Barham Salih made clear that foreign military forces in occupied Iraq could not guarantee security for the population and that a Turkish presence would only deteriorate an already bad situation.
His comments were published on Tuesday in Iraq’s al-Sabah newspaper before Turkey’s parliament later in the day agreed to a cabinet motion to send soldiers to Iraq.
“Turkish troops will face difficulties if they enter Iraq, because the majority of Iraqi groups do not want any military participation from any neighbouring country,” he said.
No military assistance
Ruling out military assistance, Salih said Turkey would have a role to play in rebuilding a free and unoccupied Iraq.
“It is the wrong thing to do. It does not add to security. It is not useful”
“The Iraqi people seek political and economic help from Turkey, but not military,” said Salih, who is in Ankara.
The official said his comments were representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and its leader, Jalal Talibani.
Iraq council rejection
Iraq’s US-appointed Governing Council has also rejected any Turkish deployment in the north of the country.
Council member Mahmud Othman told journalists on Tuesday that the council was unanimous in its decision.
“It is the wrong thing to do. It does not add to security. It is not useful,” said Othman, whose Kurdish ethnic group has a long history of bad blood with the Turks.
Othman added the council was also against the sending of troops from any neighbouring country.
He said the communique would be issued by the council in due course, but might be delayed by the US-led occupation authority.
Council spokesman Muhannad Abd al-Jabbar said no communique had been issued so far.
The Turkish operation could start as early as next month and last for up to a year, according to Turkish press reports.
The Turkish decision to send troops, which has sparked sharp public opposition, does not specify how many soldiers would be sent and to which part of Iraq.
But the popular Vatan daily said 6000 soldiers – from units in Ankara and from the neighbouring province of Cankiri – would initially be deployed, starting in November.
Anti-US and Israeli sentiment is
Turkey will become the first predominantly Muslim nation to contribute troops to the US-led occupation.
But many Turkish lawmakers rejected the idea of sending troops, having opposed the war that ousted former President Saddam Hussein from the beginning.
Many parliamentarians doubt whether their soldiers – consisting mainly of conscripts – should risk dying for a mission they do not support. A recent opinion poll indicated that 64.4% of Turks oppose sending troops.
However, Ankara has been determined to help the US-led occupation.
Government spokesman Cemil Cicek will not disclose how many soldiers will be sent, but officials have said the United States has requested about 10,000.
The number “will be assessed according to needs”, Cicek said.
US security assurance
The Turkish government has received assurances from the US State Department’s “counterterrorism” chief, Cofer Black, that the United States will remove the threat posed by Kurdish rebels of the autonomy-seeking Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, based in northern Iraq.
But Barham Salih says no one is in a position to guarantee anybody’s security in Iraq.
Most of northern Iraq is in the hands of two mainstream Kurdish parties – the PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).