Every day that the Turkish parliament fails to approve the basing of American troops in Turkey is a day the United States edges closer toward invading Iraq from someplace else. That's good news for the Kurds, who fear, with some reason, that the United States is willing to sell them out to Turkey (which wants to occupy Iraqi Kurdistan) in exchange for basing privileges. At a press briefing today, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the United States will "have a northern option whether or not Turkey fully supports all our requests." He declined to explain what he meant, but that might be good news for the Kurds, too. The Kurdish press reports that in a March 6 White House meeting, Dr. Saman Shali, executive vice president of the Kurdish National Congress of North America, told National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, "Please do not sell out the Kurds again." Rice reportedly replied, "We will not, I promise."
The bad news is that the Turks and the Americans are edging closer to a deal. In an appearance March 9 on NBC's Meet the Press, Secretary of State Colin Powell said: "Turkey is supportive. Even though they have internal domestic political problems, they wish to be supportive of our effort." Asked to clarify that the following day, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that the American ambassador, Robert Pearson, had reported favorably on a weekend conversation with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was named prime minister today. (Erdogan was less satisfied with the talk.) Boucher also said that the deal the United States had struck regarding Turkish troops—whose particulars remain unknown—won't change appreciably, but "some of the details might not be all worked out." The Turkish paper Zaman identifies the unresolved issues as political, not military or economic, and says they concern the status of the Turkmen minority. In today's White House briefing, Ari Fleischer said, "We continue to wait to hear from Turkish officials about any actions they may be able to take."
Meanwhile, Turkish and Kurdish troops are lining up on their respective sides of Iraq's northern border. The Associated Press reports that the Turks have M-47 and M-48 tanks and that the Kurds (who began deploying two days ago) are digging trenches. U.S. support troops are also in the area, preparing for the possible U.S. deployment, and will presumably make every effort to keep the Turks and the Kurds from going to war before the United States invades. Reporting from Turkey in today's New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof writes, "Our allies could be too busy disemboweling each other to take on Saddam's troops."