ANOTHER U.S. WAR BREWING IN MIDEAST
Ex-aide to Dick Cheney spills the beans; real trouble brewing in northern Iraq
By Richard Walker
An insane plan authorized by President Bush to join Turkey in a covert war to assassinate leaders of a Kurdish rebel group in northern Iraq was exposed after a former Dick Cheney aide briefed lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Within days of the visit to the Hill by Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman, columnist Robert Novak got wind of the plan and made it public. It transpired that Edelman boasted that the plan involved U.S. Special Forces helping their Turkish counterparts “behead” the leadership of the Kurdish guerrilla group the PKK, also known as the Kurdistan Workers Party, in its hideout in mountains bordering northern Iraq and Turkey.
When lawmakers questioned the sanity of the United States getting caught up in yet another guerrilla war, Edelman assured them it would be a success. The U.S. role would be hidden and vigorously denied if made public. Some members of Congress thought the strategy was risky, especially at a time when the United States was bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Edelman’s response was that the plan was a “slam dunk” and that it would not take long to accomplish.
Some lawmakers also raised concerns that doing Turkey’s dirty work could have unforeseen consequences and could only add to further isolation of the United States around the world.
The Turks have long argued that the PKK, which wants Kurds within Turkey to be granted autonomy, has been aided by Iraqi Kurds who have been staunch American allies. Iraqi Kurds have no love for Turkey but deny involvement with the PKK. Nevertheless, they will not look kindly on U.S. involvement in a campaign against fellow Kurds.
Several months ago, Turkey, which is a NATO member, alarmed the EU and the United States by massing large numbers of troops on the border. At the time, Turkish generals talked openly of invading Iraq with over 200,000 troops.
The reaction from the Iraqi parliament, as well as from the regional Kurdish government in northern Iraq, was swift. They warned an invasion by Turkey would not only be a breach of Iraqi sovereignty but would be repulsed. It now seems the United States has encouraged Turkey to jettison its invasion plans in return for a joint U.S.-Turkish dirty war against the PPK, using U.S. air power and hi-tech surveillance.
The PKK is regarded as a terrorist group by many western nations and has been a thorn in Turkey’s side because it has caused unrest among Turkey’s large Kurdish minority. The group’s supporters have demanded that parts of Turkey and Iran be annexed to northern Iraq to form a united Kurdish state.
Turkey is not without blame. Some 30,000 Kurds have been killed during several decades of fighting between the PKK and the Turkish military. The Turks have been accused of carrying out assassinations, rapes, torture and the kidnapping of large numbers of Kurdish nationals. During the Cold War the PKK’s Marxist-Leninist leanings made it an enemy of the West and the United States. The CIA even went so far as to train Turkish assassination squads and militias to track down PKK members and sympathizers.
U.S. involvement in that secret war is rarely discussed but lawmakers who may be aware of it would certainly not wish a repeat of American participation in what could turn out to be a dangerous game.
There is yet another aspect to the Bush plan that may concern some on the Hill. Turkey has its own agenda in respect to how it would like to see the Iraq conflict resolved. The Turks have never been happy about America’s closeness to the Kurds who helped the United States bring down Saddam Hussein. But, they are more concerned about those Iraqi Kurds sitting on huge oil reserves around Kirkuk. Therefore, if Iraq descended into all-out civil war, Kurdistan in northern Iraq could become a totally separate and very rich entity on Turkey’s border.
The problem is even more complicated than that. Israel is supportive of Iraqi Kurds and has gone out of its way to train militias under the control of the Kurdish regional government. Israel may well see the Kurds as an ideal bulwark against fundamentalist Iran and a Turkey with the potential to move in the future from a secular region to a state controlled by Islamic radicals.
Still, there is a more troubling connection between the United States and the PKK. The PKK no longer sees itself as a Marxist-Leninist organization
and accuses Turkey of denying Kurds within its borders the same human rights as the rest of the Turkish population. The PKK’s opposition to Turkey is matched only by its hatred of Iran because of Iran’s treatment of Kurds within its borders.
In the past year, evidence has mounted that the CIA and the Israelis have been encouraging, if not actively supporting, PKK attacks within Iran in an effort to destabilize the Iranian government.
Taking all that into consideration, there’s no wonder some lawmakers are jittery about the Cheney- Bush tendency to think foreign policy is best served by secretive, but very bloody military actions.
Richard Walker is the nom de plume of a former mainstream news producer who now writes for AFP so he can expose the kinds of subjects that he was forbidden to cover in the controlled press.