Sunday, October 21, 2007

Kurdistan: The next Canadian War?

Just mere hours after the 9/11 outrage, NATO had no difficulty invoking Article V of the Atlantic Charter which states an attack on one member state is an attack on the entire Alliance. In so doing they recognized that it's not just states alone who can start a war, pretty much anyone can with a couple of airplanes or a truckload of fertilizer. That's why Canada is in Afghanistan. We didn't start the war, Al Qaeda did.

Yet one has to wonder if there's a double standard insofar as the Kurds are involved. Earlier this week the Turkish Parliament authorized the executive there to conduct raids into northern Iraq to fight against the military wing of the PKK, the Kurdish People's Party. Today, that came home to roost when in an ambush near the Iraq-Turkey border, a dozen Turkish soldiers were killed and some others taken hostage. 32 of the PKK were also killed.

If the PKK made an incursion into Turkey, then of course Turkey has the right to defend itself. And by implication, the PKK has too declared war on NATO. So why aren't we seeing an emergency session of the Atlantic Council? Simply because most NATO members oppose the war in Iraq as it's completely disconnected from the real war against terrorism. Forcing the issue would effectively drag the Alliance into the phony war -- now a civil war -- precisely what Dubya has wanted all along.

Maybe it's a Muslim thing -- Turkey is the only Muslim state in the bloc and most of the other members, all majority Christian (with the exceptions of Estonia and the Czech Republic which have majority agnostic populations), don't want to get entangled in the mess; after all, Muslims in that part of the world still have very long memories dating back to the Crusades. But the other thing is this: Kurds -- at least the majority who want peace -- are entitled to a homeland with real autonomy if not outright independence; no less than say the Basques in Spain and France, or the Scottish and the Welsh in the UK, or for that matter the Palestinians. But the Kurds already had that level of autonomy after the first Gulf War thanks to a UN-enforced no fly zone; and it's now in limbo since the present conflict started four and a half years ago.

There has to be a way to protect NATO without making Iraq even worse than it is. I don't believe in cause and effect, but I get this weird feeling that the PKK could have been kept mostly in check if the status quo prior to March 2003 had been maintained. Now, with the precedent of 9/11, we face the prospect of Canada fighting a war in the Dardanelles and Gallipoli and the areas to the east and south; and if we thought the terrain in Kandahar was tough, it'll be nothing compared to the former stomping grounds of Saladin.

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1 comment:

ottlib said...


Although, I think the reason for the lack of action on NATO's part is the fact the Kurds of Iraq are actually on the side of the US in Iraq.

It is the Kurds and the Iraqi Shiites that are keeping the government of the current Iraqi PM going. If the Kurds were to withdraw then whatever Iraqi government there is would collapse.

Needless, to say that would make an already untenable situation for the Americans even worse, if you can conceive of such a situation.

Incidentally, the Kurds of Iraq are acting more responsible than that of the Turkish government. They are trying to reign in the PKK, while talking to the Turks but so far the hawks in the Turkish Army are winning the argument in Turkey.

The Iraqi situation has the potential to become much more complicated in the coming days and weeks.