July 03, 2007

TURKEY :What prevents a cross-border operation?

Turkish Daily News

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


Could a pre-emptive move against a possible cross-border operation into northern Iraq before the elections of July 22 be a U.S. blow to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)? It is useful to remember the developments of the past few days. These developments possibly help to understand whether or not a military operation by Turkey against the PKK in northern Iraq will take place or if such an act will be prevented.

June 27: The Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt and Land Forces Commander Gen. İlker Başbuğ probably as an additional sign to show determination appeared before journalists following a commando training session in Eğirdir, Isparta. They said different things this time regarding the PKK's presence in Iraq: 1) Büyükanıt said a cross-border operation will not eliminate the PKK for good, however, will deliver a blow. 2) Büyükanıt again said that they are “working” on a political directive together with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, and that they held three meetings to take up the Iraq issue. Despite persistent questions, Büyükanıt observably avoided making statements to create new distress between the military and the government. 3) Başbuğ informed that the army is ready to take action in the nick of time, in case a political directive is given. That is, preparations lasted for months, according to some commentators. 4) These statements echoed in the world press simultaneously. The U.S. administration announced that it will side with Turkey against the PKK; however, they don't want a cross-border operation.

June 28: The U.S. Ambassador to Ankara Ross Wilson addressing the Chambers of Commerce in İzmir said, certainly action should be taken to stop the PKK. To Wilson who spoke like a Turkish official complaining about insufficient U.S. help, the PKK actions in Iraq against Turkey should be prevented and its financial sources should be cut off.

On the same day, speaking to the Radikal daily Gül made statements about a cross-border operation that a government figure uttered for the first time after a long public wait. 1) In case of a decision for a cross-border operation, military plans to be applied were prepared in detail. The government was briefed by the military and there was consensus. These were probably talked in the National Security Council meeting on June 20 and the Erdoğan-Gül-Büyükanıt meeting held the following day at the General Staff Headquarters. 2) Therefore, Gül for the first time said the deal is at the political decision phase and the ball is in the government's court. So, what Başbuğ meant the day before made better sense. 3) The problem was the timing for a definitive result. Gül was saying, “If the Iraqi government or the U.S. administration cannot solve it, we will enter Iraq and solve it.” Though Büyükanıt formerly pointed that “the U.S. troops are there as well,” the government didn't regard as possible that the U.S. will attack the Turkish army because of the PKK.

June 29: Gül took one more step since his statements to CNN Türk in a live broadcast and said if necessary the government would convene Parliament before the July 22 elections; however, this wouldn't be needed. So, a limited, temporary operation outline that Büyükanıt implied two days ago was reinforced.

How much Iraqi Kurds were disturbed by these developments was seen during the Socialist International's meetings in the Swiss city of Geneva. Iraqi President and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader Jalal Talabani but mostly the Kurdistan Regional Administration leader and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Massoud Barzani complained to the whole world about military concentration by Turkey on the border and asked to stop Turkey. The response came from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal, who almost entirely dedicated his presentation to PKK terror directed from Iraq at Turkey. He asked socialists and social democrats of the world to convince Iraqi Kurds to end harboring the PKK and hostility toward Turkey.

As seen, the things are heading in a different direction now. Apparently, the July 22 elections will not hold back Turkey from a cross-border operation, if needed. Lessons taken from the previous shows of determination, for instance the capture of the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, indicate a U.S. strike on the PKK directly by itself or via Iraqi Kurds or so-called Iraqi security forces will stop a cross-border operation, in order to prevent Turkey's move. Let's see, if it will be so?

* Murat Yetkin writes for the daily Radikal. TDN staff translate his article. The writer can be reached at myetkin@radikal.com.tr

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