OPINION

Blood and oil in Kurdistan

Until recently, the US saw Iraqi Kurdistan as the only safe pocket in an endless minefield. Now Turkish plans to invade northern Iraq risk transforming the region into Washington’s biggest nightmare, pitting one NATO ally against the other. Things were different before the Bush administration decided to hit Iraq. The arrest of Kurd rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999 had left the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in a mess. Syria had distanced itself from the rebels, seeking to make amends with Turkey, while Iraqi Kurd leader Masud Barzani went on to cooperate with Ankara. In November 2002, Turk Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan rose to power. Putting emphasis on the common Muslim identity of Turks and Kurds alike and awarding more language rights to Kurds as part of EU-minded reforms, his AK Party appeared more credible than its predecessors. After the invasion, everything changed. With the Baathist resistance prevailing among the Sunnis and Iran exerting influence among the Shiites, Washington has had to tolerate the transformation of Iraqi Kurdistan into a de facto independent state and source of separatist ambitions for Turkey’s Kurds. Barzani has already struck a deal with the Texas-based Hunt Oil company, one of Bush’s donors, sidestepping Baghdad. The US Senate resolution calling for three self-governing regions – for Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds – and the impending referendum on Kirkuk, expected to give Kurdistan control of 40 percent of Iraqi oil, were the last straw for Ankara. The US is investing in Iran’s Kurds for a regime change in Tehran. With the help of Mossad, the CIA is training the Kurdish separatist group PJAK which has ties to the PKK. Washington’s Kurdish card is on fire, as it brings Turkey closer to the «axis of evil» countries Syria and Iran.