Double-crossing in Kurdistan
By Pepe Escobar
11/01/07 "Asia Times" -- -- The George W Bush administration would
not flinch to betray its allies in Iraqi Kurdistan if that entailed
a US "win" in the Iraq quagmire. And it would not flinch to leave
its Turkish North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies in the
wilderness as well - if that entailed further destabilization of
Iran. Way beyond the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) vs Turkey
skirmish, one of these two double-crossing scenarios will inevitably
take place. Washington simply cannot have its kebab and eat it too.
The Bush administration's double standards are as glaring as meteor
impacts. When, in the summer of 2006, Israel used the capture of two
of its soldiers by Hezbollah to unleash a pre-programmed devastating
war on Lebanon, destroying great swathes of the country, the Bush
administration immediately gave the Israelis the green light. When
12 Turkish soldiers are killed and eight captured by PKK guerrillas
based in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Bush administration urges Ankara to
take it easy.
The "war on terror" is definitely not an equal-opportunity business.
That has prompted Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek to
mischievously remark, regarding Turkey, "It's as if an intruder has
gatecrashed the closed circle of 'we', the domain of those who hold
the de facto monopoly on military humanitarianism."
The US and Israeli establishment regards Hezbollah as a group of
evil super-terrorists. But the PKK consists of just "minor"
terrorists, and very useful ones at that, since the US Central
Intelligence Agency is covertly financing and arming the PJAK (Party
for Free Life in Kurdistan), the Iranian arm of the PKK, whose
mission is to "liberate" parts of northwest Iran.
Not accidentally, the new PKK overdrive coincides with US - and also
Israeli - covert support for the PJAK. Israel has not only invested
a lot in scores of business ventures in Iraqi Kurdistan, it has also
extensively trained Kurdish peshmerga special commandos, who could
easily share their knowledge with their PKK cousins.
The new PKK offensive coincides with a PKK flush with new mortars,
anti-tank weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and even anti-aircraft
missiles. And most of all, the PKK drive coincides with the
mysteriously vanished scores of light weapons the Pentagon sent to
Iraq with no serial numbers to identify 97% of them.
The person responsible for this still unsolved mystery is none other
than the counterinsurgency messiah and top commander in Iraq,
General David Petraeus. The suspicion that the Pentagon never wanted
these weapons to be traced in the first place cannot be easily
dismissed. Either that or the PKK has been very active lately in the
black market for light weapons.
The Turkish-Israeli plan
US corporate media totally ignore the US/Israeli coddling of the
PJAK - and by extension the PKK. The larger context is lost. No one
bothers to ask how come the Bush administration seems to be such a
huge fan of a greater Kurdistan.
As much as the PJAK - and the PKK - use American largesse for
greater Kurdistan ends, the Bush administration uses especially the
PJAK for its wider "war on terror" target: the destabilization of
Iran. Turkish-US relations in this case are no more than a casualty
of war. Now the Turks are up not only against Massoud Barzani's
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), but also the US and the
European Union in Brussels. And in addition, the PKK denies it has
attacked Turkey out of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Turkey has angrily reacted to the US Senate proposal for "soft"
partition of Iraq. This is the famous US "Plan B" for Iraq - more an
"A" than a "B" because it was floated years ago. And the authors are
Israel and ... the Turks themselves.
The plan has been extensively documented, among others, by the
Center for Research at the Kurdish Library in New York. According to
its "Kurdish Life" newsletter, "Back in 1990, Turkey's then prime
minister Turgut Ozal made a deal with the US and Kurdish leaders
Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani. Masterminded by an Israel
obsessed with breaking up the 'sea of Arabs' in the Middle East, the
plan has proceeded apace ever since, influencing and directing
virtually all of Washington's political and military tactics in
Iraq. And yet even today it remains nobody's business."
The Israeli mastermind was Leslie Gelb, a relatively moderate
Zionist. The plan duly featured in the Turkish press at the time. It
proposed a federal Iraq, with a Kurdistan, a section of Kirkuk and
Mosul for the Turkomans; and the rest, in fact most of the country,
for "the Arabs", Sunni and Shi'ite alike.
To get their autonomous mini-state, the Iraqi Kurds just had to
guarantee to smash the PKK. As for Turkish Kurds, the Turkish prime
minister's spokesman said at the time that since "two-thirds of
Turkey's Kurds are scattered through the country" and the rest
"fully integrated into Turkish society", they would have no business
dreaming about autonomy.
Barzani and Jalal Talabani, Iraqi Kurdish leaders, rival warlords
and wily opportunists, duly fulfilled their part of the deal -
especially in October 1992 during a joint offensive with the Turkish
army against the PKK. They may have sold out the PKK 15 years ago,
but that won't happen again; at least that's what the two have
vocally promised. For their part, the PJAK-PKK have been
tremendously helpful for the Bush administration agenda of
The Kurdish Life newsletter argues that the cause of Turkey's
current woes is not the US or the Iraqi Kurds. It's a self-inflicted
wound, all spelled out in Ozal's plan. "With his untimely death in
1993, the plan was revised, with an autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan to
include Kirkuk, and more, and the remainder of Iraq to be divided
between Sunni and Shi'ite Arabs. The Republicans of the Bush
administration cemented it into the Iraqi constitution under the
That's no less than the "soft" partition the US Senate recently
voted for. That's the future Washington wants for Iraqi Kurdistan.
And that's the scheme the US - and Israel - don't want their ally
Turkey to spoil by attacking the PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan. No wonder
the Turkish leadership - not to mention Turkish public opinion - is
Chronicle of an invasion foretold
To compound this misery, the much-touted Turkish invasion has been
in the making for months. As early as March, Bush administration
officials were promising the Turks that US special forces would
dislodge the PKK from the Qandil mountains. Nothing happened.
In April, Barzani was threatening "to take responsibility for our
response" if the Turks interfered with a referendum on the
integration of oil-rich Kirkuk into Kurdistan. Also in April, the US
prohibited Turkish cross-border raids, according to the Turkish
daily Sabah. The massing of Turkish soldiers at the Iraqi border
started in May.
Then in June, Turkish General Yasar Buyukanit virtually spelled out
in public what this was all about, "There is not only the PKK in
northern Iraq. There is Massoud Barzani as well. Turkey cannot
afford an independent Kurdish state headed by Barzani on its
southern border." Barzani - who for Turkish popular media is the
country's public enemy number one - answered back with a startling
concept; he said that if Turkey invaded, "We would deal with it as
an Iraqi issue."
So what kind of Kurdish "sovereignty" is this? Iraqi Kurds detest,
and ignore, the Baghdad government like the plague, and prize their
independence; but as soon as they're threatened, they instantly seek
refuge under Baghdad's (clipped) wings.
Kurdistan and its mountainous 75,000 square kilometers is not really
Iraq. Baghdad is an entity far, far away. Iraqi Kurdistan has its
own constitution, parliament, anthem, legal code, language, currency
and media - and most of all the well-trained peshmerga army. A
democracy it is not - because virtually everything is subordinated
to the two warlords turned politicians, Barzani and Talabani.
The KRG has paid the price for Kurdistan as a "model" of a
functioning Iraq by collaborating no-holds-barred with the US since
the early 1990s. In June, Barzani confirmed that the PKK is an Iraqi
problem, "A Turkish invasion would be first of all an attack on
Iraqi sovereignty, and then an attack on the Kurds." Following
Barzani's logic, since Iraq is under occupation, the Turks would be
actually invading a colonial possession of the US. Thus it should be
Petraeus to confront the Turks about what they're up to. Washington
in a way has proved its point: Iraqi Kurdistan is a fragile entity
that only exists because it always depended on American protection.
Turkey and Iran, united
Kurdistan's pull in Washington is guaranteed thanks largely to Qubad
Talabani, son of President Jalal Talabani, also known in Kurdistan
as "Uncle Jalal". While dad sells Kurdistan as an indisputable
success story, son lobbies furiously, to the extent that Frank
Lavin, US under secretary of commerce for international trade,
recently went to Kurdistan to promote it as a gateway for US
businesses in Iraq.
But to believe that Ankara will tolerate an oil-rich, water-rich
Kurdish mini-state on its southeast border, creating a magnet for
Kurdish minorities in Turkey, Iran and Syria, is to believe in
miracles. Not only Turkey and Iran are vehemently against it, but
also Saudi Arabia (the House of Saud believing that a Kurdistan
counterpart - Shi'iteistan in southern Iraq - would be subservient
to Iran). What the Bush administration's games have achieved so far
is to unite Turkey and Iran on the issue.
Turkey regards the Kurds just like China regards Tibetans and
Uighurs; they are part of a unitary Turkish state and have no right
to autonomy. If Washington condemns China for its repression of
Tibetans and Uighurs, it should behave the same way regarding
Turkey. Not only will this not happen, but now the Americans need
the Turks more than the Turks need the Americans.
A true measure of White House and neo-conservative desperation to
facilitate the relentless surge towards war on Iran is whether it
would be willing to plunge Iraqi Kurdistan into war, compromise the
Turkish-Iraq corridor (through wich flows 70% of US supplies to
Iraq) and future US Big Oil investments in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Barzani keeps insisting he and Washington are in sync, both wanting
a peaceful solution for this royal mess; but he always points out
"we are a nation" which will not accept Turkish threats.
US plans for Iraqi Kurdistan, stretching back to that 1990
Israeli-devised Turkish plan, are in jeopardy. And once again all
because of the enemy within.
Washington played the ethnic card in Afghanistan, pitting Tajiks
against Pashtuns; the result, apart from a never-ending war in
Afghanistan, was that Pashtuns on both sides of the border united
and are now destabilizing even further the US ally, Pakistan.
Washington played the Kurd card to destabilize Saddam Hussein's Iraq
and as a beachhead for its control of the country after the
invasion. Not only Iraq turned into a quagmire, Washington helped to
plunge Kurdistan into the line of (Turkish) fire.
There's no evidence these lessons have been learned. No matter what
happens in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Bush administration
will still insist on the ethnic card to precipitate regime change in
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World
is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007). He may be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2007 Asia Times Online Ltd.