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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Turks fire across the Iraqi border

Tensions increase on the northern Iraqi border
Iraq said Turkish forces shelled a mountain stronghold of Turkish Kurd rebels in the north of the country on Sunday, a day after it urged Turkey to use diplomacy to resolve rising tensions in the region.

While residents say Turkey shells the area almost daily, the latest attack came days after Turkey moved tanks to its border and speculation mounted that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government is planning a military incursion.

The Turks seem to be inviting "an incident" that would give them cause to enter Iraq.

(And, I want to point out again that the Kurds have a substantial number of their official forces deployed way down south assisting US forces in Baghdad. Would the Turks view this as a window? Will the Kurds pull them back from "the surge?")


  • With the Bush preoccupation with Iran, is it possible that a flair up on the Turkish front will catch them blindsided? I think yes.

    With no tangible reason to make this assertion, I think it's possible that by the end of the summer all the buzz will be about Iraq, Kurdistan, Turkey and Iran will recede below the fold, just as N. Korea has. But then again, you know my non-intellectual, gut-level anxiety about Turkey.

    By Blogger -epm, at 9:23 AM  

  • I think the odds on a Turk Kurd blowup are rising quickly. The Turks are clearly trying to press the PKK groups along the border.

    With the top level Turks warning of a "response" if Turkish troops are (vaguely defined) mistreated along that border, the groundwork has been laid for "an incident" that could serve as a pretext.

    As to your second point, I don't know. One of the reasons Iran is top right now, and Turkey is so far down is that no one wants to promote the Turkish "threat." There's no constituency against Turkey.

    For Iran, on the other hand, there are tons of groups who want Iran to be a villain, and they're on your TV, and leaking stories to reporters, all the time.

    I think the relative placement in the media has far more to do with agendas than reality.

    (For instance, once proliferation was controlled, there's relly a fairly small constituency that really wants to go after N. Korea.)

    As a second example, look at the emphasis on Saddam rather than Bin Laden in 2002. Agenda over threat.

    Just my opinion, who knows.


    By Blogger mikevotes, at 10:20 AM  

  • The real question is how will the US respond?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:38 PM  

  • Yeah. And at this point, that is a real question.

    Two of the strongest allies in the whole of the middle east. The Kurds quietly backing the terrorist PKK, the Turks looking to invade Iraq.

    I don't think there's a clear side.

    I think the best US strategy would be to secretly discover and give up a few PKK operatives as barter for the Turks not going in.

    It would be tough to pull off, but that would give the Turks something.

    But I guess the problem is, like the Mahdi, they couldn't be the top leaders or too many without the PKK responding.

    By Blogger mikevotes, at 1:26 PM  

  • The Turks are betting on the Iraqi Sunnis getting Kirkuk.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:32 PM  

  • Yeah. There was a good article in the NYTimes last week describing the pressures the Kurds are feeling from both sides.

    The Kurds don't have the resources to fight both at the same time.

    The one thing is that Kirkuk will be officially decided through Iraqi politics, not fighting. The Shia majoity may want to keep Kirkuk in an unresolved status, but in the end, it will be bartered away, likely to the Kurds, as part of a political deal.

    This will not stop the Sunni Kurd violence, but it will give official imprimatur to the Kurds as they try to extinguish the Sunnis.

    (From your comment: How much would the Turks assist the Sunnis? Presumably, they would work with the more mainline groups, but they would be entering a bit of a domestic minefield with their current internal politics about Islam and government.

    Just a stray thought.)

    By Blogger mikevotes, at 2:43 PM  

  • I see the Turks as more likely to back the Sunnis than the Shia. They have always had a better relationship with them than with Iran. They certainly don't want to help the Kurds achieve economic independence.

    Interestingly I read a report recently about trouble between Iranians and Kurds on their border.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:45 PM  

  • If I implied the Turks would back the Shia, I didn't mean to.

    The Turks will definitely back the Sunni as both want the Sunni to take Kirkuk and the oil fields to keep the Kurds from that source of revenue and symbolic pride for their homeland.

    And, I haven't seen anything about a conflict between the Iranians and mainline Kurds, but there are Kurdish independence groups working in Northern Iran. At various points it's been rumored that the US is backing this activity.

    But, Northern Iran is not of nearly as much importance to the Kurds as southeastern Turkey. That's where their focus is.

    By Blogger mikevotes, at 4:06 PM  

  • Here's a link

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:52 PM  

  • Wow. I hadn't seen that. It's a later report than the one in this post.

    Thanks a ton. I posted on it and credited you (as much as I can credit anonymous.)


    By Blogger mikevotes, at 6:21 PM  

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