Turkey, the Kurds, and Iran

I mentioned that I spoke with a well-informed European official about the IAEA’s Iran report. On a hunch, I asked him what kind ofstrategic impact Turkey — whichhas really stayed on the sidelines of this issue — could make byactively siding with the West’s position. Without hesitation he saidit would make a huge difference. In addition to the obvious reasons(Islamic country, regional power, etc.), he explained that Turkey isone of the countries in the region he would be most worried aboutseeking a nuclear weapons capacity should Iran aquire a nuclear bomb.Although he did not explicitly connect the dots, I interpreted that tomeanthat by coming down firmly on the side of containing the Iranianprogram, Turkey would send a strong signal to the rest of the region oftheir own intentions. That in turn would shore up Western efforts toenlist other regional players to contain, rather than compete with, theIranian program.

That’s important to keep in mind for putting Turkey’s Iraq incursion into context. American military commanders emphasized the differenceyesterday between the U.S. receiving advance notice of the incursionand the U.S. approving the incursion. But that’s a distinction very fewpeople will find convincing, least of all the Kurds, who reminded theU.S. (in the form of a resolution by the Kurdish Regional Parliament)of its obligation to defend the territorial integrityof Iraq. (The resolution also notably called for the closure of TurkishForward Operating Bases in Iraqi Kurdistan that date back to the1990’s.)

My source categorically refused to speculate on apotential quid pro quo. But should Turkey adopt a more vocal positionin opposition to Iran’s nuclear program, it would to my mind suggest apriority shift in American strategic calculations in the region, andreflect the extent to which Washington considers the Iranian program avery serious threat.

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