Synonyms for the word “ally” include “friend,” “helper,” “partner” and “supporter.” What kind of “ally” has Turkey been to the U.S. in Iraq? Duplicitous and double-dealing.
Here’s just the latest example.
The U.S. had set up a spy center in Ankara so Turks, Iraqis and Americans can share information about the movements and activities of Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) rebels who have repeatedly infiltrated Turkey from the semiautonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq to ambush and kill Turkish soldiers. The U.S. provided the real-time intelligence that enabled Turkey to mount Sunday’s airstrike. A U.S. military official tells The Washington Post that we are "essentially handing them their targets."
The Turks are not good at “sharing” because no one in the Turkish government bothered to inform U.S. military commanders in Iraq about the military incursion until the bombing run was already under way. The U.S., in turn, had to inform the Iraqi government, which also complained about being given advance notice. The Iraqi parliament is understandably outraged over the violation of Iraq's sovereignty and the deaths of two innocent civilians and the indiscriminate destruction of farms and villages that sent 1,800 people fleeing from their homes.
Similarly, it is unclear whether Turkey advised the U.S. and Iraq about a follow-up operation two days later in which 300 soldiers penetrated 1.5 miles into Iraq in the dead of night to go after Kurdish rebels trying to infiltrate the Turkish border, or whether this action was also based on U.S. intelligence. The Turks withdrew their troops 15 hours later.
Perhaps the surest indication that the U.S. did not know what the Turks were up to is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s inauspiciously timed trip to Kirkuk in northern Iraq, during which she was to meet with Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish regional government (he snubbed her). Had Rice known about the incursion of Turkish ground troops into the Kurdish province of Dahuk (one of three provinces Barzani administers) the confab would have been quietly cancelled since the Iraq trip was unannounced.
The Kurdish regional government takes the view that the U.S. “allowed” Turkish bombers to cross into its territory since our military controls the airspace – which means that we “approved” it. Rice denied that the U.S. gave the Turks the go-ahead for the air incursion, but her credibility was immediately undercut by Turkey's military chief, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, who bluntly stated that "America … opened the [Iraqi] airspace to us. By opening the airspace, America gave its approval to this operation."
The Washington Post points out that tolerating – and aiding - Turkey’s military incursions into Kurdistan actions is alienating Iraqi Kurds, who are our most stalwart allies in Iraq; complicates U.S. efforts to prod the Iraqi government to pass legislation to encourage political reconciliation amongst Iraq’s religious factions; and a large-scale operation by Turkish troops could disrupt the flow of supplies to the U.S. military in Iraq, which receives 70 percent of its air cargo and a third of its fuel through Turkey.
The Kurdish provinces are the only stable, economically viable region in Iraq – which means our soldiers can concentrate on fighting insurgents and terrorists, and our tax dollars can finance public works projects that will help the rest of the country get back on its feet. So why is the U.S. selling out our only reliable allies in Iraq to help Turkey, which refused our request to use its territory to mount an attack against Saddam Hussein from the north in 2003?
A Boston Globe editorial justifiably terms these developments an “incoherent twist to President Bush's Iraq policy”:
Bush has made preserving Iraq's borders a primary objective. Yet the administration colluded in Turkey's violation of Iraqi sovereignty - even as Washington is warning Iran to stop sending agents and weapons into Iraq, and is pressing Syria and Saudi Arabia to crack down on foreign jihadists crossing into Iraq.Our complicity in Turkey’s incursions into Iraq “makes the United States look simultaneously incompetent and hypocritical.”