Turkey points its N. Iraq military deployment at… the Kurds

The new Turkish government has performed a spectacular about-face with respect to US war plans for Iraq and its post-Saddam aftermath, a large monkey wrench that is bound to throw off Washington’s timeline for launching its war offensive against Iraq. This partly explains the pressure building up from Britain and other western powers to postpone the assault.
Ankara’s turnaround, as uncovered by DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military and intelligence sources in Washington, Ankara and Tehran, may be a tactical ploy for a better deal with Washington. But in the meantime, it derails almost two years of painstaking formulation work on complicated political and military arrangements for the conduct of the war in North Iraq’s Kurdistan. (To subscribe to DNW clickHERE).
Before the war begins, and with Saddam looking on in Baghdad, America’s two key partners on its northern front, Turkey and the Kurds, are vying for post-war spoils: control of the government in Baghdad and oil. Bringing them back in line is essential, if the vital northern flank of the American warfront is not to be disabled before and during the conflict. The US will need to keep a weather eye on how its two northern allies are behaving and keep important segments of its army in reserve. Instead of fighting Saddam Hussein, they may be called on to separate the two old enemies.
The US-Turkish deals thrown in disarray by Ankara are:
A. Turkey’s war role, hinging on its commitment to open a second front in northern Iraq and leave the Americans free to focus on their drives from Kuwait in the south and Jordan in the west.
They are also backing away from making Turkish bases available to the US air force as jumping off points.
B. Turkey’s post-war stake in the north Iraq’s oilfields and the oil cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, as well as the share-out of oil revenues among the US, the new federal government in Baghdad, Turkey and the Kurds.
Already, the Turkish army has stepped out of its pre-defined war role. The Turkish 2nd and 3rd Corps, deployed along and across the Iraqi border to take on Iraqi troops, are laying Iraqi Kurdistan to virtual siege, interrupting the flow of imported foodstuffs from Turkey and Kurdish exports going the opposite direction. Travelers to Kurdistan must go round through Syria or Iran.
Turkish armored units have also seized positions along strategic northern highways connecting Zakho to Ammadiyah and those towns’ road links to Dahuk and Aqrah, which lie north of Kirkuk and Mosul. They have thrown up roadblocks and are searching Kurdish vehicles. Any Turkish attempt to block these roads to Kurdish traffic would inevitably provoke outright clashes of arms.
The Kurdish leader Barzani, who arrived in Ankara for talks with Turkish leaders on Wednesday, January 7, was greeted according to our sources with “stony faces and blunt military threats”, such as: “The Kurds had better beware of making enemies,” and “Any wrong move will prompt Turkish military reprisal.”
Turkey is pouring troop reinforcements into northern Iraq all the time. A heavy concentration has been posted on the Turkish-Syrian frontier, to keep Syrian forces from coming to the aid of the Kurds and fend off possible Kurdish terrorist operations in southern Turkey.
High-ranking American officers, who went to Ankara on troubleshooting missions, asked Turkish army chiefs how deep their divisions meant to advance into northern Iraq. The same question was put to Turkish field commanders. They replied that their orders were to keep moving forward – even as far as Baghdad.
British defense minister Geoffrey Hoon received the same answer when he arrived in Ankara Wednesday, January 8 to try and mediate the dispute.
A Turkish government team of experts is rummaging through old Ottoman Empire archives for the deeds and certificates affirming property ownership in the two cities, the oil fields and other parts of northern Iraq. They believe they will find documentation for proving Turkish ownership in the oilfields before World War One and intend pressing their claims.
Last week, Turkish prime minister Abdullah Gul, whose party Justice and Development was elected in a landslide last November, made the rounds of Arab capitals in search of support of Ankara’s latest stance.
Western diplomats, probing for the immediate trigger of the Turkish volte face, reported to Washington on two reasons: The Turks were dismayed by the paramount leadership role the Americans assigned Kurdish representatives at the conference of Iraqi opposition leaders that took place in London last December. They also took note of the political and military preparations for self-rule advancing in Kurdistan. Ankara believes the Kurds are on course for independence, not just autonomy, a development Turkey will never countenance.
Before the crisis is over, Ankara will most probably backtrack on its most extreme demands after gaining some US concessions. But the process will be time-consuming.

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