Sunday, February 13, 2005


Kirkuk is the subject of an ethnic power struggle and, according to this author, Turkey is a threat to Iraqi stability over this issue:
Turkey holds its own claim to Kirkuk. Unlike the Ottoman territories that were ceded to Iraq in the agreements that came at the end of World War I, Kirkuk was taken from Turkey as a result of the 1923 Lausanne Treaty. Turkish nationalists still regard it as historically part of Turkey. Ankara also asserts guardianship over the Turkmen ethnic minority in northern Iraq. But those are more emotional than political issues. What is mainly driving Turkey's interest in Kirkuk is the long-term problem of Turkey's own rebellious Kurdish minority, which is 20 percent of its population.

Will Turkey intervene if the Kurds go too far? Other factors affect the decision:

Military intervention in northern Iraq is diplomatically risky for Turkey. Having just secured Europe's agreement to open talks on membership in the European Union, Ankara will move with caution. Yet Turkey may well see preventing the emergence of a potentially oil-rich Kurdish political entity on its borders as worth the risk. And Europe may regard keeping the Iraqi Kurds within the boundaries of Iraq, thus promoting stability in the Persian Gulf and in oil markets, as more important than keeping Turkey out of Iraq.

Is Kurdish autonomy within Iraq more upsetting to Turkey if Kirkuk is in the Kurdish sphere? Will the Europeans really ignore a Turkish military foray into Iraq when many in the EU are just looking for an excuse to deprive membership to Moslem Turkey? Seriously, with so many Turks in Germany, would Germany accept a Turkish right to intervene in another country to protect ethnic Turks? In addition, why is allowing Turkish intervention the choice for promoting stability? Wouldn't green-lighting a Turkish invasion be the more destabilizing event than making Turkey accept a Kurd-dominated Kirkuk? And having come so far, will the Turks risk EU membership over this issue?

Far be it from me to underestimate the illogical impulses that motivate people to fight, but after a decade of a semi-independent Kurdish state on their border, will a semi-autonomous Kurdish region within a democratic Iraq really seem unacceptable? We may have to apply pressure all the way around to make sure a logical appraisal of interests is made, but we can do it. If it comes down to it, we can remind Turkey that we don't forget their refusal to let 4th ID into Turkey to invade Iraq in 2003. No invasion for us. No invasion for them.