Turks and Kurds: What Happens When Both are US Allies?

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I’ve just spent a morning meeting the dynamic and extremely impressive Mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom — followed by a talk I gave (but can’t report on) in the most famous lion’s den of movement conservatives about the positives and negatives of President Bush’s foreign policy efforts. Now, I’m at Hay Adams preparing a talk for a group of visiting German journalists. There hasn’t been much time for absorption of the news — not to even speak of analysis.
But here’s the “news alert” I just got from the Associated Press:

Thousands of Turkish troops have crossed into northern Iraq to chase Kurdish guerrillas operating there, Turkish officials tell AP.

I haven’t had any time to think this through — or to check with other sources and commentators. But one question is what do American troops do in this case when we are allied with Kurds and Turks?
This was one of the major nightmare scenarios that regional war planners and intel analysts have been deeply concerned about. Now, it’s a reality.
More later.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

34 comments on “Turks and Kurds: What Happens When Both are US Allies?

  1. fredrigo says:

    Turkey has mentality from their back ground as Mongol(turkish origin are Mongol)which never allowed themselves to be or think like a European, their mentality is still like a barbaric Mongol,back to ages ago, they still trying to ignore kurds, while the kurdish population is 4o million, and they still saying that kurds are not exist, or Kurdistan not exist, while Kurds has longer history than mongol Turks in Mesopotamia, the land that call it turkey today, it was the land of kurds,Greece,Bulgaria, Armenia and Assyrian, before Mongol turks migrant there from Mongolia.
    more reference to KNOW WHO IS KURDS,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfLkB5hlNS4&feature=channel_page
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phoklLVo5PU&feature=channel_page
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurdistan

    Reply

  2. martin says:

    Usa just looking for their own interest so they don’t care about whats going on in the world, especially in country like iraq and Afghanistan or Mideast in general.
    in one side they support kurds in northern iraq only in some case)and in the other hands, helping turkey to fight against Kurtis (in south east of Anatolia).one of the main kurdish city in northern iraq is Kerkuk which is one of the main oilfield in the world, this city historically is kurdish but dictator Saddam hosien was relocated Arab and kicked out kurds from there, also some turkemen are brought in that city, but still the majority are Kurdish,so every body looking in to that city at the moment to make sure Kurds don’t get it, becasue their mentality not allowed them to KRG get control over the city.
    while Kurdish forces where helping USA in fight with dictator Saddam for many years, also they support democracy in iraq, but Usa turn back their back to Kurds becasue their interest is over now.
    the reality is that USA is exactly has two face same as turkey, as Turkey call middle east or Islamic world that they are Muslim brother, and they should support each other, and in the other hand Turkey call Eu that they are western country not Muslim state,………. same as USA. here in between only Kurds becasue victim of their games, or two faces, so Kurds should not trust Usa, no body should trust them, also Eu should not trust two face country like turkey.

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  3. martin says:

    Usa just looking for their own interest so they don’t care about whats going on in the world, especially in country like iraq and Afghanistan or Mideast in general.
    in one side they support kurds in northern iraq only in some case)and in the other hands, helping turkey to fight against Kurtis (in south east of Anatolia).one of the main kurdish city in northern iraq is Kerkuk which is one of the main oilfield in the world, this city historically is kurdish but dictator Saddam hosien was relocated Arab and kicked out kurds from there, also some turkemen are brought in that city, but still the majority are Kurdish,so every body looking in to that city at the moment to make sure Kurds don’t get it, becasue their mentality not allowed them

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  4. Hasan says:

    There is no such a thing as Kurdish Rebels! They are Terrorists!

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  5. ozman says:

    First off, there’s no “Kurdistan”. It’s a Kurdish pipedream. Second, if there IS a Kurdistan, then that means Kurds took it from Iraq. And that means Iraq no longer exists. And that means the US mission in “Iraq” is over, legally.
    But, if you were a Kurd, wouldn’t you love the Americans, too? Heck, you’d get your own country – filled with oil and water – without firing a single shot? And you get to kick all non-Kurds out and piss of every neighbor and there’s nothing anybody can do about it – the US is got your back.
    Interestingly enough, the US is so desperate for anything “good” to come out of the miserable Iraq mission, that this future illegal nation sounds like a positive outcome. This obviously is not flying over well with any of Iraq’s neighbors, especially the Turks who owned that very landed for over 1000 years until recently.
    It is not possible to sustain the reasoning behind any of this because what it comes down to is borders, and what’s in those borders. Iraq can’t be divided. Turkey can’t be divided. And any event to the contrary will mean all bets are off and it is an all out war until there’s nobody left to fight.

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  6. Mr.Murder says:

    Turkey was a great part of helping us win the Cold War.
    Iraq was formed when the Ottoman empire empire broke up.
    Mid central northern towns in Iraq where part of the ogirinal oil concessions for BP. Around Tikrit, to be specific. There and Kirkuk where places the Ottomans/Turks had land rail road deals for developing oil fields.
    Richard Halliburton’s first well he dug sprouted so much oil it filled the pool it was drilled over. It flooded two huge lakes built for it and ran all day and night, so much oil at so good a pressure it was difficult to restrain or cap…
    The same way we built the Trans Arabian Railroad for the Saudis, which foreshadowed the Trans Arabian pipeline, BP and Richard Halliburton looked to do with a railway to Turkey from Tikrit a decade before then.
    He took Iraq’s first King Faisal over the land in a RAF biplane to show the surface strata most likely to have oil under it.
    The water’s more important than the oil in their country though. The Kurdish land is over the river sources for the region. That’s what Turkey hopes to push its way to…

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  7. Dons Blog says:

    Turkey has been a key ally of the US both against the Soviets and as a secular country against the radical muslims.
    No, we didn’t take nukes out of Turkey after the Cuban missile crisis. We were supposed to take nukes out of Turkey after the crisis.
    I understand Turkey has a lot of enemies, but I also know that I went to sleep to the sound of gunfire every night when living in Adana. This from a very active PKK and active political groups.
    I arrived in Turkey in the late 1970’s, just after the Turks stormed the Air Force conventional weapons storage area and took all of the 500 lb bombs to drop on Greeks during the Cyprus war. This was a very tricky situation as both Turkey and Greece were NATO members and at the time Turkey was home of an unlimited size weapons training area for pilots. Since the Turks used all US weapons systems we quit selling replacement parts to them for several years, causing a real dent in their military preparedness.
    It’s interesting that I can find all kinds of information on secret operations in Vietnam, yet to this day there is very little about what we were doing in Turkey. If you knew, you might feel a lot different.

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  8. Emil Behar N.Y U.S.A says:

    They have been living side by side,And now this is the future of iraq and the rest of the Area,What was the peace or free world,Are We stupid or something else.Thank you.Before i forget West and East=???

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  9. Jon Stopa says:

    Steve. check out Col. Pat Lang’s Blog. Perminent US presence–that’s something I don’t know about, though.

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  10. Nate says:

    Are you going to be speaking anywhere else in the Bay Area that the general public could attend?
    I’m a big fan over in Berkeley.

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  11. erichwwk says:

    A bit off topic, but in the general area of how this war is escalating, and in a direction that is much more worrisome is the refusal to give up on the idea of superiority of nuclear weapons, rather than work on arms reduction. For a more reasonable discussion of the issues in the US/Czech/Poland “Missile Shield??) see “US missiles hit Russia where it hurts by M K Bhadrakumar” http://tinyurl.com/yvgqkk
    For folks interested in this issue, check out lasg.org

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  12. Guards Seize Him! says:

    Between the Bush Administration and the likes of Reps. Lantos and Ross-Lehtinen the U.S.’s new specialty seems to be all divide and no conquer.
    More like a policy of Divide and Look Stupid.
    Or maybe Divide and Then Go Shopping.

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  13. ... says:

    i’m sure bush/cheney who went into iraq in 2003 thought about all this way ahead of time and they have another grand plan to bring ‘dumbocracy and freedumb’ to the rest of the ‘uncivilized’ world in this area of possible conflict too, especially if their is some resource that might need ‘protecting’..

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  14. hazmaq says:

    I didn’t think I’d ever see such a witless handling of our Foreign Affairs since Clinton left office.
    Between the Bush Administration and the likes of Reps. Lantos and Ross-Lehtinen the U.S.’s new specialty seems to be all divide and no conquer. Leaving this once proud superpower left standing alone with our tail between our legs.
    The stupidity of these ‘experts’ to continue believing that Muslims especially would ally themselves with white men to fight their own brothers, be they friend or foe, leaves me dumbfounded.
    Remember the pre-Iraq war trip to Turkey by Mr. Wolfowitz? The U.S. took for granted it’s planned use of Turkish soil to launch a large contingent of American troops to Iraq.
    And our troops desperately needed and relied on that extra division. At the last minute Turkey said no.
    Wolfowitz then went to Turkey personally, with that typical slam dunk attitude, but got nowhere. Bush went on as planned without them, risking our troops lives, because there was no plan B.
    Now the same ‘experts’ are on Iran.
    But today I heard more ominous signs of another U.S./Israeli made mess: Lebanon.
    To justify the escalation of violence in a now firmly divided Lebanon, the Al-Qaeda connection has been introduced there too.
    Another Congressman was on the floor of the House today sowing the seeds of another deadly war/diversion, all for what. For Israel.
    The PLO, Hammas and Hizb’allah are all Israel’s creation. And they all inspire Al-Qaeda.
    Israel, to me as an American citizen, is now the bigger danger to my children and grandchildren’s future.
    .
    An my Arizona Congressman Frankd (R) is trying to justify to the U.S. mess

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  15. Carroll says:

    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=1037&full=1
    I have recommended several times that those of us not living in or from the ME read “The Green Peril” paper to fully understand motivations of countries in the ME involved in our terrier “wur” or democracy “spreading” or whatever you want to name it.
    This 1992 study was a crystal ball on the whole thing….and it is interesting to see how many of the various agendas or original motivations are ..either serving those agendas …or blowing up in various faces… and still have the potential to blow up on those currently getting something out of The Green Peril scare….particulary the US’s.

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  16. john somer says:

    Kust went and checked Reuteers on line, as well as the “Turlish Daily News” and “The New Anatolian”. No mention of any inccursion of Turkish troops into Iraqi Kurdistan (but these two papers are not all that quick on the uptake). However, the New Anatolian did mention that two Turkish helicopters on anti-terrorist activities had to “crash land” into northern Iraq due to mechanical failure. Would that be the source of the AP story ?

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  17. Carroll says:

    Further comment.
    AP..btw… is saying Turkey denies going into Kurdistan.
    I tend to trust Juan Cole on the nitty gritty of what is what regarding the Kurish-Turkey problem and here is what he had to say prior to this:
    “The Turks are still apparently mulling hot pursuit of Kurdish terrorists who have taken refuge in Iraq. They blame them for a major recent bombing in Ankara, the Turkish capital
    The only place in Iraq that looks at all like South Korea is maybe Kurdistan. But it is also allied with Iran behind the scenes, and it is in a troubling way giving asylum to Turkish-Kurdish terror groups that are infliction harm on the US’s NATO ally, Turkey.”
    As I said Kurdistan is indeed harboring a terror group…..sooo……looks like another fence straddling time for the US to me.

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  18. jon says:

    Turkey is a member of NATO and is trying to gain entry to the EU. The US maintains air base(s) in Turkey and has an ongoing military relationship with them as allies. Turkey has done a great deal for the US over the past 50 years, and it’s been a mutually beneficial relationship. Turkey took the place of Iran in our strategic plans when the Shah was overthrown.
    Turkey would like to hang onto the eastern 1/4 of its country that’s largely Kurdish. They also have ethnic Turkomen living in Iraq that they feel responsibility for, kind of like Russia’s relationship for other Slavs like the Serbs.
    As the invader. constituter of the government, abolisher of the national military, and one or two other reasons, the US has the responsibility of providing territorial integrity to Iraq, including Kurdistan.
    It looks bad if the US can’t keep the Turks out. But we can’t have NATO allies shooting at each other.
    Invading Iraq will make it harder for Turkey to join the EU, where a number of countries have been squeamish about letting them in.
    However, the incursion may damp down the Kurd’s interest in seeking greater autonomy for Kurdistan, since they need the support of the larger country, such as it is, to successfully resist a Turkish invasion. So, this is good for national unity.
    Sure doesn’t make Maliki and the Iraqi ‘government’ look any stronger right now.
    Of course there are conflicting stories out about whether the incursion has actually happened, and if so, by how many troops. Hopefully it won’t spiral out of control. Maybe Bush can get some good advice from his G8 partners right about now…

    Reply

  19. David N says:

    This is a major reason Bush I didn’t go after Sadaam in 1991.
    Look, this is the situation in the entire world. International borders everywhere do not — and can never — match tribal/linguistic/religious/ethnic identities.
    The problem is the idea that they should. As long as national identity and political power are based on tribal loyalty, we’ll have Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Darfur, Biafra, Somalia, East Timor, Uganda, South Africa . . .
    Hell, most of history. So much for history reaching an “End.”

    Reply

  20. sdemetri says:

    This may be a minor border incursion pulled off with the full knowledge and tacit approval of the Bush admin. Or it could be a slap in the face, taking advantage of US weakness, Turkey knowing there really isn’t much we can do about it. It certainly seems like a very dangerous situation.
    Turkey, on the other hand is a NATO member. Not sure a major operation of this nature would suit Turkey well without at least some aspects of its movements being agreed to by the US and NATO.

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  21. NSA says:

    One should remember that the pre-cursor to the Cuba crisis was USSR complaints over US missile bases in Turkey. The US removed them following Cuba. The Turks have been very patient….. The Kurds have been screwed more times than all the bangkok ladyboys over the course of history.
    It’s about to happen again.

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  22. Carroll says:

    the first three comments here say “Kurdish gangs”, PKK and PKK. Sure, evey Kurd is a member of the PKK?
    That is not what this is about at all. It is abuot fears in Turkey over automny and also about the Turkish elections where the democratically elected govenrment is under challenge for natinalists and the military deep state.
    Kurds in Turkey have less in common with the dominant ethnic Turks than Arabs do with Israilies. That is the heart of the problem.
    I think Ankara is in for a very long term provblem. They are now bumping up agaisnt US forces and deeply harming US intersts becasue of their own domestic politcal circus.
    carrol, by your logic the US ought to be bombing Turkey as they harbor the PKK as well. 99% of the PKK is in Turkey, not Iraq.
    Posted by MLevine at June 6, 2007 01:10 PM
    >>>>>>>>>>>
    Not what it is all about? I find it hard to make sense of your explaination. If it’s not about Kurds from Kurdistan operating in Turkey to rile up the Kurds in Turkey “who don’t identify with Turkey” and want to reclaim what they think is the Kurdish part of Turkey…then what is it about pray tell?
    You think Turkey should give them their “piece” of Turkey?….might be much simpler if the Kurds who don’t identify with Turkey just moved to Kurdistan instead of trying to carve out yet another bastard state in the ME.

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  23. Ben says:

    “Turkey hasn’t been an “ally” of the US in a long time. It has been a one way street since the mid 1960’s. We sent money — they took it. Not much of an alliance.”
    Works for Israel.
    “…the “positive” attributes of Bush’s foreign policy?..”
    Well, I get $2 to my GBP right now..

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  24. Mark says:

    …the “positive” attributes of Bush’s foreign policy?..

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  25. dan says:

    Steve
    Considering that there are no US troops stationed anywhere near the Turkish-Iraqi Kurdistan border, I doubt that they will do anything much.
    The only “foreign” troops based in the Kurdish autonomous areas are South Korean engineers. That said, I imagine that there are some US special forces troops/contractors who are training the Peshmerga,er Kurdish divisions of the Iraqi army, and there are also CIA/MI types who are tasked with keeping an eye on the border with Iran and what their Iranian counterparts ( who operate openly ) are up to in the neighbourhood.
    This isn’t the first time that the Turks have encroached into Iraq in recent years either. From memory, there have been Turkish troops inside the Iraqi border since the mid-1990’s
    On a pragamtic basis, the US will do absolutely nothing beyond bluster about it as long as the operation is limited in extent, as the last thing that the US military wants is for the Turkish government to close the border ( and thereby cut the US military in Mosul and Kirkuk from its trucked-in fuel supply ) or to close their airspace to US military/logistics support traffic.

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  26. MLevine says:

    I lived in Turkey for four years. My brother is serving in norther Iraq right now. What you have to realize is that anying and everything having to do wth the Kurds is defined by Ankara and the military as “Terrrorism.” Language rights = Terrorism; eduaction rights = Terrorism; Kurdish automnomy in other countries = Terrorism.
    the first three comments here say “Kurdish gangs”, PKK and PKK. Sure, evey Kurd is a member of the PKK?
    That is not what this is about at all. It is abuot fears in Turkey over automny and also about the Turkish elections where the democratically elected govenrment is under challenge for natinalists and the military deep state.
    Kurds in Turkey have less in common with the dominant ethnic Turks than Arabs do with Israilies. That is the heart of the problem.
    I think Ankara is in for a very long term provblem. They are now bumping up agaisnt US forces and deeply harming US intersts becasue of their own domestic politcal circus.
    carrol, by your logic the US ought to be bombing Turkey as they harbor the PKK as well. 99% of the PKK is in Turkey, not Iraq.

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  27. Ben D says:

    If such an incident is really so potentially explosive, why was there no international force sent to separate the two sides and act as a barrier to PKK provocations and a Turkish incursion???
    Obviously US forces are overstretched, but there are plenty of other countries that have troops to spare, and who would appreciate the easy money that peacekeeping duties usually provide.

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  28. Sandy says:

    It just takes one or two little turn of events (such as those described) …for the whole damn thing to spin completely out of control.
    Impeach Bush/Cheney! They are the ones who took us into this mess with their insane ambitions.

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  29. Carroll says:

    I just checked to make sure and the PKK “is” still on the US terrorist list. So that means Kurdistan is “harboring” a terrorist group. Since Turkey is allied with us in the Wur on Terriers would that justify them bombing hell out of Kurdistan a la Lebanon?
    Wouldn’t it be a pretty sight to see the US defending the PKK’s hideout in Kurdistan.
    What a mess. A hypocritical war spawns a lot of other hypocritical acts.

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  30. memekiller says:

    Why can’t we support both, like we do with the Shi’ites and Sunnis? We shouldn’t, obviously, but why can’t we?

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  31. David says:

    Turkey hasn’t been an “ally” of the US in a long time. It has been a one way street since the mid 1960’s. We sent money — they took it. Not much of an alliance.

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  32. corinne says:

    On Monday, Kurdish rebels killed at least 7 Turkish soldiers in Pulumar. The raid was blamed on the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
    Abdullah Gul told EU officials that the Turks had every right to retaliate against the rebels and this may be that retaliation. The government said it would approve such a move if the military requested it.
    Details here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6718965.stm
    If it is indeed the PKK, then your question about alliance is moot since both the US and EU consider PKK a terrorist group.

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  33. Comentz says:

    This is an unfortunate turn of events but not too surprising. According to the Turkish media, there had been a build-up along the border for sometime accompanied by the usual rhetoric from both sides. The crossing into northern Iraq could be a response to an increase in killings of Turkish troops along the border. Moreover, there has been a number of bombings in Turkey, one a suicide operation in the middle of the Turkish capital, Ankara, which pointed to the PKK. Turkey is also preparing for a controversial general election in July which came about because of a clash among divergent yet extreme political views. As long as the costs do not exceed the benefits for all involved, military pouncing and killings will hold sway over diplomacy and talks. A sad turn of events.

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  34. Carroll says:

    This has been coming on for a long time now. Turkey has been warning the Kurd gangs they would go after them if they didn’t stop incursions into Turkey.
    Turkey is also pissed about US planes flying over their terrority.
    Will the US support Turkey going into the Kurd’s terrority to get the terrorist? They supported Israel going into Lebanon..cheered it on in fact.
    My guess is we will make comments condeming this and that but let them fight it out…because really, what can we do about it?

    Reply

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