Dozens of Turkish aircraft have carried out airstrikes on Kurdish PKK terror groups in Northern Iraq. Up to fifty planes bombed targets which the Turks said were PKK camps and the local Kurdish authorities said were innocent villagers.
A Turkish general told reporters that the US, by opening Iraqi airspace to the airstrikes, "gave its approval to the operation."
However, both the Kurdish PM and Iraqi central government have protested the Turdish infringement of Iraq's supposedly sovereign airspace.
Iraq Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani on Sunday called upon the US to protect the Iraqi airspace and rein in what he called "the Turkish military." Barzani held the Turkey's bombing of Kurdish villages north of Iraq a flagrant violation of Iraq's sovereignty and the international laws.An interesting volte-face by the Kurdish leader there, given that the Kurds were just fine with the US invasion of Saddam's Iraq as part of the War on Terror. However, hypocrisy aside, he has a point.
The Turkish aggression has to be denounced by the international community, among them the Security Council, Barzani told KUNA.
The Kurdish Premier lays the responsibility of the aggression on the US which he said is in charge of protecting Iraq's airspace, urging it "to take a political stand that could rein in the Turkish military so that such violation of our sovereignty would not be repeated under whatever pretext.
He asserted that "Protecting states' borders and curbing terrorism cannot be realized through violating others' sovereignty and borders." Meanwhile, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry had summoned the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad Derya Kanbay and handed him a written protest on the Turkish bombing of Kurdish villages north of Iraq.
A Foreign Ministry statement said the raids had killed a woman, destroyed a medical unit and a school in addition to causing damage to bridges and forcing several families to flee their houses.
Turkey is asserting its right to follow the American example by attacking terrorist camps in Iraq but that example is itself one of an illegal aggression under international law. In the Spring, when many analysts expect Turkey to conduct massive ground operations across the border, that question of illegal aggresion and what actions the U.S. takes to defend Iraqi sovereignty against a NATO ally are going to become crucial.
Worse, as we've seen time and again in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan, airstrikes are entirely counterproductive as a counter-terrorism tactic. All they really succeed in doing is to create ill-will and propaganda opportunities which in turn produce far more potential recruits and sympathisers for terror groups than airstrikes ever kill. By Spring, opinions are going to be very polarised and if Turkey goes across the border in force the various polite fictions being maintained are going to explode.
That America itself has asserted that Iraq is a sovereign state and then acted continually to contradict that claim will not improve matters. Both the Kurds and the Iraqi central government have until now calculated that their need for American protection against internal foes outweighed their own needs for self-determination and have been willing to accept America's fiction of Iraqi independence from rule by their occupiers. That's helped the Bush administration keep a lid on the various simmering civil wars in a classic colonialist "divide and rule" ploy. But Turkey's intervention would upset the facade of self-rule and the various alliances of convenience which have enabled U.S. commanders to claim that Iraq is turning away from violence.
On the other hand, if the U.S. says it will oppose Turkish attacks with force, or even says it will allow the Iraqi government to do so (something the Iraqis have already said they will do if Turkey mounts a ground invasion) then it might mean the end of NATO. Turkey - with the largest and best equipped military of any Muslim nation - would certainly leave the alliance and probably fall into the Syrian/Iranian sphere in short order. If that were to occur, Bush's legacy as the man who undid the greatest American accomplishments of the post-war years would be assured.
The Bush administration, which looked the other way on PKK and PJAK activities in return for Kurdish quiet, has only itself to blame that it now finds itself in a lose-lose situation.