2003 March 01 Saturday
Turks and Kurds Could Fight Over Northern Iraq

The Israeli Haaretz newspaper reports on the agreement between Turkey and the United States over Iraq and the hostile reaction of Kurds to what they think the agreement means for them.

The political section of the agreement was spelled out in considerable detail, but neither side, neither the Americans nor the Turks, is certain it will be carried out. Under the terms of the agreement, Turkish forces will be able to enter Iraq up to a distance of 60 kilometers; they will not enter the oil cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. Their declared goal will be to prevent the entry of Kurdish or Iraqi refugees into Turkey. The size of the Turkish expeditionary force is not specified in the agreement. Turkey intends to dispatch about 40,000 troops in addition to the 12,000 Turkish soldiers who are already stationed in northern Iraq.

The Kurds have been getting expelled from Kirkuk and Mosul for many years by Saddam Hussein's regime as it has sought to make those cities have Arab majorities. The Kurds are eager to return and expel the Arabs who took their homes. At the same time the 2 million Turkomen of Iraq are allied with Turkey and Turkey wants to keep the Kurds out of those cities so that the Turkomen can take control of those cities and the oil fields around them.

The Kurds are afraid of losing the portion of Iraq's oil revenue that they have been receiving via UN control of most of Iraq's oil sales. They also have plenty of examples to look back at in their recent and more distant history where they feel they have been betrayed by various powers.

The Turks want a slice of Iraq's oil revenue and to prevent the creation of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq that would serve as an example for Kurds in Turkey who would like to be able to rule themselves free of Turkish control.

Battles between the Turks and Iraqi Turkomens on one side and the Kurds on the other side could easily happen. The Turkish government has refused to make its military forces in Iraq subordinate to US commanders. Distrust toward the United States and Turkey among the Kurds is increasing.

Update: The Turkish Parliament has rejected the terms of the deal between Turkey and the United States for US basing from Turkey into Iraq.

The final tally was 264-250, with 19 abstentions. The defeat stunned U.S. officials, who had been confident that Turkey's leaders would be able to persuade the members of their party to support the measure. U.S. ships had already begun unloading heavy equipment at Turkish ports in anticipation of a favorable vote, and more than a dozen vessels were idling off the coast.

At least the United States will save some money.

In exchange, Washington promised $15 billion in loans and grants to cushion the Turkish economy from the impact of war. That money may now be lost.

Turkey has been relying on US support for entry into the European Union as well as for International Monetary Fund loans. It will be interesting to see how the US responds to this diplomatically in the long term.

In terms of the war the Turks may still decide to move tens of thousands more troops into northern Iraq. The US forces will have a hard time with logistics to support large numbers of its own forces in northern Iraq. This complicates efforts to prevent the oil fields from being destroyed by Saddam's regime and also makes it harder to keep the Turks and Kurds from coming to blows.

Update: Kurdish Cdr Kemal Musa Faqi says if the Turks enter northern Iraq the Kurds will fight them.

"Everybody here, the men, women and children, will fight the Turks.

"We expect them to be much worse to the Kurds than any one else. Saddam's forces are better than the Turkish; both are dictators but he is Iraqi and we are Iraqi also."

By some accounts there are already 12,000 Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq. One guesses that the Kurds are going to wait and see what the Turks do with their troop presence before they start fighting them.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 March 01 07:59 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War


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