Nervous breakdown

Over the past few days, Ankara has been on the verge of a nervous breakdown, watching Kurdish fighters moving toward the northern Iraqi oil fields. Threats that the Second Turkish Army, stationed in the border zone, would intervene did not deter the Kurdish fighters, the peshmerga, from entering Kirkuk and pushing on to Mosul. The Turks are faced with a painful dilemma. If they conform to Washington’s instructions and do not send in troops, they are afraid of creating faits accomplis. They are concerned that this is all taking place under their own noses, if not with their blessing. If the Turks invade these areas, conflict with the Kurds will be inevitable and will blow the US’s broader plans sky high, leading to a major crisis in US-Turkish relations. Colin Powell has promised his Turkish counterpart the peshmerga will withdraw from Kirkuk and will not enter Mosul. Yet thousands of Kurds are pouring into Kirkuk to settle in homes they were driven out of years ago by the regime intent on «Arabizing» these towns. The White House representative simply said Kirkuk would be under the control of US forces. So the Americans are at least tolerating the return of the Kurdish population, making Ankara’s statement that it will not allow a change in the composition of those cities’ populations meaningless. Nothing is settled, but the most likely scenario is that the Kurds will benefit, their quasi-state in northern Iraq made stronger and larger. The Americans will support them because they realize that the Kurds see them as liberators. Kurdistan will not only be a more friendly environment but a lever for exerting pressure on surrounding countries. Washington is trying to reassure the Turkish leadership. But everything points to the fact that the Turks will have to swallow a bitter pill. The only other choice is outright adventurism.