Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Turkey Prepares To Invade Iraq To Contain US-Backed Kurdish Push For Independent State

Russia, China Unlikely To Tolerate Regional Threats To Their Strategic Interests

US Warns Turkey About Threats To "Territorial Integrity" Of Northern Iraq, Will Protect Kirkuk

By Darryl Mason

UPDATE - Raw Story reports :
Turkey says that 3,800 Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK) guerrillas are preparing for attacks in south-east Turkey, and that it is "ready to hit back if the Americans fail to act," reports the Guardian Unlimited.

Senior Bush administration officials, meanwhile, have assured Turkey that the US will step up efforts in Northern Iraq to root out PKK fighters.

Faruk Logoglu, a former Turkish ambassador to Washington, warned that military intervention by Turkey in the region could be "disastrous" in terms of destabilizing the region.

Speaking about US support for Iranian Kurds opposed to Tehran he added, "Once you begin to differentiate between 'good' and 'bad' terrorist organisations, then you lose the war on terror."

UPDATE 2 - From the London Times :

A scramble for Kurdish oil licences is expected this summer after Ashti Hawrami, the oil minister for Iraq’s Kurdish region, said yesterday that he wants to achieve a production goal of one million barrels a day by 2012.

The Kurdish move signals that Iraq is poised to open its doors to foreign oil investment.

Kurdish oil is a first step to developing Iraq’s vast potential. Foreign investors have so far shied away, fearing that investment in the Kurdish region will threaten their chances of winning bigger contracts in the south. Iraq produces only two million barrels a day from ageing reservoirs but has reserves estimated at 110 billion barrels — about three times the oil and gas extracted from the North Sea to date.

Previously -

Media reports from Turkey appear to confirm weeks of rumours that Turkey is moving forward with its long-planned invasion of Northern Iraq. The Turkish Military, by far the most powerful in the Middle East, has cancelled all leave and has moved "additional forces" up to Iraq's northern border. The target of the presumed invasion will be the 'outlawed' PKK, otherwise known as the Kurdistan Workers Party.

Turkey's chief concern is that the PKK will move across the border, via mountain passes, when the current snow and ice blocking the paths melts as Spring begins.

The PKK wants an independent Kurdistan nation, primarily in northern Iraq, with the oil-rich city of Kirkuk as its capital, but with territory swallowing up land now under Iranian, Syria and Turkish control.

Kirkuk is a glittering prize coveted by the United States, the Kurds and Israel, as it sits amongst oil fields holding more than 10 billion barrels in proven reserves. The rumour mill in Iraq has long claimed that an oil pipeline from Kirkuk, skirting Jordan, will eventually reach Israel.

Turkey believes that the United States is covertly backing the PKK in its plans for an independent Kurdistan, not only to share in the oil riches such a state would then control, but because it would allow the Americans to use Kurdistan territory for permanent air and army bases, by which the US could expand its reach into Iran and Syria.

From Zaman :

On March 10 Land Forces Commander Gen. İlker Başbuğ visited Diyarbakır in southeastern Anatolia and said that he went to the area to evaluate the current state of affairs with respect to internal security operations under way in the region as well as developments that were likely to arise in spring and summer. He added that they would also make an assessment as to what measures could be taken in the face of emerging conditions.

One week after Başbuğ’s visit, the 2nd and 3rd Armies deployed in the border region were put on alert while Turkish troops were sent to the border and were significantly reinforced.

The Office of the Chief of General Staff acknowledges extraordinary military activity in this region but adds that they are not evaluating a cross-border operation, a measure that is also opposed by the United States. However, Turkey’s decision will be shaped according to the steps the US soon takes.

This activity in the region should not be considered a cross-border operation but as preliminary preparations for a cross-border operation, the intelligence sources say.



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In its strongest statements against military action by Turkey against the PKK so far, the United States has made clear it will defend the "territorial integrity" of Northern Iraq if Turkey crosses the border to move against the Kurds.

From the Turkish Daily News :
The United States made it clear on Monday that it "certainly" opposed any Turkish military action inside northern Iraq to fight the terrorist Kurdistan Workers Party's presence there.

A top Turkish military commander at the weekend reaffirmed Ankara's right under international law to send troops into northern Iraq to attack the PKK terrorists hiding there if it saw fit.

But U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said that Washington certainly did not want to see any Turkish military operation in the Iraqi-Kurdish controlled northern Iraq. "We believe in the territorial integrity of Iraq," Casey told reporters.

"We certainly are working well with the government of Turkey, as well as with the government of Iraq, to try and enhance our cooperation in combating the PKK."

Turkey maintains that the PKK is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Turkish civilians and soldiers in terrorist attacks since mid-2004, launched from inside Iraq. Turkey maintains that PKK terrorists are being armed, fed and sheltered by sympathetic Kurds in mountain regions of Northern Iraq, close to the border with Turkey.

The PKK, meanwhile, insists that its intentions are not violent, that it will ultimately be successful in its decades-long battle for an independent Kurdistan, and that it is willing to negotiate with Turkey to end conflict, but would only do so "on its own terms."

From the International Herald Tribune :
Kurdish rebels say they have enough weapons to defend themselves against Turkish raids on their bases in northern Iraq but remain open to a political settlement with Turkey that recognizes Kurdish national identity.

Turkey is pressing Iraq and its American ally to crack down on rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, who launch attacks on Turkey from bases in northern Iraq. The group has been waging a bloody war in southeast Turkey since 1984 in a conflict that has claimed 37,000 lives.

The Turks have not ruled out military incursions into Iraq to hunt PKK fighters, despite U.S. fears that such a move could lead to tensions with Iraqi Kurdish groups, important allies of the U.S. in Iraq.

During an interview last week with the a PKK mountain stronghold, a spokesman for the PKK insisted that the rebels have the weapons to resist any Turkish incursion.

"Our fighters are training very hard since we heard the Turkish threats," Rustam Jawdat said. "We have enough fighters to defend ourselves."

On the diplomatic front, tension is growing between the US and Turkey over a resolution making its way through Congress that, if passed, would see the United States officially recognising the Armenian genocide, during World War I, which resulted in the deaths of more than one million people.

How aggressively would Turkey react to such official recognition by the US of something so sensitive to the Turkish people, which they have long denied? Turkey is likely to react by shutting down a key US air base inside Turkey :
Turkey provides vital support to U.S. military operations. Incirlik Air Force Base, a major base in southern Turkey, has been used by the U.S. to launch operations into Iraq and Afghanistan and was a center for U.S. fighters that enforced the "no-fly zones" which kept the Iraqi air force bottled up after the 1991 Gulf War.
Warnings about the dangerous political and military fallout from the resolution being passed have come from a key US general, as well as from the Bush White House.

The Incirlik Air Force Base is vital for US operations inside Iraq, and Turkey, likewise, is essential to the transport of oil, cargo and supplies for US military operations in the region.
"Turkey opened Incirlik Base to the U.S., there are 22 U.S. war planes there. Turkey admitted 16 U.S. war ships in its ports, and nine of them are supplying goods to the troops in Iraq, while seven of them are transporting oil. 25 percent of the oil used by U.S. troops in Iraq is sent from Habur. 60 percent of the air cargo sent to the U.S. troops in Iraq passes through Incirlik Base."

And there's the billions of dollars in US defence contracts that Turkey may decide are not worth pursuing, including the Joint Strike Fighter :
Turkey will buy 106 planes, and the project is worth 10 billion USD. Turkey will purchase 30 new F-16 war jets in return for 1.65 billion USD. More than 200 F-16s are being renovated in return for 1.6 billion USD. Turkey will buy 1.3 billion USD of air defense system in 2007. Turkish army wants 52 helicopters to be used against the terrorist organization PKK, and Black Hawk is one of the alternatives. Turkey will purchase 21-26 million USD of zeppelins from the U.S. to fight against infiltration of terrorists from Iraq".
In short, if the United States Congress passes the bill officially recognising the Armenian genocide, Turkey will make the US pay, and will put at risk key missions and goals of the Iraq War. Expect one big fat veto from President Bush if the bill is passed.

The United States now finds itself caught between Turkey and the Kurds. And the pressure from the Kurdish Media continues to grow :
It is time the (US) State Department cared more about the legitimate human and national rights of forty million downtrodden Kurds held captive against their will by Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria, than the imperialistic and racist attitudes of a state that is guilty of state terrorism and of cultural and linguistic genocide against an entire people, a state guilty of eradicating the very name of a nation, of what makes a human being a human being and a people a people.
But China and Russia are unlikely to stand idly by if Turkey decides to invade Iraq to deal with the "Kurdish problems". Such a move by Turkey would put at risk billions of dollars of Chinese and Russian business interests, to say nothing of their strategic interests. It would also put at risk deals already being negotiated by Russia and China to access oil from Kirkuk.

Iran may be the focus of the American media, for now, but the brewing war in Northern Iraq between Turkey and the PKK is likely to have far greater consequences for the United States in the long run, and could act as a trigger for an incomprehensible, but realistic, wider World War drawing in Russia and China.

United States Warns Turkey It Will Protect The "Territorial Integrity" Of Iraq Against Turkish Strikes On PKK Terrorists

The Prize : Kurdish Region May Contain 45 Billion Barrels Of Oil, 100 Trillion Cubic Feet Of Natural Gas

Turkey Cancels Military Leave, Prepares For War Against The Kurds

Kurdish Rebels Claim They're "Open" To Peaceful Resolution With Turkey

Kurdish Media : The Tail Wagging The Dog - The United States And Turkey

Official US Recognition Of Armenian Genocide Threatens Rupture With Turkey

Turkey Threatens To Close Down US Military Base Used To Launch Air Strikes In Iraq And Afghanistan