Sunday, November 11, 2007
The recent meeting between President Bush and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was eagerly anticipated, since it was expected to determine whether or not Turkey would launch a cross-border incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan. As usual with such eagerly anticipated meetings, the outcome was largely anti-climactic, producing pretty much the exact same "carefully worded statements" afterwards that both sides had been issuing for the week or two leading up to the meeting.
In this case, that amounted to Erdogan demanding concrete American steps to address the PKK problem and refusing to renounce Turkey's right to defend itself against the hybrid terrorist-guerilla organization, and Bush providing his assurances that America was taking concrete steps to address the problem and firmly repeating his conviction that invading Iraq to prosecute a Global War on Terror would almost certainly drag the entire region into violent upheaval.
So it should come as no surprise that the Turkish military was somewhat underwhelmed by what the meeting actually accomplished and is adopting a wait and see attitude towards the promises Bush made, what they call a "test of sincerity":
The military leaders want to see first and for all (sic) sincerity from the Americans on intelligence sharing... The quality of the intelligence to be given to Turkey will show the sincerity of Washington, they stress. They said such instant intelligence should allow the Turkish forces to utilize the information for operational purposes...
Among other gestures that would prove Bush's sincerity, the Turkish military would like to see four or five PKK leaders (included on a wanted list shared with the US in the past) actually turned over. Now this would seem to be a problem, seeing as how Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, one of the more moderate Kurdish leaders, recently declared that he wouldn't even hand over a Kurdish cat to Turkey. Interestingly enough, though, American forces just liberated nine Iranian prisoners held in Iraq, among them Iranians who had been captured while on a diplomatic visit to Iraqi Kurdistan. In addition, Iran just re-opened its consulates in Irbil and Sulaymaniyah (where some of the prisoners had been captured).
Now the two developments might be entirely unrelated. Or, given the fact that the Kurds loudly protested the detentions when they took place and have long enjoyed fruitful relations with Iran, the moves might be part of a larger deal to defuse the PKK issue. If four or five PKK leaders just happen to turn up in Turkish hands in the next week or two, with only symbolic protests from the Iraqi Kurds, I'd wager on the latter.