With the deepening chaos and disorder engulfing most of Iraq, the one possible bright spot of American politicians and strategists, has been the relative order and peace of Iraqi Kurdistan. In the three northern provinces of the country, where they predominate, Iraq's Kurds have been able to use the sweeping autonomy guaranteed them by the downfall of the Baathist regime to build-up a proto-state for Iraq's Kurdish population. Indeed, so successful has the proto-statelet been, that Turkey, as always opposed to any signs of Kurdish statehood, has been increasingly issuing warnings about possible military intervention to deal with the its own Kurdish problem, as embodied by the Kurdish, nationalist guerrilla group, the PKK. In the last three months, Turkish and Iraqi Kurdish leaders have been trading barbs and threats, with Turkey's Chief of the General Staff, proclaiming publicly, both the need and the desirability of taking military action against PKK elements holed up in Iraqi Kurdistan. Threats seconded by the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, who recently informed EU foreign ministers that Turkey reserves
"the right to take measures against terrorist activities directed at us from northern Iraq" (see: Yigal Schleifer's article on this in www.eurasianet.org).
For the United States of course, any Turkish military activity in Northern Iraq, would be a disaster of major proportions. Il va sans doute. With Iraqi Kurdistan being the only relatively stable enclave in the entire Iraq debacle, a Turkish military invasion would be a cauchemar of major proportions. Accordingly, the United States, both directly and indirectly has attempted to intervene in the internal Turkish debate between the civilian (Islamist) government, and the secular military. With both parties already at daggers drawn about other issues, and, important elections coming up in July, perhaps it is not surprising that some observers see little chance of no intervention taking place, either prior to or just after the elections (see: Thomas Seibert's article in today's International Herald Tribune, www.iht.com). However, I myself believe that if the United States, in conjunction with the European Union, and other elements of the United Nation's Security Council (aka Russia and China), were to issue a diktat to Ankara stating clearly that:
One) Any overt Turkish military incursion into Iraq, is patently illegal and, arguments about 'hot pursuit' of PKK elements have no, repeat no, locus standi.
Two) Any such incursion will be met by immediate International condemnation, up to and including economic sanctions, cutting off of all military ties and assistance, IMF and World Bank loans, as well as commercial loans, air flights into and out of Turkey, et cetera.
Then, it is highly likely, that Ankara, will, notwithstanding military arguments about the need to intervene, will refrain from doing so. Some will argue that Turkey's Kurdish obsession should be to a degree, overlooked and any military incursion merely patted on the wrist. This is absolutely a wrong and indeed dangerous approach. Turkish military adventurism needs to be dealt with resolutely and firmly. It was the failure of the International Community to do so, back in 1974, which resulted in the Cypriot Tragedy which we still have to deal with today. The very last thing that the Near East needs at this point is for Turkey to take the bit between its teeth, and use the presence of the PKK in Iraq, to overlook and in fact ignore its own deep and flawed internal domestic structure and polity. One just hopes that when the time comes, the United States does not make the same mistake as it did in 1974.