October 07, 2003

A Potentially Very Negative Development

A Potentially Very Negative Development in Iraq

Today brings news that the Turkish parliament has approved a troop deployment to Iraq. This is being greeted as good news in some quarters. Here are five reasons why it is anything but.

1) The Iraqi governing council opposes the move. Do we really want the first major non-U.S., non-U.K., non-Polish troop contingent to come from a country whose troops the (U.S. appointed) Iraqi governing council doesn't want inside Iraq? What message does that send to all those who think solely the Americans are calling the shots in Baghdad?

Oh, and don't let this month old report comfort you. An Ahmed Chalabi spokesperson doesn't speak for the entire governing council. By a long shot.

Note that it's not just the Kurdish members of the Iraqi governing council complaining:

"We believe any interference from a neighboring country, either north, south, west or east, is unacceptable," said Mouwafak Al-Rabii, a Shiite council member and longtime human rights activist. "This interference is unacceptable. This interference will jeopardize Iraq and that country."

2) Which leads me to the second reason. If Turkey is allowed into Iraq in such significant fashion--the Iranians are more likely to begin to make mischief in predominately Shi'a areas of Iraq. They simply won't allow Turkey to consolidate (through supply chains and communications networks) a stronger foothold in northern Iraq while not making their own inroads in Shi'a areas.

And it it won't be hard. For one, there's major human traffic between the two countries. It's not hard to imagine a large amount of Iranian agents seeping over the border.

A (not too tangential) digression: In 1995 I was in Sarajevo and got a good look at the Iranian Embassy. A large and spanking new structure. Myriad accredited "diplomats" were based there. They weren't all chugging along to Foreign Ministry meetings and audiences with Alija Izetbegovic. Instead, the Mullahs had sent them there to use Bosnia as a European beachhead from which to export the Islamic revolution. They weren't successful--but they did manage to infiltrate the U.S. led "train and equip" program of the Bosnian Federation military (a project I worked on and that ultimately lessened Iranian influence in the region).

My point? The Iranians are good at this type of thing. They might even try to scuttle Dubya's electoral bid like they did to Carter. Don't underestimate them--and don't facilitate their tendency to trouble-make by letting the Turks in.

3) The Turks are most likely going to be based somewhere in the Sunni sector. Why? To have them actually based in the Kurdish area would be folly. And to have them located in the Shi'a area would piss off the Iranians even more. So it is pretty much a no-brainer that they will go to the Sunni areas.

Another reason they will likely be headed to Sunni regions? Some planners actually believe that--as most Turks are Sunni Muslims--assorted Saddam Fedayeen, Ba'athist remnants and foreign jihadis will be less likely to kill them than, say, Americans or, you know, Serb troops and the like.

Well folks, if you believe that one, come on over so I can tell you about how amazingly charismatic Gray Davis is or what a dashing figure Cruz Bustamante cuts on television.

Incidentally, some Turks realize they might lose some of their soldiers too. It's a real concern.

4) Oh, some "analysts" believe the presence of Muslim forces in Iraq will mollify Muslim public opinion about the nefarious Crusader occupation of Iraq.

Rubbish. From Jakarta to Marrakech, few will give a damn. This won't change perceptions a wit.

Further, regarding Arab Muslims, the tendency will be to view the presence of Turks in Iraq as a negative. To fears of a Wolfowitzian American empire asserting itself through the region--old and nasty memories of Ottoman dominion will swell to the fore to boot. Swell.

5) The prospects of a conflagration between Kurdish peshmerga and Turkish troops "passing through" their territory is very real. The northern front has been pretty quiet so far. This might help ruin that.

Folks, I said this is potentially a bad development in the title to this post. I used the italicized word because, despite parliamentary approval, there is still a good amount of time that is going to pass as details are fully hammered out and the troops deployed. Here's hoping someone gets around this debate in Washington and brings an end to this dumb policy before the troops are actually deployed.

UDPATE: Sully doesn't get it. Nor does Safire--who writes:

"To reassure the democratic Kurds who fought Saddam, we are setting up ways to transport and supply Turkish troops without establishing that army's presence in cities like Mosul and Kirkuk. A sea route may be the solution." [my emphasis]

What "sea route" might that be? Through the sea of Atlantis?

Believe me, enough Turkish troops will cross the long, contiguous border with Iraq to increase friction in Kurdish areas--even if other contingents are shipped over to the Gulf to come in via Kuwait or through chopper lifts from Jordan.

Note: True, the Turks are very worried about keeping Iraq as a unitary state in its current borders like the U.S. (indeed, they are probably the only state that cares about this more than the U.S.)

Beyond that, however, our interests will diverge significantly and the Turkish presence will cause us good sized headaches.

If Don Rumsfeld claims we don't need more troops in--why are we making such a bad move just to get 10,000 more boots on the ground?

Posted by Gregory at October 7, 2003 09:29 PM
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