The AP reports that Condoleezza Rice has been working overtime to head off a major Turkish incursion of Iraqi territory.
Faced with the prospect of another front opening in the already difficult Iraq war, the United States struggled Friday to persuade Turkey not to send its Army across the Iraq border to attack guerrillas who use the remote terrain to launch terror attacks inside Turkey.Doubling and redoubling committment - fine words if they didn't sound as if they were delivered from the ragged edge of desperation. Condi has been scurrying around to extra meetings in Turkey trying to soothe Turkish feathers - but it's unlikely the Turks believe her.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged calm and cooperation in a string of meetings with top Turkish leaders fed up with rebel attacks and insistent that Turkey will do what it must to stop them.
She was making a similar argument later Friday in a separate meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose government has said it will not stand for any cross-border assault.
Foreign Minister Ali Babacan sounded impatient, and he offered her no public promise of the restraint Washington seeks.
``We have great expectations from the United States,'' Babacan said at a news conference following his meeting with Rice. ``We are at the point where words have been exhausted and where there is need for action.''
Ankara has said Turkey wants to hear specifics about what the United States is prepared to do to counter the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, or Turkey will launch an attack. Rebel attacks against Turkish positions over the last month have left 47 dead, including 35 soldiers, according to government and media reports.
Washington worries that a cross-border attack would bring instability to what has been the calmest part of Iraq, and could set a precedent for other countries, like Iran, that also have conflicts with Kurdish rebels. Babacan just returned from a trip to Iran last week, lobbying for support for the Turkish side and underscoring that Turkey will act as it sees fit, regardless of U.S. pressure.
``We all need to redouble our efforts and the United States is committed to redoubling our efforts,'' Rice said. ``No one should doubt the commitment of the United States in this situation.''
After all, Rice was the one who in April last year visited Ankara to tell the Turks that the U.S. was "committed" to helping them against the PKK - and that Turkey should wait until a new Iraqi government was formed to address cross-border terrorism by the PKK. Fat lot of good that did.
Even the neocon AEI's Michael Rubin, usually a staunch Bush cheerleader, is aware of how badly the new Iraqi government sold America's NATO ally down the river. In March this year he wrote:
Just as Arafat transformed the Palestinian Authority into a safe haven for terrorists, so too does Barzani. His administration provides safe haven and supplies to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) terrorists who have been responsible for approximately 30,000 deaths in Turkey since 1984. The Turkish government accuses the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government of furnishing passports to PKK terrorists on Turkey's most wanted list. Turkish officials complain there are six PKK bases operating in territory controlled by Barzani's party. Just as weapons supplied by the Clinton administration to Palestinian security forces ended up in the hands of terrorists, so too have arms supplied by the U.S. government to Kurdish fighters, the peshmerga, found their way into PKK hands.The Bush administration's own level of committment is in doubt too. In February 2005 Rice told the world that the US is "fully committed" to achieving a "unified Iraq". In February 2007, Ruben notes, in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee she referred to the Iraqi-Turkish frontier as "the border between Turkey and Kurdistan." Even the envoy Bush appointed to handle the U.S.' "committment" to Turkey, retired Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston, resigned very quietly a couple of months ago in frustration.
Barzani places little restriction on PKK travel within northern Iraq. In October 2006, two PKK leaders received treatment in an Erbil hospital; three months later they were photographed in an Erbil restaurant. Meanwhile, the PKK continues to smuggle explosives and carry out attacks in Turkey. Barzani refuses to stop weapons trafficking across the border with his own peshmerga militia, and refuses the Iraqi army permission to do so.
Despite being aware of the consequences of failing in their committments - which include their duty as the occupying power under a UN mandate - the Bush administration have sat on their hands over the PKK issue for four years now. If the Turks continue to believe that their words are worthless noise, who could blame them?