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Turkey Has Three Options on Kirkuk

The signals are clear. Iran has cut a deal with the Iraqi Kurds at Turkey's expense. The US is supportive as part of its cooperation with Ahmadinejad in Iraq. As a result, Barzani and Talabani will annex Kirkuk and all of northern Iraq by staging the 15 November referendum on the status of Kirkuk. Meanwhile, Iran will take Basra and southern Iraq.

This Iraq partition scenario is a disaster for Turkey, which would become Iran's next target. Turkey has only three options to avoid defeat.

To begin, Iran's collaboration with the Kurds against Turkey is a matter of record. A quick tour of Iran's official website shows twenty seven Iranian statements referring to northern Iraq as "Kurdistan" since March of 2006 (Turkey is at war with this designation of northern Iraq.) Iran has opened three Consulates in Iraq, two of which are in "Kurdistan." Iran's third Consulate is in Basra in southern Iraq, which is now under Iranian control. Iran has signed numerous bilateral agreements with "Kurdistan," including military cooperation agreements. Finally, Iran has sent high ranking officials of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and the Quds Force to meet with Barzani and Talabani to discuss Kurdish-Iranian military cooperation. In fact, the final details of the Kurdish-Iranian partition of Iraq may be under negotiation in these meetings.

In short, the Kurdish-Iranian offensive to take Kirkuk from Iraq is in high gear, unopposed by the US. What can Turkey do to prevent defeat at the hands of the Kurds and Iran? Again, Turkey has three options.

Option one consists of Turkish hit and run raid against the PKK in northern Iraq. Turkish military leaders are already signaling Turkey's intention to conduct such raids. However, this option is undesirable for Turkey because it brings substantial negative consequences in the form of international disapproval with no Turkish gains, aside from a temporary disruption of PKK activities.

Option two is for Turkey to establish a military presence in Kirkuk and Basra. Turkey can do this by using its own forces, as recommended by (March 07). As an alternative, Turkey can approach the US about sending Turkish peacekeeping forces to Kirkuk and Basra. Option Two produces an outcome acceptable to Turkey because it would do the most of all three options to deter Kurdish and Iranian hegemony in the region.

Option three is for Turkey to build a consensus in Iraq and the region to postpone the Kirkuk referendum. Option Three is by far the easiest option to implement for Turkey. The outcome is acceptable to Turkey because it would prevent Iraq's partition by the Kurds and Iran. Moreover, Option three has the advantage of commanding support in the US, where the Baker-Hamilton Commission and Senator John McCain have all recommended postponing Kirkuk's referendum. In fact, no one, aside from Barzani, Talabani, and Ahmadinejad, is in favor of holding the Kirkuk referendum this year.

In conclusion, by choosing either option two or three Turkey would be in a strong position to protect its own security and the security of the region. Turkey would have the support of every state in the region, aside from Iran. Furthermore, while protecting Kirkuk and Iraq, Turkey would isolate Iran. The Kurds would lose their main ally, Iran. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, Barzani, and Talabani could then sit down to discuss mutually advantageous terms for cooperation, without Iranian interference. In other words, options two and three, unlike the first option, bring a happy ending for all but Ahmadinejad's Iran. Perfect!

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