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International Periscope

/ Source: Newsweek International

Iraq: A Pyrrhic Victory? | Deals: A Rival Swoops In to Steal a Siberian Pipeline | Science: The Steadiest Metal | South Korea: Risky Ploy | Arab World: Freeing the Mind | Music: Mi Salsa Es Su Salsa | Books: Ghost Writers? | Poetry: The Trials of Sylvia Plath | Sharon Stone | Perspectives


A Pyrrhic Victory?

Washington trumpeted an impressive victory last week in the United Nations Security Council that cleared the way for other countries to aid in the reconstruction effort in Iraq. But it’s only a symbolic win for the White House. The bulk of the financing for rebuilding Iraq will continue to come from the United States, as will the majority of troops responsible for maintaining security. India continues to insist it cannot contribute troops who are needed in Kashmir, while Pakistan and other Muslim countries remain reluctant to commit without an invitation from the Iraqi Governing Council.

To make matters worse, the one crucial commitment Washington looked to have won is now increasingly suspect. Opposition from the Iraqi Governing Council and Turkish demands are complicating the deployment of some 10,000 Turkish soldiers Ankara had agreed in principle to send. Iraqi leaders fear that Turkish involvement may encourage Iraq’s other neighbors to intervene too, and that historically tense relations with Iraq’s Kurds could flare out of control. Kurdish council member Massoud Barzani has even threatened to resign if the deployment goes ahead. As a result, says a Western diplomat in Ankara, Washington is considering formulas for Turkish troops that could soothe the IGC’s fears. One option: to position them in the western sector of the so-called Sunni Triangle near Baghdad—far from Kurdish areas but the most dangerous region in the country. Other ideas include dispersing the Turks around Iraq instead of giving them a distinct sector to control and reducing the size of the force. Even that worries the Governing Council, which fears that Turkish troops could use any violence against Iraqi Turkomans—some of whom have clashed with Kurds recently—as an excuse to intervene in the north.

Ankara is laying down some stiff conditions of its own. Particularly thorny is a demand that all Turkish troops travel and be supplied by land routes, whose security Turkish forces would be responsible for. (Back to square one: the main road from Turkey into Iraq runs through Kurdish territory, and is one of the Kurds’ most strategic assets.) Ankara also insists that it be allowed to pursue Kurdish militants from the separatist PKK group, and wants a refugee camp set up for Kurds fleeing Turkey in the 1990s to be dismantled. It’s “deeply worrying,” says a top Kurdish official, that Turkey is beginning to “tell us how to run our affairs even at this early stage.” Given how unpopular the proposed deployment is both at home and in Iraq, the Turks may yet decide to withdraw their offer, especially if other, less controversial countries step forward to take their place in the Coalition.

—Owen Matthews and Rod Nordland