February 20, 2003

Give the Turks More Money,

Give the Turks More Money, But Don't Give Them Kirkuk

In this fast-moving Iraq crisis the issue of the day (at least at this early hour) appears to be Turkey's continued refusal to commit to allowing a contingent of U.S. troops to be based in eastern Turkey so that the U.S. has easy access to a northern front (of course, smaller numbers of troops could be parachuted in and the like but such methods are far from ideal).

The NYT's main take here. They also have a masthead (which doesn't really say anything) and two additional stories (here and here) that don't really add much either. Note: Ever notice how the NYT will sometimes choose their "story of the day," have one main newsy article about it and then a couple "analyses" style pieces that, although peppered with quotes, don't reallly add too much? But I digress.

Key point: Still, an administration official said other issues were in contention in negotiating with the Turks namely, the future of the Turkish military presence in northern Iraq and the Turkish desire for some oil concession at Kirkuk in Iraq."The Turks want to control the operation at Kirkuk, at a minimum through a pipeline," the official said. "That's in a way a better deal for them than American aid."
But Mr. Bush and his aides have often said Iraq's oil is for the benefit of the Iraqi people, and they realize that any discussion of guaranteeing access to the oil to Turkey or any other nation would make it appear that the war is about oil rights, not weapons of mass destruction.

Ankara's demand for special access to Kirkuk, even if just limited to favorable pipeline transit rights, should be a showstopper. As the U.S. counters the myth that this looming conflict with Iraq is about oil, the Administration must do all in its power to avoid being seen to be trading oil concessions later for alliance participation now.

As an excellent report jointly prepared by the Baker Institute for Public Policy and the CFR pointed out a few weeks back, a key U.S. post-conflict goal regarding Iraq's oil sector should be to set about creating an even playing field among interested international parties (O.K, except the French!) and to make sure non-corrupt Iraqi technocrats are quickly put in control of the sector. Deals with the Turks on Kirkuk even before the conflict starts would put the lie to such plans and give real ammunition to the anti-war forces throughout the world attempting to depict U.S. motivations as an unadulterated oil-grab.

Posted by Gregory at February 20, 2003 06:25 AM
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