War on Iraq

Al-Maliki Declines Turkish Terror Treaty; Kurds Pass Oil Law

Iraqi-Turkish relations are strained, and the Kurds pass an oil law before the national government in Baghdad.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki appears to have been ambushed by Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his visit to Ankara, when Erdogan suddenly presented him with a thoroughgoing counter-terrorism treaty to sign, pledging the Iraqi government to go after the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party), which it branded a terrorist organization. Al-Maliki declined to sign that broad document. Instead, he signed a much narrower memorandum of understanding that he would attempt to expel the PKK from Iraq. He is said to have avoided calling the PKK a terrorist organization (the US government categorizes it that way) because his Kurdish allies nixed it.

Al-Maliki is not in a position, politically speaking, to crack down hard on the PKK, several thousand of whose fighters are being given safe harbor by the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq. Al-Maliki has been deserted by some of his former Shiite allies in parliament, including the Islamic Virtue Party (Fadhila), the Sadr Movement, and the secular Shiites of the Iraqi National List. He has also lost the Sunni Arab bloc, the Iraqi Accord Front. He would be open to failing a vote of no confidence without the backing of the Kurdistan Alliance. Therefore, he has to keep Massoud Barzani happy. He has no choice if he wants to go on being prime minister. And Barzani is the architect of the policy of giving the PKK a haven in Iraq.

The money graf from Aljazeera is:
' Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel Hamid, reporting from the Kurdish region of Erbil in Iraq, said most people there did not believe an invasion would actually happen, but would back the PKK against what they see as an oppressive regime, if it did. There is also suspicion that the real reason behind the threats has to do with not wanting an autonomous Kurdish region just across its border.'

The Turkish paper Sabah complained that al-Maliki had freely branded the PKK a terrorist organization when speaking to the press corps on board his plane to Ankara. But when suddenly faced with the prospect of signing a formal commitment that branded them as such, he turned evasive.

The real achievement of the trip was probably the understandings reached on energy issues. If security can improve to the point where Iraqi petroleum and gas are exported via Turkey, Turkey can make billions off tolls. At the moment, pipeline sabotage has prevented much in the way of exports from the Kirkuk fields to the Mediterranean via Turkey.

Meanwhile, the Kurdistan Regional Government passed its own petroleum law on Monday, even though the Federal parliament has not yet passed its. The Kurds are claiming extensive autonomy from Baghdad for their petroleum industry.

Sawt al-Iraq, writing in Arabic, reports that the Association of Muslim Scholars (Sunni fundamentalists) immediately called on foreign firms to boycott Kurdistan oil investments. AMS, which stands for a strong central government and opposes loose federalism, is linked to the 1920 Revolution Brigades guerrilla group.

Turkish-US relations are still shaky, and Turkey is threatening to stop supplies going across its territory to US troops in Iraq if Congress passes a resolution recognizing the WWI genocide against the Armenians conducted by Ottoman officers.

Iraqi guerrillas killed 26 US troops in the first week of August, with 6 killed on Monday alone. Several were killed in Diyala Province by Sunni Arab guerrillas, whom they have been fighting. Guerrillas killed another 4 on Tuesday with roadside bombs.

The US military appears to continue to ascribe all roadside bombings in Baghdad deploying explosively formed projectiles to Shiite militiamen, but this conclusion is shaky for all sorts of reasons. There is every reason to believe that Sunni Arab guerrillas could manufacture these devices, since the plates involved are made for the Iraqi oil industry, as well. And, if Iran did give any to anyone it would have been to the Badr Corps paramilitary, which may have failed to secure its warehouses or which may have some corrupt members that have sold off some of the munitions.

Unfortunately, the Pentagon allegations, which are attempting to implicate Iran in the killing of US troops, have already been used by Senator Joe Lieberman in a saber-rattling resolution against Tehran, and are a foot in the door for the war party in Washington with regard to getting up military action against Iran. That it is mostly based on innuendo, unsubstantiated assumptions, and faulty reasoning will do us no good if the politicians start believing this stuff and using it to throw more billions to Boeing, Lockheed Martin and other arms manufacturers.

Reuters details civil war violence for Tuesday, including the discovery of 16 bodies in the streets of Baghdad and several roadside bombs and mortar attacks. McClatchy gives further incidents.
Juan Cole is a professor of history at the University of Michigan and maintains the popular blog Informed Comment.