Monday, July 02, 2007

Turkish Ultimatum

By Cernig

From today's Guardian:
Turkey has prepared a blueprint for the invasion of northern Iraq and will take action if US or Iraqi forces fail to dislodge the guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) from their mountain strongholds across the border, Turkey's foreign minister Abdullah Gul has warned.

"The military plans have been worked out in the finest detail. The government knows these plans and agrees with them," Mr Gul told Turkey's Radikal newspaper. "If neither the Iraqi government nor the US occupying forces can do this [crush the PKK], we will take our own decision and implement it," Mr Gul said. The foreign minister's uncharacteristically hawkish remarks were seen as a response to pressure from Turkey's generals, who have deployed some 20,000-30,000 troops along the borders with Iraq, and who are itching to move against the rebels they say are slipping across the border to stage attacks inside Turkey.

Among other things, Turkish military planners have been working on a scheme to establish a buffer zone on Iraqi soil to try to stop the rebels' movements.

...So far the Turkish military have confined themselves to shelling across the border and raids by units of special forces. In separate remarks yesterday, Mr Gul said, however, that Turkey was also considering air strikes against the PKK's bases in the Iraqi Kurdish mountains.

He said that, unlike a cross-border incursion involving troops and tanks, air raids would need no prior parliamentary approval. The Turkish parliament is in recess until national elections on July 22.

Mr Gul did not rule out the prospect of parliament reconvening before the elections to sanction an incursion. In a fresh bout of sabre-rattling on Wednesday, the chief of staff, General Yasar Buyukanit, asked the government in Ankara to set the parameters for an incursion across the border. "Will we go to northern Iraq just to fight PKK rebels, or, for example, what will we do if we come under attack from local Iraqi Kurdish groups?" Gen Buyukanit said.

The general's remarks rang alarm bells both in Arbil - the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital - and Baghdad, where they were interpreted as a request to also go after Iraq's Kurdish authorities, whom Turkey accuses of aiding the PKK fighters.
This situation - which presents the U.S. with the lose-lose proposition of either using force to defend Iraqi territory against an attack by a NATO ally or losing the relative quiet of the Kurdich North while alienating every Iraqi if it allows such an attack - is entirely the fault of the Bush administration's incompetent planning. They've sat on their hands and let the PKK run riot because the Kurds were the only ray of hope in Iraq and because the PKK were also useful as a proxy against Iran.

It occurs to me that the only way to head off that lose-lose would be to initiate or seriously threaten to initiate a war with Iran. Turkey would have to retract its claws or risk becoming embroilled in a three or four way conflict.

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