Iraq: The Turkish Threat

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August 1, 2006: The Kurds in northern Iraq want to make permanent their current "Kurdish" armed forces. In short, the Kurds want to form their own army. While Kurds make up most of the troops in many Iraqi police and army units, the new proposal is aimed at providing a force that could oppose an invasion from Turkey. The idea of a separate Kurdish army has been long whispered about, but is now being discussed openly. The United States and the Iraqi government would never agree to a separate Kurdish army, although the current Peshmerga militia is basically that. What the Kurds want to know is what Iraq, and the Americans, would do if Turkish troops made a major move into northern Iraq, in search of PKK (Turkish Workers Party) fighters. At the moment, this is unclear.
The PKK has been staging raids, into Turkey, from bases in northern Iraq, for years. The Kurds of northern Iraq, and the Iraqi government are not interested in shutting down PKK operations in northern Iraq. But in the last few weeks, Turkish army patrols have been more active in northern Iraq. Thousands of Turkish troops are on the border, and it looks like the Turks are going to go after the PKK camps. Turkey believes there are about 5,000 armed PKK fighters in those camps. The PKK wants to establish an independent Kurdistan in eastern Turkey, northern Iraq and parts of Iran and Syria.
The U.S. is moving a Stryker brigade from Mosul to Baghdad. This is part of an attempt to break the power of terrorist organizations and religious militias in Baghdad. The Iraqi police and army units are intimidated by the terrorists and militias, but with American back-up, that may change. U.S. troops are now patrolling parts of the city that were handed over to Iraqi police and army units last March. The problem since then has been corruption and incompetence. The corruption was often political, with Shia militias taking control of police units and using them mainly to make attacks on the Sunni Arab population. The incompetence was simply a matter of several layers of command in the police and army being unable to deploy forces effectively to maintain law and order in many parts of the city. In some parts of the city, where there are competent and incorruptible police commanders, there are safe streets and much less crime. But this is rare. Until enough honest Iraqis step up and take charge of public order, there won't be any.
American combat casualties continued to decline in July, for the third straight month. Combat deaths were 44, a drop of 33 percent from June. Annual casualties continue to fall, from a high of 8,900 dead and wounded in 2004, to a predicted rate, for 2006, of about 4,800. But Iraqi casualties are up, with the death rate among Iraqi civilians, police, soldiers and irregulars, about double the 2004 rate. The Iraqi Sunni nationalists that supported Saddam, refuse to give up. The Kurdish, and especially Shia Arab, majority are increasingly fed up with this continued resistance. Media controlled by these majority groups is increasingly hostile to Sunni Arabs, and more approving of the violence (official and unofficial) used against the Sunni Arabs. Neighboring Sunni Arab nations are less sympathetic to the Iraqi Sunni Arabs. The feeling is that the Iraqi Sunni Arabs are fighting a lost cause and should make a deal. But a hard core of Iraqi Sunni Arabs want the killing to continue, so it does.

 

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