Friday, October 26, 2007
South Of The Border
The Turkish military is massing along the Iraqi border and reports of limited cross-border operations are already trickling out. But I'm still doubtful the Turks will mount a large scale military incursion. Why? Because given the choice, they'd much rather have the Kurds deal with the PKK than do it themselves. And while the threat of military action has certainly gotten everyone's attention, economic sanctions -- which Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted at this week -- could prove to be much more effective to making that happen:
Many analysts feel that such an embargo would cause serious problems for Iraq’s relatively stable north, which is highly dependent on Turkish investment as the driving force of its economy. From food to energy, all vital supplies are obtained from Turkey, and Turkish contractors are restructuring the north by constructing roads, hospitals, residential buildings, apartments and infrastructure. Turkey’s exports to Iraq have surpassed $3 billion, and the Habur border gate on the trade route between Iraq and Turkey has become the lifeline of the region’s trade, despite the decrease in the number of trucks passing through the gate to 700 from 3,000 after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Analysts opine that closing Habur would alone cause great losses in profits to the Barzani government in northern Iraq, which earns a healthy revenue from traffic through the gate.
To give an idea of the kind of pressure Ankara can exert, simply closing the Habur border crossing for a week in September cost the Kurdish region $1 million per day in economic losses (figures on p. 20 here). The kinds of sanctions being floated now -- recalling Turkish nationals, blockading electricity sales -- would dwarf those figures. And while economic sanctions would take their toll on the Turkish companies doing business in northern Iraq as well, the same would be true of a miltary incursion.
Needless to say, Turkey's aggressive military posturing has helped them make the PKK a priority south of the border. But I'd be surprised to see them resort to a military operation before giving economic pressure a chance to achieve results.