(by Eli Lake, NYSun.com) WASHINGTON – America, NATO, and Britain are all
supporting Turkish strikes and a brief incursion into northern Iraq to root out
positions alleged to belong to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

The support for the
Turkish strikes yesterday represents a shift for America and Europe, which have
cautioned the Turks against a serious military incursion. But tensions on the
border between northern Iraq and Turkey boiled over when the Kurdish separatist
group, known as the PKK, aired a video of Turkish soldiers it abducted in raids
earlier this week.

“Our understanding is that
Turkish forces carried out limited incursions into Iraqi territory in pursuit of
PKK targets,” a State Department spokesman, David Foley, said.

He added: “We support the
Turkish government in their defense of Turkey against terrorism. We urge
restraint against actions that would destabilize the region.”

Also yesterday, Secretary
of State Rice told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that she hoped a meeting
scheduled for today in Ankara between the Iraqis and the Turks would ease border
tensions. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Gates said America and Turkey needed
better intelligence before committing to airstrikes in the Qandil mountains,
where the PKK leadership is believed to be hiding out.

American and Iraqi
military officials told The New York Sun that Turkey conducted the airstrikes
into Kurdish territory with American-made F–16 jets and that a small group of
commandos crossed over the border in the Qandils. The border there is not marked
well, and the incursion was no more than a few miles, an Iraqi official

Much is riding on today’s
meeting at Turkey’s capital. The Turks believe that the Kurdistan regional
government in northern Iraq knows the locations of senior PKK leaders and that
on occasion those leaders have even ventured into the regional capital of Irbil,
the director of the Turkish research program at the Washington Institute for
Near East Policy, Soner Cagaptay, said.

“I think the first thing
the Turks are looking for is that the PKK is not violating the Turkish-Iraqi
border; as long as the PKK is crossing the border and killing people, all this
rhetoric looks superficial,” Mr. Cagaptay said. “The elimination of the PKK’s
top leadership, that is what the Turkish government is looking for right

The Turkish foreign
minister, Ali Babacan, said yesterday that if Kurdish and Iraqi leaders were not
prepared to present a plan of action to eliminate the PKK in northern Iraq,
today’s meeting would fail.

President Talabani of
Iraq, who is also the head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, denied reports
that Kurds in Iraq would hand over PKK leaders, insisting that even the Kurdish
leaders do not know their locations.

Nonetheless, Iraq made two
key concessions against the PKK, which America and Turkey have said is a
terrorist organization. Prime Minister al-Maliki announced that Iraq would close
the PKK offices in the country. In addition, the president of the Kurdistan
regional government, Massoud Barzani, son of the most storied Kurdish leader of
the 20th century, Mustafa Barzani, called on Turkish Kurds to stop their armed

The author of “God and
Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World,” Walter Russell
Mead, said he did not think the Turkish moves into northern Iraq would risk
setting a precedent for armed intervention from Iran or Syria. “As a pragmatic
matter, the fact that Turkey received a statement of support from NATO, if those
countries tried it, they would find themselves isolated,” Mr. Mead, a senior
fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said.

Still, he said the
developments posed their own risks. “The risk with any armed conflict is that it
can spread,” he said. “They may find the airstrikes don’t make the terror raids
stop, and they decide to go in by land and step up the airstrikes. The security
situation could deteriorate and could have a wider impact on the politics of
Iraq, where the Kurds play an important role.”

An American military
official who requested anonymity said he doubted that the tensions would flare
into a broader Turkish-Kurdish war. “The Turks, for their own domestic political
reasons and for their prestige, have to send a message: ‘You can’t just abduct
soldiers with impunity,'” the official said. “But at the same time, the reason
the PKK grabbed the people was to instigate a border incursion because it will
save them politically in Turkey. The Kurdish government in Iraq does not want
that, and neither do the Turks.”

Reprinted here
with permission from The New York Sun. Visit the website at

Click here for questions on
this article


1. a) What is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party?
b) How does the U.S. classify the Kurdistan Workers’ Party?

2. The US and Europe previously cautioned Turkey about sending their military into Iraq after the PKK. Why have they recently changed their position?

3. What reaction did an Iraqi official have to Turkish incursions into northern Iraq?

4. What outcome is the Turkish government looking for by going into Iraq? Be specific.

5. a) What other position does Iraqi President Talabani hold?
b) How has President Talabani reacted to the situation between Turkey and the PKK?

6. What concessions has the Iraqi government made to Turkey against the PKK?

7. Do you think that Turkey is justified in the actions it is taking against the PKK? Explain your answer.



Read about events leading up to Turkey’s incursion into northern Iraq here

Kurd map/washingtonpost.com staff


To gain a better understanding of who the Kurds are, and what role the PKK plays
among Kurds,here

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