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07 June 2007

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Richard Whitman

Pat
You have stated the problem and its history very well. What should the US be doing??

W. Patrick Lang

RW

I added that. pl

Will

two points
one. what are the numbers in anatolia? sometimes one hears as many as a third of the "Turks" are Kurds or "mountain turks." The Kurds are Aryans and speak a form of Parsi. The Turks genetically are mostly Greek and according to the latest genetic study if i recall it correctly are less than 20% central asian stock. The Turks, Slejuks & Osmanalis originated from Central Asia. Interestingly for those that care for such things, the tale of the Trojan Aeinid (Virgil) (Anatolian) origin of the Etruscans has some genetic plausibility. Tuscan cattle genes match Anatolian cattle. The Etruscan language is non-IndoEuropean and related to some Anatolian languages.

The Second Point. There are genetic Turks or Turkoman in Irak particulary around the oil rich city of Kirkuk which gives Turkey a claim to that oil. This has always given Israel heartburn b/c it has cultivated Turkey as a wedge against Syria and the Kurds as a wedge against Irak.

Michael Murry

No doubt many contributors to this forum have read the article "Plan B," by Seymour M. Hersh that appeared in The New Yorker on Monday 21 June 2004, almost three years ago now. Aside from cruel little tidbits like Israeli general (and former Prime Minister) Ehud Barak telling Dick Cheney that America in Iraq faced only the prospect of "choosing the size of your humiliation," the article gererally deals with Israel's ongoing attempt to use the Kurds as a vehicle for destabilizing Turkey, Iran, and Syria: all of which countries have sizeable Kurdish populations.

Now, given the facts put forward in this widely quoted piece of reporting, what about these activities by our unofficial "ally" does our own government not know of and approve? And what chances does Israel's divide-and-conquer strategy (i.e., encouraging, supplying, and training Kurdish terrorism) against three of Israel's "neighbors" have of uniting them all in an alliance against American interests in Iraq and elsewhere? Does the American government value Turkey more as an official NATO ally or the Kurds as Israel's terrorist tool against that ally? (Just sort of musing out loud here.)

On a somewhat related note, when I heard Mikhail Gorbachev on CNN International this morning speak of Deputy Dubya Bush "driving himself into a corner" with his "small-time politics" (for needlessly stationing American missiles on Russia's border to "defend" against non-existent Iranian nukes), I couldn't help but remember hiding under my desk at school during the Cuban Missle Crisis (just practicing survival) when our own government risked nuclear Armageddon rather than tolerate "defensive" Russian missiles near our borders -- even after we had publicly blundered and failed with our C.I.A.-sponsored "Bay of Pigs" invasion of a Russian ally. So, what other unforced errors of historic proportions must we endure at the hands of our maniac National Insecurity State?

Geez, Louise. We can't even get up to our orbiting white elephant space station half the time without the Russians giving us a lift in their rockets. What possible motive could our "government" have for needlessly provoking these people who have suffered historic invasions from out of Europe by Charles of Sweden, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Adolph Hitler, to name only three of the historically better known invaders? Just musing again; but what a humiliating excuse for "leaders" -- let alone "statesmen" -- America currently has on embarassing display at the moment.

Dustin Langan

Thanks in advance, Col. Lang, for what will surely be an interesting thread.

I visited Iraqi Kurdistan in 2003 and 2004 to meet with civil society representatives and the Kurdish Minister of Human Rights in Irbil at that time.

It was clear that the Autonomous Region was a different country in all but name.

They had their own money. They flew their own flag, which in contrast to the somber black, red, and white motif of the Arab Middle East, is painted in bright, optimistic colors and bears the symbol of a shining sun. The peshmerga were everywhere, and we were even assigned a bodyguard (a clumsy fellow who kept taking his pistol out of his waistband and fumbling with it in his hands.) Saddam Hussein was openly vilified, Americans were heroes, and although all adults naturally understood Arabic, few of them showed much interest in events in the rest of Iraq all. They didn't feel they owed the Arabs anything and were already done with Iraq. And when this unity government charade finally bites the dust, I imagine they will shed Iraq off like a dry old skin. They are already quite far along in the process.

And whether the Turks have really crossed the border to smack around the PUK or not, we should not lose sight of the fact that this is taking place within the context of the Kirkuk referendum, which is now only five months away. This referendum, which the Kurds are hell-bent on holding this November, will decide whether Kirkuk will become integrated into Kurdistan. Kurds say the city was historically their capital and was even originally called Kurd-kuk. Local Arabs and Turkmen, some of whose families have lived their for centuries, say the Kurdish claim on Kirkuk is bogus and just an attempt to seize the area's oil.

It seems that the upstart state of Kurdistan needs that oil to survive. And it is certain that Kurdish control of Kirkuk's oil would not only bring revenue to this new Kurdish state, but would really excite its ultra-nationalists (of which there are many). Turkey will therefore never permit for Kirkuk to come under Kurdish control. So you have a recipe for disaster right there.

The problems with Kirkuk don't stop there. The city has been the site of displacement after displacement over the last few decades, as Saddam Hussein carted Kurds away and replaced them with Arabs during his rule, and the Kurds have been reversing that process ever since the invasion. As a result, the city is suffering a total identity crisis with that oil as the prize.

Why didn't the Americans forsee this, Col. Lang? Because the Kurds openly adored us there, and we Americans are suckers for that kind of stuff. We love having little brown brothers to look up to us and confirm our righteousness, and especially for this misadventure in Iraq.

Remember in the summer of 2003 when the Bush administration geniuses tried to pay off Turkey to help them occupy Iraq? That idea went over REAL well in Baghdad, let me tell you. Fortunately the Turkish parliament had the good sense to turn the offer down. But the Decider cannot stand it when someone tells him no, so relations between Washington and Ankara have been chilly ever since.

Kurds make us feel good. Turks do not cooperate and obey. These seem to be the underlying premises guiding our policies: ones based purely on emotional reactions.

If we do not watch it and the EU continues to rebuff them, I think we may lose Turkey as an ally.

jonst

Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether it is in our interests to be a "regional power" in the ME (I personally don't buy this argument but it would take a sledgehammer to smash through the orthodoxy of the DC foreign policy elite on this, or anything else, for that matter. Hell, they have not had a new idea since Kissinger went to China)...... the best that could be done now to resolve the issue should occur in DC. Not overseas. Someone has to get Cheney to resign. There are ways, believe me, there are ways. Put John Warner or Howard Baker in his place. No one who would be perceived as threat to the present group of Republican candidates. Then, isolate Bush, either technically, or, hopefully, he agrees to go away quietly. Or face impeachment. These guys have to go and they have to go now. Unrealistic? Yeah, perhaps. But no more so, indeed, less, than thinking anything decent, or competent, or helpful, can be carried out by the leadership in power now.

Wayne White

What will be required in order to forestall Turkish cross-border intervention now and in the future is a meaningful Kurdish effort to eliminate the armed, militant anti-Turkish PKK (now renamed, no kidding, I believe, the KKK) in their midst.

The Kurds, especially the PUK, have made repeated assurances along these lines over the years, but apparently have taken relatively little action. Such action would have to involve both the KDP and PUK. Elements of the PKK (or, now, KKK, if I am correct) that conduct operations against Turkey have usually positioned themselves in rugged KDP territory along the Iraqi-Turkish border, with many others in training (or dependents) much farther away from the border (and Turkey's reach) in PUK territory.

During the 1991-2003 period, the Turks made repeated incursions on the ground into Iraq aimed at suspected militant hideouts and staging areas near the border and at least one major airstrike against suspected militant elements far beyond the border in PUK territory.

Wayne W.

Binh

"ANKARA, Turkey* (AP) -- Several thousand Turkish troops crossed into
northern Iraq early Wednesday to chase Kurdish guerrillas who operate
from
bases there, Turkish security officials said.

Two senior security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity
because
they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the raid was
limited in
scope and that it did not constitute the kind of large incursion that
Turkish leaders have been discussing in recent weeks.

"It is not a major offensive and the number of troops is not in the
tens of thousands," one of the officials told The Associated Press by
telephone. The official is based in southeast Turkey, where the military has been battling separatist Kurdish rebels since they took up arms in 1984."

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/06/06/turkey.iraq.ap/index.html

Frank Durkee

There have been conflicting reports concerning the number, nature, and extent of the turkish incursion, if it happened. What light can you shed on this aspect of the matter. On your last paragraph the question is will we?

Duncan Kinder
Ataturk, by a combination of competent military campaigning and effective and far-sighted diplomacy solved that problem. His diplomatic agreements with Greek premier Venizelos transferred large populations between Greek and Turkish territory in such a way that Greece became overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian and the Turkish Republic almost completely Muslim.

For a perspective on how this looked to the Greeks at that time, read Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis. ( The movie is not an adequate substitute; it lacks the materials I am now referring to. )

A recurring subplot throughout the book are references to Zobra's prior career, which involved quite a lot of ethnic cleansing type activity in the post-WWI Balkans. It also involves references to "our capital," which is not Athens but rather Constantinople ( and most definitely NOT "Istanbul").

Those of you familiar with 19th century Russian history are well aware of its ambitions to drive toward Constantinople. This usually is presented as a geopolitical effort to open a "warm water port." While that was true, there also was another aspect to this Russian drive. Constantinople is the holy city of Eastern Orthodoxy and - for that reason - they want it back.

None of this is of proximate, immediate import , but as Eastern Europe awakes from the hangover of "the former Soviet Union" and begins to take on a life of its own seeking its own objectives for its own purposes, the matters I am now writing about could quite possibly reassert themselves.

Mo

Im confused by the solution you propose Colonel.
How does preserving the status quo improve things for the Kurds in Turkey? And if things dont improve for the Kurds in Turkey, what changes? They will continue their attacks, the Kurds in the north of Iraq will continue to support them, the Turks will mass at the borders and you are back at square one.

And how can the US military guarantee anything - or more importantly how can locals take any US military guarantees seriously- if its presence, both politically and militarily in Iraq, is so precarious?

Kevin

As I understand it, the Turks want to stop or delay the Kirkuk referendum and stop the PKK's cross-border raids. Can the KRG deliver on the latter? Is the US in any position to deliver on the Kirkuk issue? How could they when it's in the Iraqi constitution?

W. Patrick Lang

jonst et al

It is not a question of whether or not we wish to be a regional power in the ME. We are now. The question is whether or not we are going to just walk away the way we did and VN and abandon the locals who we befriended. There is goig to be a massive refugee and displaced person problem in the Arab parts of Iraq. we will have a majpr responsibility to those people, and as for the Kurds, I don't want to see the US abandon any more entire nations. pl

Mo

I think that if you were a Kurd and not an Arab you would not be asking such a question. There is nothing sacred about Arab or Turkish rule over the Kurds. pl

D.Witt

The problem with this scenario is that the phrase 'honest broker' has never been less applicable to the US govt in the region. While diplomacy can be seen as the art of balancing one's national interests with accomodations for other parties' interests, the Bush/Cheney WH is only interested in dominion.

In this case, I would expect that any deal with the Kurds would be explicitly quid pro quo, such that the price would be the Halliburton flag flying in Kirkuk, with the Kurds claiming the oil fields, but with control and profits largely flowing to the Cheney Energy cabal.

As for Kurdish nationalism, and regional stability, I don't think the Cheney/Bush WH gives a rat's ass, as long as the oil flows in their direction.

Ozzy

This is not about human rights, or who has historical claims over land, or poor old Kurds not being able to speak their language, or what have you. This is about oil, water, and strategic land. The waters of Tigris and the Euphrates, and the oil of Kirkuk, Mosul and the new fields that are being found as we speak - which just happen to fall within the supposed "Kurdish homeland" - are enough to create a power (or a puppet) not seen in the Middle East since the Ottoman Empire. Not to mention it's a perfect location for a base that counters Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Suez Canal, and Turkey, or anybody else who tries to get out of line in the M.E. It is literally the center of the strategic world. And the country who befriends (establish) such a nation is poised to make a ton of money itself - just alone in cheaper (or free) oil prices. France, Russia, UK, and US - the four that created Iraq 90 years ago - are already building embassies in Northern Iraq. Since the original Iraq plan was derailed by Saddam, it's time to divide and conquer again. It would mean the end of Turks in Anatolia and an end to Turks period - and that fight would make Iraq look like a picnic. I mean, who do you think you are kidding? Do you honestly think - for a second - that the Turks are going to let it come to that?

jonst

Pl,

Understood.

To paraphrase Barack here, you can pick who and what you will walk away. Perhaps now is the time to ask, based on recent history, if the US can stay a "regional power", and stay a Republic at the same time? I would argue perhaps not. In that case, who and what do walk away from? If I have framed the choice correctly, personally,I prefer the walking away from the ME. Where is our DeGaulle when we need him? Perhaps it is time to consider the proposition that if one is weary of abandoning entire nations it might be a good idea not to get deeply involved with them in the first place.

johnf

Reporting on this incident has been all over the place. Its been reported, denied, retracted, unretracted. Its a minor incident. A major incident. The BBC still has not even mentioned it on its website.

The Americans - army and government - have been in denial of the incident. The Turkish Government have denied it, but anonymous sources in the army have confirmed it. The Iraqi "Government" has denied it. I think the story was originally posted on, yes, DEBKA.

Washington must be extremely worried, not to say embarrassed by it. It must really have got the tea cups rattling at the G8. And then there's that Bilderburg thing about to take place in - Turkey. To say nothing of the Turkish election followed by the Kirkuk vote.

Someone's timing was superb.

James

What is stronger; Turkish (Kemalist) Nationalism or Turkish Pragmatism?
Turkish businesses have invested a great deal of money in the areas of Iraq controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) since 2003. If the KRG ever does gain exclusive control over significant oil reserves, the best route to market is through Turkey. Economically Turkey stands to benefit greatly from an independent and stable Kurdistan.
However, Kemalism is more religion than political system and as such, remains outside the boundaries of logic. Kemalism says there are no Kurds; ergo there can be no Kurdistan.
Poor Kurds, they are going to get screwed again because of someone else's internal politics.


Montag

Let's not forget the issue of "Kurdistan," and that there are Kurdish minorities in Iran and Syria as well. Washington has always used the Kurds as a local attack dog, notably in the 1970s, as did the Shah of Iran. And Washington has betrayed them again and again, most recently in 1996, when Saddam launched an offensive into the Kurdish territory in alliance with one of the two Kurdish factions.

In fact, Henry Kissinger came up with a very cynical Kurdish Doctrine:

1. Promise them anything.
2. Drop them whenever convenient.
3. F*** them if they can't take a joke.

There's a pertinent quote from David Downing's "The Moscow Option: An Alternative Second World War:"

"The Germans, for all their talk about the power of nationalism, seem completely unaware of its importance outside Germany. They have made a right mess of their Middle East policy."

Hevallo

In my opinion the US will betray the Kurds. But they will do it in a way that looks like they are not. Take the 'special envoy' that US appointed back in August 2006, Joseph Ralston. Well, since Ralston arrived in Ankara he has secured military aircraft contracts to the total of $12 billion. Oh, and he just so happens to be a serving director of Lockheed Martin the company that has secured the contracts. Funny that, isnt it? We wondered then why Turkey needed so many aircraft when they already had enough. Now we know! And US spokespeople have not been very robust in their objections to the military movements of the Turkish army. Calling them 'normal'. Yes, the Turkish military does from time to time move troops on the border, in fact they have entered South Kurdistan,(North Iraq) many times in the past with the US turning a 'blind eye'.

Turkey threatened the Kurds of South Kurdistan a few days ago saying that if the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government took serious action against the PKK then perhaps there could be dialouge.

We just have Barzani's reply:

"We do not accept the conditions laid down to deal with the PKK. We have always said that we would help Turkey if it chooses the path of dialogue and we confirm this," Massoud Barzani told a news conference alongside Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, also a Kurd.

"If Turkey's aim is war, we are not prepared to accept these conditions," Barzani added.

Good for him! Lets see what the US does now!

RonD

Colonel, thank you for the objectivity-in the end, I believe Kurdistan is THE flashpoint. Nothing anyone does in Baghdad or Anbar can stop the Kurds from declaring independence-the only question is which of our allies will we walk away from. If I recall correctly, the Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in the world without their own country. They're never going to have a better chance-and I'll never believe Barzani wants to be remembered as the Kurdish leader who DIDN'T found the nation when given the chance.

VietnamVet

Colonel,
Your points are well taken. But.

The Administration's two goals are permanent bases in Iraq and American companies pumping Iraqi oil. Paid for with US blood and treasure. This has never been agreed to by the American people. Pentagon agitprop constantly talks about troop withdrawal but the numbers of troops in country always actually increases. Likewise, invading two Muslim countries, with associated torture and death, assures the conflict and rage of war will be a part of Islam as long as US troops are occupiers.

The only sensible out come is some sort of negotiated Sunni, Turk, and Persian regional federation. Agreement that could only be reached if America left Iraq. The current equilibrium is unsustainable. Either the USA conquers the Middle East oil fields with millions of troops or the US withdraws. If the economy collapses or a charismatic politician arises to fight climate change by ending the forever war and achieving energy independence, US troops will be gone from the Middle East in a flash. Kurdistan would be another dream, lost in the sands of time, another minority group forgotten by the Americans when brown cannon fodder was no longer needed.

John Howley

From the Economist:

"The Kurds number at least 25m in the four main countries that host them: Turkey has at least 14m, Iraq more than 5m, Iran some 4m and Syria nearly 2m."

http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=7854780

mo

Colonel,

I think you misunderstand me. I am asking as to how your solution improves things for the Kurds because I would like to see things improve for them, especially those in Turkey (After all my greatest hero in Arab history is a Salahedine, a Kurd!). My question was that, from what I understood, the equities (if I understand that as the status quo) keeps the Kurds in Turkey under the thumb of the Turks with little or no independence and little or no investment from Ankara.

I certainly do not see Arab or Turkish rule over the Kurds as either sacred or in any way a given. In fact, much like my aforementioned hero, I would have no problem with a Kurdish leader in an Arab country.

jhritz

Colonel Lang,

Thank you for the informative post on a subject of great interest to me. I wrote an essay on the Kurds that was recently guest-posted Larry Johnson's No Quarter:

Who Are the Kurds?

Result of seven years of research for a book and a lot of late night dinners (with music and pot-stilled whiskey) with Kurdish guides.

I love the Kurds and am so worried about them now.

Thanks for the great post. The current situation needs far more discussion than it has been getting. I hope you're information is widely reviewed.

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