Turkey bombs Iraq —again?

Just as the Kurdistan crisis seemed to be de-escalating, come reports in the Turkish press that Turkish warplanes bombed three villages frequented by PKK guerillas in Iraqi territory near the border town of Zakho in pre-dawn raids Nov. 13. Officials are full of denials. Said Turkey’s air force chief, General Aydogan Babaoglu: “Turkish air force planes have not engaged in any action across the border. There was no such thing. These reports are completely baseless.” Said Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan: “All the operations that have taken place have been within the borders of Turkey, there have been no cross-border operations.” Said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell: “As far as we know, there were no cross border operations… no air strikes, as had been reported.” But Jamal Abdallah, a spokesman for the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq, was more equivocal: “Yesterday evening Turkish planes dropped flares on border areas near Zakho. We do not know the reason why they dropped flares. There was no air strike or bombing. But an abandoned police outpost was shelled.”

Anakara did say more Turkish special forces were dispached to the border Nov. 13 to join up to 100,000 troops for a possible cross-border incursion to root out the guerillas. But Erdogan emphasized he was still waiting for the US to take action after urging President Bush in Washington to crack down on the estimated 3,000 PKK guerillas in northern Iraq. “It is not possible to get results in three to five days, but we are following the developments in northern Iraq closely,” Erdogan said.

Turkey also said the US has begun to share intelligence on PKK targets in Iraq, as agreed to in the Washington meeting. “All orders given after the meeting between Erdogan and Bush have begun to be implemented,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan was quoted by the Anatolia news agency as telling the parliamentary budget committee. “It is very important that the intelligence is real time and actionable,” he added.

Babacan warned that his government was prepared to use the parliamentary authorization it obtained last month to send troops across the border to hunt down PKK rebels. “Nobody should doubt that we will use the parliamentary authorization at the most appropriate and effective time,” he said. (Reuters, AFP, Nov. 14)

Ankara confirmed that four Turkish troops were killed in fighting with the PKK Nov. 13 in the southeastern province of Sirnak, near the Iraqi border. (VOA, Nov. 13)

See our last post on Iraq and the struggle in Kurdistan.