Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Iraq, Turkey, Agree Anti-Terror Co-operation...With A Catch

By Cernig

The AP is reporting that Iraq and Turkey's primeministers have signed a memorandum agreeing to co-operate on fighting the Kurdish PKK terror group. It's good news, especially for the Bush administration who were worried US troops were about to find themselves caught between two allies at war.
We have reached an agreement to spend all efforts to end the presence of the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK in Iraq,'' Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a news conference with his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri al-Maliki.

Erdogan said the leaders signed a memorandum of understanding and agreed to speed up work to finalize a counterterrorism agreement to combat the Kurdish guerrillas who have escalated their attacks on Turkey from bases in northern Iraq.
But there are a couple of potential pitfalls.
...While reaching agreement on Kurdish rebels, al-Maliki refused to sign the counterterrorism agreement requested by the Turkish authorities, saying it was not in his power to commit Baghdad to the agreement without first putting it before parliament and his Cabinet, an Iraqi government official said.

The Turkish and Iraqi Interior Ministries had been negotiating such a pact, but the official said al-Maliki was caught off-guard when asked to sign an agreement Tuesday.

``Al-Maliki offered to sign a memorandum instead, saying that fell within his powers. ... He told the Turks that signing this agreement would impose commitments that Iraqis might not be able to carry out,'' the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

However, al-Maliki promised to cooperate with Turkey in combatting Kurdish rebels.
Maliki has also promised, within recent memory, to root out sectarian Shiite militia death squads, help Sunni Iraqis achieve constitutional reforms they were promised, broaden his governments sectarian base and work to end rampant corruption in his government. The Turks would do well to be sceptical about any Maliki promise that involves action rather than talk.

Then there's the question of what powerful Kurds - a crucial part of Maliki's ruling bloc - like President talibani and local Kurdish supremo Barzani will feel about maliki's promises.
``We in Iraq are victims of terrorism. We understand what Turkey wants,'' al-Maliki said, assuring cooperation with Turkey. ``We have said that we will establish cooperation against all terrorist organizations, prominently against the PKK.''

Al-Maliki, responding to a question, said agreements signed by the central government would be binding for the Kurdish administration, which has been accused by Turkey of turning a blind eye to the activities of the PKK.

``Kurdistan is part of Iraq and agreements signed between countries puts the entire country under responsibility and would be binding for the sides,'' al-Maliki said.
Barzani, for one, is likely to disagree with that. In Kurdish Iraq, you can even get arrested for flying the Iraqi flag. That sure doesn't sound like the Kurds think the central government's writ runs in the North.

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