More Mischief from Saddam

October 24, 1991

Throughout this century, nations suppressing their Kurdish minorities have nonetheless equipped their neighbors' Kurdish minorities for insurrection. The aim was never the realization of Kurdish aspirations, but rather the harm done to the neighboring sovereignty. The latest example is the sudden escalation of weaponry in the hands of the Kurdish PKK guerrillas in southeastern Turkey. The New York Times reported Western and Turkish authorities sources as saying the arms come from Saddam Hussein of Iraq, who gassed Iraq's own Kurds. Turkey's foreign minister, Safa Giray, told the Associated Press only that Turkey suspects Iraq is supplying the arms.

This would be in retaliation for Turkey's provision of bases to U.S. and coalition partners for their air war against Iraq and for Turkey's role in the allied occupation of northern Iraq to protect the Iraqi Kurds from the dictator's wrath. It would show the Iraqi strongman's continuing contempt for world opinion. And it would demonstrate his continuing irresponsibility with the lives of his countrymen, putting them at risk to reprisal by the strongest power in the region, Turkey.

The Kurds, of whom there are between 14 and 28 million, were briefly promised sovereign independence by some of the Western allies in World War I, and then forgotten in the same way as the Armenians. The largest group of Kurds is in southeastern Turkey with substantial numbers in adjoining Iraq and Iran and small numbers in the Soviet Union and Syria. Saddam Hussein's apparent trouble-making with his neighbor's Kurds is part of a long history. The Soviet Union has done the same to Iran, and Iran to Iraq.

The current Kurdish insurrection against Turkey dates from 1984 and has latterly become more serious. President Turgut Ozal has restored cultural rights to the Kurdish minority this year and begun the accommodation of Kurdish cultural rights that could defuse the revolt. The Sunday election results repudiating him JTC for more conservative parties may undermine this recent improvement in Turkish human rights policy.

Whatever is right with regard to the Kurds, Saddam Hussein's mischief is wrong. It adds to the crimes for which he will not lightly be forgiven. It strengthens the notion that peace cannot come to the region so long as that despot with his own mad weapons escalation sits in power in Baghdad.

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