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Iraq: Governing Council Wary Of Turkish Troop Deployment

  • Sergei Danilochkin

The Iraqi Governing Council has not announced an official position on the Turkish Parliament's decision to send troops to Iraq, but some members are already expressing concern. A significant portion of the Iraqi population is also wary of such a development, especially the Kurds in the north. But U.S. officials think they can bring Iraqis around to the idea of accepting Turkish troops.

Prague, 8 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council was discussing Turkish troops in the country almost at the same time as the vote on the issue in the Turkish Parliament yesterday. The council's official opinion on the matter has not been announced, but some of its members have already expressed their concern about Turkey's decision.

Current Iraqi Governing Council head Iyad Allawi said the council plans to discuss the deployment issue with top U.S. civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer. In a statement, Allawi said: "We have concerns about the deployment, it is true, but we understand the coalition decision to have additional troop contributions."

The negative view of the deployment of foreign troops in Iraq refers not only to Turkey but to other countries in the region, as well. Governing Council member Muwaffaq al-Rubay'i said such anxiety and caution is caused by the perception that "those countries have interests that contradict the interests of the Iraqi people."

In an interview with RFE/RL, Rosh Noori Shawais, a representative of Kurdish leader Mas'ud Barzani, who is also a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, reiterated al-Rubay'i's concerns.

"In Iraq, there is a variety of ethnicities that share different political views, and they can be influenced by the foreign policy interests of the neighboring countries. This can create tension and complications," Shawais said.

In Washington, the Bush administration says it is confident it can bring Iraqi leaders around to the idea of accepting Turkish troops. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday he believes the disagreement "can be worked out because Turkish troops can make a contribution to stability."

"We expect there to be different views and some debate. We will work with the Iraqis, we will work with the Governing Council and arrive at conclusions, hopefully together, about how Turkish troops might contribute to stability in Iraq," Boucher said.

Boucher said the situation over Turkish troop deployment in Iraq has not caused friction between the coalition and Iraqi officials.

Al-Rubay'i says the Governing Council is ready to cooperate and find a compromise. "We cannot deceive ourselves," he said. "We know very well that Iraq is occupied and the Coalition Provisional Authority is our partner, and we do not want to enter a confrontation."

However, the presence of Turkish troops in Iraq could spark unrest by Iraqi Kurds, in light of the decades of fighting between Turkish troops and Kurdish rebels across the border in southeastern Turkey.

The rest of the Iraqi population does not seem to place much trust in the Turkish military, either. Safa al-Falaki, an expert in Iraqi politics who now lives in the Netherlands, explains why but suggests that the U.S. authorities have control over the situation.

"For many reasons, the historical reason, perhaps, [is that] Turks believe that [they can] play a role in Iraq's interior policy and future. The Americans promised that they will keep the identity of Iraq and keep Iraq one country. And I believe they can control that. I believe we do not need to be very concerned about the future of Iraq. I believe [the U.S.] will explain to [Iraqi leaders] details, perhaps promise that Turkish troops will withdraw from Iraq before the Americans or, perhaps, that the Turks are not going to play a political role in Iraq," al-Falaki said.

Iraqi Governing Council member Mahmud Uthman told RFE/RL that they will try to work out the problems caused by the deployment of Turkish troops in Iraq.

"Eventually, if we don't succeed in convincing the American side and they continue to insist on bringing in these [Turkish] troops because they consider security issues [in Iraq] their responsibility, then we have to sit down with the American side and with the Turkish side, if possible, and discuss and agree on the number of troops, where they will be deployed and for how long they will stay," Uthman said. "All this is needed to reduce the harm that can be done as a result of the deployment of these troops."

(RFE/RL's Iraqi Service contributed to this report.)