I’m feeling unusually generous today, so for the sake of argument let’s deny reality and say that the “surge” has settled the bitter civil war between Iraq’s Shiite and Sunni community. We’re on the glide path to success, right? Well, no. The powder keg that we lit by freeing Iraqi Kurdistan is still burning on a slow match. Sooner or later Kirkuk residents will choose whether or not to join semi-autonomous Kurdistan; in a sense the outcome doesn’t matter since both sides have basically promised a bloody fight if they lose.
Then you have Turkey. As helpful as it might seem to free Iraq’s Kurds to pester Iran*, it really doesn’t help our case to have the same Kurdish groups stirring violent insurgency in Turkey. It has been clear for a while that the Turks would eventually run out of patience and deal with Kurdish insurgent bases just over the Iraq border if we failed to deal with the problem ourselves.
Long story short, we failed and the Turks ran out of patience.
[T]he current incursion is both a warning and a preamble. Turkey is sending a very unsubtle message. “Get off the fence and reign in these Kurdish groups before the Spring thaw in late-March or April or we’ll be over the border in real force and you can kiss goodbye to peace in Northern Iraq. We’ve proven we can and we’ve proven you can’t do anything about it short of breaking up NATO and starting up an actual war with the most moderate Islamic-majority nation in the region.” The unrest which will come from the US and Iraq cracking down on the PKK and PJK will be nothing compared to what would hit the fan then.
Cernig also notes that the Turks have claimed the Bush Doctrine privilege to chase terrorists into countries where they find safe harbor. Even better, a full-scale Turkish invasion would no doubt drive the Kurdish region into bloody chaos, an idea which ought to make neoconservatives like Michael “creative destruction is our middle name” Ledeen clap their infant hands together with glee.
The United States is being skillfully handled by the Turks, who are dragging the U.S. into a policy disaster in Kurdistan. The Kurds have moved a lot of fighters and equipment quietly into the area, and are prepared to strike the Turks. Massoud [Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdish leader] has issued all the press comments he can to publicly warn that Kurdish patience is gone. The United States is either ignoring the signals or missing them…The Kurds can and will bloody the Turks badly in a fight.
Ugh. At least the Sunnis and Shiites have finally settled their differences.
(*) Maybe not so helpful when you think about the incentive that it gives for Iran to encourage insurgents to cross the border and pester us.