Monday, July 30, 2007

Turkey Backs Down From Invading Iraq To Deal With Kurdish Rebels

As Bush Co. Plans PKK Intervention To Keep Turkey Out Of Iraq

Up until only a few days ago, Turkey had a reported military force of more than 200,000 troops and dozens of tanks on its northern borders, ready to cross over into Kurdish territory in Iraq to deal with the some 4000 PKK rebels who they claim have been launching terror attacks inside Turkey's borders.

American lawmakers have been briefed in the past week by a key defense aid to President Bush on plans to use US special forces to "behead" the leadership of the PKK (Kurdish) rebels hiding out in the hills of Northern Iraq, in territory they believe will eventually become part of an independent Kurdish state.

This story from the extremely well-sourced American journalist Robert Novak can be viewed as either a major exclusive on the future of the Iraq War, and efforts to stop the disorder spreading into neighbouring states, like Turkey, or as a warning to the Kurds to take action now to reign in their rebels.

It is interesting to note that this story appears in US right-wing media only days after Turkey quietly announced that, following the elections which kept the Islamist-aligned government in control, it was not seeking to invade Northern Iraq to deal with what they call the "Kurdish terrorists".

Presumably, Turkey's military leaders were told of the US special forces plans, as you would expect them to be, or were told that a significant public relations exercise was being unrolled to try and scare the Kurds into staying out of Turkey, and pulling back on their terror attacks across the border :
The morass in Iraq and deepening difficulties in Afghanistan have not deterred the Bush administration from taking on a dangerous and questionable new secret operation. At a high level, U.S. officials are working with their Turkish counterparts on a joint military operation to suppress Kurdish guerrillas and capture their leaders. Through covert activity, their goal is to forestall Turkey from invading Iraq.

While detailed operational plans are necessarily concealed, the broad outlines have been presented to selected members of Congress as required by law. U.S. Special Forces are to work with the Turkish Army to suppress the Kurds' guerrilla campaign. The Bush administration is trying to prevent opening another war front in Iraq that would have disastrous consequences. But this gamble risks major exposure and failure.

The development of an autonomous Kurdish entity inside Iraq, resulting from the decline and fall of Saddam Hussein, has alarmed the Turkish government. That led to Ankara's refusal to permit entry of U.S. combat troops through Turkey into Iraq, an eleventh hour complication for the 2003 invasion. As political power grew for the Kurds inside Iraq, the Turkish government became steadily more uneasy about the centuries-old project of a Kurdistan spreading across international boundaries -- and chewing up big pieces of Turkey.

The dormant PKK {Kurdistan Workers Party) Turkish Kurd guerrilla fighters came to life. By June, the Turkish government was demonstrating its concern by lobbing artillery shells across the border. Ankara began protesting, to both Washington and Baghdad, that PKK was using northern Iraq as a base for guerrilla operations. On July 11 in Washington, Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy became the first Turkish official to claim publicly that the Iraqi Kurds have claims on Turkish territory. On July 20 (two days before his successful re-election), Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened a trans-border military incursion into Iraq against the Kurds.

On July 25, Murat Karayilan, head of the PKK Political Council, predicted "the Turkish Army will attack southern Kurdistan." Turkey has a well-trained, well-equipped army of 250,000 near the border, facing some 4,000 PKK fighters hiding in the mountains of northern Iraq. But significant cross-border operations surely would bring to the PKK's side the military forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the best U.S. ally in Iraq.

What is Washington to do in the dilemma of two friends battling each other on an unwanted new front in Iraq? The surprising answer was given in secret briefings on Capitol Hill last week by Eric S. Edelman, a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and now under secretary of defense for policy. A Foreign Service officer who once was U.S. ambassador to Turkey, he revealed to lawmakers plans for a covert operation of U.S. Special Forces helping the Turks neutralize the PKK. They would behead the guerrilla organization by helping Turkey get rid of PKK leaders that they have targeted for years.

Turkey couldn't have been more pronounced in its warnings to the United States over the past six months that if they didn't deal with the PKK, and turn down the heat for the establishment of an independent Kurdish state, then Turkey would invade and smash the Kurdish rebels themselves.

The United States clearly got the message, and believed Turkey was sincere in its military plans.

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