Saturday, February 23, 2008

Quid pro quo?

The latest Turkish incursion into Iraq has seemed different for several reasons. First, there is the timing. The mountains, difficult terrain under the best of circumstances, still have plenty of snow on them which makes it very hard for conventional forces to maneuver. My recollection is that all previous incursions have taken place under much more favorable weather conditions. For the army to move in now seems to suggest that it had actionable intelligence which justified the additional weather related hazards. Second there seem to be indication that the attack was coordinated with both the US authorities and Talabani - but not with Barzani. The US has confirmed that they were informed in advance. The foreign minister of Iraq Hoshyar Zebari claims they were informed at the "last minute." but his protests were not as strong as that of Massoud Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan regional government. And I haven't seen anything from Talabani himself. Also Talabani was invited to Ankara, something he had wanted for some time but which had been blocked by the previous nationalist president Sezer.

Talabani and Barzani have been long time rivals fighting some pretty nasty wars among themselves in which Barzani even allied himself with Saddam supposedly to offset a Talabani alliance with Iran. Barzani has been a prickly ally for the US and I have wondered if US patience with him would run out. The invitation to Talabani might be an indication that there might be movement in this direction. In the past Barzani has shown himself to be tactically astute while lacking somewhat in strategic thinking. Talabani, on the other hand, has generally tried to take the long view. In the long term the future of the landlocked Iraqi Kurds is strongly dependent on Turkey. It would make sense for Talabani to develop contacts with Turkey - hence his desire to visit Turkey as the president of Iraq. I wonder if whatever intelligence prompted the Turks to move originated was prepayment. Or it may be that I have an overactive imagination.

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