Turkey Goes into Iraq after Kurdish Attack

Many catastrophes ensued from George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq (launched in order to, he told an astonished and puzzled Jacques Chirac, then French president, thwart the biblical monsters Gog and Magog in the Middle East ahead of the Judgment Day.)

Among them was a revival of the Kurdistan Workers Party guerrilla group (Turkish acronym PKK), which had been in decline in the late 1990s and early zeroes.

The PKK had launched attacks in eastern Turkey on Wednesday that left 28 Turkish troops dead and 15 wounded. In response, the Turkish government announced its right of hot pursuit into Iraq after them with helicopter gunships and a land incursion. France24 has video:

The Kurds in Northern Iraq, a virtually independent state in the 1990s and until present, gained eve more autonomy with the collapse of the Iraqi state in 2003. Ultimately some 5000 Kurdish guerrillas from the Turkish side of the border, who were in trouble with the Turkish security forces because of their activism, took refuge in villages like Qandil in Iraq. Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani and his Peshmerga paramiitary winked at their terrorist past and continued activities over the border in eastern Turkey.


Mirrored with thanks from the Christian Science Monitor

From 1980 through the late 1990s, the Turkish military had pursued a brutal dirty war against the then-Marxist Kurdistan Workers Party (Turkish acronym PKK). The latter pushed a separatist agenda on behalf of the Kurds of eastern Anatolia, who comprise about 10 percent of the Turkish population (and the poorest segment of it). Kurds speak an Indo-European language akin to the Persian in Iran and are spread among 5 countries in the Middle East. Kurdish nationalism, if it realized its goal of establishing a Kurdish state, would dismember Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and to a lesser extent Azerbaijan. The Turkish that is the official language in Turkey is an Altaic language related to Mongolian in east Asia. The PKK envisions a Kurdish withdrawal from Turkey, though few Turkish Kurds in opinion polling say they favor that option– though Turkish Kurds often do feel discriminated against and want more rights.

On Thursday morning, some 500 Turkish troops moved 5 miles into Iraq. At the same time, Turkish warplanes bombed suspected PKK outposts in villages in Dohuk and Sulaimaniya provinces, causing fires to break out and destroying property, and impelling villagers to flee.

The incursion is not so far as large as that launched in similar circumstances in 2008. Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani had condemned the PKK attacks as a plot against Turkish-Kurdish brotherly relations, but objected to the Turkish invasion of Iraq. Barzani actually has fairly good relations with Ankara, and Turkey is a major source of investment in Iraqi Kurdistan. But the PKK safe havens are a continued irritant in relations that could at any moment lead to the outbreak of a wider war.

The Bush administration, which ended up being weak in Iraq, never made any arrangements for what might happen to Kurdish-Iraqi and Kurdish-Turkey relations after the US withdrawal. The US depended too heavily on Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Iraq to be in a position effectively to pressure Irbil. This weakness got worse as Obama withdraw tens of thousands of US troops from Iraq, losing virtually all leverage. Washington is therefore bequeathing to an unstable region even more instability.

12 Responses

  1. The linck France 24 Video doesn´t work, it send us to the You Tube page. Never the less, thanks for focous in these dificult subjects

  2. This isn’t the way to deal with the problem. Erdogan’s bloody attack against the Kurds is reprehensible. Turkey again is overreacting and using disproportionate violence to attempt to settle – on Turkish terms – what remains at its heart, a political issue. Then again, can one really be surprised by Erdogan’s hypocrisy?

  3. Neocons are always braggin, “Bush/Cheney brought democracy to Iraq!”

    Really? Maybe a disfuntional, splintered, ethnic cleansing Islamic regime, with an American supplied arsenal, is what passes for democracy in the eyes of those who crafted this war. To the ordinary person, I see Iraq as a future hotbed for anti-Americanism,.

    And Bachmann would like the Iraq govenment to pay us back for liberating them. HA!!!

  4. The map does not reflect the current situation. Istanbul is currently the city with the largest population of Kurds. PKK has been threatening with “carrying the attack into cities”, by which it implies the cities in the West. This PKK problem, if the confrontation escalates further, will spread beyond the previous geographic limitations. The situation is getting direr in my opinion.

  5. This weakness got worse as Obama withdraw tens of thousands of US troops from Iraq, losing virtually all leverage.

    This is a very hard-power position to take, Perfesser. Surely, our years-long protection of the Kurds from Saddam, our arming of them, our NATO alliance with Turkey, and the aid we give to them, has left us with some influence over the two parties.

  6. I don’t think that you get to lay the responsibility for the fighting between the Turks and the Kurds at Bush’s feet.

    The Turkish government has to carry the weight of their own repressive policies and actions. … as do the Kurds.

    Bush is already neck-deep in catastrophic failure and it’s merely piling on stuff where he’s but a minor irritant in a large and long-lived open wound.

  7. If nothing else, thanks for the excellent map. In more than 20 years of coverage of the Kurdish “Question,” no MSM outlet, or blog that I’ve seen has bothered to display one. Trying to understand politics (let alone war!) without good maps is like making rice without water.

  8. map problem,

    upper right corner, that is not the Ukraine, it’s part of Russia.

    Thank you and your commenters, for keeping us informed so quickly on so many of the rapidly occurring events of these times.

  9. Just a friendly note from a long-time fan of your column, which I never fail to check every day, about the following statement: “The Turkish that is the official language in Turkey is an Altaic language related to Mongolian in east Asia.” There is a considerable amount of debate about the very existence of an Altaic language superfamily that includes the Turkic language family (among whose members are Turkish, Iraqi Turkmen, Azerbaijani, Turkmen, Uzbek, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Uyghur, etc.), the Mongolic language family (Mongolian, Buryat, etc.) and the Tungusic language family (Manchu, Evenki, etc.). Each of these three smaller families has been well established by methods of historical linguistics, but it is a matter of controversy whether all three families themselves descend from a common ancestor and thus form a single language family with three large branches (five if one throws in Korean and Japonic). Many linguists now believe that the features that were originally thought to unite and characterize the proposed Altaic family (vowel harmony, SOV word order) are simply “areal features” of Central Asia, spread by the movement and mixing of pastoral tribes and by conquest. I don’t wish to take a position in this area of great contention, but curious readers can easily refer to the Wikipedia article on Altaic (link to en.wikipedia.org) if they wish to inform themselves about the debate. Thank you, however, for mentioning the linguistic background of the peoples involved in the conflict. I would like to think that if people have more accurate information about the relationship between language and perceptions of ethnic identity, they will be less likely to misuse the results of historical linguistics (the field in which such terms as “Semitic” were invented) in the way that marked the racist regimes of the modern era.

  10. Let’s get simple-26 Turkish soldiers are dead, as a result of an attack from beyond national borders. They were all sons, husbands and brothers of somebody. Which country, please, somebody tell me, will sit on its sofa, and pontificate about ethnic idedtity and cultural rights problems in historical perspective, and so on. Knee jerk reaction, overwhelming force? No. Simply, its an attack on the Republic of Turkey and to hell with talking, or political solutions for now. Armies mightier than PKK has tried to force their will upon Turkish people by means of arms, throughout known history, and the results are there for anyone curious enough to find out. Based upon personal observation here on the ground, Turks are mad, and thats not a good thing.

  11. “…Washington is therefore bequeathing to an unstable region even more instability….”

    With all due respect to the “Pottery Barn rule”, what’s the realistic alternative?

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