Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 17, 2007

Barzani 'Got the Message'

This hot from the wire:

Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) decided to postpone by six months a referendum on the future of the city of Kirkuk, Agence France-Presse reported Dec. 17, citing KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution stipulated that the referendum be held by the end of 2007, but Barzani said it was delayed for "technical reasons."

Let me explain Barzani's technical reasons involved here.

Back in October the U.S. administration offered the Turks to bomb the Kurdish PKK guerrilla in north Iraq:

While the use of US soldiers on the ground to root out the PKK would be the last resort, the US would be willing to launch air strikes on PKK targets, the official said, and has discussed the use of cruise missiles.

The U.S. offer was politely refused and yesterday the Turks sent 50+ of their own planes:

The overnight bombardment up to 60 miles into Iraq, which included long-range artillery shelling, sent hundreds of families fleeing and added to the volatility of a region once considered Iraq's most peaceful.

As the US controls the Iraqi airspace, the strike was not possible without its support:

Turkey's military chief Gen. Yasar Buyukanit said US intelligence was used in preparing Sunday's strike. "America gave intelligence," Turkish television station Kanal D quoted Buyukanit as saying. "But more importantly, America last night opened airspace to us. By opening the airspace, America gave its approval to this operation."

The US denies this, but acknowledges that it had been 'informed' beforehand.

Harpers' Silverstein has email from a "well-connected former U.S. government official working in Kurdistan." That would be Peter Galbraith who lobbies for the Kurds and urges to partition Iraq. Galbraith(?) writes:

The blowback here in Kurdistan is building against the U.S. government because of its help with the Turkish air strikes. The theme is shock and betrayal. The Kurds see themselves as the only true friend of the Americans in the region, and the only part of Iraq that is working, and are especially hurt by the attack.
For Washington to say they didn’t authorize the strike, or to use some other doublespeak bullshit Washington term, just makes people here more angry.

One wonders why Galbraith and the Kurds are surprised by this at all.

The Iraq Study Group report, which Bush seems to implement now, recommended to move the referendum about oil-rich Kirkuk to the 4th of Never. This despite Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, which demands such a referendum to be held in 2007.

But the Kurds had threatened secession from Iraq over the issue. Kirkuk would give them the financial assets needed to become a sovereign state. Neither the U.S. nor Turkey nor anybody else wants that.

The U.S. supported bombing of several Kurd villages, none of them PKK centers, was to remind the Kurds that others are stronger then they are.

Barzani obviously 'got the message', i.e. the technical reasons, in form of a few tons of TNT.

The Kurds always get screwed. A while back the War Nerd took a deeper look at Kurdish history and why this is always the case. He came up with too many words and two main findings:

The Kurds don't have a country because they have no discipline and plain old bad geographical luck.

There will never be a Kurdistan because there are too many interests around the places where Kurds live. If you want to cut off valuable parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, i.e. all the future neighbors of a landlocked Kurdistan, you can be sure to have no support.

Why the Kurds even assume that the U.S. or Israel, currently their best friends, would ever really get into that fight is beyond me. What do they expect? A Berlin crisis like air bridge?

The second issue, internal Kurdish fighting, is legendary. Barzani and Talabani, the two main Godfathers of Iraqi Kurds have been fighting each other all their life. On top of that neither of them agrees with the Marxist PKK. The current truce between B. and T. would break immediately if something like a real Kurdish state would really come into reach.

As for the U.S. - the 1921 Treaty of Sèvres over the ruins of the Ottoman empire somewhat envisioned a Kurdish state. The Turks under Atatürk fought against it and, with U.S. support, the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne did away with that.

After the 1991 Gulf War, Bush senior called on Iraq's Kurds and Shia to rebel against Saddam's rule. But the promised U.S. support never came and many Kurds got killed.

One wonders why the Kurds and Galbraith have ever expected something different now.

My proposal to them, which I discussed with PKK fighters in Kurdistan years ago, is to first work for an EU like union between the involved states, i.e. T.S.I.I., and then form a Kurdish 'heritage coalition' within that union to optimize their position.

Those folks immediately started to quarrel between themselves over my suggestions.

They didn't 'get the message'. Turkish bombs, provided from and delivered with U.S. support, seem to have better effects.

Posted by b on December 17, 2007 at 02:45 PM | Permalink


for myself, i find barzani a little too muck like barzini, for my liking. in this case there is no one of sufficient character to compare to don vito

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Dec 17, 2007 3:04:23 PM | 1

My proposal to them, and I have discussed this with PKK fighters in Kurdistan years ago, is to first work for an EU like union between the involved states, i.e. T.S.I.I. and then form a Kurdish 'heritage coalition' within that union.

Curious how it came to be you brushed shoulders w/PKK.

In any event, from what I gather PKK are not representative of Kurds as a whole, let alone in Turkey. Juan Cole on 6/'07:

"That is, Kurds in Istanbul vote like the Turks in surrounding neighborhoods. There is no pan-Kurdish political identity in Turkey. Only a tiny proportion of Turkish Kurds supports the PKK, which has a very nasty history as a far-left terrorist group that killed thousands."

I have read similar charactarizations elsewhere. To summarize: from what I know, PKK is rightly categorized as a terrorist organization and it's actions entirely counter productive for Kurdish interests.


You also said villiages Turkey bombed were not PKK... I'm wondering your source on that.
AFB Reports...

(...)Sunday's raids saw Turkish warplanes bomb a number of villages in northern Iraq, targeting rear-bases of the PKK, which said seven people were killed, including two civilians.

Cole also said these targets provided (at least partially) by US intel... which of course may explain why possibly wrong targets were hit. :(

DISCLAIMER: I'm not expert on this stuff, just trying to understand what's going on.

Posted by: jdmckay | Dec 17, 2007 3:40:02 PM | 2

@jdmckay - Curious how it came to be you brushed shoulders w/PKK.

1. Living in a city (Hamburg, Germany) that has some 20-30,000 Kurd inhabitants, like my favorite hairdresser and the people owning the fruit shop I buy at.
2. Weeks of hitchhiking in south-east Turkey, listening, watching, drinking tea with the right people.

Juan Cole on 6/'07:

1. I don't regard Cole as a "neutral" source. 2. Sure there are Kurds against the PKK. Their disunity is exactly what makes a Kurdistan invalid.

You also said villiages Turkey bombed were not PKK... I'm wondering your source on that

The Harpers/Galbraith link and several other news sources citing Kurdish reports. There are no 'neutral' accounts on what was hit, but the Turkish action was quite wide and given the quality of 'intelligence' in general they certainly managed to hit something wrong. The PKK prefers caves in the mountains - lots of those available there - to villages. The Turks bombed villages.

BTW - some of the 'action' was near the Iranian boarder. I'm sure that the Turks 'coordinated' with Iran ... how much did the U.S. coordinate with them?

Posted by: b | Dec 17, 2007 4:00:50 PM | 3

WaPo: U.S. Helps Turkey Hit Rebel Kurds In Iraq

The United States is providing Turkey with real-time intelligence that has helped the Turkish military target a series of attacks this month against Kurdish separatists holed up in northern Iraq, including a large airstrike on Sunday, according to Pentagon officials.

U.S. military personnel have set up a center for sharing intelligence in Ankara, the Turkish capital, providing imagery and other immediate information gathered from U.S. aircraft and unmanned drones flying over the separatists' mountain redoubts, the officials said. A senior administration official said the goal of the U.S. program is to identify the movements and activities of the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), which is fighting to create an autonomous enclave in Turkey.

The United States is "essentially handing them their targets," one U.S. military official said. The Turkish military then decides whether to act on the information and notifies the United States, the official said.

The reporters don't make the obvious connection to the Kirkuk referendum ...

Posted by: b | Dec 18, 2007 3:40:09 AM | 4

Hmm - she'll get an earfull about the above WaPo piece.

But that doesn't matter. I am sure she has an offer the Kurds can not refuse...

Rice visits Kirkuk as Turkish troops raid Kurdish territory

Condoleezza Rice has made a surprise visit to the northern Iraq city of Kirkuk, a day after the US appeared to give tacit approval to the bombing of rebel Kurdish bases by Turkish jets.
Last night, a group of 300 Turkish troops crossed into Kurdish territory and moved 2-3km deeper into Iraq, reported Reuters news agency.

A military source told Reuters the Turkish troops were lightly armed and had moved into the Gali Rash area, a mountainous district near the border. There were no reports of any clashes.

Washington has said it was told of the weekend attacks in advance although it did not authorise them. Iraq's parliament denounced the raid as an outrageous violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

Posted by: b | Dec 18, 2007 4:52:24 AM | 5

(...) 2. Sure there are Kurds against the PKK. Their disunity is exactly what makes a Kurdistan invalid.

PKK activity against Turkish troops seems damn counter-productive to me... hard for me to garner a lot of sympathy.

The Kurds don't have a country because they have no discipline and plain old bad geographical luck.

I've long felt my Irish French-Canadian ex(Catholic/Protestant... ok, entirely a-religious) heritage & distinct culture deserves a good swath of self-determinant real estate. There's a lot of NM acres sitting on under producing natural gas that would do just fine. Pretty sure Hugo Chavez would help us properly develop these things!!!

re Rice Kirkuk visit: How much cross-border Turkish bombing devastation required for another official "birthpang of democracy" incident? Perhaps she should be official US International-Mid-Wife-stillborne-coordinator.

Posted by: jdmckay | Dec 18, 2007 9:58:31 AM | 6

This is getting curious. In the NYT report on Rice's visit there is NO mentioning of Barzani moving the referendum, only this.

Rice Visits Iraq Amid Strain With Turkey

Ms. Rice did not detail the reason for the trip, her eighth to Iraq, though in visiting Kirkuk she highlighted the city’s pivotal role in determining the Iraqi geopolitical landscape.

Dec. 31 is the constitutional deadline for a referendum to decide whether the city should become the fourth province in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, though the vote seems unlikely to be held by then. The outcome is certain to play a role in determining whether Iraq will eventually be partitioned among Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs, a move Turkey would oppose if it strengthened Iraq’s Kurdish north.

The AFP, the French agency, has much more about the trip including these things:
As the reports of the incursion emerged, Rice arrived in Iraq on a surprise visit, landing in the northern oil city of Kirkuk.

It was later reported that Barzani was refusing to meet her because of the US position over Turkey sending soldiers into Iraq.
On Tuesday afternoon, Kurdish regional Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said "it was decided that Massud Barzani would go to Baghdad to take part in a meeting with Condoleezza Rice and other officials, but he will not go now as a sign of protest against the American position on the bombings by Turkey.

"It is unacceptable that the United States, in charge of monitoring our airspace, authorised Turkey to bomb our villages," he said.
Rice's visit comes a day after the Kurdish regional government agreed to put off for six months a promised referendum on the city's future.

Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution had stipulated that the referendum be held by the end of this year.

Isn't this important enough for the NYT to report???

Posted by: b | Dec 19, 2007 2:31:20 AM | 7

Raimondo has a piece up about The Wages of Intervention
Kurds snub Condi – that's what we get for our billions and the sacrifices of our soldiers

With one hand the U.S. government wreaks damage to its own interests, while the other hand is employed to clean up the mess. The Turks say they are using U.S. intelligence as well as acting with Washington's full approval, and no doubt they find the former quite useful: after all, their American overseers have every reason to know where the Kurdish guerrillas are and how they operate. As for rooting them out – again, I'm betting on the Kurds…
He is, in my viwe, missing the inner-Kurdish part.

There are two feudal groups Barzani and Talabani which are at each other throats every 10 years or so. The current arrangement is that Barzani runs the kurdish part of Iraq and Talabani is the vice president of Iraq.

While Barzani has protested the Turkish attacks and gave the finger to Rice, I have yet to hear from Talabani. He seems to be on a different page than Barzani in this. There is a part of the story not told yet ...

Posted by: b | Dec 19, 2007 10:21:14 AM | 8

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