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Turkey in Iraq

Filed on December 27, 2007

IRAQ’S battered government protests vehemently but Turkey is bent upon the scalpel approach to finally rid itself of the PKK cancer. But even though Erdogan’s sanctioned jet raids followed by land incursions are wasting hundreds of rebels hiding in caves to fight off the wicked winter, celebration or even a sigh of relief would betray a misreading of ground realities on Ankara’s part.

It would not be surprising to see the rebels return with a vengeance once the immediate pounding is over, especially if, as already warned, they are successful in borrowing strategy and tactics (and of course, funding) from the bloody insurgency that already typifies today’s Iraq. Yet ironically, Erdogan would hardly be the man to blame, despite his go-ahead and subsequent defence of the offence in rejection of overwhelming international opinion.

Even though he favoured the Turkish parliament’s overwhelming vote for the strike, in all fairness the prime minister did try to keep a lid on the pressure cooker for as long as he could. But with the rebels simply refusing to be tamed, instead adding fuel to the fire, the pounding was inevitable, pushing Erdogan into the unenviable catch-22 position of facing domestic rebuke in case of not responding with force, and shouldering responsibility for the bloody insurgency should it materialise in the footsteps of present day attacks.

Condi Rice’s was right in dismissing the Turkish military’s ability to completely wipe out PKK rebels with limited strikes when she visited the region early November, even if she was wrong on much else regarding the Turkey-PKK mess. Again, considering regional precedent, there is little heartening to expect from an enemy badly wounded but not completely wiped off. And if Ankara will be held responsible for practically pushing the region off the edge —pulling Iraq’s somewhat calm north into the fray should things go for the worse —then Washington must shoulder its share of the blame too.

The Bush administration, despite recognising the PKK as a terrorist organisation, did little to prevent the military operation save extend its usual rhetoric and offer incentives pertaining to intelligence matters that the Turks must have gathered on their own prior to the go-ahead. Once again, Washington’s ineptitude is at the centre of the region’s troubles’ expansion —Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Palestine and now Turkey-PKK. The Bush administration has already brought unprecedented troubles to the region. It seems it intends to add to that list on its way out.

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