Resource distribution is strengthening Turks in another way vis-a-vis Arabs and Persians. Turks may have little oil, but their Anatolian heartland has lots of water—the most important fluid of the twenty-first century. Turkey's Southeast Anatolia Project, involving twenty-two major dams and irrigation systems, is impounding the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Much of the water that Arabs and perhaps Israelis will need to drink in the future is controlled by Turks. The project's centerpiece is the mile-wide, sixteen-story Ataturk Dam, upon which are emblazoned the words of modern Turkey's founder: "Ne Mutlu Turkum Diyene" ("Lucky is the one who is a Turk").
Unlike Egypt's Aswan High Dam, on the Nile, and Syria's Revolution Dam, on the Euphrates, both of which were built largely by Russians, the Ataturk Dam is a predominantly Turkish affair, with Turkish engineers and companies in charge. On a recent visit my eyes took in the immaculate offices and their gardens, the high-voltage electric grids and phone switching stations, the dizzying sweep of giant humming transformers, the poured-concrete spillways, and the prim unfolding suburbia, complete with schools, for dam employees. The emerging power of the Turks was palpable.
Erduhan Bayindir, the site manager at the dam, told me that "while oil can be shipped abroad to enrich only elites, water has to be spread more evenly within the society. . . . It is true, we can stop the flow of water into Syria and Iraq for up to eight months without the same water overflowing our dams, in order to regulate their political behavior."
Power is certainly moving north in the Middle East, from the oil fields of Dhahran, on the Persian Gulf, to the water plain of Harran, in southern Anatolia—near the site of the Ataturk Dam. But will the nation-state of Turkey, as presently constituted, be the inheritor of this wealth?
I very much doubt it.
According to the map, the great hydropower complex emblemized by the Ataturk Dam is situated in Turkey. Forget the map. This southeastern region of Turkey is populated almost completely by Kurds. About half of the world's 20 million Kurds live in "Turkey." The Kurds are predominant in an ellipse of territory that overlaps not only with Turkey but also with Iraq, Iran, Syria, and the former Soviet Union. The Western-enforced Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, a consequence of the 1991 Gulf War, has already exposed the fictitious nature of that supposed nation-state.
On a recent visit to the Turkish-Iranian border, it occurred to me what a risky idea the nation-state is. Here I was on the legal fault line between two clashing civilizations, Turkic and Iranian. Yet the reality was more subtle: as in West Africa, the border was porous and smuggling abounded, but here the people doing the smuggling, on both sides of the border, were Kurds. In such a moonscape, over which peoples have migrated and settled in patterns that obliterate borders, the end of the Cold War will bring on a cruel process of natural selection among existing states. No longer will these states be so firmly propped up by the West or the Soviet Union. Because the Kurds overlap with nearly everybody in the Middle East, on account of their being cheated out of a state in the post-First World War peace treaties, they are emerging, in effect, as the natural selector—the ultimate reality check. They have destabilized Iraq and may continue to disrupt states that do not offer them adequate breathing space, while strengthening states that do.
Tehran- The presidents of Iran and Syria on Saturday vowed
alliance against what they called US and Israeli conspiracies against
the Islamic world.
ISNA news agency reported Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying
that the Islamic world in general and Iran and Syria in particular
should maintain their vigilance and neutralise conspiracies aimed at
sowing discord among Muslims.
According to Israeli newspapers, which have given extensive coverage
to Olmert's Turkey visit, Turkey's mediating role in certain issues
between Israel and Syria, the Palestinian problem as well as the Black
Sea-Red Sea pipeline project will be on the agenda.
Emphasising Turkey's role as a "a leading Muslim state which remains
at the centre and which may constitute a bridge to Arab countries",
Olmert implied that Turkey can play a coordinating role with other
Arab countries in Israel's policy of targeting Iran.
Turkey's increasing co-operation on military issues and its bilateral
agreements with Israel since 1990's indicate that the co-operation
against Iran's nuclear programme might go beyond diplomatic efforts.
Within the framework of the Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA)
signed between the two countries, Israel is regularly taking part in the
'Reliant Mermaid' naval exercises and 'Anatolian Eagle' aerial
exercises. While the Israeli fighter plains have been conducting
training flights in the Turkish airspace from the airbase in Konya,
the Israeli commandos have been receiving snow training in Bolu
mountains for some time. The military relations between the two
countries are being supported by co-operation in the fields of defence
industry and intelligence sharing against terrorism.
It is believed that Turkey's airspace can be used if Israel launches
such an attack on Iran's nuclear installations. In the event of
possible more comprehensive military operations, such co-operation
might enhance within the framework of bilateral agreements. It is
feared that Israel's use of Turkish territory and air space in
attacking Iran might turn Turkey itself into a target.
Many of the politically active Kurds are forced to lie low or flee across the border to Iraq. There, they can pick up military training and political indoctrination at a camp run by Pejak - the Party of Free Life in Kurdistan - on the inaccessible Mount Qandil. Pejak subscribes to the teachings of now-imprisoned Abdullah Ocalan, the former leader of Turkey's banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Pejak's cadres are mostly educated male and female activists, and it emerged as a force in northern Iraq as a result of the collapse of the Iraqi state. Ever since then, reports have emerged linking US and Israeli covert operations with these anti-Tehran groups.
"We have the right to launch attacks against Iranian forces," said Cemil "Cuma" Bayik, the de facto leader of the PKK, a quasi-socialist rebel movement entrenched in a decades-long guerrilla war for independence in the majority-Kurdish southeast of Turkey. In 2005, Pejak killed at least 120 Iranian soldiers in Iran, according to the Jamestown Foundation. In 2006, the guerrilla attacks continued undiminished. Also active is the left-wing Komala (Revolutionary Toilers of Iran) group that was founded in 1969 and was affiliated with the also-banned Communist Party of Iran. Last year, a senior Komala representative, Abdullah Muhtadi, traveled to Washington for a conference of Iranian minority groups amid speculation that the US administration was exploring a way of working with the group against Tehran.
On January 16, a commentary by Aref Mohammadzadeh in the conservative daily Jomhuri-ye Eslami accused Washington of "devising a strategy against the Islamic Republic similar to the one which had led to the collapse of the Soviet Union" and which aims at "fomenting and strengthening separatist movements and tribalist groups".
"One of the duties of these [recruited] individuals is to make connections inside Iran in order to recruit other people, and also to be in contact with Western authorities, organizations and institutions and present false and fabricated reports on the situation of ethnic groups in Iran," the commentary said.
Triumphant Iranian soldiers encountered last summer on the outskirts of Marivan in the Kurdish heartland claimed to have been involved in a skirmish the previous night in which "we killed the Khomeini of the Kurds", a comparative reference to the late ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. But very little news filters out from Kordestan, and the Ministry of Islamic Guidance in Tehran throws bureaucratic obstacles in the path of foreign journalists seeking to visit the province.
With the region kept underdeveloped, smuggling provides a lucrative source of income...
Turkish Land Forces Commander General Ilker Basbug estimated that around 3,500 to 3,800 members of the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) were located in the north of Iraq, especially in regions close to the Turkish border.
Basbug announced the figure when he visited injured Turkish soldiers at a military hospital in Diyarbakir city, southeast of the country.
There are nearly 500 PKK members around the Mount Qandil, Basbug was quoted as saying by the semi-official Anatolia news agency.
Basbug said that the PKK members began crossing into Turkey from northern Iraq in March and such infiltration would continue in times ahead.
Basbug added that 101 PKK militants "were rendered ineffective" during operations in the winter.
The Land Forces commander also noted that the terrorist activities in Turkey were directly affected by developments in Iraq.
"Turkey may always take necessary precautions against the separatist organization in the north of Iraq when military circumstances require in accordance with the domestic and international laws," Basbug said.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, launched an armed campaign for an ethnic homeland in the mainly Kurdish southeastern Turkey in 1984, sparking decades of strife that has claimed more than 30,000 lives.
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