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Kurds Want American Bases in Northern Iraq

The Kurdish leadership says it is doing its utmost to keep Iraq intact and participate the in the political process in Baghdad while on the other hand making preparations to face a crisis situation if Iraq falls apart.

The New Anatolian has learnt that the Kurds are lobbying in the U.S. Congress and at the White House to convince the Americans to establish military bases in the Kurdish north to protect the region in case the country is dragged into destruction in the years to come. Kurdish leaders who received a long list of Americans last week from Richard Holbrooke to Congressmen have aired similar views to their visitors.

The idea is simple: If the situation in Iraq degenerates into a civil war and the country simply disintegrates then American presence in the region run by the Kurdistan regional government can be protected by the Americans.

The Kurds feel they could be the target of a massive Iraqi Arab offensive of all kinds and they realize that past experience shows they need outside help to protect the area.

In the past Turkey, the United States, Britain and France came to the aid of the Kurds to protect them for Saddam's forces.

Due to their cool relationship with Turkey it seems the Kurds are seeking American support but many American observers feel this is not a feasible proposition.

They say while the U.S. regard the Kurds as valuable allies who are much needed to help out with the current plans of the Bush administration to put an end to the violence in Baghdad and its surroundings, setting up bases in the Kurdish region may not be too popular with the Turks whose support for Washington is vital for U.S. interests regarding Iran and the Middle East.

Such a base or bases in the north could only survive with logistical support from Turkey, while Ankara would hardly give such a blessing that would potentially help the creation of an independent Kurdish state.

However, the stability of northern Iraq is vital for Turkey especially if Iraq falls apart or an extremist religious state is created to the south of our borders below Kirkuk. The Kurdish region could become a buffer zone for Turkey to halt the extremist drive from the south. So it would also be in the interest of Turkey to help to keep the Kurdish entity in Iraq afloat.

However, the answer would not be the establishment of American bases in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah. Those basses would attract more Arab enmity as well as Iranian anger, which the Kurds have to realize that they cannot afford.

In this case the best case scenario would be for Turkey and the U.S. to be the joint mentors of the region.

This is what Ankara and Washington have to discuss. That is why we need strong dialogue between Ankara and the Iraqi Kurdish leaders as well as close collaboration over the issue between Turkey and the U.S.

By Ilnur Cevik

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