Turkey debates Iraq incursion

Cabinet considers motion allowing cross-border raid against Kurdish fighters.

PKK fighters have vowed heavy resistance if Turkish troops cross into northern Iraq [File: AFP]
PKK fighters have vowed heavy resistance if Turkish troops cross into northern Iraq [File: AFP]

“If this duty is assigned to us, we will look at the scale on which it will be carried out. It is not possible to say this right now,” General Ergin Saygun, deputy chief of the general staff, said.

Ankara says the PKK uses bases in northern Iraq to launch attacks inside Turkey, the latest of which killed 15 soldiers last week.

Limited opportunity

Saygun dismissed suggestions that Nato’s second-biggest army had only a limited window of opportunity to attack before winter conditions made such a move impossible.   

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“The season would be taken into consideration, and other needs as well …. But we cannot say that we’ll go to Iraq if it doesn’t snow or we won’t go if it does,” he said.

Duran Kalkan, a senior commander in the PKK, said that the Turkish military would suffer a serious blow if it launched such an offensive.

According to the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency, he said that Turkey would “be bogged down in a quagmire” in northern Iraq.

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel Hamid in northern Iraq said on Monday that the situation along the border was quite calm.

“There was a night of intense shelling along the border on Saturday but for the last 24 hours it has been calm,” she said.

“We have been travelling backwards and forwards along the border and we have seen some minimal troops movements on the other side.”

US officials said last week that there are about 60,000 Turkish troops along the country’s southern border with Iraq, but the US military has not seen activity to suggest an imminent offensive.

International pressure

The Bush administration has urged Turkey to refrain from military action but its ability to influence Ankara has been diminished by a US congressional resolution that branded the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks after 1915 as genocide.

But Erdogan has said that international pressure would not deter Ankara. “The cost has already been calculated,” he said.

Ankara has also long complained that Washington has not done enough on its own or through the Iraqi government to crack down on the Kurdish separatists.

The PKK, which is labelled as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, began an independence struggle in Turkey in 1984 that has left more than 37,000 people dead.
Turkey and Iraq last month signed an accord pledging to combat the group, but failed to agree on a clause allowing Turkish troops to carry out “hot pursuit” operations against rebels fleeing into Iraqi territory, as they did regularly in the 1990s.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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