Friday, March 23, 2007

Details just keep getting in the way of the "Surge"

It's not as though they shouldn't have seen this coming.
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.

Senior Bush administration officials have assured Turkey in recent days that US forces will increase efforts to root out Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK) guerrillas enjoying safe haven in the Qandil mountains, on the Iraq-Iran-Turkey border.

So, what we have here is the Kurds, who have, since 1919, attempted to form an independent Kurdistan (and briefly succeeded more than once) or an autonomous region within the Iraqi federation, doing what has always been a "national" priority: seeking independence.

The Kurds are a culture unto themselves. In 1919 the Great Powers at the Treaty of Versailles, the victors of the Great War, promised Kurdish leaders that, with the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, the Kurds would be granted sovereignty in their own homeland. It was a lie.

In 1920, the Treaty of Sevres actually created an autonomous Kurdistan. The Turks, however, rejected it and Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and the former USSR all took chunks of what should have been Kurdistan.

The Kurds have been fighting ever since.

But Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister, MPs, military chiefs and diplomats say up to 3,800 PKK fighters are preparing for attacks in south-east Turkey - and Turkey is ready to hit back if the Americans fail to act. "We will do what we have to do, we will do what is necessary. Nothing is ruled out," Mr Gul said. "I have said to the Americans many times: suppose there is a terrorist organisation in Mexico attacking America. What would you do?... We are hopeful. We have high expectations. But we cannot just wait forever."

Turkish sources said "hot pursuit" special forces operations in Khaftanin and Qanimasi, northern Iraq, were already under way. Murat Karayilan, a PKK leader, said this week that a "mad war" was in prospect unless Ankara backed off.

Fighting between security forces and Kurdish fighters seeking autonomy or independence for Kurdish-dominated areas of south-east Turkey has claimed 37,000 lives since 1984. The last big Turkish operation occurred 10 years ago, when 40,000 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.

It's important to recognize here that, despite the long history of Kurds fighting for independence, recent history demonstrates a continued determination on the part of the Kurdish population to establish the homeland they were promised after the Great War. That is not to say that the Kurds are struggling innocents. Kurds are considered to have been complicit in the genocide perpetrated on the Armenians by the Ottomans. Notwithstanding, an estimated 30,000 Kurds were also killed during that event and Turkey has engaged in attempts to eradicate Kurdish culture up to the present day.

So, why the brief history? Easy. It is something the Bush administration should have known long before taking a decision to start a pre-emptive war in Iraq. It was known in 1991. When the question was asked as to why, after ejecting Saddam from Kuwait, allied forces did not carry on to Baghdad, the commonly held view was that an occupied Iraq would turn into an unbelievable hairball of ethnic clashes and regional power-struggles. It wasn't the possibility of letting the genie out of the bottle. It was the strong likelihood of releasing four different genies and a regional conflict spilling over into Turkey, dragging in Iran and Syria.

But, apparently, history wasn't a topic high on the list of considerations in the Bush administration. Rather than study the likely outcome of releasing Kurdish ambitions for independence, it was simply ignored. It's easier to do that than spend four or five hours listing the possible consequences of released energy.

There is also the fact that this last little effort by Bush, his much touted "Surge" contained as much of an over-the-horizon glance as the initial invasion of Iraq.

The US is already fighting Sunni insurgents and Shia militias. Analysts say a surge in violence in northern Iraq, previously the most stable region, could capsize the entire US plan. But pressure on the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is also growing as a result of forthcoming elections. Military intervention was narrowly avoided last summer when he said that "patience was at an end" over US prevarication. Now conservatives and nationalists are again accusing him of not standing up to Washington.
You could say that nobody could see that coming, but then you'd have to answer another question: What the hell kind of job is Condoleeza Rice doing? It's up to her department to be aware of these things.

Add a little cloak and dagger to the mix and the disaster is near complete.

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.
Not that relying on anything the US National Security Council produces is likely to be of much value. It's the body that scammed together the mythical evidence to support invading Iraq in the first place.

So, just when you thought it was safe to say Bush's adventure in Iraq couldn't get any worse... well, there's a long way to go before it all hits bottom.

(H/T Jill)

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