Thursday, October 18, 2007

The coming war in Kurdistan

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From the Times:

Turkey’s Parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to authorize sending troops into northern Iraq to confront Kurdish rebels in hide-outs there, sending an angry message to the Baghdad government and its Washington sponsor. But Turkey, a member of NATO, made it clear that it would not immediately carry out the resolution.

The 507-to-19 vote was the culmination of months of frustration here with the United States, which has criticized Kurdish rebels who attack Turkey from Iraq but has failed to get its Kurdish allies in Iraq to act against them. President Bush on Wednesday reiterated American wishes for a diplomatic solution.

The vote to authorize sending troops, which Turkish officials say gives them up to a year to take action, was, in essence, a blunt request for the United States to acknowledge Turkey’s status as an important ally in a troubled and complex region.

Some will argue that this is precisely why Congress shouldn't proceed with the Armenian Genocide resolution -- that is, to maintain good relations with Turkey -- but this was going to happen anyway, tension and conflict in the region dating back to well before the American invasion and occupation of Iraq.

A diplomatic solution is, of course, desirable, but that would likely require the U.S. to put pressure both on friendly Kurds in the north of Iraq and on the inept Maliki government in Baghdad, as well as for Maliki to work closely both with Turkey and with his own Kurdish allies. Even then, though, one wonders if a peaceful resolution is possible, given the strident communist-nationalist aims (and violent means) of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The establishment of an independent and sovereign Kurdistan could blunt those aims, and could be the main component of a peaceful resolution, but it seems unlikely that the PKK would agree to the terms of such an arrangement.

Regardless, although Turkey may take no immediate military action, the situation in Iraq could soon get a lot messier -- and a lot more bloody.

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