Sunday, March 09, 2008

Q&A: Turkish military campaign in northern Iraq

The following is a translation from Arabic.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Answer to Question

Question:
There have been media reports that the Turkish government obtained approval of the United States which has occupied Iraq including the Kurd region for launching its armed offensive in northern Iraq (Kurdistan). Official Turkish and US government sources have confirmed this report. This is despite the fact that since the US occupies Iraq and its Kurd region, the security of these areas becomes the responsibility of the US, yet it permitted the Turkish government to launch attacks!

Does this mean that America has bartered the Kurd region of Iraq for its interests in Turkey which are far more vital to it than the Kurd region of Iraq?

Answer:

It is true that America is in occupation of Iraq, and an external aggression on it is tantamount to an attack on the US in a sense, which requires America not to permit any state to wage war on Iraq so long as it is in occupation.

Similarly it is also true that Turkey is very important to America, but so are Iraq and its Kurdish region, though not quite so. But what is not correct is to say that America has sold Iraqi Kurd area for its interests in Turkey, because its interests in Turkey are safe under the AKP government just as its interests are safe in Iraq under America’s puppet Iraqi government.
So far as permitting the Turkish government’s attack on northern Iraq are concerned, this permission reflects the US interests in the two countries and this does not amount to selling one at the cost of the other.

1. But, how to put these apparent inconsistencies into perspective? Here is how:
Ever since the US abandoned Abdullah Öcalan and handed him over to the Turkish authorities under the famous hand-shake maneuvered by it with Turkey in order to protect Syria, then with the coming to power of the pro US Justice party in Turkey, it has become a strategic necessity for both the US as well as Turkey to deal with the Kurdish issue within a political framework…thereafter, the Turkish officials initiated visits and dialogues on the Kurd issue. These were followed with cultural discussions on Kurdish language programmes in the media...

2. On the hand, the senior leadership of the Turkish armed forces who are loyal to the British have persistedly dealt with the Kurd issue as a security problem and exploited it in their face-off with the AKP government whenever they felt the Erdogan government was becoming too powerful and consequently the US influence in Turkey was on the rise at the cost of pro-British secularists’ hold on the armed forces.

3. Before the AKP’s coming to power and the US influence strengthened in Turkey, the pro- British Kemalists in the Turkish armed forces were used to staging coups against any Turkish government that crossed the British-Kemalists’ line... the repeated coups that the Turkish armed forces staged in the latter part of the last century are well known.

4. The AKP government clearly and visibly treads the American path, and works to under cut the hold of the pro-British Kemalists in the Turkish armed forces by way of bringing in legislations as they did in the National Security Council, the Supreme Constitutional Court and the election of the republic’s president etc., yet despite these clear violations of the Kemalists line the armed forces could not stage coups against the government because of the prevailing atmosphere of the democratic civilian rule that America keenly fosters in Turkey and the AKP government shouts loudly about. Similarly, the attitude of the government towards the EU armed forces is aimed at easing the entry restrictions into the EU and is not in line with the Kemalists’ wishes. All these actions have pre empted any coup attempt by the armed forces, if not for ever, at least in the foreseeable future.

5. This is why the armed forces decided to exploit the military-security aspect in the Kurdish issue, especially the Kurdistan Workers Party wing whose bases are situated in northern Iraq. Unlike other PKK wing, this wing of the PKK is not content with political action alone, but embraces military action to solve the Kurdish people’s conflict in Turkey. This wing of the PKK which is based in northern Iraq is associated with Barazani who has been a British loyalist. Thus Barazani shares common ground with the secularists of the pro-British armed forces and they both believe in military action on the issue, though they have differing motives for the same. While Talibani and his party are pro-US and this is why the PKK wing is situated in the northern areas bordering the region of Barazani and not situated in the regions of Talibani.
The armed forces had hoped to use these attacks to embarrass the AKP government and the United States occupying Iraq. That was why it launched the attacks on the PKK in the Iraqi Kurd area in order to sour the relations of the AKP government with America. Thus whenever the extent of armed forces intervention increased, it proportionately reflected on the US-AKP government i.e. weakened & threatened the Turkish government.

6. So the pro-British secularist leadership of the armed forces prepeared the stage and despatched light armed un-mounted patrols with out sufficient protective covers (as occurred late last year) to the border area near the bases of the PKK in Iraq. This resulted in killing or taking prisoners of the Turkish army soldiers, and the armed forces then trumpeted such events as insulting to the army and called for wide spread & intensive military action against the PKK bases in northern Iraq. The armed forces also tacitly accused the justice party government of not respecting the blood of the soldiers killed or taken prisoners and this resulted in wide spread public opinion in favour of launching armed assaults on the PKK bases in northern Iraq and the families of the soldiers accused the government of inaction.

7. The Turkish government was caught off-guard on the issue... and then the calls for retaliatory military action grew louder and exaggerated the events, attributing to the fighters of the PKK in different areas, the government swung into action and moved a bill in the parliament which approved it thereby authorising the government to launch military action at an appropriate time deemed fit by the government.

This was somewhat of a respite for the government, but not a decisive one, because the parliament did not set a date for military assault leaving that to the discretion of the government.

8. The pro British secularists of the armed forces viewed the permission given by the government for extensive assault on PKK forces in US –occupied Iraq as a potentially severe crisis for the AKP government’s relations with the US. On the other hand if the government had failed to permit military action in order to protect its relations with the US, then the government would be embarrassed vies avis the prevailing public opinion that called for revenge for Turkish soldier’s blood! The pro British, who consider they to be the protectors of the Cembalist secularism in Turkey, saw both of these situations as a severe crisis for the AKP government.

9. However, Erdogan’s last visit to the US followed by political confabulations in Ankara and the US armed forces command center in Baghdad, it was agreed that America will allow the Turkish government to launch limited attacks at specified times and places. This was specially designed to project the government as unwilling to take the humiliation of the Turkish soldiers lying down, nor willing to allow spilling the soldiers’ blood. At the same time, this arrangement gave a respite to the armed forces commanders loyal to the British.

10. Thus, under the US, Talibani’s and Maliki’s permission, the offensive against the PKK was launched which embarrassed the Barazani’s government in northern Iraq and timidly condemned by Europe.

11. The following is expected:

From the armed forces’ side: The armed forces will try to expand the scope of collision with the Barazani government’s army and thereby confuse the issues and put the Turkish government’s relations with America at peril. This will prepare the ground for a European intervention and result in a severe crisis for the AKP government.

From the other side: The US will work with the AKP government and other cooperating sides in Iraq to keep the military offensive restricted in terms of timings and places. Then the Turkish government can claim to have achieved its aims and with draw, this will allow it to score points in its favour…

12. The probable decisive factors that will limit this assault and not allow it to go out of control are: the US, the Justice party government, other cooperating parties in Iraq and lastly another important factor will be the un-friendly conditions like, snowy weather will restrict the operation from expanding, then there is the rough terrain and mountainous landscape which will expose the Turkish army to suffer losses.

Considering these factors, it is likely that the military operation will remain restricted in terms of timings and place. The government of the Justice party is likely to score points in its favour except in two conditions:

The situation goes beyond control and the offensive is intensified in terms of time and areas.

Secondly, a substantial number of Turkish soldiers are killed.

These two conditions may spell doom for the Turkish government.

For these reasons, we say that such situations are only a possibility.

Conclusion:
In permitting the Turkish government to carry out the military offensive in Iraqi Kurdistan, the US government did not abandon either Kurdistan or Turkey; it allowed the offensive to protect its interest in Turkey, Iraq including Kurdistan.

19th Safar, 1429 A.H
25th February, 2008 C.E

Arabic Source

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