I just saw this really interesting piece of news from Reuters. Reporting about the air and artillery strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan Reuters wrote:
Dismissing reports the raids hit villages, Turkey’s General Staff said its targets were fixed “after it was established that they were definitely not civilian residential areas.” The three-hour offensive, reported to involve 50 fighter jets, also included ground forces shelling suspected positions of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. “According to initial valuations, all the planned targets were hit accurately,” the General Staff said on its Web site. The Turkish army has massed up to 100,000 troops near the border, raising fears that a major cross-border operation could further destabilise Iraq and fuel ethnic and sectarian tensions. However, initial responses to the weekend raids from Turkey’s main allies stopped well short of condemnation. The United States, Turkey’s main military ally, has said it was informed of the raids in advance but did not authorise them. A Pentagon spokesman also said Washington had given Turkey intelligence to track Kurdish fighters hiding in Iraq, but would not say whether it gave precise targets used in the raids.
Here is another Reuters piece, this time via Yahoo News:
The United States has given Turkey intelligence to track Kurdish fighters hiding in Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman said on Monday, but he would not say whether Washington gave Ankara precise targets used in weekend raids. Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman also would not say whether the United States gave Turkey prior approval to use Iraqi air space to conduct the strikes. “The United States continues to assist with information to the Turkish government that will help them deal with the insurgent situation that they have up there,” Whitman said.
The Pentagon had said it was helping Turkey gain the “actionable” intelligence needed for a strike against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants. Actionable intelligence refers to information that can be acted upon, such as data that pinpoints the location of a target for a military strike. Asked specifically whether the United States gave Turkey targets used in weekend raids, Whitman said he would not “get into details like that.” He said the Pentagon was providing information that would be “helpful in dealing with this insurgent terrorist threat.” When told by reporters that his answer implied the Pentagon had indeed provided such “actionable intelligence,” Whitman said, “That’s probably OK.”
Is there any possible way to conclude from all that doublespeak that the USA was *not* involved in the preparation and execution of these strikes? The airspace over Iraq is under US control, and the Pentagon actually admits giving ‘actionable intelligence’ about the PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan to the Turks.
There is no possible doubt that by providing the Turks with ‘actionable intelligence’ the Pentagon provided Ankara with targeting information crucial to the execution of these strikes. It would also appear that the USA could be held at least partially responsible for designating the targets as “definitely not civilian residential areas”. The inescapable conclusion from all this is that the PKK guerrillas would be certainly justified in considering the US forces in Iraqi Kurdistan has an hostile enemy force.
One can only wonder at what was going through the minds of the Pentagon spokesman when he volunteered the information that the USA had given the Turks ‘actionable intelligence’: did he pause to think for one second that this kind of irresponsible (and useless) admission was putting all the US forces in Kurdistan at risk?
From the point of view of the PKK it would make perfect sense to blow up some valuable US military target (remember the Marine barracks in Beirut?) to teach the Americans a simple lesson: that the Kurdish fighters can turn Kurdistan into another nightmare for the US occupation forces if they proactively assist the Turks in their military operations.
By siding with Turkey the USA is risking opening yet another front in its war against the Iraqi people. US commanders, with their legendary short-term memory, seem to have forgotten that Kurdistan is no safe haven for US troops. Sure, for the time being the Kurds are tolerating the US occupation forces, just like the Shias have generally done so far. But the ‘redirection‘ is already deeply alienating the Shias and the latest developments in Kurdistan indicate that with its typical imperial hubris the USA thinks that it can also afford to alienate the Kurds.
One can only wonder – are the Americans simply out of their minds?!
Update 1: according to the BBC Massoud Barzani, head of the Iraqi Kurdish regional government, has refused to meet with Secretary Rice. Keep in mind that Barzani represents, at least in the minds of the Administration, the ‘good Kurds’, in contrast to the ‘bad Kurds’ of the PKK.
In the meantime, a small Turkish troops have made in incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan.
So far the Turkish actions are rather symbolic in nature (December is just not a good time for a ground invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan) and they are probably designed to please the public opinion in Turkey. Such ‘armed PR’ can end up having very serious consequences for the US occupation forces throughout Iraq.
Update 2: more details from the DemocracyNow website: U.S. Military Sharing Intelligence on Iraq With Turkey. Meanwhile Pentagon officials have revealed the U.S. is providing the Turkish military with real-time intelligence on northern Iraq. The Washington Post reports U.S. military personnel have set up a center for sharing intelligence in Ankara providing imagery and other immediate information gathered from U.S. aircraft and unmanned drones flying over Northern Iraq. One U.S. military official said the United States is “essentially handing them their targets.”