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Turkey threatens invasion of Northern Iraq

October 25th, 2007

The Kurdistan Workers Party, more commonly known as the PKK, killed 12 and injured 16 Turkish troops in terrorist attacks near the mountainous Iraqi boarder last Sunday,
The killings are the latest in a series of attacks by the terrorist group against Turkey in their efforts to secure their own independent country. U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice called the Turkish Prime Minister late on Sunday to seek assurances that Turkey would not immediately retaliate.
The Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erodgan, said he would not send troops into Iraq immediately in response to the ambush, according to The Associated Press.

Prime Minister Erdogan told Secretary Rice that Turkey expected “speedy steps from the U.S.” to crack down on the Kurdish rebels. According to The AP, Rice expressed sympathy and asked for time to work on the problem.The Prime Minister said, “Our anger is great. We have the decisiveness to act on these events in cold-blood, and so we are determined.”

The Kurdistan Workers Party is an armed militant group founded in the 1970s based on Marxism-Leninism and Kurdish nationalism. The PKK’s goal is to create an independent, socialist, Kurdish state on the border areas between Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. The PKK is known to be one of the most brutal terrorist groups in the Middle East, and has pledged that they will fight until they can reach that goal.

Last month, Turkey and Iraq signed an accord stating that they would cooperate with one another in resolving the terrorist attacks by the PKK against Turkish soldiers. However, the accord specifically said that Turkey could not cross over the border into Iraq in pursuit of the PKK, according to The AP.
Two weeks ago, Iraq sent their second in command to the Turkish capital, Ankara, in a last effort to talk the Turkish government out of a cross border military offense in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

However, on October 16, after additional attacks, the Turkish government received parliamentary authority to send troops into Iraq to hunt down the Kurdish separatists who have been staying in the mountains of northern Iraq across the Turkish border. The parliament overwhelmingly supported allowing troops to cross the border by a vote of 507-19.

“Numerous meetings, talks and memorandums of understanding and agreements have not brought about the elimination of this curse…the curse that we call terrorism is not an issue to end after a one season struggle. It needs continuity, decisiveness and precautions in many directions which we are trying to take,” said government spokesperson, Cemil Cicek.
While Turkey is an important ally for the United States in the ongoing war in Iraq, the U.S. government opposes Turkish invasion into Iraq to pursue the PKK because of the stress that it could put on an already troubled region. “The United States must realize the seriousness of this situation and Turkey’s determination to root out terrorism. Iraq has become a stomping ground for terrorism,” lawmaker Nihat
Ergun said last week.

Matthew Berg, associate professor of history at John Carroll University, said, “Turkish invasion of Kurd-dominated northern Iraq would be a dilemma for Washington.”
Berg continued, “Turkey has long been an important regional ally for the U.S. and a reliable NATO partner. The U.S. can hardly deny the Turkish government the right to defend its sovereignty and preserve its security against Kurdish separatists based in Iraq,” Berg said.

The rebel attacks have been at their worse and most intense as of late, which is why Turkey has been prompted to take such harsh actions. More then two-dozen Turkish civilians have been killed in the past couple of weeks, and the Turkish people are publicly showing their anger.
While action may not be immediate, Sunday’s attack may force the Turkish government’s hand. “With this incident, the arrow left the bow, and no room is left for the government to hesitate, postpone or fail to launch a cross border operation,” said Armagan Kuloglu, a retired Turkish general. If the government holds back from an offensive stance, he said, “such a step would endanger its existence and credibility.”