Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Are Syria and Iran Manipulating Turkey on Iraq

commentary from Walid Phares:

PKK is the Kurdish Worker’s Party that adopted violence in its
struggle against Turkey.
As the Turkish Parliament recently voted to
authorize a limited invasion into Northern Iraq to fight the PKK
militias, one can see the rising shadows of two hostile regimes in the
region, eager to see a NATO member, Turkey, eventually clashing with
the United States through their local allies in Iraq.
Indeed, the
Iranian and Syrian regimes have been pushing the precarious mechanisms
of a Turkish military intervention into Northern Iraq for a while now.
Logically, a collapse of security in the most secure part of Iraq would
lead to a crumbling of the military stabilization of the country, a
chief objective of US plans in Iraq.

But the Iran plans for Iraq, which I have analyzed in a previous
article, consist of three types of destabilization: An Iranian push in
the south, a Syrian opening for the Jihadists in the center, and
dragging Turkey to a dogfight in the mountains of the north.

In order to launch the third leg preemptively into Iraqi Kurdistan,
Tehran and Damascus have been pushing all the right buttons for the
confrontation. Iran's shelling of villages in the northern part of
Iraqi Kurdistan over the past months aimed at encouraging Turkey to do
the same.

Opening salvos by the Ayatollahs are to test the Kurdish and US
Moreover, Iran's Pasdaran - the Revolutionary Guard that
provides training and support to terrorist groups throughout the region
and abroad - is said to have infiltrated some circles within the PKK,
since the latter was based in Syria a few years ago. The PKK suddenly
has been waging inexplicable operations inside Eastern Turkey with a
new energy, after years of calm. Sources believe the PKK was
manipulated by both Iran and Syria into these terror acts on Turkish
soil while the official bases of the group are on Iraqi soil. Hence the
attacks triggering Turkish anger and responses may have been
manipulated by the "axis."

But the Syrian regime has another card it could have played.
According to well informed sources in the region, and not to the
surprise of experts, the Alawite regime in Syria (Alawites are
important to the leadership of Syria, as President Bashar al-Assad and
his father, Hafez are Alawite) has had good relations with Alawite
officers inside the Turkish armed forces. The “Alawite connection” may
have been activated to encourage a military response and incursion into
northern Iraq. But nevertheless, the Assad regime and the Turkish
Islamist Government - reinforced by the last Presidential election in
Ankara - have a joint objective interest in weakening the US presence
in Iraq.

Assad thinks that he can help create a major Turkish-Iranian-Syrian
alliance against the Kurds in Northern Iraq. And by the same logic, the
Kurds, solid US allies, will be facing another formal ally of
Washington on Iraqi soil: Turkey. The plan is to drag the Turkish Army
(traditionally not inclined to find itself face to face with its major
ally) to enter a territory where "terrorists are based," but where they
could be indistinguishable from those Kurdish Peshmergas who are the
backbone of the new post-Saddam Iraq. The rest can be guessed.

As the “axis” is using all its cards to crumble Iraq’s and Lebanon’s
democracies, the Kurds in Northern Iraq should have acted quickly and
strategically. There shouldn’t have been any PKK bases in their areas
because these are a recipe for disaster.

The situation in Iraq as a whole is still complex, precarious and
explosive, despite the advances made by the new US military plans,
including the surge. The north must remain stable and secure and, above
all, at peace with the only “NATO” border it has. The other frontiers
Iraqi Kurdistan has are with the Pasdarans and the Syrian Baath. Both
want the new Iraq’s head.

Instead of playing charms with Tehran and Damascus, the Kurdistan
city of Soleimaniye must reinforce its own deterring force and maintain
stability and peace on its northern border with Turkey. Knowing all too
well that the new Islamist Government in Ankara is shifting the grounds
inside the modernist Kemalist Republic, Iraq’s Kurdish leadership
mustn’t offer any reason for a Turkish adventure in their areas.

Hence, it is recommended that the Kurdish leaders of Iraq be the
ones to reign in the PKK to avoid having the Turkish Army crossing the
borders. The US can - and should - broker arrangements between the
Iraqi Kurds and the Turkish military to avoid the rise of an
anti-Kurdish Triangle in the region.


Dr Walid Phares is the director of Future Terrorism Project at the
Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a visiting scholar at the
European Foundation for Democracy, and the author of The War of Ideas:
Jihadism against Democracy.

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