Just hours before her arrival, approximately 500 Turkish troops had crossed the border into northern Iraq to attack PKK terrorists in the safe haven they have enjoyed since the American invasion. On Sunday, the Turkish military conducted airstrikes against Kurdish terrorists hiding out in Iraq, sending a clear signal that the days of coddling Kurdish terrorists in Iraq are drawing to an end. Just as significant as the raids themselves: The United States military provided real-time intelligence to the Turks for the air strikes.
The United States is now firmly wedged between a rock (Iraq?) and a hard spot. On the one hand, the Kurdish autonomous region is the only part of Iraq that isn't an unmitigated disaster, but Turkey is our NATO ally. That alliance with Turkey is of reemerging importance, with Russia thumbing it's collective nose at the United States on a regular schedule these days.
And here is where it gets dicey real quick.
Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari is cooperating with Turkey on the fate of Kirkuk (which is home to a large Turkmen population that opposes inclusion of Kirkuk into the emerging Kurdistan) and whether it will be part of the Kurdistan Regional Authority.
The Kirkuk issue was a major contributing factor to the collapse of the Jaafari government and led to his replacement with Nuri Kemal al-Maliki. Maliki has very little support and if the Kurdish deputies start opposing him with their votes, or with a boycott, that would likely spell the end of the Maliki government. At the very least, it offsets the progress made by Sunni politicians that just in the last few days have agreed to call off their boycott of participating in the government.
The United States has, to this point, been reluctant to confront Barzani over the tolerance of PKK terrorists; mostly because of the implications such an action is almost certain to have for the Maliki government. The agreement that brings the Sunni politicians back in is tenuous at best, and a tussle between Kurds and Arabs could tank not just the agreement, but the entire government.
The head of Kurdistan's foreign relations department, Falah Mustafa Bakir, said that the United States support for the Turkish raids represented a nadir in relations between the semi-autonomous Kurds and the United States. "Morally and legally, they are responsible for providing security to the Iraqi people and protecting the sovereignty of Iraqi borders," Bakir said, referring to the U.S. military.
So let's just do a quick recap of the wacky, mad-cap free-for-all that is Iraq, thanks to the idiot prince: Over 20% of the population has fled their homes, whether taking up refugee status in those vacation wonderlands of Jordan and Syria, or internally displaced. Most of the country has no electricity or potable water. The United States has resorted to arming Sunni militants who comprised the insurgency until they rented out their loyalty temporarily for cash, ammo and guns. This has pissed off the Shi'ite led government that is propped up by the United States, and now we are in the middle of an ethnic struggle that has been brewing since on or about March 6, 983 B.C.
But hey, the most inept and incompetent Secretary of State ever is on the scene and on the case, so it can certainly get worse!
(As always, Juan Cole has a better post on this than I do.)