Friday, April 13, 2007

So much bleeding, and more to come?

As if Iraq was a patient that had not suffered too much already, news of the contention between the Kurds [of Iraq] and the Turkish government comes in to shatter the infinitesimal probability that the region might be healed soon, that peace might come in the near future in the valley between Tigris and Euphrates. But how optimistic could one be if looking at Iraq today, if seeing that the single region of this extensive battlefield spared from belligerence entertains the possibility of immediate aggression?

The warning of the president of autonomous Kurdish region Massoud Barzani against Turkey issued during an interview in Arab television station Al-Arabiyah leaves little room for doubt: if Turkey invades Kirkurk, the Kurds of Iraq would retaliate and attack back this time in favor of the Kurds of Turkey. Not surprisingly the response of the Turkish military establishment is equally lucid. In the words of General Büyükanıt the army is ready and awaiting: "a political commanding decision is needed for a cross border operation. If we are assigned the mission, we will accomplish it".

For there is nothing worse to even ponder at this point than the possibility of an escalated conflict, one that would transcend the highly porous borders of Iraq to diverge and include neighboring states, beginning here with Turkey. To the world, Iraq is already a very badly infected wound; it takes up too many resources while showing little, if any signs of progress. The prospect of grand scale conflict in the region comes only with significant drawbacks; it needs not be repeated how it will compromise the chances for peace or the economic and political stability of the broader region or how it will deepen the divide along ethnic and religious lines.

To be sure, the goal here is not to present worst case scenarios, let alone to contribute to their popularity. Nonetheless, to refuse to undertake tough questions in whole or part just because they appear bleak is no good either - shunning away from reality does not help. It does help though to think that gloomy scenarios need not materialize into dreadful realities: it goes without a say that politics involves much more talking and much less action - thankfully so in most cases. Moreover it is in times like these that one resuscitates the lost confidence in diplomacy or for that matter discovers it for the first time: whether it is power dynamics or covert strategies, a number of unrelated factors shape outcomes and skew the decision-making process for better or worse - often in unpredicted ways. Finally, if one was to stick with the facts, in order to realistically assess the situation one must consider a wide array of factors and assumptions including dispelling notions of applicable: just because Turkey has a significant Kurdish minority this does not mean that all Kurds of Turkey want independence, let alone to be found overnight in a poor, landlocked state with little to offer.

Having said that all, Kirkurk is an important city with oil "worth" vying for. But it is neither oil and the fact that it scarce nor any other such individual factor that causes the greatest concern; it is the greedy nature of humans that makes one fear the most. Mahatma Gandhi has often been quoted for saying that "there is enough on earth for everyone's need, but not for everyone's greed"; he could not be more right here.


The story: "Iraqi Kurds urged not to 'interfere' in fighting"
The Turkish reaction, in Turkish: "Siyasi irade isterse Kuzey Irak'a gireriz" and in English: "Assign us the mission and we will enter Iraq"
On the "international dimension" of the story and where diplomacy fits in "Gül urges Rice over Barzani's threats against Turkey"


Siddhartha said...

Nice post. I am very worried about the future of that region. If, lets draw up a scenario, Iraq is devided into regions, and one of them is the new Kurdish state, obviously that state will need an initial economic and military aid from somebody, most likely the US, to help it get through the first years of its existence. If I am not mistaken, that region is also rich in oil reserves, which means that its importance for the US will be significant enough, to continue the military and economic support for a long time.

How the relationships between Turkey and a new Kurdish state will shape up, given that during the past, these two nationalities have had many differences? And this time, Turkey won't have to deal with some guerrilla squads up in the mountains. It will have to deal with a nation, most probably a member of UN, which will have a modernized army and enjoy support from the US.

This ofcourse is just an assumption, and even if it becomes a reality, noone guarantees that these wil happen, and lets hope not. History has taught us though that the people who draw up scenarios like that and implement them, do it with profit and greed in their minds.

And one more thing. People around the world become more and more untouched about Iraq. They have been hearing news from it for the past four years, and every bit of these news includes civilians and soldiers killed. It has become an everyday occassion for the western world to hear news from Iraq and slowly but steadily, people lose interest on that.

Anastasia Konstantakatou said...

Dear Siddhartha,

thanks so much for your well-thought comment. Let me begin with the latter part - yes saturation is indeed a big issue given that there have been dead almost every day in the last four years. However, this makes any additional death no less important; we need to reflect on our easiness in the face of war and death.

Second, the scenario you referred to is one of the many that haunt people's minds. And as you correctly pointed out it may or may not turn true. I am not particularly eager to comment on scenarios, i just try to look at evidence and reflect thereupon always of course with my mind in the future. And to concur with you, future seems pretty dim..

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