OPINION

Tough bargaining

There is no doubt that diplomatically speaking, preparations for a showdown with Iraq have proved to be a very complex task for Washington. The Bush administration is not just faced with stiff opposition from the Franco-German axis and from the stunning anti-war movement. It also has to overcome problems raised by Iraq’s neighbors that the US wants to use as a launching pad for an attack on Baghdad. Saudi Arabia feels insecure following allegations that it has been sponsoring Islamic fundamentalist groups, but it keeps resisting American pressure. Even Turkey is still driving a hard bargain, demanding a $30 billion aid package and political benefits in respect to the postwar order in northern Iraq. Washington has begun to lose its patience with Ankara’s tough bargaining, but there is little else it can do. Turkey’s Islamic-leaning government and military bureaucracy share the same fears and hopes. They nurture justifiable concerns that an overthrow of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein will lead to the creation of an independent Kurdish state, or at least to some sort of state entity, in northern Iraq. The formation of an autonomous Kurdish state would inevitably boost aspirations of Turkey’s own Kurdish minority (who number more than 15 million people) that could undermine the sovereignty of the Turkish State. In the light of these worries, Ankara finds little comfort in American reassurances that the Kurdish population in northern Iraq will only be granted some limited autonomy. As a result, it wants to deploy its own troops in the area that will be authorized to act without any control from Washington. On top of these fears, the Turkish regime is also keeping an eye on the oil-rich territories of northern Iraq. Ankara is invoking the presence of a considerable number of Turkmen who live in the area and who are guided by Turkish intelligence. Oscillating between fear and hope, Turkey is driving a hard bargain in order to gain as much as it can, exploiting the needs of the US. In truth, however, it is dependent on it. The Turkish economy would have melted down had it not been for the generous financial aid of the International Monetary Fund that was granted after US mediation. The US-Turkish bargain is doomed to produce a deal.