Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Iraq: The Political Front

Two positive developments in the northern Iraq:

(1)The U.S. State Department is sending retired Air Force General Joseph Ralston, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, to the Middle East as a special envoy to help the Turks and Iraqis fight the PKK (Kurdish Workers' Party). The PKK is an ethnonationalistic insurgency group fighting for predominantly Kurdish-populated southeastern region of Turkey. Since the PKK guerrillas have conducted cross border attacks from the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq, the Turks have requested permission to enter Iraqi territory if the Iraqis and Americans do not contain them. Better late than never.

(2)Iraq's Kurds, fearing such an assault and the destruction such a war may lead to, may be distancing itself from the PKK's strategy if this PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) official's statement and sentiments are widely shared by the officials within the regional and local governments as well. This official carefully distanced himself from the PKK's tactics, which include acts of terrorism and its insurgency without repudiating its political aims.

If the Kurdish use their Persh Merga to deny the PKK access to and from Turkey, the war between the Turks and its Kurdish rebels can be contained and the threat of a far broader regional war over the Kurdish regions, Arab-populated Iraq, and the other reigonal powers that would sponsor one of the political factions vying for power in Baghdad, minimized. Denying the cross border access may strenthen Turkey's political hand enough to force the PKK to the bargaining table. The Turks already have an incentive to negotiate: the Kurds in northern Iraq already won de facto independence.

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