Friday, October 12, 2007


If I were in Congress, I would have voted for the resolution to identify the Ottoman genocide of Armenians a genocide as a matter of principle. However, I share with Juan Cole ( the sense that out of the 92 years since that horrific event, this is probably the most inappropriate year to have passed such a resolution, even though it is totally bizarre that the Republic of Turkey does not simply agree that its corrupt predecessor did indeed engage in such a genocide and then move on. Cole points out that while Turkey has been a super good ally of the US in NATO, ranging from providing troops in the Korean War to its continuing provision of the crucial Incirclik Air base, the US has: a) promised a billion in aid after the 91 Gulf war, only to renege, b) invaded and overthrown Saddam against specific desires of Turkey, thereby increasing the threat of Salafist Sunnis and fundamentalist Shi'is (including in neighboring Iran) and also leading to c) the newly empowered Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) allowing bases for PKK guerrillas who have killed 28 Turkish soldiers in the last few weeks, leading to Turkey threatening to invade Kurdistan, and d) allowing the KRG to control the police in oil-rich Kirkuk and also Turkmen-inhabited Tal Afar, with possible full control passing to the KRG, including of the massive future oil revenues to come out of that area.

Speaking of the KRG, Ben Lando at reports that the KRG has signed two more oil exploration agreements, with two more pending. The new deals are with Heritage Energy of Canada and Perenco S.A. of France. While the KRG has declared that this is "come and get it now or miss out" time, the big oil majors continue to hold back due to the continuing opposition of the central Iraqi government in Baghdad to all these deals. Oh, and btw, Lando also reports that contrary to previous public statements, apparently a rep of Hunt Oil did discuss their impending oil deal with the KRG with State Dept. reps (AID to be precise) in Irbil on Sept. 5.

12 comments: said...

So, just checked on badger at, who has an unusually large stick up his ass about Juan Cole, but who is pretty knowledgeable. He reports that al-Quds al-Arabia has an editorial in Arabic arguing that Turkey is just threatening to invade Kurdistan to get the US to put pressure on the Kurds to do something about the PKK, but that the Turks really won't invade as they do not want to piss off the US. Also, this editorial points out that all this is a terrible violation of Iraqi nationalism, and that all this is a further fallout mess of the US invasion of Iraq, with which I completely agree.


Myrtle Blackwood said...

"..all this is a terrible invasion of Iraqi nationalism."

I'm not really sure what is meant by that. My knowledge of the Middle East is very limited so I'm unclear about the nature and legitimacy of the concept of Iraqi nationalism. Could you clarify, Barkley?

This is some history of Iraq I've gleaned from an article in the Australian Financial Review.

“Britain and France secretly agreed on a post-Ottaman empire division of the region between Francophone and Anglophone spheres Nearly a century later the hapless residents of the world’s most unstable region are paying the price for arbitrary decisions made by representatives of the then Great Powers. This agreement negotiated in 1916 by French diplomat George Picot and British Arabist Mark Sykes, sowed the seeds of many of today’s problems, including an artificial construct known as Iraq. But the lethal difference between then and now is that Britain and its ally, France, imperial victors in the war against Germany and its ally, the Ottoman Turks, were in a position post World War I to impose their will on the Arab Middle East – from the Levant to the Persian Gulf. Sykes and Picot drew some lines on a map and out of this subjective and highly unorthodox process came the so-called modern Middle East with all its unresolved issues and tensions. To further complicate matters, the United Nations sought in 1947 to partition Palestine between its Jewish and Arab residents, laying the foundation for one of the most toxic – and enduring – conflicts in history. Surveying the Middle East from Cairo in the summer of 2007, the consequences of these imperfect arrangements are laid bare. Lebanon is again in danger of splintering between its various conflicting confessional groups in the face of a Shiite ascendancy and the rise of al-Qaeda-inspired Sunni extremism; in Palestine the secularists and Islamists are at war, confined to their respective enclaves, denied for the time being any prospect of a Palestinian state-in-being; and Iraq is facing the possibility of fragmentation between its Kurdish north, Sunni centre and Shiite south. But unlike the Sykes-Picot era, no power, certainly not the US in its weakened state, is in a position to “remake” the Middle East as Britain and France did all those years ago. The Bush administration has long since passed its use-by-date as far as most people are concerned.” Tony Walker, AFR’s international editor on assignment in the Middle East. 14-15 July 2007

Bruce Webb said...

There is kind of a bizarre path to peace here. The Turks by closing basing rights could effectively shut down American occupation of Iraq and it takes very strange definitions of national interest to deny the Turks rights to strike against terrorists openly tolerated on foreign soil. The Turkish case against Kurdistan exactly parallels the US's valid case against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

You can expect the Neos to find a reason why unsupported arguments for invading Iran based on attacks against Americans in Iraq are valid while uncontested claims about PKK terrorists against Turkey don't merit the same right of defense but fail any sense of logic. Sensible citizens of third party countries like Brenda are unlikely to be convinced by these claims of American exceptionalism. Over the last couple of decades Turkey has experienced the equivalent of more than 10 9/11s from the PKK, asking them to hold off on the basis that it isn't convenient for US security interests will rightfully be met with some skepticism by the Turks.

Shag from Brookline said...

The Turks in 1915 enlisted the aid of the Kurds in the attacks against Armenians. Prior to that, on occasions when the Turks made smaller assaults from time to time against Armenian communities, the Kurds in the mountains provided protection to fleeing Armenians until the uprisings stopped and they could return to their homes. The Kurds may have received promises from the Turks over the years for some form of autonomy. But some promises are not kept.

This brings to mind William Saroyan's "80,000 Assyrians." But the Kurds have multiplied in the ancient Kurdistan that overlaps several countries in Asia Minor and the Middle East. Perhaps the Kurds deserve justice, especially after the failure of George W's father back in '91-'92.

Anonymous said...


i take your point. but some would say the Turks are the agressors against the Kurds, so the Kurds have a "right" to hide in Kurdistan whose borders are not internationally recognized.... which I think may be part of Brenda's point.


you might enjoy Antoine de St Exupery "Wind Sand and Stars." in it he touches here and there on an Arab world that has always been at war within itself irrespective of what the French and Brits did to their borders.

an briary place for Bush to decide to teach himself to knit. said...

Well, back able to get in here.


I said a violation of Iraqi nationalism, not "invasion." However, your question certainly deserves an answer.

Sykes-Picot did not invent Iraq. Actually, according to it, the Mosul Province of Iraq (the northern part) was supposed to be under French control, but the Brits figured out there was oil there and got their troops in and that was that.

"Iraq" is an ancient term, perhaps originating from the Sumerian "Uruk," but later in Aramaic meaning "land between the rivers," the Tigris and Euprhates, that is, with the Arabs using this name for what was earlier known as "Mesopotamia." Under Persian rule, they used the term "Erek Arabi" for what is now southern Iraq. Certainly there were various ancient empires based in Iraq, including Babylonia and Assyria, although the latter was in the north.

There was a nineteenth century Iraqi nationalist movement, although it was confined to the Ottoman provinces of Baghdad and Basra, the Arabic center and south, not the Kurdish-Turkoman-Assyrian north, which would have been given to the French under Sykes-Picot. The Kurds were promised a nation at Versailles in 1919, but did not get one, thanks to the machinations mostly of the British, Persians, and Turks.

Modern Iraq was created by the British in 1921, with Churchill and Lawrence calling for it at the Cairo conference, and its actual borders being drawn by Gertrude Bell. The Hashemite prince, Faisal, whose father would be tossed out of Mecca by the Saudis, was installed by the Brits, with his son being assassinated during the 1948 coup that led to the modern Republic of Iraq.

Anyway, one can sneer at Iraqi nationalism, if one wants, and the US Senate just did so, passing a Joe Biden-inspired resolution calling for a "soft partition" of Iraq. This resolution has engendered considerable anger in Iraq itself, where Iraqi nationalism is taken very seriously, at least in the center and the south. Without question, the Kurds want out, want independence, although the Turks and everybody else continues to be unhappy about this prospect, especially an oil-rich and independent Kurdistan in the current northern Iraq that could inspire the Kurds of Turkey, Iran, Syria, and so forth, to join them.

In any case, I do not think it is appropriate for the US to dictate or interfere with the ongoing effort to make an Iraqi state exist. There really is an Iraqi nationalism, and it has been around for a long time, even if the Kurds are arguably the victims of it.

Bruce Webb,

Juan Cole claims that one reason the Armenian resolution passed is that the neocons and pro-Israeli lobbyists are split over Turkey and Armenia. Israel and Turkey have been effectively militarily allied. However, there is considerable sympathy for the Armenians. Hence the split. In the past the Israeli Lobby apparently helped block some resolutions critical of Turkey.

More generally, I do have a lot of sympathy for the Kurds. But, their move to independence may well lead to a major war, especially if the Turks invade northern Iraq to block the Kurds from taking Kirkuk fully. said...

Regarding King Faisal I of Iraq, for those of you who have seen the movie, "Lawrence of Arabia," he was the character played by Alec Guinness. Near the end, he says to General Allenby, "You are merely a general, but I must be a king." I don't know if that is historically accurate or not, but he was an important figure. One important role he played was to convince his father to side with the Arab nationalist revolt against the Ottomans, after he witnessed a massacre of Arabs in Beirut in 1913 who were demonstrating against rules requiring the wearing of the Turkish fez in the Ottoman Empire, imposed by the New Turks, the same guys who engaged in the Armenian genocide.

Myrtle Blackwood said...

Bruce: "..Sensible citizens of third party countries like Brenda .."

Bruce, I'm not at all sure that Australia can be regarded as a 'third party'. The nation appears to be run by the same international bosses. For instance, Australia's policy stance on the Kyoto Protocol appears to be shaped by research funded by the Australian Coal Association, the Australian Aluminium Council, the Business Council of Australia, BHP, Rio Tinto, Exxon, Mobil Oil, and Texaco.

As for being 'sensible' well, I try not to be. ;-)

Antoine de St Exupery's "Wind Sand and Stars" will have to wait till I finish David McClain's 'Apocalypse on Wall Street'. (Charles P Kindleberger says his book is a 'first-rate interpretation of the origin, course and likely consequences of the NYSE meltdown of October 19, 1987'.

Barkley, thanks. Very helpful background. I did see 'Lawrence of Arabia' many years ago, but really need to re-view it now. said...

Regarding the original Iraqi nationalism before the Brits carved it out of the former Ottoman Empire, let me note that it was most popular in the Shi'i-dominated South, although with followers in the Sunni-dominated center, who would be given the leadership role when Faisal was installed, a Sunni Arab.

Part of this reflects that the nationalist movements of the late nineteenth century were avowedly secular, and in the Middle East were often led by minorities within larger groupings. The Ottoman Empire was Sunni-Muslim dominated, which led to Arab nationalism being started by Arab Christians (Syrian Orthodox) in Beirut in the 1870s at what is now the American University of Beirut. So it is not surprising that the core supporters of Iraqi nationalism were secularly oriented Shi'is in the old Basra province, who in turn were inspired by romantic German nationalism.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting and educational comments. Has anybody heard that "War is God's way of teaching Americans geography"? Seems to be working.

And if the Kurds are making deals with any oil companies other than the US majors I don't like their chances. Remember what happened to Saddam's deals with non-US oil companies? Saddam was judicially murdered and the deals were voided. said...


While the majors are not cutting deals, some of them are US or partially US related companies, most notably Hunt Oil, whose head, Ray Hunt, has been a major supporter of Bush and sits on his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, leading to somewhat of a scandal. Indeed, this is the issue of his company now admitting that they informed the State Dept. prior to the deal, as this had been denied previously. The question of whether Hunt was doing this deal on the basis of access to classified information is a serious point. said...

BTW, for anybody paying close attention, the tension on the Turkish-Kurdish/Iraqi border appears to be a major contributor to the latest upsurge in world oil prices. The oil in Kurdish Iraq is not getting out, pipelines through Turkey being its main non-disrupted possible route.