[Marxism] Turkey poised for Iraq incursion

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Oct 9 07:24:12 MDT 2007


Guardian Unlimited, Tuesday October 9, 2007
Turkish PM clears way for Iraq assault
Ian Traynor, Europe editor, Peter Walker and agencies

The Turkish prime minister gave the go-ahead today for a possible 
military operation into northern Iraq after a spate of deadly attacks on 
soldiers and civilians by separatist Kurdish guerrillas.

"To put an end to the terrorist organisation operating in the 
neighbouring country, the order has been given to take every kind of 
measure - legal, economic, political, including also a cross-border 
operation if necessary," said the office of the prime minister, Recep 
Tayyip Erdogan, after he chaired a security meeting.

Mr Erdogan, who has previously resisted demands from the Turkish armed 
forces for permission to cross into Iraqi Kurdistan, has been under 
intense pressure in the wake of the deadliest Kurdish attacks for more 
than a decade.

A Turkish incursion is fiercely opposed by Washington since it would 
immensely complicate the US campaign in Iraq and upset the only stable 
part of Iraq: the Kurdish-controlled north.

The Turkish parliament would have to authorise any large-scale operation 
into Iraq, but troops could pursue rebels over the border without prior 
clearance.

Two Turkish soldiers were killed yesterday in booby trap explosions laid 
by guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK) - fighters 
classified as terrorists by Ankara, Washington and the European Union. 
Those casualties followed the killing of 13 Turkish soldiers in the 
south-east of the country on Sunday when PKK forces outgunned a Turkish 
unit of 18 men without sustaining any casualties, according to the Kurds.

Last week, in an ambush also ascribed to the PKK, gunmen sprayed a bus 
with automatic fire in the same region, killing 13 civilians, including 
a boy of seven.

The Turkish media described the toll from the attacks as the worst in 12 
years in a conflict spanning several decades that has taken almost 
40,000 lives.

Mr Erdogan is known to think little of the invasion option, making the 
pragmatic calculation that it would probably fail. Western diplomats in 
Ankara agree that an invasion could be counter-productive. The Turkish 
military raided Iraqi Kurdistan dozens of times in the 1990s but were 
unable to suppress the insurgency.

The prime minister, however, is being challenged by the army command, 
which earlier this year demanded his authority to invade. He is also 
vulnerable to a mounting public clamour to act because of the upsurge in 
guerrilla activity and the heavy casualties.

Hardline Turkish nationalists entered parliament in Ankara after 
elections in July and they are also baying for Kurdish blood.

In the wake of the soldiers' deaths on Sunday, Mr Erdogan signalled a 
shift in policy, saying: "Our campaign against terrorism will continue 
in a different manner." The Turkish military has declared 27 "security 
zones" on the Iraqi and Iranian borders off-limits to civilians, 
suggesting to some that it might be gearing up for an invasion.

Officially, Ankara refuses to recognise or deal with the government of 
Iraqi Kurdistan, although there have been back-channel attempts over the 
past year to engage with Massoud Barzani, the president of the Iraqi 
Kurdish region.

Mr Erdogan's options are also constrained by strong US hostility to an 
invasion. While Turkish public opinion has been strongly anti-American 
since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, much of the logistical support for the 
US troops goes to Iraq via Turkey.

Relations are also under severe strain because of US congressional moves 
to brand the 1915 massacres of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as "genocide".

Mr Erdogan sent aides to Washington yesterday to lobby Congress on the 
"genocide" resolution. Ankara is also warning that it could block the 
logistical support to the US in Iraq if the resolution is passed.




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