Iraqi Kurdistan: Turkey’s Gaza?

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent, Feb. 27:

Iraq is disintegrating faster than ever. The Turkish army invaded the north of the country last week and is still there. Iraqi Kurdistan is becoming like Gaza where Israel can send in its tanks and helicopters at will.

The US, so sensitive to any threat to Iraqi sovereignty from Iran or Syria, has blandly consented to the Turkish attack on the one part of Iraq which was at peace. The Turkish government piously claims that its army is in pursuit of PKK Turkish Kurd guerrillas, but it is unlikely to inflict serious damage on them as they hide in long-prepared bunkers and deep ravines of the Kurdish mountains. What the Turkish incursion is doing is weakening the Kurdistan Regional Government, the autonomous Kurdish zone, the creation of which is one of the few concrete achievements of the US and British invasion of Iraq five years ago.

More from the New York Times Feb. 27:

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi government on Tuesday condemned Turkey’s incursion into northern Iraq and demanded that it withdraw its troops, as fighting continued for a sixth day between Turkish forces and Kurdish rebels.

“The council expresses its rejection and condemnation to the Turkish military incursion which is considered a violation to the Iraqi sovereignty,” the Iraqi cabinet said in a statement. “The cabinet stresses that unilateral military action is not acceptable and threatens good relations between the two neighbors.”

The semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government also condemned the incursions in a special session on Tuesday.

“The Turkish incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan is a violation of Iraqi sovereignty,” said Falah Mustafa Bakir, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Department of Foreign Relations in an interview on Tuesday.

The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, defended the operations against the rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers Party, which Turkey and the United States consider a terrorist organization. In a televised speech on Tuesday, Mr. Erdogan said the military action was “not aimed at northern Iraq but only the terror organization,” the semiofficial Anatolian News Agency reported.

He said the Turkish government was “in communication with” the United States and the Iraqi government, and that Turkey was grateful for “the strong, cooperative attitude of the Iraqi administration” and for “intelligence support and cooperation” from the United States.

Turkish television showed troops slogging through heavy snow in the rugged Kurdistan mountains. Casualty figures from Turkish sources and sources for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., have varied widely. Turkey has reported killing more than 150 rebels, while confirming the deaths of 19 Turkish soldiers. The P.K.K. contends it has lost only a handful of fighters, while killing 81 Turkish soldiers.

See our last posts on Iraq and the struggle for Kurdistan.