What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Monday, October 22, 2007

R.S.V.P., A.S.A.P.: Invitation to visit Northern Iraq

A couple of days ago I wrote in an anti-alarmist manner about how Turkey is deconstructing the economic relations that it developed with Northern Iraq and the Kurdish region there, at least partly and temporarily, rather as a substitute for non-U.S.-endorsed military action than as a sign of anything else. It was a logical step with which to pressure Kurdish politicians. It was an indication to northern Iraqi politicians that the money going there in exchange for the oil leaving in the direction of Turkey can only be actually spent on real development in a climate favourable to both Turkey and Northern Iraq. The PKK doesn't fit that picture.
Now things are looking very-very different. Twelve Turkish soldiers killed today, eight taken hostage by the PKK. Eight of them.
The PKK is playing who's the chicken and they are offering Turkey the dubiously contrasting prospects of either a superficial alienation of its northern Iraqi clients, most notably in the KDP's ranks, by means of a Lebanese-type scenario, or that of being the chicken. The U.S. might still hold the key in this dramatic situation, but that's understandably anything but a comfortable position for them.
Accepting at least some more covert form of action from Turkey then? Launching air strikes on their own and taking on yet another enemy within Iraq, alienating Kurdish politicians? U.S. options don't look good. They probably would have preferred to wait a month or so, and then might have helped Turkey with some useful intel in the winter camping season for guerrillas, to help Turkey to be able to carry out accurate, have-to-get-it-right sort of operations in Northern Iraq. That option may just have been taken off the table, violently.
I'm not sure the PKK really calculated so smartly, though. In the end they might just have to get back to the mid-1990s balance which didn't leave them with much room to operate of course. The past shows that their backs can be put to the wall. Back then the KDP and Turkey cooperated enough at times to have them end up in that situation - the PUK won't support the PKK that much, either. Kurdish Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's reaction (he said there'll be a unilateral PKK ceasefire surely) is indication of the pieces of the already familiar puzzle falling into place. Certainly the PUK isn't interested to see the PKK play games with Northern Iraq's regional freedoms, either. Which the PKK is still continuing to play, offering a conditional truce now instead of a unilateral one, which attempts to present Northern Iraq's defence from a Turkish incursion as part of a deal between Turkey and the PKK.
In the end the PKK may just be making everyone see it as timely to get the hard job, which was always set to come, done. But surely they can cause a lot of damage.

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