"Turkish Military Leader Prepared to Lead Attacks in Iraq
ISTANBUL, April 12 — The head of Turkey’s armed forces said publicly on Thursday, in the military’s sharpest language to date, that he was prepared to conduct operations in northern Iraq to crush Kurdish rebels hiding there.
It is a frightening situation for the United States, which is struggling to keep the war in Iraq from spreading beyond that country’s borders. And while the threat is not immediate — it would require approval from the country’s diverse Parliament — the issue has grown more urgent here in recent weeks, spurred by highly publicized funerals of soldiers killed in battles with rebels and by calls for action from politicians of all stripes.
“Should there be an operation into northern Iraq?” said Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, Turkey’s chief of staff, speaking at a hastily convened news conference in Ankara, his first since taking the position eight months ago. “If I look at it from an exclusively military point of view, yes, there should be. Would it be profitable? Yes, it would.” Still, he added that, “For a cross-border operation, there has to be a political decision.”
The remarks, the most strident in a series of recent expressions of rising frustration by Turkey, ratcheted up pressure on Iraq over the presence of Kurdish rebels based in the autonomous region south of the mountainous and porous border between Iraq and Turkey.
The issue is highly sensitive. While Shiite and Sunni Arab politicians in Iraq appear to be increasingly resistant to American influence, the Kurds remain the United States’ strongest allies in an increasingly bloody war.
But the United States is also an ally of Turkey, and the government here is growing increasingly frustrated that it is not able to use its leverage in a country occupied by its fellow NATO member.
General Buyukanit criticized Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish leader of northern Iraq and a major American ally who dismissed Turkish concerns about looming Kurdish autonomy in a recent interview with an Arabic television station, but said he held the United States responsible. When entering northern Iraq today, “You are met by Kurdish flags, not Iraqi ones,” he said.
In a briefing in Washington, Sean McCormack, State Department spokesman, said that Turkey “faces a real threat,” from the Kurdish rebels, whose organization, known by its acronym, the P.K.K., has been declared a terrorist organization by the United States. But military intervention, he said, was not the answer.
Turkey’s growing nervousness over Kurdish influence on its doorstep has developed into recent shifts in policy. The state minister for trade, Kursad Tuzmen, was quoted by the Anatolian News Agency in recent days as saying that the government planned to open a border crossing with Syria at Akcakale over the next two months to keep the flow of Turkish goods moving south in case the single border crossing with Iraq was shut down. The government also has plans to open three additional border crossings with Syria, he said.
The parliamentary chairman, Bulent Arinc, who spoke at a news conference before General Buyukanit, said that the Americans had abandoned the Kurds in the past, a piece of history that could repeat itself. “Even under Saddam, every time the Kurds revolted, trusting the United States, they always perished, lost and felt wretched. I advise them to be cautious also today.”
“The U.S. leaves this region,” he added, “but we have been here for thousands of years.”"
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Turkish Military Leader Prepared to Lead Attacks in Iraq
NYT (in full):
Posted by lukery at 4/15/2007 10:39:00 PM