UPDATE: FOXNEWS IS REPORTING THAT TURKEY HAS RECALLED IT’S AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES FOR CONSULTATIONS DIRECTLY RESULTING FROM U.S. HOUSE PANEL’S APPROVAL OF A BILL DESCRIBING THE WWl-ERA MASS KILLINGS OF ARMENIANS AS GENOCIDE.
Click here for more: Gates Expresses Concern About Resolution’s Impact on U.S.-Turkey Relations
We are at a crossroads where the loss of an important ally (Turkey) in the war against terror may invade northern Iraq to find members of The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), that have long been a thorn in the side of the Turk government. Combine this explosive border situation with that of the Congress of the US attempting to pass a bill reflecting official US policy with regards to the Armenian massacre (”genocide”) occurring 1915. Certainly, the timing couldn’t be worse.
Please see the complete Armenian story from CNS News here.
By Patrick Goodenough
CNSNews.com International Editor
October 11, 2007
(CNSNews.com) - The government of Turkey as soon as Thursday could submit to parliament a motion seeking approval for a military operation against Kurdish terrorists inside northern Iraq, an action the U.S. government has long discouraged.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a television interview late Wednesday that authorization would not necessarily mean immediate military action.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has been fighting a long and bloody campaign for autonomy in southeast Turkey, which is home to more than 11 million Kurds. Both the U.S. and European Union (E.U.) have labeled the PKK as a terrorist group.
Across the border in northern Iraq, where about 3.5 million more Kurds live, the PKK operates bases that Turkey believes are used as launching-pads for cross-border attacks.
After 15 Turkish soldiers were killed in clashes with the PKK earlier this week, Ankara succumbed to months of pressure from the country’s military and gave the green-light for operations inside Iraq. It is now seeking parliamentary approval.
The mountainous area falls under a largely autonomous Iraqi Kurdish regional government (KRG), which many Turks believe implicitly supports the PKK. Turkey worries that Iraq could disintegrate, and that the existence of a Kurdish state could fuel further separatist sentiment among the Kurds of southeast Turkey.
Turkish media bristled when the KRG last month enthusiastically welcomed a non-binding U.S. Senate resolution supporting federalism in Iraq.
Although the KRG said a federal arrangement for Iraq would mean “voluntary union” rather than division, Turkey sees the federalism push as a slippery slope towards a separate Kurdish state, with serious implication for Turkey’s territorial integrity.
As Turkey lays the groundwork for a possible military assault, the U.S. continues to appeal for restraint. The White House and State Department reiterated Wednesday that the U.S. is working with the Iraqi authorities to improve the security situation, saying that the violence threatens both Iraq and Turkey.
“Large-scale incursions into Iraq from Turkey … could be destabilizing to the region,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
“I think you fully understand the potential implications of that kind of incursion from Turkey into Iraq,” he told a press briefing.
The previous large Turkish cross-border operation took place in 1997, when 5,000 soldiers crossed into northern Iraq to fight the separatists.
Turkey, a Muslim state that is seeking E.U. membership, has been a NATO ally since 1952, but some experts believe the alliance is at risk.
Current tensions over a congressional “Armenian genocide” resolution (see separate story) coincide with opinion polls showing a significant cooling among the Turkish public towards the U.S.
A German Marshall Fund poll released last month found that Turkish “warmth” toward the U.S. on a 100-point “thermometer” scale had dropped from 28 degrees in 2004 and 20 degrees in 2006 to 11 in 2007. (The survey found a similar drop in Turks’ views toward the E.U., from 52 degrees in 2004 and 45 in 2006 to 26 in 2007.)
Hudson Institute scholars Rajan Menon and S. Enders Wimbush warned in a report earlier this year that policymakers on both sides appeared not to grasp the fact that the important friendship was fast eroding amid a buildup of nationalist sentiment in Turkey.
“European and American policymakers would be well advised to stop taking Turkey’s pro-Western orientation for granted,” they said. “It is time to revisit the conventional wisdom that Turkey has no strategic options other than the West.”
Since at least the end of the Cold War, Turkey had been slowly redefining its strategic identity, a trend that could see it building stronger ties with Russia, China, Iran and Syria.
Menon and Wimbush urged Washington to take urgent steps to protect the alliance, including making Turkey a central partner in reaching a political settlement in Iraq.
They said the U.S. should also fashion an agreement between Turkey and the KRG in Iraq, under which Turkey will not invade Iraqi Kurdistan and the KRG will not allow the PKK to use the area as an operating base.