Iraq: Is There Time?

What you see in Iraq is not necessarily reality. A useful early warning was the two soldiers standing on the Iraqi side of the Habur Gate border with Turkey. Their black berets were emblazoned with the metal insignia showing the Iraqi eagle and flag and they certainly looked like Saddam Hussein’s soldiers. But they were, in fact, peshmerga fighters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the group which controls the crossing point.

The World Today Updated 16 October 2020 Published 1 March 2004 4 minute READ

Simon Henderson

Baker Fellow and Director, Gulf and Energy Policy Program, The Washington Institute

My journey started in Ankara, with a group of five others from the think-tank The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. After discussing the official Turkish view, we flew to Diyarbakir in eastern Turkey from where we started a drive that would take us through Iraq, from north to south, five hundred miles or so, in ten days. It was perhaps not an ‘essential journey’ in terms of Foreign Office advice to travellers, unless you considered getting an on-the-ground perspective to be essential – which we did.

Turkish officials refused to acknowledge the presence of Kurdistan Democratic Party fighters at the crossing point. They admitted only to having weekly meetings with an American colonel said to be in command there. He was invisible to us, as were most of the hundred thousand American troops plus other coalition forces stationed in Iraq.

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