Turkish army demands incursion into Iraq
By Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara
Published: 13 April 2007
Turkey’s military chief asked the government yesterday to approve an incursion into Iraq, increasing pressure on the US and Iraq to fight Kurdish guerrillas.
But military action was likely to be used only as a last resort: it would strain ties with Washington and could spark a mutiny from Kurdish lawmakers within Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s own party ahead of elections in November, analysts said.
"An operation into Iraq is necessary," General Yasar Buyukanit said, adding that his forces were fighting more than 2,000 guerrillas in the border region operating from within Turkey.
Ankara has been battling separatist Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey since 1984. The Turkish military recently reinforced its troops in the predominantly Kurdish southeast.
Turkey is aware of the consequences a military incursion into Iraq could have.
"There is no way that our American friends would welcome such a move by Turkey," said Ilter Turan, of Istanbul’s Bilgi University. "The idea is to persuade the Americans to address the problem more urgently than they have been."
In Washington, the State Department said Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried had expressed US concerns directly to Turkish authorities.
"The way we suggest it be dealt with is to have the Iraqis and Turkish governments working together to try to eliminate this threat," spokesman Sean McCormack said.
Ankara fears Iraqi Kurds are seeking an independent Kurdish state that could encourage separatist Kurds inside Turkey. Relations with Iraqi Kurds deteriorated further this week when Masoud Barzani, leader of the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq, said Iraqi Kurds would retaliate for any Turkish interference by stirring up trouble in Turkey’s southeast.
On Monday, Ankara demanded action against the Iraq-based guerrillas, vowing to do the job itself if Iraq was not able to. Turkey is a key trade partner of Iraqi Kurds and it could shut down the Habur border and stop electricity supplies to try and force the Iraqi Kurds into action.