Many impatient commentators think the Bush Administration has taken far too much time before attacking Iraq. Part of the reason for the delay can be attributed to the limits of US military power. Budget cuts have cost the US ability to fight and win 2 regional wars at once. The large assortment of existing US military obligations combined with insufficient airlift and sealift slow any build-up. Also, limits to US military resources increase the extent to which the US must rely on allies for parts of the job and therefore the military limits increase the leverage that some US allies have over the US. One important ally for the attack against Saddam's regime is Turkey. Turkey's people are resistant to Turkish support for the US operation against Iraq because the last Gulf war generated large numbers of refugees who fled into Turkey, Turkey lost economically due to disruptions in trade and the fear and uncertainty that accompany war. Also, the Turks are Muslims and therefore resist attacks by non-Muslims against Muslim governments.
If all of this wasn't already enough, there is a large Kurdish minority in southeastern Turkey some members of which conducted terrorist operations for many years in order to push for greater autonomy and self-rule while at the same time there is a Kurdish zone in northern Iraq that has autonomy from the Iraqi government as a result of US and British protection. The Turks fear that the Kurdish zone in northern Iraq will gain a more permanent form of autonomy as a result of the defeat of Iraq's regime by the US coalition. Kurdish home rule in Northern Iraq would serve as an inspiring example for Turkish Kurds and therefore is seen by the Turks as a threat to the territorial integrity of Turkey. Turkish military is certainly competent enough and large enough to firmly grab ahold of northern Iraq in order to prevent this. Plus, the Turks under the Ottoman Empire once ruled all of Iraq and have claims to the oil fields around Kirkuk and Mosul which they are pressing once again because they want the revenue that the oil fields would bring.
In light of all this Debka's report of Turkish military actions in northern Iraq and of Turkish demands for a post-war settlement that is more favorable to Turkey is incredibly plausible.
Already, the Turkish army has stepped out of its pre-defined war role. The Turkish 2nd and 3rd Corps, deployed along and across the Iraqi border to take on Iraqi troops, are laying Iraqi Kurdistan to virtual siege, interrupting the flow of imported foodstuffs from Turkey and Kurdish exports going the opposite direction. Travelers to Kurdistan must go round through Syria or Iran.
A large Turkish military force fully deployed in northern Iraq has advantages for the US. One really big one is that the Turks (likely with the help of US special forces) may be able to move on the Iraqi oil fields rapidly enough to prevent Saddam's destruction of those oil fields. Large economic costs and environmental harm (both to human health and to other species) could thereby be prevented.
To the extent that squabbling over terms between the US and Turkey makes it seem less certain that an attack will take place this also has advantages. It is in the US interest for Saddam to not know for certain whether the attack will take place. Once Saddam thinks that the attack is a certainty he has actions which he could take (eg sending out terrorist squads against the US, shooting missiles off against Israel) that he would not take otherwise. Similarly, the diplomatic activities around the UN Security Council and the position of the Blair government in Britain to delay an attack all increase the doubts in Saddam's mind as to whether an attack is imminent. An ideal scenario from a military standpoint would be one where the doubts about the imminence of attack were quite high up until the moment when the attack began. The doubts would cause Saddam to hold back on using his most extreme options until the US began to deny him of the ability to use those options.
Could diplomacy (whether intentionally or not) provide the US with the element of surprise in its initial attack? The US force build-up continues. We do not know how many soldiers and how much equipment the US requires to have present in order to be ready to start. If the Bush Administration and the US Defense Department were wise they'd put the publically reported needed number of troops at a much higher level than the number they decide they want to have. That way they could be ready without seeming to be ready. But then the diplomatic element of the surprise has to be worked out. Would the US be willing to start an attack on Iraq while UNMOVIC inspectors were still present in the country? Would the US be willing to begin an attack even while UN Security Council deliberations were on-going? Uncertainty as to the answers to questions like these makes it hard to guess the true intentions of the Bush Administration at this point.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 January 11 03:38 PM Military War, Rumours Of War|