Turkey bombs Iraq —then backs off (for now)

With an Iraqi delegation in Ankara to discuss the standoff over PKK rebels in northern Iraq, Turkish war planes and helicopters reportedly bombed guerilla bases within Iraq’s borders Oct. 26. However, even as the state-run Anatolia news agency reported the air-strikes, top military commander Gen. Yasar Buyukanit said that day that Turkish leaders will wait until Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets President Bush in Washington on Nov. 5 before deciding whether to mount a cross-border offensive into Iraq. “The armed forces will carry out a cross-border offensive when assigned,” private NTV quoted Gen. Yasar Buyukanit as saying. “Prime Minister Erdogan’s visit to the United States is very important. We will wait for his return.” Turkey’s deputy prime minister Cemil Cicek said his government has demanded the extradition of Kurdish rebel leaders based in Iraq’s north. Asked what the US military was planning to do, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of US forces in northern Iraq, said: “Absolutely nothing.” (AP, Oct. 27)

A week earlier, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Washington and Baghdad were prepared to do the “appropriate thing” if necessary to remove the PKK form Iraqi terrtiory. He did not specify what that implied. Kurdish regional president Massoud Barzani responded: “We frankly say to all parties: if they attack the region or Kurdistan experiment under whatever pretext, we will be completely ready to defend our democratic experiment and the dignity of our people and the sanctity of our homeland.” (AFP, Oct. 19)

See our last post on Iraq, Turkey and Kurdistan.

  1. PKK bombs anti-PKK rally?
    If this was really the PKK, it was about the stupidest thing they could possibly do. Perhaps, as one reader has suggested re. PKK attacks, this is the work of the Turkish intelligence services as a provocation? From Reuters, Oct. 28:

    An explosion hit a demonstration against the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the Turkish city of Izmit on Sunday, slightly injuring three people, state news agency Anatolian reported.

    The agency said bomb experts were investigating but the cause of the blast was not known.

    Protesters were marching against a recent escalation of PKK violence, which has prompted Ankara to prepare for a possible cross-border incursion into northern Iraq to deal with guerrillas based there.

    BTW, the cover of the Oct. 27 New York Times sports a photo of young Turks marching under a red flag emblazoned with a five-pointed star, with a caption reading only: “Students protested Kurdish incursions on Friday, and Turkey’s premier rebuffed Iraq’s plan for Americans at the border.” Could this be once again the Workers’ Party, who also marched to oppose the Armenian genocide bill? Don’t you think Turkish “leftists” should be protesting their own government’s sabre-rattling? We really don’t get this.