[Note: I wrote this last week just before I came down with the flu and I didn't get a chance to post it, but its still kind of timely.]
So Rummy and Condi have made another "surprise visit" to Iraq, which the administration says is intended to show the Iraqis our support for their new government. I'm not buying that explanation, though. Such a high level visit can only mean that there's some very serious news coming. My guess is that they're there to let the Iraqis know that we have to start pulling out a large number of troops.
After all, as Rummy said:
"We now are moving through another important milestone -- the formation of a new government, a sovereign government of Iraq, the first government that doesn't have a qualifier in front of it. It's not a transitional government. It's not an interim government. It's not a governing council. It's a government, a government of Iraq, and that's an important thing. This is a sovereign country, and they're making impressive progress." [defenselink]
So that means we should be able to pack up and leave right?
The midterms are coming up and I expect the pressure coming from the Republican members on the Hill is really starting to become too much to bare. Naturally, this administration makes never makes a policy decision that isn't solely for political reasons, so you've got to figure that Karl Rove has done the math and decided that cutting and running is less harmful than staying the course and getting creamed in November.
They'd better hurry up and get busy though, because the doomsday scenario is about to come crashing down on them. From the moment we invaded Iraq there was always the danger that the Turks might at some point decide to move troops into Iraq to deal with their Kurdish insurgency. [They actually did in March of 2003] Such a move would upset the whole regional applecart, pulling in the Iranians, the Syrians and God knows who else. This would also put us in the position of having to choose between our Turkish NATO ally or our Iraqi Kurdish allies, who currently are the best friends we have there.
The Iraqi Kurds don't exactly get involved with the fighting between the Kurds and the Turks, but they --and we --- have looked the other way as the PKK, the Kurdish Workers Party, has used bases inside Iraq just over Turkey's southern border, to attack Turkey. The Turks have been complaining bitterly about this for a few years now to the Bush administration, but they've essentially done nothing about it because they've been too busy with the Sunni insurgency to worry much about it.
The administration had been holding them off by promising that an Iraqi government of "national unity" would ensure that the Kurds didn't break off and declare their own independence -- a move that Turkey considers a red-line --- but the four month delay in forming a government has allowed a vacuum to develop that the PKK has taken full advantage of.
Now its all coming to a head. In fact, the Turks last week moved about 50,000 troops close to the Iraqi border and the Turkish foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, told Condi just yesterday -- while she was in Ankara for a little chitchat --- that the PPK had turned Iraq into a "training ground" and that Turkey would now "take her own precautions." [AP] Condi admitted that the U.S hadn't done enough ---another tactical error? ---but that "We believe that it is important that we make a joint effort through information sharing and other means to prevent any vacuum from being used as a way to inflict harm here in Turkey." Too late, the Turkish media is full of stories about Turkey's military build-up along the Iraqi border and I'd say it's just a matter of time before they go on over.
If Turkey were to launch an incursion into northern Iraq, the Iraqi Kurds would immediately meet them with force. The Iraqi army would pretty much cease to exist because most of the best units it has are made up of the Peshmerga. The Peshmerga, the Kudish resistance fighters that spent decades fighting Saddam, are the best fighters the army has and they would all head north to defend Kurdistan.
There's any number of variables involved with a Turkish invasion of northern Iraq, and none of them are good. So, here's yet another fine mess W. & Co. have gotten us into.
[For further reading on this issue read the United States Institute of Peace report]