Monday, June 4, 2007
The Boiling Point
According to a RIA Novosti dispatch, the EU has given its "tacit support" for a Turkish incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan to attack the PKK camps located just ten miles in from the border:
Speaking after their meeting with [Turkish Foreign Minister] Gul, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, and Olli Rehn, the EU enlargement commissioner, neither condemned nor openly supported the plan. Renh said, however, that the EU was definitely on Turkey's side where counterterrorism was concerned.
It's worth noting that an AP dispatch quoted Steinmeier as saying only that he "did not get the impression that Turkey would stage an incursion." The same AP report describes a PKK attack on a military outpost in Southeastern Turkey that killed seven soldiers (other reports put the toll at eight), an attack that can only serve to underline the Turkish case for a cross-border raid.
So, what would a Turkish attack on Iraqi territory mean? The simple answer is big trouble, for just about everyone involved. The Kurdish Regional Government has made it clear that it would respond to any Turkish attacks, both in Iraqi Kurdistan and in Turkey, meaning a cross-border raid could turn into all-out war. Should things escalate, not only would it risk destabilizing the only relatively peaceful region of Iraq, it could also threaten the "Surge", which includes a sizable detachment of Kurdish Peshmurgas deployed to Baghdad, who would presumably be recalled if needed.
Significantly, in an attempt to shore up his weakening domestic political standing, Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki has thrown his support behind the Kurds. But that could end up antagonizing Iran and Syria, both of whom, like Turkey, have concerns about how Kurdish autonomy might impact their own Kurdish minority populations. It also could spell trouble for future Sunni cooperation with a Maliki-led coalition.
Finally, a Turkish attack on Iraqi Kurdistan would spell major trouble for American-Turkish relations, which are already heavily strained as a result of our having done nothing to address the PKK issue for the past four years.
To underline just how astonishing that is, we're talking about a secular Muslim country that's been a member of NATO since 1952, with a legitimate claim against what amounts to state-harbored terrorists. In other words, exactly the kind of country that in principle we should be treating like an ally. Instead, we're treating them like a red-headed stepchild, all due to the perverse calculus that is our failed Iraq policy.