Jacques Couvas, over at IPN, gives an interesting analysis of talks between Turkey and the U.S. over Turkey’s threatened invasion of Northern Iraq:

… Each one of the allies, Turkey and the United States, possesses something the other party wants.

Ankara needs to secure stability on its south-eastern flank at a time of unprecedented economic growth and growing demand for energy. In addition, it is betting on the Bush administration’s support to scrap the U.S. House of Representatives’ plan to declare as genocide the 1915-1916 massacres of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turkey.

Washington, on the other hand, wants to keep its supply routes to Iraq open, and also convince Turkey to abstain from developing a close relationship with Iran. So, some bargaining has already started.

The meeting on Sunday probably marked its kick-off. For the moment, however, the most likely U.S. course of action seems to be to tolerate a few rounds to be fired by TSK at the borderline mountains, already vacated by PKK, and persuading Erdogan’s government and Massoud Barzani’s northern Iraqi autonomous authority to put aside bitterness and find a creative compromise.

There are other factors that neither Bush nor Erdogan can overlook. For instance, the Arab states are becoming increasingly suspicious of Turkey’s real motives to attack northern Iraq, whose ownership of oil fields it has claimed in the past.

The Arabs, who endured a 500-year long Ottoman rule until the end of World War I, see the development of Turkey into a regional military and economic power as a bad sign, and even fear a Turkish permanent occupation of other Iraqi provinces. Only the U.S. can convince both camps to abstain from any initiatives that might be detrimental to the regional balance of power.

But right now, Iran is at the centre of interest, both for Ankara and Washington. The former has in recent months set the stage for a rapprochement with the Shia state. This looks part of a larger plan by Turkey to become a significant player in the Muslim world and particularly in the Middle East.

As negotiations with the European Union for membership are stalling, common citizens and think-tanks alike are pleading for a change of direction as a suitable alternative to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s doctrine of looking towards the West. Ataturk was the founder of the Turkish republic.

In July, Turkey and Iran signed, against protests by the U.S., a memorandum of understanding that would pave the way to 3.5 billion dollars of Turkish investment in Iran’s South Pars gas field.

Iran, in return, has given proof of its friendship by clamping down on PKK separatists living in the country, and by offering mediation in the northern Iraqi crisis. This proposal was politely turned down by Ankara on Saturday, after a quick visit there by Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

Mottaki has on occasion accused the U.S. and Israel of conspiring to form an independent Kurdistan, uniting around 25 to 30 million ethnic Kurds living in Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria.

Although the plans of the United States on this are difficult for the moment to fathom, friendly relations with Iranian Kurds are part of the U.S. State Department’s strategy to keep Tehran in check.

In spite of the Bush administration’s classification of PKK as a terrorist group and its promotion on Monday to “common enemy for the U.S. and Turkey”, Washington has stopped short of outlawing the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), an extension of the PKK based in Iran. Turkish Kurds fleeing northern Iraq will, in the minds of U.S. strategists, gross up PJAK’s ranks and give a hard time to the Iranian regime.

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