Kurds warn of Turkish ‘graveyard’ in north Iraq
Turk nationalists cast covetous eye on neighboring region
Former Turk PM Necmettin Erbakan at a press conference in Ankara yesterday, where he called for support for the Islamic Felicity (Saadet) Party.
By Louis Meixler - The Associated Press
ANKARA - 23 August - Talk in Washington of a possible US attack on Iraq is exacerbating tensions between Turkey and an Iraqi Kurdish faction — two crucial allies if the United States takes military action against Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls about half of an autonomous enclave in northern Iraq, has warned that it will turn northern Iraq into a “graveyard” for the Turks while Turkey announced that it is choking off vital border trade that is a critical source of funding for the KDP.
The tensions could complicate Washington’s efforts to build an anti-Saddam coalition.
Turkey is home to a key air base that US warplanes use to patrol a no-fly zone over northern Iraq.
The KDP can mobilize some 40,000 fighters. Washington is also apparently interested in using former Iraqi air bases in the Kurdish enclave.
Turkey has long been suspicious of the Iraqi Kurds, fearful that they secretly plan to turn their autonomous zone in Iraq into an independent state. Turkey fought Kurdish guerrillas for 15 years in the area of Turkey that borders the enclave and says that a Kurdish state would serve as an inspiration for the rebels.
Turkish officials have repeatedly warned the United States that Turkey will never tolerate a Kurdish state and that any post-Saddam Iraq cannot include Kurdish independence.
The Iraqi Kurds fear Turkish domination and have been angered by recent statements by some Turkish nationalist politicians suggesting that oil-rich areas of northern Iraq, including the Kurdish enclave, should be part of Turkey.
Northern Iraq was part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries and some Turkish nationalists have questioned the treaty that put the area in Iraq and not Turkey after the collapse of the empire following World War I.
“It is an area which had been forcibly separated,” Defense Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu said on Tuesday.
“Northern Iraq is in our safekeeping.”
The statement sparked outrage from the KDP.
“Do they expect to implement their own filthy objective in the US attack on Iraq?” Brayeti, the KDP’s newspaper asked in an editorial. A translation of the Kurdish-language editorial was released on a Kurdish website close to the KDP and verified by a KDP official.
“Let them try their luck in today’s Kurdistan. They will... witness that this nation will turn... Kurdistan into a graveyard for those who attack it,” the newspaper said.