Mar 17, 2003
With the U.S. war approaching against neighboring Iraq, the Turkish government has begun a new crackdown against the 15 million Kurds living inside Turkey. On March 13, a Turkish court outlawed a Kurdish party, the People's Democracy Party, and banned 46 of the party's leaders from running for office for five years. On the same day, the senior prosecutor filed a petition to ban a reorganization of the party.
At the same time, the Turkish military began to prepare for an attack against the Kurdish minority inside Turkey's neighbor, Iraq. Last month, the Turkish military announced that it intended to send 60,000 to 80,000 troops into northern Iraq, where large numbers of Kurds live. These additional troops would supplement the 5,000 to 15,000 troops it has had inside northern Iraq for some years. In mid-March, the Turkish military began to move these troops, sending 300 trucks and 200 other vehicles, including M-47 tanks, self-propelled howitzers and other artillery, along with 1,000 soldiers in buses, to within four miles of the Iraqi border.
Obviously, the U.S. government did not utter a word in protest to these actions by the Turkish government and military against the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq. For the last 12 years, the U.S. government might have posed as the supposed champion of the Kurdish cause – inside Iraq. And in the last year, as the U.S. government began its preparations for war against Saddam Hussein, dozens of U.S. journalists ventured into northern Iraq to report how supposedly free the Kurdish minority was under U.S. tutelage.
But, in reality, the U.S. government was just using the Kurdish minority as a pawn in its own power games against Saddam Hussein, a pawn that for the U.S. has always been quite expendable. With war approaching, now the U.S. government's main concern is to make sure that the Kurdish minority does not do as it did after the first Persian Gulf War – rise up in revolt. For if the Kurds in Iraq rise in revolt, then this might, as it has done in the past, encourage revolts of other sections of the Kurdish minority, potentially upsetting U.S.-sponsored dictatorships all over the region.
Because of the almost unanimous opposition to the war within the Turkish population, as of this writing, it is unclear whether the Turkish government will formally agree to let tens of thousands of U.S. troops pass through Turkey to open a second front from the north against Saddam Hussein. But what is clear is that the Turkish military is preparing to massively intervene against the Kurds.
For the Bush administration, that's what really counts.