Turkey rattles sabre at Iraqi Kurdistan —again

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, joined by MPs, military chiefs and diplomats, say up to 3,800 PKK fighters in Iraqi Kurdistan are preparing for attacks into Turkish territory—and Turkey is ready to hit back if the US fails to act. Said Gul: “We will do what we have to do, we will do what is necessary. Nothing is ruled out. I have said to the Americans many times: suppose there is a terrorist organisation in Mexico attacking America. What would you do?… We are hopeful. We have high expectations. But we cannot just wait forever.”

“If they are killing our soldiers … and if public pressure on the government increases, of course we will have to intervene,” said Ali Riza Alaboyun, an MP for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development party. “It is the legal right of any country to protect its people and its borders.”

Turkish sources told The Guardian that “hot pursuit” special forces operations into northern Iraq’s Khaftanin and Qanimasi regions are already underway.

The PKK has responded to the bellicose rhetoric in kind. Murat Karayilan, a PKK leader, said this week that a “mad war” was in prospect unless Ankara backed off.

Fighting between Turkish security forces and Kurdish guerillas has claimed 37,000 lives since 1984. The last Turkish incursion into Iraq occurred 10 years ago, when 40,000 troops were sent across the border to hunt down PKK stronholds.

The Guardian reports a firm Turkish belief that the US is playing a “double game” in Iraqi Kurdistan. Officials say the CIA is covertly funding and arming the PKK’s sister organisation, the Iran-based Kurdistan Free Life party, to destabilise the Iranian government.

The Guardian also cites US acquiescence in plans to hold a referendum in oil-rich Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Turkey suspects Iraqi Kurds are seeking control of Kirkuk as a prelude to the creation of an independent Kurdistan.

The Turks are also incensed by a pending US Congressional resolution blaming Turkey for genocide against the Armenians in 1915. Faruk Logoglu, a former ambassador to Washington, said that if the resolution passed, relations “could take generations to recover.” (The Guardian, March 23)

See our last posts on the Iraq, Kurdistan, and Turkey the Armenian question.