Planning for the future in an atmosphere of Armageddon
In an atmosphere of Armageddon, it is never easy to talk about the future. Which is why the meeting held in Istanbul this week on the future of Iraq was so important.
Various Iraqi representatives came together at this meeting to discuss and argue over the finer details of setting up a government and getting things moving. Even just getting out of the atmophere of chaos in Iraq was enough to inspire the creativity of these Iraqi representatives. The meeting, which was sponsored by Turkey, was a United Nations venture, and included 40 representatives from Iraq. One of the many speeches at the meeting was given by Turkey's envoy to Baghdad, Oguz Celikkol, who said that Turkey was always ready to support and aid the new government in Iraq. Is Turkey a part of the Iraqi equation? Yes. But not as much as the US and Britain are. But thankfully so. Although its role in the new political structuring of Iraq is as great if not greater than those of Italy, which is preparing to pull out its soldiers, and Spain, which already has.
The recent developments on the PKK front signal Turkey's role in the new Baghdad. News has begun to come in of the closure of PKK bureaus in both Baghdad and Northern Iraq. Turkey's interest in Iraq is not only limited to keeping the Kurds there under control though. And actually, more than the closure of PKK bureaus, Ankara is interested in the extradition of PKK leaders to Turkey. The word from Ankara is "PKK leaders are walking around waving their arms freely in Northern Iraq. They use the hospitals, show themselves brazenly in the cities. We want this to stop."
Israel has interpreted the fact that no cease-fire decision emerged from the peace conference in Rome yesterday as a "continue fighting" message. This is however a very slip-shod and quickly taken interpretation, because in fact it was due to US pressure than no cease-fire decision emerged, but otherwise, other things which were said were also very important. I would not have wanted to be in Rice's place at that meeting. She was clearly frayed by being in the position of being the world's more alone and disliked person at this juncture. This much was clear, just from the television screen. Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora said, standing right next to Rice, that "every moment the cease-fire is delayed means more people die and more pain and distress." He also looked Rice directly in the eyes and told her that the Lebanese deaths were being chalked up to the US as much as they were to Israel. And while Rice was trying to portray the Hizbollah as the real enemy, Fuat Siniora said "The Hizbollah is a part of the Lebanese government. The Hizbollah played a very important role in Lebanese freedom from Israeli occupation." He explained that the reality of Hizbollah was not as it was seen in Washington, DC. He did not stop there, and went on to say that the real aggressor in this all was Israel. Siniora also stressed to those who want to bring in humanitarian aid to Lebanon that while humanitarian aid is necessary, a cease-fire must proceed it.
As you might remember, the question of a visit to the Middle East by Rice entered the agenda at the G-8 summit in Saint Petersburg, though at the time, Bush said "If Rice wants to bring about a success, she will have to go to the Middle East. An unsuccesssful visit would serve no purpose and be wrong." So, was this then the successful visit?