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Bidding for Turkey

February 20th, 2003

Like the NYT, I was stunned by reports on negotiations over Turkish support for war with Iraq. Turkey is demanding $US 32 billion in cash, as well as a deal that will put them ahead of the Kurds in the postwar carve-up. The Administration has apparently made a ‘final offer’ of $26 billion and enough concessions to thoroughly alarm the Kurds, although the details are unclear. This seems to have quite a few implications.

First, when I discussed this question a while ago, Steven Den Beste proved with maps and topographical arguments that no sensible military commander would bother with the Northern option. I accepted this at the time, but was obviously premature in doing so.

Second, estimates that the war would cost $50 billion to $100 billion must now be viewed as conservative. If it’s reasonable to payTurkey $26 billion rather than rearrange the plan of attack, the total cost must be immense.

Third, if the Turks are worth $26 billion, what about Kuwait and Qatar? Neither government has yet given official approval to a war as far as I know, and if Turkey pulls out, they’ll acquire a veto power that would make the French green with envy. Kuwait would probably be too scared of Saddam to exercise it, but Qatar might see things differently. And maybe Howard should be asking for an upfront payment in the form of unrestricted access to agricultural markets.

Finally, I’ve seen some reports (no links) that some more excitable elements in the US are suggesting that if the Turks don’t roll over,they’ll be enrolled in the Axis of Weasels, cut off from US aid etc. Those tempted by this idea might remember that the Turks still have an ace up their sleeve. Turkish ground bases may be optional, but Turkish air space is not.

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