19 October 2003

Premier: Turkey will scrap Iraq deployment if unwanted

Turkey (AP) Turkey's prime minister said Saturday that his country would scrap plans to send troops to Iraq if Iraqis continue to oppose the deployment.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government supports sending peacekeepers to Iraq, as requested by the United States, and parliament approved a deployment last week.

But the proposed deployment has met vocal opposition from many Iraqis, who fear Turkey will pursue its own agenda. The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council has come out against having Turkish troops or troops from any neighboring nation on Iraqi soil.

''The demands of the Iraqi people are very important for us,'' Erdogan was quoted as saying in Mallorca, Spain by Turkey's semiofficial Anatolia news agency. ''We aren't longing to send soldiers to Iraq. There was a request from the United States and we're evaluating it.''

''If the Iraqi people say, 'We don't want anybody,' there's nothing else we can do,'' Erdogan was quoted as saying. ''If wanted, we'll go, if not wanted, we won't go. We haven't made a definite decision.''

Erdogan added: ''The requests of the United States are very important us.''

The United States has welcomed a possible deployment by Turkey, hoping the Turks would become the first major contingent from a Muslim country.

But Washington is now proceeding cautiously amid opposition from members of Iraq's Governing Council and Iraqi Kurds. Some Turkish officials have downplayed the council's opposition and have said Iraqis would welcome Turkish troops.

On Thursday, the United Nations Security Council also unanimously passed a resolution authorizing a multinational force in the neighboring nation. That has apparently boosted Washington's hopes that other nations might now contribute to a peacekeeping operation.

The world is complex. Moral clarity does not make it any simpler. The Bush administration seems to think that putting a Muslim face or a UN face on the occupation will make to acceptable in the Muslim world or inside Iraq itself.

I do not think that is the case. Military occupations generate inevitable friction between the people and the occupying troops. Muslim occupation troops will ultimately suffer the same unpopularity as other occupation troops. The antagonistic history that Turks and Iraqis share makes the choice of Turkish troops incredibly foolish.

George Bush launched this war saying the US is not subject to the decisions of others. That was always untrue. Its untruth is proved by the Turkish parliament's refusal to allow the northern attack to happen through Turkish territory.

Now the US has an ambiguous UN resolution that enables it to retain the appearance of all power in Iraq. It will not attract any troops or money but the US does get the right to keep the CPA in power while it can. And the Turkish government is saying the IGC has a say no matter what the UN resolutions and CPA decrees might say.

No amount of public relations is going to change that, the starin on the US army,or the inevitable transfer of power from the CPA to the IGC.

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