US to Turkey: Stay out of Iraq


Turkey and America's strategic partnership is at risk because of the growing tension between the Turkish army on the border of Iraq and the ~3,000 outlawed PKK Kurdish fighters said to be using the mountainous region as a base from which to strike inside Turkey:
The Turkish government is seeking parliamentary approval for a possible cross-border military operation to hunt down Kurdish separatists in Iraq. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is under pressure to act from a Turkish public outraged by rebel attacks that have killed 15 soldiers since Sunday.

Iraq said that the best way to confront the rebels was through a security accord signed with Turkey last month. The US also warned Turkey against making an incursion into northern Iraq.

"If they have a problem, they need to work together to resolve it," said state department spokesman Sean McCormack. [Link] [Video]

Kurdish residents in the Iraqi border region report intermittent shelling coming from Turkey. The Turkish military has not denied this and has said they have the right to go in if they're in hot pursuit of fleeing PKK fighters following a military engagement.

The Kurds have warned them to keep out.

This comes after a security agreement signed between Iraq and Turkey, the nature of which is an assurance from Iraq that they will address the PKK camps, was put in place. However, with two attacks inside Turkey coming out of the border camps in the last few weeks, the Turkish public, government and, especially, its army is either losing patience or using the threat of force to push the Iraqis to stop the PKK themselves.

Further exacerbating the situation, the US warning comes at a time when the Congress is to vote on a bill to recognize the long denied Armenian genocide. The Turkish government, which has arrested its citizens in the past for talking about it and is under pressure from their growing nationalist faction to continue that practice, has let the US know they will return "insult for insult" by limiting the vital access to the large NATO base within Turkey's borders.

The recognition of the genocide, while long overdue, is a non-binding resolution that the Bush Administration has stated they do not support. Whether that will be enough to keep the Turks from reacting and/or their nationalists from using the issue to stir up dissent, remains to be seen.

What is not in doubt: If Turkey does cross the border into Iraq without the Kurdish Regional Government's permission (note: they have given such permission in the past, so it is possible that similar negotiations are taking place behind the scenes), it could lead to a regional escalation between two of the United States' most important allies (Turkey and Kurdistan) at a time when there are more than enough battles to strain everyone's resources.

Here's the link to the BBC video.

And to more about the Kurds.