Condoleezza Rice, Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science and 66th United States Secretary of State, arrived unannounced in the oil rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Tuesday, just after Turkey's attacks on Kurdish targets in northern Iraq, to do what she does best: step into a bad situation and make it worse.
Kurdish regional President Massud Barzani refused to meet with her because the U.S. had assisted the Turks. Regional Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani (Massud's nephew) said, "It is unacceptable that the United States, in charge of monitoring our airspace, authorized Turkey to bomb our villages."
Pentagon officials, preferring more passive language to describe America's role in the strikes, said that the U.S. had "deconflicted" the airspace over northern Iraq for the Turks. That sounds eerily similar to the way Dick Cheney deconflicted the airspace over Lebanon for Israel two summers ago.
An unnamed "American military officer" said that, “Nothing the Turks have done to date should be considered a surprise,” and that while "we've shared information" with the Turks, "the decision to pursue military options is theirs.” The New York Times granted the quoted officer anonymity because he was "discussing actions of a sovereign ally," which is the NYT's lamest excuse to date for allowing a faceless administration official to use it as a propaganda platform.
Nabi Sensoy, Turkey's ambassador to the U.S., said the air strikes against the Kurds were the result of real-time, actionable intelligence provided by the Americans.
Real-time actionable intelligence isn't something you casually "share" with an allied chum over cocktails at the embassy. It's something your command and control people aggressively monitor and pass to your ally's forces as they execute an operation. That doesn’t happen spontaneously, either; it requires significant prior planning. Further, you don't "deconflict" an ally's strike aircraft into your controlled airspace unless you know just what in the wide world of sports they're up to.
And it looks like the order to play along with the Turkish strikes came from the top of the U.S. chain of command. Ambassador Sensoy claimed the strikes and follow on ground incursion operations were "tangible results" of talks in Washington last month between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Mr. Bush, during which Mr. Bush promised the U.S. would do everything it could to help Turkey counter the threat presented by the Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the PKK.
While everyone knows the strikes on the PKK were a U.S. certified operation, Condi had the bald temerity to pretend otherwise and caution Turkey that, “No one should do anything that threatens to destabilize the north.”
But the Turks aren't interested in pretense. Ambassador Sensoy said, "This is not a once and for all operation… The ultimate target is the elimination of the PKK operation." Prime Minister Erdogan, speaking from Turkey's capital of Ankara, seconded that sentiment with: “From now on, our security forces will continue to do whatever is necessary.”
It sounds like Condi's got a lot more cautioning to do. She'll also have to smooth some ruffled feathers, something she's not the best choice for doing since she sold Lebanon down the river during the 2006 Israeli/Hezbollah conflict.
We knew about the Turkish ops, and gave them the go ahead, but, apparently, we didn't tell our pals in the Iraqi government about it.
Iraqi officials condemned the Turkish raids, saying they added "insult to injury" and calling them "a cruel attack to Iraqi sovereignty."
Our sovereign ally Turkey said it had a right to strike the PKK in northern Iraq because its presence there threatens Turkey's sovereignty.
Poor Condi. Torn between two sovereigns. At least she had the good sense not to point out that nothing constitutes a crueler attack on a nation's sovereignty than occupying it with an armed force, and that nothing threatens a nation's sovereignty more than having to ask America's permission to protect its sovereignty.
She did, however, manage to insult Kirkuk's municipal officials before she left, lecturing them on how grateful they should be for America's help. "I look forward to talk with you about how the PRTs (provincial reconstruction teams) are helping to bring prosperity, creating jobs and bringing political reconciliation," she told them.
Great. Caesar's. Ghost.
I’m not sure what stuns me more: that our Secretary of State actually said that to a hostile audience, or that she might actually have thought saying it was a world-class piece of international diplomacy. How much do we have to pay Doctor Ditz to resign, jump on her broom, and go back to teaching political science at Stanford?
Komik Karma Koda
Here's one last theater of the absurd wrinkle in the U.S./Iraq/Turkey relations saga.
Ambassador Sensoy says that the Unites States has promised—presumably during the meeting between Bush and Prime Minister Erdogan—to investigate charges that U.S. weapons have fallen into the hands of the PKK.
Would it not be a kolossal kick in the kranium to discover the PKK is killing Kurds with some of the 190,000 Kalishnikov rifles and pistols U.S. military commander in Iraq David Petraeus lost track of in 2004 and '05 when he was handing them out like Hershey bars to Iraqi security force trainees?
I'd love to hear what Condi would have to say about that. Something klever, no doubt.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books) will be available April 1, 2008.