NEWS & ANALYSIS: Action on Kurdish violence; after the surge

Turkey urges U.S. to take action on Kurdish violence

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Friday that Turkey wants the United States to stop talking and start taking action to help end cross-border attacks by Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq.

“We need to work on actually making things happen,” Babacan said at a news conference with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Ankara. “This is where the words end and action needs to start.”

Rice stopped in the Turkish capital for emergency meetings with senior Turkish officials, including Babacan, Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, ahead of an Iraq conference with regional foreign ministers Saturday in Istanbul. [complete article]

The dark side of Iraq’s good news

When Mark Twain lumped statistics together with lies and damned lies, he could have had Mesopotamia in mind. A new set of data from Iraq shows Iraqi civilian deaths on the decline, from 2,800 in January 2007 to about 800 last month. Other reports reveal that tens of thousands of Iraqis have joined local auxiliary forces to secure their neighborhoods and that U.S. forces continue to kill or capture many of the insurgency’s top leaders. Violence is down sharply in most areas. In Baghdad, troops report weeks without a roadside bomb in neighborhoods that used to be hit every day; and in Anbar, things are so good the Marines held a 5K race on the streets of Ramadi two weeks ago.

Still, the truth behind these numbers is elusive. It’s near impossible to discern whether they reflect the success of our military operations or some larger, deeper trends in Iraqi society, such as the success of the Shiite campaign to rid Baghdad of its Sunni residents. The situation does present a paradox, however. If the surge is the reason, as the generals claim, we’re in trouble, because the surge is about to end. If Iraqi reconciliation and ethnic cleansing get primary credit, and the surge is mostly acting as a catalyst, our inevitable drawdown over the next six months to pre-surge levels may not be catastrophic, because the positive trends result more from Iraqi societal shifts and less from American soldiers brokering the peace. As commanders plan for the 2008 reduction in troops, they must try to reconcile these competing explanations and find a way to sustain the success when there are fewer—or no—American soldiers on the streets. [complete article]

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