Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 6, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

TURKEY UPDATE....What with everything going on in Pakistan, our woes in Turkey have fallen off the radar screen lately. But on Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with George Bush as scheduled to discuss PKK terrorism in northern Iraq and what the United States was prepared to do about it. After insisting on anonymity, here's what a "senior Bush administration official" had to say about the situation:

"We had some ideas. The Turks have had some ideas. The Iraqis have had some ideas. The Kurds have had some ideas," the official said.

Well OK then! Case closed.

Anyway, as you might guess from that statement, essentially nothing concrete came out of the meeting at all. Basically, we have no policy. If we get lucky, the PKK will lay low for a while and the whole thing will blow over. If we don't get lucky, someone somewhere will decide to provoke an incident and a couple brigades of Turkish troops will pour over the border into Iraq to the cheers of the Turkish public. Stay tuned.

Kevin Drum 12:13 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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If US policy was premised on doing what is right, instead of doing what is right for Big Oil, we'd be putting pressure on Ankara to stop their genocide of the Turkish Kurds. But since the Dem opposition in Congress doesn't even have the gonads to label the actions 100 yrs ago of the Ottomans against the Armenians as genocide, that'll never happen.

Posted by: Disputo on November 6, 2007 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

I got a similar impression when the takeaway quote on radio news after Condi's meeting with the Turks recently was something like (this is a paraphrase): We're looking at what can be done.

Gee, the Bush administration is looking around for something. What a bold statement that will totally settle down the Turks!

It's amazing how every country they deal with has to come away disliking them -- and the US -- more than before.

Posted by: blatherskite on November 6, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Is there any way we can blame this on Bill Clinton?

Posted by: daveb99 on November 6, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Hi Kevin,

Jane's Defense is predicting no incursion on a large scale now - it's too close to winter. The administration have managed to punt until March. At which point, the whole song and dance will start all over again, because Bush has no intention of fighting the War On Terror (TM) in Kurdish Iraq - he needs the Kurds too much. Erdogan now knows how Karzai feels about Musharraf's game-playing on the Afghan border.

Regards, C

Posted by: Cernig on November 6, 2007 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, you guys don't know genius when you see it: ""We had some ideas. The Turks have had some ideas. The Iraqis have had some ideas. The Kurds have had some ideas..." belongs up there with "constructive talks" (they told us to fuck off), "views with concern" (we showed 'em pictures of Berlin, 1945), and "a frank and candid exchange of views" (which means our guy hit their guy with a three ring binder after he tried to blind our guy with a pen).

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 6, 2007 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

We are not getting more details because a lot is going on behind the scenes. Remember Plan B? There are more players, and objectives, here than meet the eye.:

Israel had concluded that the Bush Administration would not be able to bring stability or democracy to Iraq, and that Israel needed other options. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government decided, I was told, to minimize the damage that the war was causing to Israel’s strategic position by expanding its long-standing relationship with Iraq’s Kurds and establishing a significant presence on the ground in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan...

Israeli intelligence and military operatives are now quietly at work in Kurdistan, providing training for Kurdish commando units and, most important in Israel’s view, running covert operations inside Kurdish areas of Iran and Syria. Israel feels particularly threatened by Iran, whose position in the region has been strengthened by the war. The Israeli operatives include members of the Mossad, Israel’s clandestine foreign-intelligence service, who work undercover in Kurdistan as businessmen and, in some cases, do not carry Israeli passports...

The Israeli decision to seek a bigger foothold in Kurdistan—characterized by the former Israeli intelligence officer as “Plan B”—has also raised tensions between Israel and Turkey. It has provoked bitter statements from Turkish politicians and, in a major regional shift, a new alliance among Iran, Syria, and Turkey, all of which have significant Kurdish minorities...

Philip Giraldi, who served as the C.I.A.’s deputy chief of base in Istanbul in the late nineteen-eighties, said:

"Turkish sources confidentially report that the Turks are increasingly concerned by the expanding Israeli presence in Kurdistan and alleged encouragement of Kurdish ambitions to create an independent state..."

Posted by: JS on November 6, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

The BBC also had a report on this last year.

The last thing everybody involved wants is Turks fighting Israelis.

Posted by: JS on November 6, 2007 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Jane's Defense is predicting no incursion on a large scale now - it's too close to winter." But the Turks can still bomb...bush has sold Turkey all the planes, bombs, and technology needed. The Turks can detect and target Kurdish rebels from 20,000 feet. There is no need to invade.

Posted by: tin foil on November 6, 2007 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

The Bush administration has been so consumed with Iraq that it has no policy for anywhere else in the Muslim world. Turkey, Pakistan, and Egypt are all potentially highly combustible (never mind Israel & Palestine), yet our current government has spent virtually no time thinking about these areas.

Posted by: mfw13 on November 6, 2007 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Clearly this community has no respect for the brilliance of George Bush.

This obviously is all part of the Freedom Agenda, which is advancing Democracy in the Middle East.

And as soon as the next essential piece is in place -- bombing Iran -- the genius of the plan will become clear.

Anyone who thinks otherwise hates The Troops and wants all our children to wear burqas.

Posted by: bleh on November 6, 2007 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Has the Bush administration set some sort of record for the number of international crises that "were completely unexpected"?

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on November 6, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Has the Bush administration set some sort of record for the number of international crises that "were completely unexpected"?

The domestic crises were all unexpected, too. Just a case of bad luck, I guess. If we didn't have such a man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius as the Commander guy, we'd really be in trouble.

Posted by: AJ on November 6, 2007 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

With this crew in charge, isn't contentless, toothless bullhit better than any conceivable alternative?

Posted by: CJColucci on November 6, 2007 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

When Turkey actually commits troops over the border into Iraq, I wonder if GwB will ask the UN to step in.

It's too late now, but if Colin and Condi had visited the same number of countries GwB did before he ascended to the presidency, this country would be much better off.

Posted by: TJM on November 6, 2007 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

quote on radio news after Condi's meeting with the Turks recently was something like (this is a paraphrase): We're looking at what can be done.

Why doesn't she suggest something constructive like she did for Musharraf "Take off the uniform, Big Boy." Then Bush and Dana P. said he should take off the uniform too. This could be a lot worse than anything Clinton ever did.

Posted by: tomeck on November 6, 2007 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Reminds me of when I worked on Capitol Hill. I once saw a senator emerge from some important meeting and was greeted by a bunch of reporters wanting to know what happened. The senator gave this response: "Some things were said that were true, but they weren't new. And some things were said that were new, but weren't true." He then left without saying anything more. I had a good laugh.

Posted by: Bruce Bartlett on November 6, 2007 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

The ridiculously staged release of the Turkish prisoners strikes me as an important step - it shows that the US has some positive effect on Barzani and Talabani, the guys who actually run Kurdistan, and that a military incursion would be as likely to destroy that cooperation as it would be to capture any PKK.

The PKK, mind you, have an unhinged reputation amongst Iraqi Kurds - a common refrain during my visit, often made jokingly, was "watch out for so-and-so, he's a 'pa ka ka'". Certainly the way to deal with this is for the United States to stay diplomatically involved on both sides of the border.

Posted by: Jonathan Dworkin on November 6, 2007 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

I asked a diplomat friend once if they gave 'em lists of phrases to use, and he told me that he sometimes felt like a vending machine: the situation would put in so much at stake, and then the combination of the policy and the circumstances would be sorta like punching "A" and "12" to come up with the proper # and quality of phrases:

We (and our allies/friends in the region) (admire/respect/are watching) the (progress/developments/unfolding events/tragedy)
taking place in (name of country/region) with
(a sense of pride/hope/caution/urgency/dismay)...

and so on.

It's harder to do than it sounds.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 6, 2007 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

The Iraqi Kurds are being lulled into a very dangerous complacency and false confidence by our corrupting money influence and lies. They just don't realize how quickly our support and $$$ can evaporate should it become politically expedient for us to abandon them. What is somewhat mystifying for me is why doesn't the PKK just bargain for a spot at the till? IOW, if they can't be bought, then why not? The only thing I can think of is they (the PKK) and the "establishment" Kurds comprising the KRG really DO think they can pull off creating a Kurdish superstate carved out of Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Iraq. If WE are the ones enabling them to believe in this quixotic mission, there are going to be a lot of very disappointed Kurds when our next adventure with Iran all goes to shit.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on November 6, 2007 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, but we do have a plan. Send some big muckety-mucks, and offer the Turks a foto-op, with the smiling administration figure. Thats got to be so enticing for Turkish politicians that they will agree to practically anything. (Since we don't read polls we can be pleasantly oblivious to the fact that Turkey now tops the list of countries whose population hates the US & Bush)

Posted by: bigTom on November 6, 2007 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

Doc,

The PKK or at least its PJAK arm is at the till.
The US has been arming PJAK as encouragement for its Iranian sorties. Turkey has found US weapons left behind after PKK attacks in Turkey. I assume the Turks know what's going on and hence their ultimatum to the US. Can you be more specific about how the PKK could take more from the US till without completely abandoning their principles, e.g., an independent Kurdistan with enlarged borders?

Posted by: nepeta on November 6, 2007 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

"Since we don't read polls we can be pleasantly oblivious to the fact that Turkey now tops the list of countries whose population hates the US & Bush" - Big Tom

I saw those poll results yesterday! What was it, something like 68% of Turks don't like the US now, which is a huge change compared to pre-Bush polls. 68% doesn't sound high enough to make them top the list but that's what sticks in my head.

Posted by: nepeta on November 6, 2007 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

nepeta, I believe that the administration thought that we could encourage the Kurds to dream their wildest dreams were possible and we would be their steadfast supporters who would never desert them in exchange for lucrative oil contracts and other deals that just weren't happening in Baghdad.

But, the PKK is independent enough and principled enough to take our weapons and cash, assure us they won't make any trouble with Turkey, but betray us anyhow knowing full well that we or the KRG can't do anything about it. The Shia Arabs in Iraq used us for their own ends as well, and there won't be squat we can do about that either.

Wow, the level of incompetence here is.. just don't have words for it...

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on November 7, 2007 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

Just so we're clear on this, it's ok for Israel to provide support for the Kurds to be a thorn in the side of Turkey/Iran/Syria, but it's not ok for Iran/Syria to provide support for Hezbollah to be a thorn in the side of Israel. And don't use the term "double standard". Got that? Now, back to your keyboards.

Posted by: number6 on November 7, 2007 at 1:18 AM | PERMALINK

Disputo,

Uh, "genocide of the Turkish Kurds?"

In a word: no.

Posted by: mcdruid on November 7, 2007 at 2:19 AM | PERMALINK

Genocide? how many countries ?
How many genocides have happened in this world before and after the ''alleged'' genocide of the Armenian people. i think we are all forgetting
''Rwanda'' and the devastation caused by France to the Algerian people what was it about 1.500.000
people massacred? yes mate! the digits are right
and they were all innocent people!!!!!!

Posted by: mez on December 4, 2007 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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