Kurd Sellout Watch, Day 2.

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
March 4 2003 5:50 PM

Kurd Sellout Watch, Day 2

Tracking a betrayal as it unfolds.

As Chatterbox noted yesterday ("How Screwed Are the Kurds?"), the United States is hardly the first country to stick it to the Kurds. But this does appear to be the first time that the sellout can be tracked, via the Web, in something approximating real time. Chatterbox will therefore expand his previous Kurd dispatch into a Kurd Sellout Watch.

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In today's installment, we learn, via a report from Patrick Cockburn in the Independent, that Kurdish leader Hoshyar Zebari says the Kurds will fire at Turkish soldiers coming through the Kurds' enclave in northern Iraq even if those soldiers are part of a U.S. coalition. The Kurds will hold their fire only if the Turks are under U.S. command.

The State Department remains no more forthcoming about what roaming privileges it has promised the Turkish army if the Turks allow U.S. troops to be based there. Here's spokesman Richard Boucher at the March 3 press briefing:

Q: You said it was widely known that there was a plan for Turkish troops to enter northern Iraq. You said nothing haswe have nothing new on that. Does that mean that such a plan still exists and could go ahead?

A: Are you asking about Turkish military matters? One, I don't talk about military matters, and two, I don't talk about foreign governments' military matters.

In the absence of any official word, Chatterbox must depend on press reports saying the U.S.-Turkish agreement permits somewhere between 40,000 and 80,000 troops into northern Iraq, and that it permits those soldiers to travel possibly as far as 270 kilometers, which would take them across nearly all of the Kurds' northern Iraq enclave. (This is only relevant, of course, if the Turkish parliament reverses itself and approves the U.S.-Turkish deal.) Turkey already has at least 12,000 troops in northern Iraq, having lately beefed up a small force that was there to hunt Turkish rebel Kurds. The Iraqi Kurds are fearful that once the Turks have a large military force inside northern Iraq, they will remain and destroy what autonomy Iraqi Kurdistan has enjoyed since the United States and Britain created the no-fly zone after the Gulf War. This is why Chatterbox wrote yesterday that the Turkish parliament's vote against allowing the United States to base its troops there was a lucky break that will allow the United States to reconsider what it's doing to the Kurds.

But another view is emerging that the Turks will keep coming into northern Iraq even if U.S. troops launch their invasion from somewhere else. In the Turkish Daily, Mensur Akgun of Kultur University is quoted saying, "If war breaks out, Turkey will intervene in northern Iraq in any case. I don't think the U.S. will break the political agreement that enables Turkey to be in northern Iraq." He's got a point. Turkey is a democracy, a long-standing ally, a more or less secular Muslim state, and practically the United States' only friend right now in NATO. Even an obsessive unilateralist like George Bush would probably flinch at having U.S. troops expel the Turkish army from northern Iraq at gunpoint. (Slate "Fighting Words" columnist Christopher Hitchens, coming at the problem from a different angle, would like to see the United States cut off all aid to Turkey. Give 'em hell, Hitch!)  If this scenario is correct, launching the U.S. invasion from outside Turkey won't protect the Kurds. Chatterbox chooses to believe this scenario is not correct, but it troubles him all the same.

So: Is that second vote in the Turkish parliament coming or isn't it? Turkish Foreign Minister Yaşar Yakış said it remains a possibility. "There were some answers that we were waiting for and they had not arrived," he said, raising the ominous possibility of further compromise from the United States. "We will look into it again when they resume."

Kurd Sellout Archive:

March 3, 2003: "How Screwed Are the Kurds?"

Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.

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