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[casi] Turks, Kurds and the US-Turkish relationship

1) A voice of sanity amid Iraq's chaos
2) Turks, Kurds and the US-Turkish relationship



Jul 29, 2003

A voice of sanity amid Iraq's chaos
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

SULAIMANIYA, Northern Iran - Violence continues in most parts of the central
Iraq, with sloganeering against the US presence the daily business in the
south, and anxiety over the right of determination for the Kurds in the
north. Yet a slow and steady political process is very gradually evolving.

Side by side with the daily casualties of US soldiers, a well-thought out
and enduring package of policies is very much in the focus of the indigenous
political forces of the post-Saddam era, although it remains to be seen how
long it will take for the present anarchy and political vacuum to be
replaced by a stable political system.

Under Saddam Hussein, all political forces opposed to his self-hatched,
so-called Arab socialist nationalism were crushed. As a result, southern
Iraq seems to be devoid of any political force and the half -literate
clerics are exploiting the chaos. A similar situation exists in central
Iraq. However, the situation in the northern region of Kurdistan is
different. After the Gulf War of 1991, the Kurds began to establish
democratic norms and civil society, and these endeavors are now bearing

In the present chaotic circumstances, the Kurds have a team, unified
theories for the future of Iraq, and a decisive role to play. And unlike the
other regions, the Kurds are playing their cards very cleverly and making
sure of a powerful role in any future government.

One man, Dr Faud Masum, has emerged nationally in the post-Saddam period as
a powerful political personality.

He is also the most prominent figure in Kurdistan right now and is tipped as
the president of its next joint parliament. (He was the first prime minister
of the joint parliament, but resigned immediately because the Kurdish
factions could not develop consensus on issues). Currently he is a member of
a committee in Baghdad which is pondering a constitution for Iraq.

Masum, 65, has had a dynamic career. A PhD in Islamic Philosphy from Cairo
University, he wrote his thesis on Iqwan-u-Sifa (a group of sufis in 10th
century Iraq who believed in secularism). He was a teacher at Basra
University but later he chose to be a peshmerga , a member of a Kurdish
volunteer force and which means "a person who faces death" in the Kurdish
struggle. He says that he fought for Kurdistan and carries many old wounds,
but he never wounded anybody.

This correspondent had a chance to speak to Masum at his modest house in a
middle-class district of Sulaimaniya, in Iraqi Kurdistan, where he outlined
his political perspective on post-Saddam Iraq.

ATol: Iraq is situated in the heart of the Arab world. How do you see the
present developments and their impact on neigboring countries, especially
the presence of US troops?

Masum: Let me clarify. Iraq is not an Arab country. It is a multi-ethnic
country comprising Assyrians, Kurds, Arabs, Turkmens, etc. But we are a
member of the Arab League and we would retain that membership. In my
opinion, an "Iraq first" policy is in our interest, but we would not be part
of any plan against our neighbors, nor would we support it.

ATol: The US' aims in the Middle East seem to be obvious. It plans to change
the dynamics of Middle Eastern society and wants broad democratic and
economic reforms in the region. How do you see these developments?

Masum: Of cource, the situation in Iraq will have a direct impact on
neighboring countries, and that is why these countries are afraid.
Interestingly, they already have US troops on their land, but they are
afraid of US designs for political and economic reforms in the region. The
US has a clear line of interest behind these policies, but we too have our
interests. Let's see what happens in the future.

ATol: There is an impression that the US would not allow a big local army
and it would continue to dominate the region through its presence. Do you
think this is part of its colonial thinking on Iraq?

Masum: I do not think so. Colonialism is history now. The US cannot directly
rule in Iraq. I think they will keep their presence through some of their
bases in Iraq. As far as an Iraqi army is concerned, it would number 130,000
to 140,000, not including the border guards. Since the Ba'athist regime
developed its own military doctrine, we aim to purge that trend and develop
an army on a new theme.

ATol: How do you see the present political trends in Iraq, with so-called
Islamic fundamentalism taking root after the prolonged secular rule of the
Ba'athist regime?

Masum: The southern Iraqi region used to be a nest of leftist and
nationalist movements before Ba'athist rule. However, during Saddam's period
several factors combined to weaken the real political forces. For instance,
Shi'ites were suppressed. Similarly, the Iranian revolution took place,
which helped the Islamic parties in the south to follow a model like the one
communists used to have for the USSR.

But I think that once elections are held, these Islamic parties will not
hold a majority. They are only more organized now because of the political
fractures caused by the Saddam government's victimization. Islamist parties
are also playing skillfully with some temporary problems like civic unrest,
and they are painting the present US invasion as a fight between Islam and

You see, there is a person named Muktadarus Sadr emerging as a leader in the
south. He is not a cleric qualified to issue any religious ruling. He is too
young to be the top scholar of the Shi'ites. He has started raising slogans
against the US and many of the former Ba'athists [those who are Shi'ites]
have joined him. This is now the order of the day in the south.

I see these developments as a temporary phase and once the country gets on a
political track, they will fizzle out.

ATol: The Sunni Arabs ruled Iraq from the beginning. Now they have a sense
of deprivation. Many believe this is the main propelling force behind the
resistance against US troops. What is your opinion?

Masum: Saddam has already explioted Arab nationalism. He has used Sunnis
against Shi'ites. We Kurds are Sunnis but he destroyed us. Shi'ites are
Arabs but they were suppressed. What we here call the "triangle of
resistance" mostly comprises the remnants of the Ba'athist regime. They have
nothing to do with Sunni Arabs. The resistance movement has no political
manifestation; it is just a fight for vested interests of the former
Ba'athists. Saddam was equally bad for everybody, and anybody can see the
bodies of Arab Sunnis in the recently found mass graves besides those of
Shi'ites and Kurds.

However, there is a group of Sunni clerics who are preaching that power
should be in the hands of Sunni Arabs. These clerics mostly belong to the
Ba'ath Party. Sunni Arabs ruled this region during the Ottoman Empire,
during King Faisal's reign, after the 1958 revolution, and after the Ba'ath
revolution. There was no room in the past for non-Sunni Arabs in any
sensitive or important positions. Even the governors of the Kurd and Shi'ite
regions were Sunni Arabs. But in my opinion this injustice should not
continue in the future. A federal system, not like in the West, but like in
many Eastern countries, should be implimented in which all three parts of
Iraq should have greater autonomy for their decisions.

ATol: The US failed to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and failed
to find a link between the Saddam regime and al-Qaeda. Is there any
justification for the US invasion?

Masum: I saw mass graves and suppression under Saddam Hussein, and I think
that it is the moral duty of any nation to help another nation out from
these circumtances.


Jul 29, 2003

Turks, Kurds and the US-Turkish relationship

By Robert M Cutler

The recent detention of Turkish soldiers by US troops in northern Iraq is
only a symptom of the divergence of interests between erstwhile Cold War
allies. The vote of the Turkish Grand National Assembly this year against
allowing the United States to use Turkey's territory for transit of military
forces in the run-up to Gulf War II is likewise only a symptom of that
divergence of interests.

At the origin of that divergence is the response of US foreign policy to the
events around September 11, 2001. Look for those divergences to continue to
manifest, despite Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul's recently concluded
visit to Washington.

The naming of the trinity of Iraq, North Korea and Iran as the "axis of
evil" covers over the "deterritorialization" of US security and defense
policy. What does this mean? It means that geography no longer has
fundamental strategic, but only tactical, significance. The term
"deterritorialization" arose among political scientists in the late 20th
century to refer to the emergence of non-traditional security issues and the
significance of the psychological aspect of social mobilization. Under
conditions of contemporary US security and defense policy, it has been given
a new connotation.

Euro-American international political studies drew attention during the
1980s to the new emergence of security issues, from the danger of "nuclear
winter" to that of global warming, which required international cooperation
to be resolved and so were no longer based in zero-sum notions of
traditional military-strategic calculations. They were therefore called
"non-traditional" security issues. (Mikhail Gorbachev and his ideologues in
fact drew upon that Western academic work when they reformulated Soviet
foreign-policy doctrine so as to place the common interests of mankind above
even those of the Soviet state.)

As for social mobilization, Western social scientists in the 1990s, caught
up short by the eruption of ethnic conflict throughout Central Eurasia, had
recourse to so-called "constructivist" theories of "identity politics".
These theories were often divorced from systematic consideration of the
social bases for the emergence of those identities or, indeed, the role of
(indigenous) intellectuals in creating them and so fomenting ethnic
conflict. The Wars of the Yugoslav Succession illustrate this process, and
Valerii Tishkov, head of the Ethnography Institute of the Russian Academy of
Sciences, is one of the few scholars who has attentively examined its
significance in the former Soviet areas.

But because identity is a wonderful concept about which to speculate, these
"constructivist" Western theories frequently tended to slight the importance
of geography and other tangible resources that condition the actual outbreak
and course of ethnic conflicts.

If we look back on the evolution of US Cold War doctrine over the years, it
becomes clear that the collapse of the Soviet bloc, including that of the
Soviet Union (a process distinct from the former), signaled a late victory
for the earlier Cold War doctrine of "rollback" over the later Cold War
doctrine of "deterrence". Deterrence doctrine (along with its concomitant
war-fighting strategy of "escalation dominance") was fundamentally a
psychological artifact. It was really grounded more in presumed cognitive
processes of Soviet decision-makers than in any immutable facts of
geography. By contract, rollback at least suggested the relevance of
geography: rolling "back" was a spatial rather than psychological concept.
In a particularly striking manner, however, we have since September 2001
watched, following the validation of a geographically based Cold War
doctrine, the progressive deterritorialization of US security and defense

This means that geography no longer matters from the standpoint of defining
US national interests. The "war against terrorism" is an all-subsuming
rubric under which the doctrine of "preemptive war" is asserted without
respect to military theater. The current US administration brings the "war
against terrorism" home through such legislation as the "Uniting and
Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept
and Obstruct Terrorism" (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001. US security and defense
policy has been "deterritorialized" not because it is has become without
reference to territory, but because it does not distinguish among

That fact establishes the parameter within which Turkey has lost its
relative geopolitical significance to the United States as a regional power
allied against a territorially defined enemy (the erstwhile Soviet Union).
Turkey has, since September 2001, been transformed in practice from a
strategic regional ally into a tactical facilitator of the deterritorialized
"war against terrorism". Thus when the Turkish Grand National Assembly
failed to approve the US deployment into Iraq through the country, the
Americans simply made other plans.

The war on Iraq was not really fought against an enemy capable of inflicting
fundamental harm upon the United States; the US reply to the events of
September 2001 illustrates the country's resilience. The war on Iraq was,
rather, a means to an end: it is intended as a demonstration of Washington's
capacity to assert US prerogative without restriction, anywhere, any time:
when reach is ubiquitous, territory ceases to have meaning. One unintended
consequence has been, as a conservative Eastern European diplomat has put
it, that former anti-anti-Americans in his region have found themselves
turned today, against their will, into anti-Americans. This is the dynamic
that threatens to play itself out also in Turkey, but with much greater
violence and unpredictability.

Why will this happen so? To be sure, Turkish public opinion was
overwhelmingly opposed to the US deployment. Yet as Deputy Defense Secretary
Paul Wolfowitz recognized during a visit to Ankara in late May, the Turkish
government allowed a parliamentary "free vote" (ie, not subject to party
discipline) because "the military [did not] say it was in Turkey's interest
to support the United States ... with the kind of strength that would have
made a difference". And this was because the Turkish military, still
thinking itself a strategic rather than tactical player in Washington's
eyes, miscalculated and sought to impose upon the US its own conditions for
acquiescing in a war that it did not really need on its own border. These
conditions included the deployment of tens of thousands of Turkish troops in
northern Iraq and, by implication, Turkey's policy toward the Kurdish people
within Turkish borders.

Thus Gul's visit to Washington occurred in the context of the creation of a
high-level US-Turkish military committee to investigate the detention of
Turkish soldiers by US forces in northern Iraq this month. News reports from
Ankara indicate that discussions in the joint committee included exploration
of possibilities to create an "international protection force" for northern

With the refusal of India, France and Germany to supply forces to backstop
the US occupation of Iraq, and with United Nations Secretary General Kofi
Annan's invitation to Washington to supply a timetable for withdrawal of US
forces unlikely to be accepted, an international aegis for such a force is
unlikely. Press reports from Ankara state that the United States has
accepted the principle that Turkey will take command of any region in
northern Iraq where Turkish soldiers may be deployed.

In the absence of UN authorization, then, it seems increasingly likely that
the US will come to rely at least in part upon Turkish troops to be sent
into northern Iraq. How far "mission creep" will go remains undetermined.

The quid pro quo for this could likely be US acquiescence, if not
assistance, in suppression of Kurds in Turkey. That would be an ominous
development in light of a recent statement by the presidency of Turkey's
Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress (KADEK), the political and social
organization into which the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) transformed
itself in the late 1990s, during and after PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan's
arrest and trial.

KADEK has stated that if the Turkish state does not reciprocate its own
policy of compromise (in effect since the late 1990s at Ocalan's suggestion
and insistence), then it will resume armed combat. With the Kurdish ethnos
spread across the map from Syria into Iran, and with a political and
territorial foothold in northern Iraq - where the main Iraqi Kurdish parties
wholly support US policy and seek to establish a degree of relative autonomy
from Baghdad within a federal state - the stage would be set for further
"unintended consequences" of the US invasion: just what Washington doesn't

Robert M Cutler ( is research fellow, Institute of
European and Russian Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa.

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