U.S. Decides Turkey and the Turks In Iraq Are Most Important Asset In War With Iraq

by DEBKAfile

9 July 2002

US war planners have decided that their most useful strategic asset for the coming offensive against Saddam Hussein is the 2.5 million Turkomans of north and central Iraq - even more than the Kurds.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military and intelligence sources explain their reasoning:

1. The Turkomans control a vital strip separating Baghdad and central Iraq from its oil regions in the north. After the war is over, US strategic planners plan the establishment of Turkoman and Kurdish autonomous states in the north and a Shiite territory in the south to keep the federal regime in Baghdad chronically weak and ineffective. The oilfields will be left with the Turkomans and the Shiites. The Turkic-speaking Turkoman Strip is of exceptional geo-strategic importance, running as it does from the Turkish-Syrian borders in the northwest to the Iranian border southeast of Baghdad. It includes the oil cities of Kirkuk and Mosul, as well as Arbil – or Irbil, Diala, Salah-e-din and Altunkopru. The last is an island-town on the Little Zab River. There is also a large community in Baghdad.

2. At the end of May, Turkey came around to joining the US offensive against Iraq for compelling strategic reasons of its own. One, the eventual disseverance of Iraq will enfeeble Iraq and its military ally, Syria, both neighbors. Two, Ankara will gain control over the perennial Kurdish problem by holding Turkish military forces in the autonomous Turkoman region and so clamping the Kurdish regions between Turkey in the north and the Turkoman Strip in the south. Three, the Turks will gain a direct route to Baghdad for the first time since the Ottomans were thrown out in 1924.

Turkey now has special military units and military intelligence agents positioned in Turkoman towns, corresponding to the US presence in the Kurdish regions. They are training small Turkomen units in the arts of guerrilla warfare. The Turks and Turkomans will be able to cut the supply lines from Baghdad to the Iraqi forces positioned on the Turkish and Syria borders.

Turkish agents have also been planted in the Turkoman community in Baghdad. They are assigned to helping the American effort to undermine and subvert the Saddam regime from within, so reducing the need for large-scale military action.

The new name to watch for is Sapr Oketene, the US-Turkish choice of Turkoman national leader.

The forcible relocation of the Turkomen communities and their replacement by Arabs began in 1925 when the British first set up the Iraqi oil company in Kirkuk and Mosul. This policy of changing the demography of the oil rich sectors of Kirkuk by deporting ethnic Kurds and Turkomans is still going on, including seizure of their lands.

The “safe havens” created by the UN in 1991 after the Gulf War divided the Turkomans into two separate communities, part living above the 36th parallel which is dominated by the Kurds and part living below and dominated by the Iraqi regime. Since then, the largely Sunni Muslim ethno-linguistic Turkomans who ruled Baghdad from 833 to 1924 complains of ethnic cleansing by the dominant Kurds.