Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 7, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

TURKEY BOWS OUT....Turkey has decided not to send troops to help out with the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq. Is this good news or bad?

On the one hand, we desperately need more troops in Iraq, and Turkey was the only country to offer a significant number. Losing them is a real blow.

On the other, letting Turkish troops into Iraq bore all the signs of yet another sellout of the Iraqi Kurds, who have longstanding grievances with Turkey and have been solid supporters of the United States. What's more, it was pretty obvious or should have been that Iraqis would not accept Turkish troops on their soil any more than, say, Poland would accept Russian troops on theirs. Sure enough:

Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council quickly voiced opposition to troops from Turkey -- or any of Iraq's neighbors -- on its soil. Many Iraqis were suspicious of the Turks, fearing they were seeking to dominate the country or would clash with Kurds in the north.

This is just puzzling as hell. I realize that continual criticism of the administration's handling of the occupation reaches a point of diminishing returns eventually, but it's this kind of stuff that makes us look so hamhanded in the first place. Did they even consult with the Governing Council first?

The idea that Turkish troops would cause immense friction within Iraq is apparent to anyone with even a casual knowledge of Middle East politics. Obviously the pros in Washington knew this too, so why did they go ahead anyway? Only one explanation makes sense: their desperation for more troops, especially in light of the forced draw down starting in February, must be getting truly palpable.

I sure hope that training those new Iraqi security forces on the fly can be made to work. It doesn't look like there any alternatives left at this point.

Kevin Drum 3:54 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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