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March 20, 2003

Kurds, Alone

The war has started and the Kurds are totally alone. Not only are there no American troops here, but their own leaders are AWOL, too. The two leaders of the Kurdish government, Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, as well as their top deputies, are in Ankara negotiating with the US and Turkey over the increasingly irrelevant northern front. Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi and leaders of the Turkmen and Assyrian minorities are there as well. I suppose they didn’t expect the war would start so soon, but I wonder if their people will hold them accountable to the fact that they were less concerned about being with and protecting their people than with negotiating over Turkish troops (which, in my opinion is less about real fear of the Turks and more about not wanting to give up their share of the Iraqi pie).

In fact, over the last months the Kurdish governments here have done little to get people ready for war other than to organize protests against Turkey. They always complain that they don’t have money for gas masks and ask the UN or the US to provide them. But they haven’t tried to do anything, any low-cost measures that people can use to protect themselves. It seems they’re often too concerned with playing the victim card than with actually not being victims again.

A report I saw on FOX last night said that the US had spent millions to protect Israel against a possible Iraqi retaliation. And they were willing to give Turkey billions of dollars in aid and the right to put their troops in northern Iraq. And what have the Kurds gotten out of their cooperation with the US? No gas masks, no guarantees of protection, possibly a few guns for the peshmerga, but basically nothing. If I were a Kurd I would be livid with my leaders for being the second worst bargainers in the world, behind the Bush administration.

Anyway, it’s calm here this morning, almost no shops are open but a few people are out in the street and there doesn’t seem to be any panic.

And those of you who speak Spanish should check out Carolina’s blog, Ojo. A link is to the right. (And if you don’t speak Spanish, there’s also an automatic Google translation to English that at least gives you a flavor.) Last night she reminded us that Iraq is the land of 1001 Arabian nights; last night, Scheherazade ran out of stories.

March 20, 2003 in Kurds | Permalink


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Above all else, I hope the total buck-nakedness that the Kurds have been left with gets broad coverage when it's all done.
As far as I am aware, this has gone on since the 1920's between the US, the French and the British, dating back to the dismemberment of the Ottoman empire.
Now, I have to wonder--did the Turks act ONLY from preserving soem of their soveriegnty by disallowing US ground troops there--air space use allows the Turks most of the politcal advantages of being on the winning side while making sure that the Kurds getit good and hard all over again.
Indeed, it was a win-win as I see it--let's say that lack of Turkish groundspace had somehow been enough to defeat the invasion (I think that Cheney is more obsessive than that, of course)--from that point on the Kurds would have become more vulnerable, maybe not next year but as the sanctions slowly but surely eroded form that point on. In that scenario, the Kurds eventually get it good and hard in the longer run anyway.
Finally, I fault the European powers who delatyed plans for Turkey's defence in NATO--in efect holding Turkey, and especially the Kurds, hostage (if you are strongly enough opposed to the war, of course, holding hostages to stop it might be acceptable).
I am not wholly thinking of the Kurds, in this case. One of a million nuances that no-one has examined is the fact that israel and Turkey are formerly treatied allies, especially against Arab interests--the Turks and the Arabs have wide, wide rifts between them which israel long ago successful exploited to gain this alliance.
The European intrasigence in planning Turkey's defenses follows an already forgotten snub by France in blocking turkish entry into the EU with the rankly racist comment (I believe by Mitterand) that Turkish entry into the EU would be the "end of Europe". Whe I said already-forgotten, I meant by everyone except the Turks--for them, this has to ahve been a one-two punch.
The net result? With Turkey more distanced from it's Arab neighbors and snubbed by Europe, their already-formalized alliance with Israel can only grow tighter and more neccesary.
I invite the reader to project this prospect five and fifteen yars into the future.
So that all this is about more than my opinion, I would ask the reader to turn that projection where this began--the fate of the Kurds.

Posted by: Benjamin | Mar 20, 2003 7:25:17 PM

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