October 31, 2007

A Turkey-Iraq war can be postponed, but not cancelled

19:17 | 31/ 10/ 2007

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Maria Appakova) - Turkey may send its troops into Iraq in the next few days, unless diplomats and politicians do something.

In early November, ministers from Iraq's neighbors and the countries of the UN Security Council will meet in Istanbul, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to go to Washington on November 5 for a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush.

Diplomats and politicians could do something if Turkish-Iraqi relations were the only issue. But there is also the extremely difficult Kurdish problem.

The Turkish parliament has granted the government a carte blanche to conduct a military operation against the militant wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (KWP) in northern Iraq at any time within a year.

The invasion has been postponed so far, because Ankara is waiting for Iraq to solve the KWP problem. In payment for its patience, it wants the authorities in Baghdad to ban the operation of the party in Iraq, stop financial and other assistance to it, and extradite KWP leaders hiding in Iraq.

The first two requests are quite possible and have been granted by official documents, while the last is a problem.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Secretary General of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), has been an advocate for Kurdish rights and democracy in Iraq for more than 50 years. Not surprisingly, he said the Kurdish leaders were hiding in the mountains and could not be caught.

Talabani also hinted that they would not be extradited anyway, just like any other Kurd. Despite strained relations between different Kurdish parties and groups, the extradition of clansmen to third parties is considered betrayal in Kurdistan and will only provoke more internal strife.

Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region, said at a news conference when asked if the Iraqi Kurds would recognize the KWP as a terrorist organization: "If Turkey proposed a peaceful solution and the KWP rejected it, we would recognize the KWP a terrorist organization."

(The Kurdistan Workers Party is on the terrorist black lists of Turkey, the United States and the European Union.)

In other words, Barzani hinted that the problem should be solved in Turkey by political means.

Kurds live in many countries but received a chance to realize their dream of an independent state only in Iraq. For 15 years they have lived separately from the rest of Iraq, thanks to the protection of the international community. They became involved in Iraqi society after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, and some of them now hold high political posts, such as President Talabani.

However, Iraqi Kurdistan remains a state within a state, with its own parliament, president, army, language and rapidly growing economy. Iraqi Kurds have attained a status which Kurds living in Turkey, Iran and Syria can only dream about.

This also serves as a powerful irritant for Ankara, Tehran and Damascus, who cannot do anything to change the situation. They can only set Kurds against each other and thus distract them from fighting for their rights. Judging by what Talabani and Barzani have said, the Kurds have seen through the trick.

The invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan will not save Turkey from the KWP. A ground operation will definitely fail in the mountains of Kurdistan and there will be many casualties among peaceful civilians and troops. The Turkish authorities know this and have therefore postponed the invasion, opting instead for moves along the border.

A military operation will not solve the Kurdish problem, but still, Ankara cannot ignore the KWP's raids and terrorist attacks. The only way out is to find a comprehensive solution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey.

Ankara is not yet ready to emulate Russia's solution in Chechnya, which means giving amnesty to those who lay down arms, spurring economic development of the region, and in Turkey's case giving Kurds equal rights with other citizens. Its aloofness is understandable, especially in view of the growing Kurdish activity.

Tehran and Damascus, which have the same, albeit smaller, problems with Kurds, are not ready for this option either.

The Kurdish problem calls for international assistance. It should be put on the agenda of the UN Security Council alongside the problems in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, the Sudan, and other issues. This is what the KWP is trying to achieve by provoking a conflict between Ankara and Baghdad, as well as with Washington, which is currently responsible for Iraq.

Pessimists can say that the international community has not found an effective solution to any of the problems plaguing the broader Middle East. The meetings in Istanbul and Washington can lower the temperature of Turkey-Iraq relations, but not for long. On the other hand, only temporary solutions are thus far possible in the Middle East.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

1 comment:

Emek Demir said...

Please read more - russia's steps in Chechnya ? ? FYI there is amnesty for who lay down arms - for years now. And Kurds have the same rights as turks, we had a Kurdish prime minister and a president - who openly boasted about his ethnicity and still got elected. How about a chechen russian president ?

Please ..