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The Eighth Front
Thursday, 07 June 2007 15:09
by Juan Cole

According to Turkish sources, hundreds of Turkish troops crossed into Iraqi Kurdistan on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning in hot pursuit of Kurdish terrorists. There was some skepticism about whether this incident actually occurred, and it was both affirmed and denied by various Turkish sources in the course of the day. MSNBC showed footage of the incursion, but I don't know if that was stock footage or if it showed today's events accurately (shouldn't they label these things?). A US military spokesman in Baghdad could not confirm the border incursion but said "we are very concerned." As well he should be.

A hot eighth front may have just opened up in the kaleidoscopic Iraq War, which appears to be gradually fulfilling its potential for unravelling the entire Middle East as it was constituted by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 in the aftermath of WW I.

How many fronts are there in the Iraq War? The Sunni Arab guerrillas of the center, west and north are themselves fighting a four-front war. They are fighting US troops. They are fighting Shiites. They are fighting Kurds in the Kirkuk region and Ninevah and Diyala provinces. And they are fighting other Sunni Arab forces (Baathists fight Salafi fundamentalists, and both fight tribal levies gravitating to the Americans).

Then there is a muted Shiite front with two dimensions. Radical Shiites attack US forces. And, in Basra, Diwaniya and elsewhere, there is Shiite on Shiite violence as the Badr Corps paramilitary of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (often infiltrated into the Iraqi police) fights the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr.

So that makes 6 - four Sunni Arab fronts and 2 Shiite fronts.

Then there are the Kurds. Of course they are fighting the Sunni Arabs. But they have also given haven to two terrorist groups. One is the PKK, or Kurdish Worker's Party, which operates in Turkey's eastern Anatolia, blowing things up and killing people. Some 5,000 PKK fighters are holed up in Iraqi Kurdistan, to the rage of the Turkish government in Ankara. The other is PEJAK, an Iranian-Kurdish terrorist group that launches attacks in Iran. Both Iran and Turkey have lobbed mortars and artillery shells over the border into villages of Iraqi Kurdistan as a way of lodging a complaint and making a threat against these Kurdish forces.

So in addition to the Arab-Kurdish front already counted, that makes 2 more fronts, for a grand total of 8. Not all 8 are very active at all times. But all 8 do break out into substantial violence from time to time. And we may have just seen a flare-up in no. 8.

By the way, why does the Bush administration allow its Kurdistan allies to harbor PKK terrorists? I thought that sort of thing was a no-no in the age of the war on terror? Wasn't it even the casus belli for Bush's two big invasions? Or is it all right to do terrorism to Turkey and Iran, but not to the US and Britain? I'm confused. 

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