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[casi] Turkey to join attack on Iraq

Turkey to join attack on Iraq

Beside Israel, there are no enthusiastic public supporters for the US-led war
against Iraq within the region. The recent Arab League summit called for a
"total rejection of the threat of aggression on Arab nations, especially
Iraq." Despite the public resistance, the US continues to bring intense
political and economic pressure to bear on its regional allies to support the
war and participate in the invasion of Iraq. The most important prospective
collaborator in the occupation of Iraq is its northern neighbor, Turkey.

While no Arab leader would publicly stand for war on Iraq in Vice-President
Cheney's failed diplomatic tour in March, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul
Wolfowitz's visit to Turkey in July has born fruit. Turkey fears the Iraqi
Kurds will use an invasion of Iraq to consolidate their hold on the northern
region's immense oil wealth and in so doing achieve independence. To offset
Ankara's hesitations the Deputy Defense Secretary discussed writing off $5
billion in debt and gave an emphatic promise that the US would never support
a Kurdish state.

US opposition to Kurdish self-determination

For the past fifteen-years the Turks have fought a counterinsurgency war
against the Turkish Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) claiming 30,000 lives. A
Kurdish state in northern Iraq would politically re-ignite the Kurdish
aspirations for self-determination within Turkey.
In a meeting with the Deputy Defense Secretary the Washington Post July 17,
2002 reports Turkey's military Chief of Staff, Gen. Huseyin Kivrikoglu,
"questioned how the United States was planning to prevent the creation of a
Kurdish state." In an interview with the Turkish daily Hurriyet Wolfowitz
stressed "... we've been very clear that we are opposed to a Kurdish state in
Iraq, and not only are we opposed to it, but we are actively working and
thinking about how to make sure that it doesn't happen."

The Washington Post article on Wolfowitz's visit concludes with a startling
glimpse of the strategic discussions between the US and Turkey regarding the
war on Iraq. "Turkey also warned that the oil rich areas of Mosul and Kirkuk
in northern Iraq should not be put under the control of Iraqi Kurds... The
areas are just outside the autonomous Kurdish zone." These towns are outside
of the administrative boundaries of the Iraqi Kurdish provinces. As the
southern rim of the Kurdish regions they have for decades been a source of
conflict between Kurdish claims and those of the government of Iraq. Turkish
control of these two key areas from the north would bring the entire Iraqi
Kurdish region under Turkish rule.

Under the US/UK northern 'no-fly-zone' Iraqi Kurdistan has functioned as an
autonomous region. It is politically and regionally fairly equally divided
between the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) around Irbil, and the Patriotic
Union of Kurdistan (PUK) around Sulaymaniyah. Despite the UN sanctions on
Iraq, the KPD has developed a lucrative trade in Iraqi oil brought by truck
overland to Turkey. The PUK challenged the KPD monopoly of oil revenues in
September 1997 igniting an open Kurdish civil war. Both the Baghdad and
Ankara intervened on the side of the KPD to block a PUK victory.

Turkey has no significant oil deposits and has benefited from the discount
oil from Iraq, but for years Ankara has expressed growing concerns that
continued oil revenues, estimated at more than a million dollars a day,
provide the economic basis for a Kurdish state. It has recently announced
that it is ending the relationship by prohibiting the oil trade with the
Iraqi Kurds.

'Northern Iraq is under our safekeeping'

Since the 1990 Gulf War, Turkish chauvinists have increased their claims for
the return of the former Ottoman control over Mosul and Kirkuk, lost to the
British in 1919. They also raise the defense of the national rights of the
Iraqi Turkmen minority concentrated near Kirkuk. A leader of Turkey's largest
parliamentary party, the Nationalist Action Party, recently called "for the
declaration of an autonomous Turkmen region that would include Kirkuk." These
noble ideals about the defense of national minorities in Iraq are intended to
conceal the Turkish ambition to seize the oil-rich region Kirkuk and Mosul.
Turkish military control of Kirkuk and Mosul will envelop the Iraqi Kurds,
effectively choking off the emergence of a Kurdish state.

On August 20 this sentiment was framed for the first time as official Turkish
policy by Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu's statement claiming "It is
an area which had been forcibly separated, ...Northern Iraq is under our
safekeeping." (AP August 23, 02) The Iraqi Kurdish leader of the KPD Masoud
Barzani responded to the threat of Turkish military occupation of northern
Iraq pledging to fight the Turks in Iraq and to turn the region into the
Turks' "graveyard." The Turkish daily Milliyet August 22 warned the KPD
leader that he "does not have the luxury to lose the support of Turkey." And
pointing to Turkey's strong ties with Washington, "It would be very useful
for the US to remind him of this again."

The Turkish intervention in Iraq

Those who doubt the likelihood of US support for Turkish military
intervention in Iraq should consider two points:

1) Turkey's involvement would give the occupation forces in Iraq a
multinational character. Turkey is currently providing troops in Afghanistan.
The so-called "green helmets," because of Turkey's Islamic background, could
similarly be given the label of "peacekeepers" in Iraq. A British and US
occupation of Iraq will be greatly enhanced by Turkey's participation.

2) The US has an established record of supporting massive Turkish military
incursions into northern Iraq in recent years. On December 31,1996 a US and
Turkey agreement approved the further use of Incirlik airbase for the US and
British patrols over Iraq on the condition that the stated mission of the
"no-fly-zone" over northern Iraq be changed. Until then Operation Provide
Comfort claimed a humanitarian mission of protecting the Kurds of northern
Iraq. This was changed to Operation Northern Watch where the parameters of
the new mission omitted any mention of protecting anyone. The new mission
calls simply for the "containment" of Iraq.

US support for Turkish invasions of Iraq

In September of 1997, 15,000 Turkish troops crossed into Iraq supported with
armor and helicopters against Kurdish separatists. Since then there have been
repeated military incursions by Turkey of similar scale into northern Iraq.
These violations of Iraqi sovereignty enjoy the aircover of the US and
British warplanes from Operation Northern Watch. The Turkish moves against
the Kurds in Iraq also have the diplomatic support of the US (See April 18,
2001, State Department press conference with the US Iraq Coordinator, Mr.
Ricciardone). As of September 10, 2002 Reuters reports that 5,000 Turkish
troops are currently deployed in Iraq.

The Iraqi northern border has become a political fiction. The erosion of
Iraqi sovereignty through the US and British control of its northern airspace
and the Turkish interventions have effectively erased the internationally
recognized border.

Military intervention in northern Iraq is not a strategic option for Turkey.
It is an established fact. What is debatable is the extent of the future
Turkish military intervention in northern Iraq.

An ethnic war for oil in Iraq

A US attack on Iraq and a corresponding escalation of Turkish intervention in
northern Iraq will initiate a new ethnic war in Kurdistan. The threats
between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdish leader continue to escalate. Turkish
Prime Minister Ecevit stated this month, "Kurdish leaders in Iraq, especially
Barzani, have airs of, 'Well, the United States will not abandon us.' This is
very ugly and rocks our relations... It's impossible for us to stomach this."
(Reuters, September 12)

There can be no accommodation between the demands of the Iraqi Kurds and
Turkey. Turkey's vital participation in the US attack on Iraq is conditioned
on Washington promoting their interests alone. They insist the spoils of war
on Iraq go to them, not the Iraqi Kurds. The stage is set for an ethnic war
over the oil of northern Iraq.

Bob Allen           September 19, 2002

This article presents the views of the author alone, and is not necessarily
those of Campaign to End the Sanctions. Attachment is PDF map of northern Iraq

Campaign to End the Sanctions
Philadelphia Pa
215 438 4181

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