Turkish Military in Northern Iraq

While Iraq still maintains legal sovereignty over the majority Kurdish areas in the north of the country, the Kurds in that region have been enjoying de facto autonomy/independence since the end of the first Gulf War in 1991.  A direct result of United Nations Security Council resolutions mandating, above all else, the establishment of a no-fly zone in northern Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s regime had no presence there from 1991 on.  The ouster of Saddam’s regime has only made Kurdish control of the territory more secure.  It’s not inconceivable that a Kosovo-type situation could obtain here as well.   A crucial difference in the Kurdish situation is the presence of a large group of ethnic Kurds living in neighboring Turkey, who have waged a sporadic, decades-long campaign (using various tactics, including terrorism) to pressure the Turkish government into granting the Kurds more autonomy, if not outright independence.  The situation has become even more serious, as this report from the New York Times illustrates:

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s military said on Friday that it had sent ground troops into northern Iraq on Thursday night, in an operation aimed at weakening Kurdish militants there, but it was unclear how many or how long they would stay.

The Turkish General Staff, in an announcement on its Web site, gave no details on the size of the incursion. An American military spokesman in Baghdad said the ground offensive would be of “limited duration.”

The Turkish offensive appears to be aimed at dealing a surprise blow to the Kurdish militants, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, before the snow along the mountainous border between the two countries melts and the guerrillas make their traditional spring advance into Turkey.

The militants, known as the P.K.K., want greater autonomy for Turkey’s Kurdish minority and have fought the Turkish military for decades. Some of their hide-outs are in Turkey, but some are in northern Iraq, and the rebels have crossed the border into Turkey repeatedly to attack.

It was not clear what role the United States had played in the incursion. But the operation sets two of its closest allies in a troubled region against each other. Turkey is a NATO member that borders Iran, Iraq and Syria; the Iraqi Kurds, who control northern Iraq, are the most important American partners in the Iraq war.

The United States has been wary of Turkish efforts to stamp out the Kurdish militants, with Turkish officials chafing at what they view as a double-standard, escalation tension between the NATO allies.

NATO Report Cites Four Most Dangerous Threats to the West

The authors of the NATO-commissioned report I mentioned in the post below have listed what they believe are the most potentially dangerous threats to international security. If you’d like, you can choose to select one of these as your blog project for the semester.

Once more, from the Guardian:

The authors – General John Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff and Nato’s ex-supreme commander in Europe, General Klaus Naumann, Germany’s former top soldier and ex-chairman of Nato’s military committee, General Henk van den Breemen, a former Dutch chief of staff, Admiral Jacques Lanxade, a former French chief of staff, and Lord Inge, field marshal and ex-chief of the general staff and the defence staff in the UK – paint an alarming picture of the threats and challenges confronting the west in the post-9/11 world and deliver a withering verdict on the ability to cope.

The five commanders argue that the west’s values and way of life are under threat, but the west is struggling to summon the will to defend them. The key threats are:

  1. Political fanaticism and religious fundamentalism.
  2. The “dark side” of globalisation, meaning international terrorism, organised crime and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
  3. Climate change and energy security, entailing a contest for resources and potential “environmental” migration on a mass scale.
  4. The weakening of the nation state as well as of organisations such as the UN, Nato and the EU.

We will address the impact of environmental change on migration later in the semester when we read the work of Thomas Homer-Dixon.

NATO–Preemptive Nuclear Strike a Key Option?

We discussed in class today the use of preemptive force to respond to potential security threats and how this was a central component of President Bush’s National Security Strategy (NSS) of the United States (2002). Now, according to the Guardian newspaper, it seems that “five of the west’s most senior military officers and strategists” have insisted that NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the

west must be ready to resort to a preemptive nuclear attack to try to halt the “imminent” spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

Calling for root-and-branch reform of Nato and a new pact drawing the US, Nato and the European Union together in a “grand strategy” to tackle the challenges of an increasingly brutal world, the former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that a “first strike” nuclear option remains an “indispensable instrument” since there is “simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world”.

The manifesto has been written following discussions with active commanders and policymakers, many of whom are unable or unwilling to publicly air their views. It has been presented to the Pentagon in Washington and to Nato’s secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, over the past 10 days. The proposals are likely to be discussed at a Nato summit in Bucharest in April.

“The risk of further [nuclear] proliferation is imminent and, with it, the danger that nuclear war fighting, albeit limited in scope, might become possible,” the authors argued in the 150-page blueprint for urgent reform of western military strategy and structures. “The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction.”

Remember that in one of our earlier sessions we wondered aloud if there were any institutionalized norms in international relations and we thought that maybe there was a normative injunction against the use of nuclear weapons. Nina Tannenwald has written about the “nuclear taboo” but suggests that in the aftermath of WWII, officials in the US and Europe thought that nuclear weapons would come to be seen as another type of conventional weapon.

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