How an ex-Mossad chief, a German uberspy, and a gaggle of top-dollar GOP lobbyists helped Kurdistan snag 15 tons of $100 bills
The EU today voiced predictable alarm after Turkey's top brass said a cross-border incursion into northern Iraq "was a must" to deal with Kurdish rebels. A large-scale incursion into northern Iraq would hardly boost Turkey's chances of joining the EU club, and has been a long-standing nightmare scenario for the US as it desperately tries to stabilise Iraq.
With his hands full in Baghdad, the last thing the US general in charge of Iraq, General David Petraeus, needs is for northern Iraq, one of the few havens of stability in the country, to descend into conflict pitching two of its allies at each other's throats.
As Juan Cole notes: "The Turkish-Iraqi border is now a tinderbox. This is the other shoe in the Iraq conflict."
What set alarm bells ringing in Brussels and Washington were remarks from Yasar Buyukanit, Turkey's chief of staff. In comments probably even too candid for Turkey's civilian leaders, the be-medalled general said: "Should there be an operation into northern Iraq? From a solely militaristic point of view, yes, there should be."
The general did acknowledge that such a decision would ultimately have to come from parliament, but the Bush administration will find such remarks unsettling. Although part of Nato, Turkey refused to allow its territory to be used for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Tension between the Turks and the Iraqi Kurds has been steadily rising. Recent clashes have left a dozen Turkish soldiers dead and Turkey has complained about American unwillingness or inability to crack down on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) insurgents operating out of northern Iraq.
Recent remarks by Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish leader of northern Iraq, have infuriated Turkey. He effectively told the Turks to butt out of Kurdish affairs, and said if the Kurds wanted to make Kirkuk their capital that was their business and threatened to interfere in Turkish interests for good measure.
Turkey's biggest worry is that the Iraqi Kurds will form a separate region - or even achieve independence - in northern Iraq with the oil-rich city of Kirkuk as their capital. They fear it would become a magnet for Kurdish separatists in Turkey as well as Kurds in Iran and Syria.
Turkey has been rehearsing its arguments for intervention, including its claim to be the protector of the Turkmen ethnic minority in northern Iraq. American and European diplomats will have to work overtime to dissuade Ankara from military action that will only add to the chaos in Iraq.