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The Toronto Sun

Creation of a Virtually Independent Kurdish State in Northern Iraq Was Certain to Provoke Turkey

Eric Margolis

No one should be surprised by the dangerous crisis between Turkey and Iraq-based Kurdish separatists.

Critics long warned the U.S. invasion of Iraq would inevitably release the genii of Kurdish nationalism. Creation of a virtually independent, U.S.-backed Kurdish state in northern Iraq was certain to provoke Turkish fury.

A decade ago, I covered the low intensity 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 died. I came away torn by sympathy for both sides.

In recent weeks, Turkish-Kurdish tensions erupted. 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 Turkish Anatolia by Kurdish fighters known as "pesh-merga."

Fiercely nationalist Turks demand their armed forces invade Iraq's autonomous Kurdish mini-state to destroy PKK bases. Turkish attacks are already under way.

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

This crisis is a huge mess for all concerned. Turkey supplies 70% of air-delivered supplies to U.S. forces in Iraq, and is a vital NATO ally.

But Turks are enraged and increasingly anti-American.


Iraq's Kurds, America's only ally in that strife-torn nation, discreetly back the PKK and are working for full independence -- certain to enflame Turkey's 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 U.S.

Israel is secretly backing Iraq's Kurdish mini-state and hopes to build an oil pipeline from Iraqi Kurdistan to Haifa.


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But Israel is a close ally of Turkey's right-wing generals, who hate Kurds and their own democratic government led by able PM Recep Erdogan.

In the 1990s, I wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal -- before being banned from its pages for political heresy -- 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 is near. President Geoge W. Bush's invasion devastated Iraq and split into three pieces -- fulfilling Israel's strategic plan in promoting the invasion.

Iraq's Mosul oil fields, which formerly belonged to the Ottoman Empire, are only 119 kms from Turkey's border.

After the First World War, the British Empire grabbed the oil-rich region, creating 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 U.S. 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. If the U.S. 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 U.S. Mideast policy, Washington closes its eyes and may be secretly arming Iraqi Kurds.

Turkey insists it is fighting "terrorism" and has every right to strike into Iraq to protect its national security -- Bush's justification for invading Iraq.

This Kurdish fracas comes just as Dr. Strangelove Dick Cheney and star pupil, Bush, are fanning hysteria over Iran and threatening war. Latest reason: Iran "might" have nuclear knowledge -- welcome to "thoughts of mass destruction." Throw in the growing crisis in key U.S. ally Pakistan, and we face one unholy mess.

Copyright © 2007, Canoe Inc.

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