Opinion and Editorial

Bush's logic of war is to Turkey's help

Eric S Margolis
Filed on October 28, 2007

A DECADE ago, I covered the brutal guerilla war in Eastern Anatolia between Kurdish PKK guerillas and the Turkish Army. At the time, the world ignored this ugly conflict in which 35,000 people had by then died. I came away torn by sympathy for both sides in this tragic conflict.

No one should be surprised by the dangerous crisis between Turkey and Iraq-based Kurdish separatists. Critics long warned the US invasion of Iraq would inevitably release the genii of Kurdish nationalism. Creation of a virtually independent, US-backed Kurdish state in northern Iraq was certain to provoke deep worry and anger in Turkey.

In recent weeks, simmering Turkish-Kurdish tensions burst into flames. Marxist-nationalist PKK guerillas (Turks brand them ‘terrorists') fighting for an independent nation for Turkey's 20 million or so Kurds killed 12 Turkish soldiers and captured eight. Hundreds of Turkish soldiers have been killed in eastern Anatolia by increasingly effective Kurdish fighters known as ‘pesh-merga,' who have been receiving more and better weapons from fellow Iraqi Kurds. Fiercely nationalist Turks demand their armed forces invade Iraq's autonomous Kurdish mini-state to destroy PKK bases. Turkish attacks began last week.

Washington has urged ‘restraint' on Turkey, a key US-ally. By contrast, after two Israeli soldiers were captured last year in a routine border clash with Hezbollah guerillas, the White House gave Israel the green light to bomb and invade Lebanon, resulting in the killing of over 1,100 civilians and damage of the order of $4 billion.

This crisis is a huge mess for all concerned. Turkey provides 70 percent of air-delivered supplies to the US forces in Iraq. But Turks are becoming increasingly anti-American. Turkey's powerful army and civilian government make conflicting policies. Iraq's Kurds, America's only ally in that strife-torn nation, discreetly back the PKK and are working for full independence. Turkey vows to use force to prevent emergence of a Kurdish state in Iraq, which would quickly produce similar demand by Turkey's restive Kurds.

Turkey's government must respond to public outrage, but fears major military action in Iraq will foreclose its hopes of getting into the European Union, and put it on a collision course with the US. Israel, which has its eye on Mesopotamia's oil, is secretly backing Iraq's Kurdish mini-state and hopes to build an oil pipeline from Iraqi Kurdistan to Haifa. But Israel is a close ally of Turkey's right-wing generals who hate Kurds as much as their own democratic government led by an able Recep Erdogan, the prime minister.

Back in the 1990's, I wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal cautioning that if Iraq one day splintered, Turkey would be tempted to seize Iraq's major northern oil regions around Mosul and Kirkuk.

That day may be near. Bush's invasion has devastated Iraq and effectively split it into three pieces —fulfilling Israel's strategic plan to fragment Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Iraq's Mosul oil fields, which formerly belonged to the Ottoman Empire, are only 119 kms from Turkey's border. After World War I, the British Empire grabbed this oil-rich region, cobbling together the unnatural state of Iraq to safeguard it.

If Iraq slides further into the abyss, Turkey and Iran may partition Iraq. Today, Turkey has no oil. Its fragile economy is hammered by having to earn US dollars to buy oil. But if Turkey repossessed Iraq's northern oil fields, this nation of 70 million with 515,000 men at arms would become an important power that would reassert traditional Turkish influence in the Mideast, Balkans, Caucasus, and Central Asia. It's a huge temptation Ankara cannot ignore. After all, if the US can invade Iraq for oil, why not neighbouring, ex-owner Turkey?

Meanwhile, Washington mutters about launching attacks on PKK, which it also brands ‘terrorists.' But with the hypocrisy typical of the US Mideast policy, Washington closes its eyes —and may be secretly arming- Iraqi Kurds who are attacking Iran. Turkey insists it is fighting ‘terrorism' and has every right to strike into Iraq to protect its national security —President Bush's justification for invading Iraq.

This Kurdish fracas comes just as Dr Strangelove Dick Cheney and star pupil, George W, are fanning hysteria over Iran and threatening a war.

Latest reason: Iran ‘might' have nuclear knowledge. Welcome to Washington's new bogeyman: ‘thoughts of mass destruction.' Throw in the growing crisis in key US ally, Pakistan, and we face one unholy mess.

Eric S. Margolis is a veteran American journalist and contributing foreign editor of The Toronto Sun.

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