Jason Ditz talks about the Turkish attacks on Kurds in northern Iraq, which have taken the form of both land assaults and periodic airstrikes. These incursions began around the time the U.S. invaded Iraq, and have seen little resistance from the Iraqi government. Ditz also discusses the border dispute between India and China, which has long been simmering and recently erupted into hand-to-hand violence that killed several dozen soldiers on both sides. Ditz thinks the killing is over for the time being, but is concerned about the future of the conflict, given both countries’ age-old animosity and their possession of nuclear weapons.
Discussed on the show:
- “Turkey Launches Ground Offensive Against Kurds in Northern Iraq” (Antiwar.com)
- “6/19/20 Eric Margolis on the World’s Most Dangerous Border Dispute” (The Libertarian Institute)
This episode of the Scott Horton Show is sponsored by: NoDev NoOps NoIT, by Hussein Badakhchani; The War State, by Mike Swanson; WallStreetWindow.com; Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom; ExpandDesigns.com/Scott; Listen and Think Audio; TheBumperSticker.com; and LibertyStickers.com.
The following is an automatically generated transcript.
All right, y’all welcome it’s Scott Horton Show. I am the director of the Libertarian Institute editorial director of antiwar.com, author of the book Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan. And I’ve recorded more than 5000 interviews going back to 2003, all of which are available at ScottHorton.org. You can also sign up to the podcast feed. The full archive is also available at youtube.com/ScottHortonShow. Okay, guys on the line, I’ve got Jason ditz. He’s the news editor at antiwar.com news.antiwar.com. And he’s got a whole series on this extremely important series of events. Man I said series twice in a row like that. That’s just terrible. A bunch of stuff happened. Turkey attack the PKK than Iraq. And then so did Iran. Huh. Welcome back to the show, Jason, how you doing?
Jason Ditz 1:04
I’m doing good. Scott. How are you?
Scott Horton 1:06
I’m doing great. So June 17. You wrote this thing. Turkey launches ground offensive against Kurds in northern Iraq. And so who’s who and what do they fight about?
Jason Ditz 1:17
Well, this has happened. Honestly, a lot. Turkey’s been at war with the PKK, who are Kurdish separatists since the 80s. They consider them terrorists like they consider most Kurdish groups. And a few years ago, there was a very brief ceasefire that was supposed to lead to peace talks in Turkey. And as part of that ceasefire deal, the PKK sent a lot of their forces into northern Iraq like the the really just barely still Iraq, Northern Part of the country of Iraqi Kurdistan officials really didn’t seem to mind at the time they thought they were helping out a regional ally. But ever since that a ceasefire collapsed, which was seems like a few weeks after it started, a turkey has been attacking the PKK in northern Iraq for fairly regularly at least once a year. And this time, what’s different is they’re doing the same, you know, send some ground troops in an attack. But Iran has actually gotten involved, to some extent firing some rockets and artillery at the PKK as well.
Scott Horton 2:57
As Do you know, is there a recent crackdown on PJAK inside Iran or something like that.
Jason Ditz 3:03
There were there were reports of it a few weeks before this started
Scott Horton 3:08
PJAK. I’m sorry, everybody. That’s sort of the uranium branch of the Turkish PKK. There.
Jason Ditz 3:14
Right? Every, I mean, Kurds live in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. I mean, obviously, they live elsewhere. But that’s the historic Kurdistan. And they’ve got little separatist groups in each of those countries. And as far as Turkey is concerned, they’re all PKK. They’re all basically run by the PKK. Even though that’s not really the case in some of those countries. I’m not so sure about PJ the the Iranian version. But there were reports of some clashes in Iran with them around denied that that was the case. Instead, everything was fine, but now we see them firing on the PKK in Iraq and it kinda, it raises some questions.
Scott Horton 4:08
Yeah, so now the I’m sorry man, I forgot now. I’m embarrassed. Which one died Do you remember Barzani or Taliban? He those are the two major Warlords of Northern Iraqi Kurdistan. They’re a think it was Taliban. He did dive right.
Jason Ditz 4:28
I think so. Yeah.
Scott Horton 4:30
I’m sorry, man. Anyway, but so this isn’t them. But this is the PKK. They’re quite separate from the PKK and their factions. And yet so I’m curious, is there do you know, any way to tell you know, how much permission that they have given the PKK to hide out in Iraqi Kurdistan? I mean, we’re talking about a very mountainous region. So I don’t know if they’re just sneaking around on their own or if they have permission to be there by the ruling factions. Do you know
Jason Ditz 5:00
Well, at the time when they got there during that brief ceasefire with Turkey, it seemed like the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq was more or less fine with it. There was no real objection to them coming in. And that part of that part of Iraq is so sparsely populated. It’s all mountains and tiny little villages. And it was like, they didn’t really seem to care. Even for them. It was like an insignificant region, they felt like wow, that’ll be fine. Which is interesting because that political bloc in Iraq is one of the few major Kurdish political bloc’s in the region that doesn’t generally get along with the PKK. They see the PKK and the YPG as kind of the Contrary to their interests, and sometimes there’s some. I mean, there’s a lot of political fighting. Sometimes it’s it’s escalated into actual violence, but it seemed like they were fine with them coming. I don’t think they imagined the PKK would still be there. This is a few years after the fact. I don’t think they imagined that Turkey would be attacking the northern provinces. So regularly, which the Iraqi central government has been complaining about, every time it happens. I mean, they say, well, no turkey can’t send troops in here. They’re not allowed. That’s a violation of our sovereignty, which it is. But turkey does it anyway. And it just sort of happens. So Far as Iraq is concerned so far, I haven’t really been able to do anything about it.
Scott Horton 7:08
And now, what’s this about the UAE? Who are they bankrolling there and what are they got to do with it all?
Jason Ditz 7:17
The UAE when this first happened, like the first day when the reports came out of attacks, issued a statement backing the Iraqi government at the Arab League saying Iraq is right. Turkey has no business doing this or violating the sovereignty of an Arab state. And they have to stop and Iran to although it was really more aimed at Turkey. Now the UAE is interested in this, I think is mostly just being mad at turkey over what happened in Libya.
Scott Horton 7:59
I know our Sounds like that is what it is right there.
Jason Ditz 8:03
Feel like you know, Turkey came in to Libya backing the opposite side from who the UAE was backing and that civil war and all of a sudden the tides turn just huge and quick were you know, General haftar that the UAE was backing and what’s basically been a coup attempt. He went from controlling you know, basically the whole east of Libya and a good chunk of the area around Tripoli to now he’s lost pretty much everything in the in the West and has been pushed back into just part of the East so I mean, he’s lost big time. Turkey made a deal with the Government of National Accord which is the rival force in Libya. For oil and gas exploration rights in the Mediterranean. Which is a really weird. You look at a map, it’s weird to think about, but the maritime rights of Libya and Turkey actually do kind of intersect, huh?
Scott Horton 9:22
Yeah, I see it. I actually got a big map here for exactly that reason. Yeah bisect the Mediterranean there. I like how it’s just business in the Syria war. The Turks and the UAE, they might have back competing malicious, but they were both working to overthrow Assad here. They’re outright on opposite sides and it’s all about the petroleum.
Jason Ditz 9:45
Right. And Wow, that’s really all Libya has. I mean, realistically, you’ve got oil fields in the interior of the country and Huge oil ports on the coast. That’s and that’s basically Libya. Everything else is kind of non consequential for any foreign powers. You got to control the oil fields enough to get them pumping, and you have to control the ports enough to get boats out of there. And that’s
Scott Horton 10:18
now Oh, as far as the attacks on the PKK there in northern Iraq, I mean, not to play down those debts. But again, because this isn’t the ruling faction, they’re attacking or anything like that, they’re basically guerrillas off in the mountains. So it doesn’t seem like the kind of situation where there’s a lot of collateral damage of neighborhoods being bombed or anything crazy like that, right.
Jason Ditz 10:44
No, although there have been reports of some Iraqi Kurdish civilians getting caught up in it. Yeah, there’s, you know, a if you look at that, Northern most Iraqi province There’s a lot of rural roads up in the mountains and they’ll get hit with air strikes. And it’s a, you know, you’re hitting anytime a car passes by, you’re just kind of hoping that’s your target, because that’s basically the US strategy of air strikes, which is hit anything that moves. turkeys have picked up on that. But yeah, I mean, obviously they have some ideas or the small caves or villages or whatnot, where they’re living and they get them directly there. But other than that, you just looking for targets of opportunity, and sometimes that’s gonna be civilians.
Scott Horton 11:45
Jason Ditz 13:28
Ah, it seems to have quieted down quite a bit. Although I don’t mean to
Scott Horton 13:33
say it’s been coming and going since the Bush years but yeah,
Jason Ditz 13:38
right. I mean, one of the first things that happened when the US invaded Iraq was the turkey invaded. on a smaller scale turkey invaded northern Iraq to go after Kurds and that still happens sometimes. But It’s it’s not really something that is probably going to stop anytime soon. Like you say, they’re not hitting tons of people with these airstrikes or these ground offensives. It’s not like that. A few day ground offensive is done and they’re like, well, all PKK are out of Iraq. Now. There’s doubtless more left and it’s gonna be a pretext for more offensives in the future.
Scott Horton 14:32
Yeah. All right. So move a few thousand miles over to the east here to the Himalayan mountains, where the Chinese and the Indians had their dispute. I talked with Eric Margulies about this a bit last week and can give us a little bit of outline of the status of that conflict right now.
Jason Ditz 14:52
Well, it’s really interesting because again, if you look at this on a map, and sort of get satellite images The Line of Control, because, you know, a lot of these countries in that part of South Asia don’t really have proper borders, they have lines of control. It’s like, Ah, this is China controls this side, India controls this side, Pakistan controls this side. And everybody’s disputing exactly where the border should be in the future. But if you look at it on the map, and in the satellites, he realized, especially the India China, Line of Control is a whole lot of nothing. I mean, to the world’s two largest population countries, and their border is this rocky sort of mountain side, near the side chain glacier. Almost nobody lives there. There’s two patrols go by and by sides and that’s the most activity either side really gets and the border region. So it’s not like they’re fighting over something valuable, it just becomes a matter of national pride that the other side can’t violate their borders.
Scott Horton 16:17
Right. Does that also mean though, that since there’s so little at stake, that it’s easy for them to back down? And so don’t worry,
Jason Ditz 16:26
you would think so. But when they make it about national pride, they tend to insist that they’re not gonna back down. Neither side wants to be seen as the one that backed away from the conflict and might lose some might lose some credibility that way. But at the same time, it is really puzzling. They had one war in this area, decades ago. And both sides kind of private themselves on the fact that nobody’s neither sides troops have fired on the other side’s troops in 40 some years.
Scott Horton 17:09
Yeah, I mean, these guys were killed with baseball bats with barbed wire wrapped around, like, boards with nails through it or something. That’s what I read.
Jason Ditz 17:18
All right, there’s a
Scott Horton 17:20
picture of Moses lack chasing the aliens on the Halloween episode of The Simpsons, you know,
Jason Ditz 17:28
there was a picture of some of India’s I guess, arms in this case. And it’s really kind of gruesome because it looked like just a bunch of rebar and
Scott Horton 17:43
sweet. I mean, hey, it’s better than the mall blowing each other away with a case I guess. It’s a shame that the government’s won’t allow them to carry guns or else they wouldn’t use their AKs’, Right?
Jason Ditz 17:57
It’s it’s really a puzzling situation I mean II think about see upwards of 60 people got killed between the two sides doing this with no guns these are both nuclear powers with major militaries and they’re fighting with sticks and boards with nails and barbed wire and the picture I saw of one India’s sort of sets of rebar and and other assorted equipment wrapped in barbed wire is kind of gruesome because it’s got blood on it and everything from hitting Chinese people at it. But yeah, I mean, yeah,
Scott Horton 18:43
within about that just between the daggers and the valley kids and thrashing sounds brutal.
Jason Ditz 18:52
It’s like, it would be really scary. If these two sides were trying to kill each other with the weapons They actually have available instead of just what they can get away with without losing there and no guns have been fired in this area. But yeah, I mean, it really is quite out of hand. And honestly, a lot more out of hand, then either side of that border is worth. I mean, India’s never going to both sides say the other started it but India is never going to get deep enough into China to take anything valuable. And China’s never going to get deep enough in de Indian Kashmir that take anything valuable. So there’s really, there’s no point to this fight. It’s just they’re mad. And there was enough sticks and bats and whatnot, that they figured out how to kill each other with them.
Scott Horton 19:55
So, but I mean, I had read one headline where it said that Chinese are kind of backing down And then I read, see you tell lazy I’m getting in my old data, really read the article Jason. I saw a headline said Chinese backing down some. And then I saw another headline said Chinese talking about the Indians, again, ratcheting up tensions there. So it doesn’t look like it’s over yet but at least the killings over now. Right?
Jason Ditz 20:20
Yeah, I mean that that particular flare up is over but after that happened what she had, you know 2030 troops on either side, which is about normal for that region, just kind of keeping an eye on each other since that’s happened. Both sides have sent a lot more troops. I don’t know if they’re armed yet. But they sent a lot more troops China’s built a couple of kind of observation posts at the top of hills looking down on the line of control. Most of China’s statements are that the India is fully to blame for everything. happened and that they’re not gonna stand for it. Andy, his statement is like, well, we don’t really want to see this escalate, but we’re not going to back down either. So nothing really got resolved that, but at least they kind of stopped for the time being.
Scott Horton 21:17
Yeah. All right. Well, man, we’re all out of time but you got 100 more important news stories here at news Don antiwar.com urge everybody to go over there and check it out and get caught up on all of well, not just America’s wars, but you know, some of these other conflicts too. Great stuff as always, Jason Thank you. The Scott Horton show, Antiwar Radio can be heard on kpfk 90.7 FM in LA, APSradio.com antiwar.com ScottHorton.org and libertarianinstitute.org