Published on Friday, August 2, 2002 by Inter Press Service
Ankara Resigned to U.S. Attack on Iraq
by Nadire Mater
ISTANBUL, Aug 2 - Turkish leaders are preparing themselves for a U.S. led attack on Iraq that they do not want.
"The U.S. officials have already expressed to us their determination for an attack against Iraq," Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said in a televised interview. "They don't imply it, they openly express it. And we are preparing both politically and militarily."
But despite preparing for a U.S. attack on Iraq in the "worst scenario", Ecevit has said that the Turkish government will continue efforts to restrain the U.S. from such an attack. "A military operation will seriously affect our crisis-ridden economy," Ecevit says.
Ecevit, whose own future as Prime Minister is uncertain following a spate of defections from his political alliance, has been strongly opposed to a war on Iraq. His tone changed, however, after a series of meetings with U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Robert Pearson.
The government is now preparing for an attack. The government has also set out a follow-up plan code-named "B.020" for dealing with a "post-Saddam" situation in Iraq, according to media reports citing sources in the Prime Minister's office.
A report in the national daily Hurriyet says that according to the government plan "there is no doubt that the emergence on our south-eastern borders of a democratic Iraq with good relations with the West is extremely valuable for our strategic interests."
The U.S. move has the business community worried. "The U.S. is determined to intervene in Iraq," says Bedrettin Karaboga, chair of the South-eastern Industrialists and Businessmen Association following a meeting with Pearson. "In reply to Pearson's question we openly said that the region's economy will be adversely affected by a U.S. military operation," Karaboga told journalists. "Yet he remained silent."
Mike Parris, former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, warned a Senate Foreign Relations Committee session on Iraq Wednesday about Turk resistance to an attack on Iraq. "Turks hate the idea of overthrowing Saddam," Parris is reported to have told the panel.
"Turkey is worried that if everything does not get along as planned, the U.S. will leave Turkey face to face with a hostile or chaotic neighbor," he said. "Yet, Ankara will not have the luxury of sitting with arms folded should Washington go after Saddam," he said. "Ankara, for her own interests, will need to take part in the planning and implementation of U.S. plans."
After announcing elections November 3 in a special session Wednesday, the Turkish parliament left Iraq out of its agenda and debated moves instead to bring Turkish laws in line with European Union (EU) guidelines as a step towards joining the EU. But any plans for support to the U.S. will need parliamentary approval, says Prof Turgut Tarhanali of Bilgi University in Istanbul. "The Turkish parliament should make a decision in that direction," he says. "Without such a decision the government will be faced with difficulties."
Turkey fears the Kurdish fallout of a U.S. attack. The Turkish plan on support to the U.S. is reported to rule out any "declaration of an independent Kurdish state" in a future Iraq.
Following 15 years of war against the guerrilla group PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) which struggled for an autonomous Kurdistan in south-eastern Turkey, the Turkish government wants to block any moves for Kurdish autonomy within Iraq.
Last year the PKK changed its name to KADEK (Kurdistan Democracy and Freedom Congress), disbanded its armed units within Turkey and adopted a peaceful struggle for the rights of Kurds. But according to Turkish defense sources, about 5,000 of the former armed guerrillas are now based in northern Iraq.
Kurdish land in the former Ottoman empire was divided after the First World War into Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. An estimated 15 million Kurds live in Turkey, two million in northern Iraq, 1.5 million in Iran and a little less than a million in Syria.
"Ethnic minorities in Iraq should be prevented from establishing separate administrations," the reported Turkish plan states. "Such declarations in this direction can be cause for intervention on our part."
Turkey is also concerned about a flow of Kurdish refugees into Turkey from northern Iraq in the event of a U.S. invasion. Hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled Iraq into Turkey following a failed uprising against Saddam during the Gulf War in 1991. Cold and hunger cost thousands of lives during the exodus and after.
Copyright 2002 IPS