Sunday, February 16, 2003

NATO is currently in a 'crisis' because Belgium, France and Germany have refused to jump to attention when ordered by Rumsfeld to supply weapons to Turkey. Turkey ostensibly requires these weapons to defend itself against the counterattack from Iraq once the war to steal Iraq's oil begins. Turkey invoked Article Four of the North Atlantic Treaty, which says: "The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened." This whole scenario is odd:

  1. Turkey, like Iraq, is a Muslim country.

  2. Turkey is one of the main destinations of the oil smuggling that Iraq uses to get around the sanctions.

  3. Turkey hates the Kurds much more than Saddam does, and is terrified that the Iraq war will lead to the creation of a Kurdish state which will then attempt to annex the eastern part of Turkey where there is a majority Kurdish population.

  4. To get around the natural disinclination of Turkey to be involved in this war, the United States is offering a lot of money (essentially bribes which will presumably go to the extreme right-wing mafia which runs Turkey), and had also attempted to strongarm the Europeans into allowing Turkey into the EU (a move that has probably served to make it less likely that Turkey will be admitted).

  5. Article Four of the North Atlantic Treaty only says that the members of NATO will 'consult'. It is probably the first time that this Article has ever been used. It is Article Five which really applies here: "The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area." Note that the obligation to assist only occurs "if such an armed attack occurs", and therefore NATO members are perfectly within their rights to decline assistance before the war starts. In fact, the argument of the NATO dissenters is that the request for aid is premature, as the inspection process may succeed and there may not be a war (see here or here). The U. S. Ambassador to NATO said: "The US stands by its basic principle that under Article 4 (of the Nato charter) all parties are obligated to come to the assistance of their allies." This interpretation appears to be incorrect, and the Americans are trying to conflate Articles Four and Five.

So what is really going on here? While Turkey has a huge army, any extensive use of the Turkish army in the Iraq conflict would probably cause more harm than good, with the danger that the Turks use the situation to grab the northern part of Iraq. What the Americans are really after is the use of Turkish air bases. Presumably, the Americans could have 'rented' the use of these bases with the billions of dollars of aid they are offering, and there was no need to involve NATO at all. In fact, the supposedly desired military equipment could have been supplied by the Americans and probably will come from the Americans. What appears to be happening here is that the Americans are manipulating the rules of NATO to attempt to bring NATO into the war on Iraq, even though there is no obvious reason for NATO to be involved (originally, even NATO troops were to be involved in the aid to Turkey). An attack on any NATO member is to be considered an attack on all, and having Turkey involved in the war puts Turkey at a danger from Saddam, thus meaning that NATO might eventually have to come to the aid of Turkey. Therefore, the United States figured it could bring NATO into the conflict through the backdoor by claiming that Turkey is at risk even before the war starts. Presumably, the Americans felt that without the sanction of the United Nations it could still use NATO, represented primarily by the U. S. and Britain, as the mechanism for disguising the essentially unilateral nature of the attack to steal Iraq's oil. It appears this little bit of trickery has blown up in the face of the Americans, and the Bush junta has again demonstrated its ham-handedness at diplomacy.