for the PKK while the paper continues to cover the Iraqi resistance from the US administration's point of view? If Parker can be that understanding to the PKK, what's the deal with the coverage of the resistance?

Parker also offers this laughable bit:

A Western advisor to the Iraqi government said the Kurdish regional government could seal off the mountains and borders, where the PKK moves freely. "They are letting anyone who wants have access to that area. . . . They can cordon it off. They can isolate them and do a better job of enforcing the border," the advisor said.

Parker's referring to the "Qandil mountain" which, no, cannot be closed off. It's between Turkey and Iraq and it's long been a stronghold for the PKK. Had Bully Boy been trying to address the situation (he hasn't), that would be his easiest out. Where Parker got that laughable bit of information (an unnamed source, naturally) is a good question but considering that historical the mountain has been impossible for either country to "seal off," it only further adds to the general He-doesn't-know-what-he's reporting-on feel of the story.

In the real world, Bay Fang (Chicago Tribune) provides the news of what the White House's inaction has now led to:

The Bush administration is considering air strikes against the Kurdish rebel group PKK in northern Iraq in an attempt to stave off a Turkish invasion of Iraq to fight the rebels, administration officials said.
[. . .]
"In the past, there has been reluctance to engage in direct U.S. military action against the PKK, either through air strikes or some kind of Special Forces action," said the official familiar with the Bush-Gul conversation, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But the red line was always, if the Turks were going to come over the border, it could be so destabilizing that it might be less risky for us to do something ourselves. Now the Turks are at the end of their rope, and our risk calculus is changing."
An ambush over the weekend by 200 PKK guerrillas left 12 Turkish soldiers dead and 8 missing. The attack's sophistication and scope surprised not only the Turks but also the U.S. and its Iraqi allies.
The U.S., with Iraqi help, also could squeeze the flow of supplies and funds for the PKK coming across the border, or through the airport in Irbil, the largest city in Iraqi Kurdistan, according to U.S. and Kurdish officials and experts. The Bush administration, which has an intelligence-sharing operation with Turkey, also could lean on the Kurdistan Regional Government to provide more of its own intelligence to the Turks, experts said.

As Fang points out there are other options than bombing (a Bully Boy fave). Had the US administration done anything about the issue instead of ignoring it, the tensions might not have simmered so. Bloomberg News' Ben Holland and Mark Bentley report:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country's forces may carry out strikes on Kurdish fighters in Iraqi territory in the next few days if the U.S. and Iraq fail to rein in the militants.
A Turkish assault into northern Iraq to attack armed members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, won't necessarily mean sending in ground forces, Erdogan said at the U.K.'s Oxford University. Turkey's forces strafed the border area with artillery fire and missiles from F-16 jet fighters yesterday, Sabah newspaper said, citing witnesses.

On the alleged cease-fire, CNN notes:

On Monday, an Iraqi Kurdish lawmaker told CNN the PKK was close to announcing a cease-fire, following talks between Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and leaders from Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
In quotes carried by the pro-Kurdish Firat News Agency, rebel leaders said a cease-fire declared in June still held and called on Turkey to cease attacks on separatists, The Associated Press reported.
"We're stating clearly that if the Turkish state stops its attacks then increased tensions will be replaced with a clash-free environment," the group said.

What's really cute, if you pay attention to the Los Angeles Times' coverage (and others but the Times is the most extreme) is the way this is 'covered.' The PKK wants to split off from Turkey and has wanted that for years. Whatever you think of their desire or tactics (which are violent), it is so interesting the way they are embraced by the same outlets that vilify the Palestinians. And let's be clear, that's all Palestinians, not just those involved in the armed struggle for their own state. The US press ignores the deaths of them, ignores the attacks on them and, when pressed hard, might offer that they are 'terrorists' -- apparently, every last one to hear the mainstream press tell it and, apparently, from the moment they are born.

The real lesson may be that when you have large quantities of oil (as northern Iraq -- the Kurdish section) does, you can do whatever you want and the press will bend over backwards for you. LAT will whitewash your activities. You can allow a group labeled 'terrorist' (not just by the US and Turkey, as Parker tells you -- the European Union is among the others labeling it that) to operate freely in your region and it's no big deal and the same press that demonizes the Palestinians will cut you so much slack people will be scratching their heads wondering, "Is this the same press that unquestioningly got behind and still supports Bully Boy's so-called 'War on Terror'?"

And notice how Turkey's motives (whatever you think of the motives) are portrayed. The government's position is that the PKK is a terrorist group and that the PKK has repeatedly attacked them from northern Iraq. As such, the government feels that they have the right to go into that region. For those who aren't getting it, something similar was used to justify the US war on Afghanistan. But watch the press play dumb on that and act as if what Turkey's proposing is something so out of bounds it's never been considered before.

There is a lesson to be learned here, Joe Biden should pay attention, the Middle East was created by the West and the tensions today have a great deal to do with that. Which is why the US has no business 'deciding' 'for Iraq' what should happen to the country. If Iraq is to be carved up, that's a decision Iraqis will have to make. The attitude of we can impose our will and carve up occupied territories is a quick-fix (and an insult to the people in those regions) that only leads to later violence.

The illegal war with Iraq has done more to underscore the injustice of the Palestinians than anything else. As Americans have seen Iraq occupied, they've begun asking more questions than they have in the past. Similarly, Turkey's actions should lead to Americans questioning the alleged 'war on terror' and the portrayals of one group of people involved in armed struggle against an existing nation-state should make us ponder similar actions in other countries. The only lesson the press is currently teaching is when you have oil, we'll bend over backwards for you. Two visitors e-mailed with one saying the PKK was being slammed and the other saying they were being "treated with kid gloves." They're not being treated any way. The concern here is the support northern Iraq has given and the refusal of the media to note that. The one expressing concern that the PKK was being slammed stated we ("you people," meaning me, I assume) would probably deny the Armenian genocide. No, we don't.

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