November 06, 2007

Turkey enters risky phase...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Mehmet Ali Birand

WASHINGTON The atmosphere in Washington the weekend was very different to Ankara's. The points of view of a super power and a regional power differ greatly from one another. We believe that the world revolves around Ankara. We hold our breaths as we wait for Prime Minister Erdoğan's meeting with U.S. President Bush. Actually, the world revolves around Washington. At this moment, there are at least 15 crises, similar to ours, under discussion in the U.S. capital. To them, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) issue is only beginning to develop into a crisis. There are 15 prime ministers or presidents at the White House doors, waiting to discuss their problems.

Barring a big surprise, Bush and Turkey will have reached an agreement over a long-term policy. The expected result is a formula acceptable to both Turkey and Barzani.The possibility discussed in Washington over the weekend was that the US would close its eyes to a limited operation of short term in the form of an air attack or a minor land operation. Supposedly, the U.S. would contribute “intelligence” to this operation, after which the PKK would definitely limit its activity. We shall have to wait and see…The really important period will start after this meeting, which forms a milestone in Turkey's relations with America. It will be a difficult period full of risks. At the present conjuncture, neither the Turkish Armed Forces nor the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government can afford to wait without taking any steps. Therefore, Turkey will either hit Iraq or at least do something to the same effect. We can't know when and how Turkey will strike. We won't know until it happens. The only certainty is that the date and the size of this operation will be determined by the PKK's attitude to a great degree. Any new PKK attack will cause Ankara to push the button at once.

That will also mark the beginning of the risky period. Everyone knows that a military operation into north Iraq will not be enough to wipe out this problem. In other words, if Ankara pushes the button, it will be under public pressure. What Ankara wants, however, is for America and north Iraq to settle the issue, before it needs to launch an operation. They, however, have no intention to do so. Consequently, it is up to us to do it. The prestige and the trustworthiness of the TSK in the eyes of the public are indisputable. Therefore, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have to succeed. In this case, however, to succeed means to reduce the PKK to a state where it will never be able to disturb Turkey again. However, bombing or establishing a buffer zone along the border will never be enough to achieve this end, but America and the West are not willing to overlook anything beyond this limit. In short, intervention is the only way. At the same time, the intervention is not likely to achieve a lot. The risk is very clear, especially since any “failure” in the eyes of the public will cause irreparable damage to our stability. That is why we are “entering a risky period...”

If you were the PKK, would you wait at Kandil Mountain? We've been arguing this issue before the public for weeks.There's talk of an operation against the PKK camps in Iraq. What's more, this talk also includes the smallest details of the said operation. Everybody, including the prime minister, has an opinion to air on the subject.The targets and the tactics of this operation are announced in the papers. Kandil Mountain is the main target. The PKK's main camps are in this mountainous region. However, we've known for months that the PKK has vacated the Kandil region to a great extent.

Security intelligence reports say that PKK members were dispersed along the border or to the cities. That is as it should be… If you were a PKK member, would you have remained on the Kandil mountain after all this talk? In short, Turkey doesn't want to attack north Iraq and to occupy a section of the country. It wants to root out the PKK from the region or to at least make life difficult for its adherents.In the meanwhile, everything depends on the support that the U.S. and the people of north Iraq will provide. If they remain as spectators, Turkey will have to enter north Iraq. The more support they provide, the more flexible Turkey's steps will become.

The translation of M.A.Birand's column is provided by Nuran Inanç.

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