Turkey deploys troops to Iraq border

In the wake of the May 22 bombing in Ankara, Turkey has ordered a convoy of tanks and armored vehicles from the southeastern city of Mardin to the Iraqi frontier. At the same time, the idea of a cross-border operation to rout PKK bases in Iraqi territory is gaining greater currency in the capital. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) has long been seeking approval for such incursions, with Chief of Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt publicly putting the proposal to the government last month. Now Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appears to be leaning in that direction. On the night of May 23, hours after authorities said the PKK was behind the bombing, he told national television: “We would do whatever is necessary for the peace and happiness of our country. It is out of the question for us to fall into a disagreement with our security forces and soldiers on this issue… When necessary, this step would be taken, there would be no delay.”

Turkish media report that a delegation now headed to Baghdad, led by Turkey’s special envoy Ambassador Oğuz Çelikkol, would be the last warning from Ankara before launching a military incursion acrosss the border.

The move also comes as the government announced the dismissal of retired Gen. Edip Başer, special envoy to Iraq for counter-terrorism. This followed Başer’s remarks doubting the efficiency of a trilateral cooperation mechanism between Turkey, Iraq and the US for coordinating efforts against the Kurdish guerillas. Başer suggested that Ankara could act alone to tackle the PKK presence in northern Iraq, saying cooperation with the US was not required for a cross-border operation against the terrorist threat. (Zaman, Turkey, May 25)

See our last posts on Iraq, and Turkey and Kurdistan.