Wednesday, July 18, 2007

When the Power Runs Out, We'll Just Hum

Fighting along the Turkish/Kurdish border is escalating.

The Iraqi government said Turkish artillery and warplanes bombarded areas of northern Iraq on Wednesday and called on Turkey to stop military operations and resolve the conflict diplomatically.

The claim occurred amid rising tension and Turkish threats to strike bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK, which has been launching attacks against targets in Turkey from sanctuaries in Iraq.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told The Associated Press that the morning bombardment struck areas of the northern province of Dahuk, some 260 miles northwest of Baghdad.

Col. Hussein Kamal said about 250 shells were fired into Iraq from Turkey. He added that there were no casualties on the Iraqi side of the border.

Keep this in mind when you here proponents of continuing the occupation (or leaving behind a residual force) mention our centrality in staving off regional conflict. As I mentioned in a previous post:

[W]e currently have over 160,000 troops in Iraq, and we have not been able to cool down the recent tensions between Turkey and Kurdistan. A larger conflict is poised to erupt.

Yet one of the rationales given by those who support maintaining a residual force of some 50,000 soldiers in Iraq for several decades is that such a vastly reduced contingent could prevent a larger regional conflict (in addition to performing its training and al-Qaeda hunting duties). Someone has to explain to me how 50,000 troops are going to be able to accomplish these rather prodigious feats when 160,000 appear unable to greatly alter the tragic arc of events.

Still waiting for that explanation.

Also, can we stop talking about Kurdistan as a viable destination for any such ill-advised residual force? We would be putting ourselves in a massive lose-lose situation - stuck, hapless, in the middle of a conflict that would pit a NATO ally against our potential patrons (and part of the country we just "liberated"). If we side with our NATO allies, the Kurds won't be the most hospitable of hosts. Yet if we side with the Kurds, we would alienate a country that is far more essential to a wide range of US interests - beyond its NATO status even.

Neither side would really accept neutrality either, especially inaction from such proximity. This counts moreso for the Turks, who we would be relying on to provide routes of re-supply for our Kurdistan garrisoned troops (already a shaky proposition given Turkey's likely anger at our decision to move north regardless). If not for the Turkish routes, the re-supply would have to run through Iran (uh, not gonna happen), or up through the entire expanse of Iraq (where we would have just left due to the difficulty of occupation).*

Not to mention the fact that our presence would likely inspire the Kurds to overreach in connection with controversial issues like the status of Kirkuk - and even PKK-related activities in Turkey and/or Iran.

Come to think of it, it would be such a colossally bad decision that I fully expect the Bush administration to make it. Kurdistan, here we come.

*Another possible re-supply route would pass through Syria, but under the current state of relations, reaching such an accord would be near impossible. If relations improve, however, it's possible. Big "if" though.

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