140,000 Turkish Troops Mass at Iraq Border
Iraq Benchmarks still Waiting for Godot
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari (a Kurd) warned Monday that 140,000 Turkish troops were massed at the border with Iraq. Ankara accuses Iraqi Kurdistan of giving safe harbor to PKK terrorists who are blowing up soldiers and others in Turkey’s eastern Anatolia. The Turkish government and military have threatened to engage in hot pursuit and to make border incursions if necessary to deal with the PKK threat. Last Sunday, thousands of Turks demonstrated in Ankara against the PKK, Iraqi Kurdistan and the United States, which they blame for allowing Iraq to become a terrorist base against Turkey.
Al-Zaman reports that the Turkmen community in northern Iraq (roughly 800,000 strong) has demanded that the Iraqi government and American military authorities arm them so that they can defend themselves. The request comes in the wake of the huge car bombing this weekend that killed 152 in the Turkmen village of Ermeli near Tuz Khurmato.
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars are the US costing $12 billion a month of the taxpayers’ money. So far $450 billion has been spent on Iraq.
Last January, Bush set out 4 benchmarks he wanted to see the Iraqi government achieve, as a sign of genuine progress in that country. They included 1) passing a petroleum investment law, 2) holding provincial elections, 3) revision of de-Baathification laws (which were overly harsh in punishing Sunni Arabs belonging to the party) and 4) the holding of reconciliation talks between the al-Maliki government and the Sunni opposition (not including guerrilla leaders, branded as ‘terrorists.’) Congress then expanded the benchmarks to 18, but those 4 remained at the core. But not one of these benchmarks from any quarter has been met in Iraq. Nor are they likely to be any time soon. (See below).
The “surge” or escalation of US troop presence was intended to provide enough social peace in Baghdad at least for the al-Maliki government to make progress on the benchmarks. But the “surge” hasn’t made a dent in car bombings. Its main achievement was to cut the number of death squad killings resulting in bodies in the streets of Baghdad from 70-80 to 20-30 most days.
Ben Lando reports that the petroleum bill in parliament is facing nearly universal opposition from a wide range of political groups. He says, “The Sadr Movement and the Iraqi Accord Front now say they may end the boycott specifically to challenge the law. The former held mass rallies over the weekend in opposition to Maliki. IAF says it will call for a vote of no confidence in him.” So, the Bush administration, in pressing so hard for the petroleum bill, has only managed to stir up a lot of opposition. Even the boycotting parties are willing to suspend their boycott long enough to vote against it!
Reuters reports political violence on Monday. Major incidents included:
‘ BALAD – A roadside bomb killed nine Iraqi soldiers and wounded 20 others near Balad, 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
BAGHDAD – Two roadside bombs killed four people and wounded 21 when they exploded minutes apart near Baghdad’s main bus terminal in the city centre, police said.
BAGHDAD – Four members from the same family were strangled by militants who kidnapped them from the mainly Sunni district of Ghazaliya on Sunday, police said.
BAGHDAD – Insurgents killed two policemen and two Iraqi soldiers in an ambush as they responded to a bomb tip-off in the Sunni district of Adhamiya, police said.