Sunday, May 20, 2007

Kurds Hire Lobbyists For Protection

By Cernig

I've been of the opinion for a while now that the Kurds in Northern Iraq are playing a careful game with the U.S., keeping on their good side against a possible Turkish invasion in pursuit of Kurdish PKK terrorists who are carrying out attacks on Turkish soil.

Yesterday, the Kuwaiti state news service examined the investment in that PR effort.
Behind the hand shakes and greetings, Iraqi Kurds have set upon Washington in a quiet storm seeking support for a three-way campaign designed to show, among other things, "the other face of Iraq." Kurdish leaders, staunch allies of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, are seeking assurance from the Bush Administration that US troops will continue to protect Kurdistan if violence seeps into its borders, while trying to combat the American perceptions.

...The semi-autonomous secular Kurdish Regional Government has set up a representative office, a couple blocks away from the White House, it has enlisted strong lobby support from one of Washington's most influential lobbying firms and launched a public relations campaign focused on tugging at the heart strings of the American. The Kurds tapped the shoulder of Qubad Talabani, son of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, to represent the Kurdistan Regional government in Washington, a job that has sent him to all over the city to knock on influential doors hoping to build momentum from Washington's political circuit. He has met and been in contact with the White House, Congress and the State Department to secure US protection of Iraqi Kurdistan in the event of an invasion by neighboring countries, like Turkey, which has 50,000 troops staked out on the Turkish-Iraq border hunting for PKK rebels sneaking into Kurdistan, or by insurgent groups like Al Qaeda that claimed attacks beyond Southern Baghdad's "triangle of death" to reach Kurdish cities, Irbil and Makhmur.

...the Kurdish Regional Government has spent a more than a little pocket change; an estimated three million dollars in campaigning and lobbying efforts in Washington and across the country.

In 2005, the Kurdish Development Corporation, a "quasi-governmental development wing" of the Kurdish regional government hired Russo, Marsh Rogers, a public relations firm based in California, to launch a series of 30-second commercials, aired in the US coast-to-coast, advertising Kurdistan as "the Other Iraq," describing the northern region as a stable hub for investment and democracy. The ad-campaign aggressively sought to dispose of American perceptions of Iraq as violent and bloody, with IED's under every rock and maniacal insurgent groups waiting behind every corner.

But although sectarian violence does wage in many parts of Iraq, in "the Other face of Iraq" Americans can find booming industry and airports, with multi-screen Cineplex's and, the Kurds say "thank you" to America forces in Iraq and encourage tourism and trade between the US and the Kurds.

..."America is the world's only superpower today and their protection and involvement," can preserve Kurdistan, Talabani told KUNA in an interview at his office. Talabani said plans are in the works for another public relations campaign again aimed at the American people, but this time, it will try to garner support for continued US protection for Kurdistan.
Meanwhile, the Turkish newspaper Zaman notes that the Kurds have begun some token handovers of ex-PKK members, probably hoping to stave off that threatened Turkish invasion. The most likely time-frame for that is getting very close now - on 28th May the PKK says it will end a unilateral ceasefire which it didn't actually observe anyway. Zaman reports:
had announced it would end a cease-fire it had allegedly declared eight months ago on Oct. 1, 2006. A large number of military units are being deployed on the Iraqi border to prevent infiltrations. The terrorist group, which has not refrained from attacking security forces during the so-called cease-fire, is reportedly preparing for deadly attacks. Seventeen Turkish soldiers have been killed in the last eight months because of landmines, although the PKK had announced it would not launch any attacks or use mines during the cease-fire.

In addition to its attacks in rural areas, the PKK also attacked police forces in the Kulp and Hani districts of Diyarbakır and in Bingöl’s Genç district. Routine security checks carried out at the entrance and exit of the cities have been stepped up.
Persistent rumors of another Turkish military coup this summer, combined with recent U.S. State Dept. leaks which suggest that NATO is still more important to the U.S. than Kurds who have sheltered terrorists while supposedly embracing democracy, mean that there's a perfect storm brewing in Northern Iraq. It's highly unlikely that Iran, also a victim of PKK attacks, would sit out any fighting. And the Bush administration seem pretty oblivious to what may be about to hit their Iraqi surge.

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