Iraq: Turkey And The Lost Province

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August 11, 2012: Iraq is very angry at Turkey because the Turkish foreign minister visited the disputed (between the autonomous Kurds of northern Iraq) city of Kirkuk recently. The Kurds (22 percent Iraqis) want to gain control of Kirkuk and nearby oil fields and become more independent of Arab Iraq. The visit by the Turkish foreign minister to Kirkuk was not approved by the Arab controlled Iraqi government and the Iraqis see this as another example of Turkey supporting the partition of Iraq.

The northern Kurdish zone has been autonomous since the 1990s (when Kurdish militias kept Saddam's troops out with the help of U.S. and British warplanes). The Iraqis are also aware that, until 1918, northern Iraq (the Kurdish zone plus Kirkuk and Mosul) were part of Turkey. Not the Turkish Empire but the Turkish heartland. Turkey has always maintained that taking "Mosul province" away from Turkey (so the Turks would not have oil) was unfair and unjust. The Arab Iraqis see Turkish support of Iraqi Kurdish autonomy in the north as an attempt to get back, after a fashion, their lost Mosul province. The Iraqis fear that the Turks would support a Kurdish effort to oust Iraqis troops from Kirkuk or even Mosul. This would expand the Kurdish north, give it a lot more oil, which would be exported via Turkey. The Kurds could continue the fiction that they are part of Iraq and the Turks could believe that they have, sort of, gotten back their lost province.

Meanwhile Turkey appears to be supporting the establishment of another autonomous Kurdish zone in northeastern Syria. This is adjacent to the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish zone and the Iraqi Kurds have been helping their kinsmen across the border, much to the annoyance of the Syrian and Iraqi governments. This support is paid for with Iraqi Kurdish help for Turkish efforts to shut down bases for Turkish Kurd separatists (PKK) in northern Iraq. This has caused some PKK to move to camps in Iran. This is also dangerous, but the Iranian Kurdish separatists (PJAK) have been under less pressure than their PKK brethren across the border. Moreover, Iran and Turkey are on bad terms these days and ignoring a few PKK camps will irritate the Turks greatly.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government remains corrupt and ineffective, another common characteristic of the region. More Iraqis are protesting against this. They are also protesting the continued attacks, and threats, against minorities (especially Christians). This violence has been going on for over a century and has gotten worse in the last decade. The middle class is protesting the high crime rate (directed mainly at them because the rich can hire security and the poor have nothing to steal). More and more of the middle (and educated and skilled) class are simply leaving, making it difficult to find a dentist, doctor, lawyer, or accountant when you need one. Demonstrations against electricity shortages (and problems with sewage and water systems) continue to grow in number, size, and intensity. Corruption is the main problem. Iraq does not lack trained people who can build and maintain the needed infrastructure. But the urge to steal means that money for these projects often disappears into foreign bank accounts before it can be applied to more needy projects. The corrupt politicians live in compounds with their own generators and local water and sewage systems.

The Shia dominated government is run by a faction that depends heavily on support from Iran to keep its minority coalition in power. Most Iraqis, including most Iraqi Shia, don't want Iran having undue influence on their government. But Iran has cash and Shia religious fanatics and a determination to turn Iraq into a client state.

This Iranian threat keeps the support coming for Sunni Arab terrorist groups in Iraq. The Sunni Arabs in the region are terrified of Iranian domination. The growing number of Islamic terrorists in Iraq is often called "al Qaeda" but they are actually a collection of Sunni Islamic radical groups who believe that the Sunni minority should be running Iraq and are willing to kill, and die, for their cause. Last month there were 325 terrorist deaths (the highest monthly total in two years) and this month looks like there will be as many. While only ten percent of the monthly deaths suffered in the peak year of 2007, Iraqis are angry about the government inability to deal with it. Despite vigorous efforts by the Shia run (and staffed) army and police to shut down the terror groups, there is still enough support from the Sunni Arab population to keep it going. The Sunni terrorists are concentrating their attacks on Sunni Arab supporters of the government and Shia officials and civilians. This tactic is likely to trigger a savage backlash against the entire Sunni Arab community. But the terrorists are on a mission from God. This will end badly and a lot more will die before it's all over.

While many Iraqi Sunni terrorists have gone to fight in Syria, more volunteers are coming in from other Arab states. Most of these guys are unskilled and only good for use as suicide bombers. The more promising ones are spared a quick death and help create more teams that can plan and carry out terror attacks. The growing Islamic terror activity in Syria provides some sanctuaries over there. The Syrian rebels are grateful for any help they can get, although the tolerance for Islamic terrorists usually dissipates once the revolution is over.

The new sanctions on Iran have cut oil production there (because of a lack of customers) by more than half, to about 1.2 million barrels a day. Iraqi production rose past three million barrels a day last year and is still increasing. In the Kurdish north, new oil fields are being created, that expect to be exporting, via Turkey, a million barrels a day within three years. The Arab dominated Iraqi government insists that they should control this oil. But the Kurds know that the Arabs would steal most of the oil revenue if they controlled it. Better to have Kurdish politicians steal most of it.

August 8, 2012: In the last three weeks, some 23,000 Iraqi exiles in Syria have gone back to Iraq. Most of these people are Sunni Arabs who fled the Shia death squads tanking vengeance for Sunni terror attacks on Shia civilians. While this violence ended in 2008, many of the Sunnis, especially those who had worked for Saddam, feared returning. But the revolution in Syria has gotten very violent and Iraqi refugees, who were seen as favored by the Syrian dictatorship, have become targets.

August 5, 2012: Kurdish separatists (PKK) in Turkey damaged the pipeline carrying Iraqi oil from Kirkuk. Normally, about 100,000 barrels a day moves over this pipeline, which will be repaired. The attack on the pipeline may have been an effort to distract the Turkish army which, over the last two weeks, has been involved in a major effort against the PKK along the Iraqi border. The Turks claim they have killed over 115 PKK men during this time.

In Baghdad a group of eleven al Qaeda prisoners were caught trying to tunnel out of Abu Ghraib prison.

August 4, 2012: Iraqi officials are in Russia discussing the purchase of Russian anti-aircraft missile systems.

August 2, 2012: The Turkish foreign minister visits Kirkuk, a city just south of the autonomous Kurdish zone and full of Iraqi and Kurdish troops who fight Islamic terrorists and stare angrily at each other.

 

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