Thursday, October 11, 2007

Talking Turkey

Ok, I'm sorry that was awful.

Anyhow, title aside. Turkey has been a country that I have had my eye on for at least two years. The invasion and occupation of Iraq is manifold in its consequences. THis blog has explored some of these issues, but until now I have been quiet on the question of the Turkish border, and more significantly, the Kurdish population, that perhaps for the first time in a long time, has the momentum of history on its side. Its ironic that the ghosts of World War One now haunt a Turkish Government that itself is struggling with its own future and past. Timing is everything, as they say, and the clock seems to be ticking on the potential for an independent Kurdish state.

It has been my belief that the Kurdish issue is perhaps the most violatile in the region. This is for the simple reason that the Kurdish population is scattered throughout countries that have competing interests. Turkey represents a special case of course. Its unique history and contemporary EU ambitions have traditionally placed Ankara outside of the realm of Arab affairs. The so called War on Terror may have shifted Ankara's regional focus somewhat, forcing it to engage its neighbors in addressing the issues of cross border terrorism and Islamic extremism. However, by and large, the focus of the lond dominant Kemalist factions and Turkish Military establishment has been on the West and its special status as a Muslim Democracy.

Yet recent events are pulling Turkey deeper into the morass in the region. The PKK has increased corss border operations, operations which have Ankara chanting a self-defense against terror. The measured response of the US State Department betrays the impossible situation in which the architects of the Middle East project now find themselves. In fact, President Bush can do more than politely urge Turkey's restraint, amounting to no more than a pleading lacking foundation. To add to the tension, Congress passes a resolution recognizing The Ottomon culpability in the Armenian Genocide. Ankara swiftly recalls its ambassador from the US, and suddenly the single success story of Iraq - Iraqi Kurdistan - is put into peril.

PM Erdogan has thus far shown restraint, despite the public pressure to protect Turkish interests along its southeastern border. however, this restraint has as much to do with testing the US response as it does with attempting to approach the Kurdish issue with out having it spill out into Iran and Syria. Expect a flurry of dimplomatic interventions, awkward silence from Washington, and increasing attacks in the Mosul region.

From an economic standpoint, this could slow and even jeopardize natural gas shipments throught the Black Sea and Bosporous. However, it is possible that the Kurdish question was broached as a side bar during Turkish-Iranian negotiations concerning Natural gas trade routes.

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