It’s Up to America to Prevent a Turkish Incursion Into Iraq

Would Turkish troops enter Iraq? This question calls for a short and clear answer – yes, Turkey would definitely enter Iraq. What’s more, it can do so despite international opposition and the reaction of neighboring countries, because the latest incidents have churned up great anger and public pressure. Every attack by the terrorist Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and every soldier killed can be attributed to the formation of northern Iraq [the autonomous Kurdish region]. Everyone is aware of the PKK camps in northern Iraq are controlled by [President of the Kurdish autonomous region] Massoud Barzani, and that he even supports and condones these terrorist activities.

The incursion of Turkish troops into northern Iraq could have been prevented; it still can. The steps to be taken to this end are obvious and the major responsibility falls on the United States. Although its dominion over the region is questionable, U.S. authority over the Barzani Administration is undisputed. Before we got to this point, the United States should have taken steps to put its “strategic partner” Turkey at ease. For instance, it could have arrested a few PKK leaders and handed them over to Turkey. It failed to do so, and the coordination between Turkey and the U.S. hasn’t been maintained or managed properly. That’s why General Edip Başer, the coordinator for the Turkish side, retired, only to be followed by his American counterpart, Joseph Ralston. It is failures like this that has made a Turkish intervention in Iraq inevitable.

[Editor’s Note: Retired General Ralston last year became Washington’s special envoy for countering the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and was appointed to co-ordinate a joint anti-PKK push with Turkey. He is rumored to have quit in frustration, with Iraqi Kurds complaining the Turkey wouldn’t accept them as interlocutors.]

The respectability and image of the United States is growing increasingly tainted in the eyes of the Turkish people. Although it declared the Kurdistan Worker’s Party a terrorist organization, the United States again discredited its global counterterrorism policies by failing to take decisive measures against it. Since it has resorted to a “fight against terror” with its interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, it should take more tangible steps to handle the PKK problem.

Another issue that has generated shock amongst the Turkish public is the way the bitter events that took place in 1915 have been turned into a resolution on Armenian genocide. Up to now, the United States has been seen by the public as one of the most sympathetic countries toward Turkey. The role it played in Bosnia and Kosovo were greatly appreciated, and this sympathy reached its peak under former President Bill Clinton’s visit to Turkey after the Marmara earthquake in 1999. Such being the case, it’s difficult to understand why the United States has fallen so rapidly from grace. If the Turkish military enters northern Iraq today, one of the chief reasons for that action will be the conduct of the United States. Even a few gestures of goodwill from the U.S. could have prevented such a cross-border operation.

Another party responsible for Turkey’s likely incursion is the administration in northern Iraq. It is well known how people subject to the greatest hardship and the worst kind of tyranny under Saddam found nothing but friendship in Turkey. Turkey opened its arms to the Peshmergas [Kurdish fighters] who had fled Saddam’s chemical weapons, gave them a chance to settle in Turkey and provided them with humanitarian support. Turkey didn’t stop there and gave both Barzani and Jalal Talabani Turkish passports, helping their diplomatic activities.

But the Turkish public couldn’t stomach that now. Why are northern Iraqi Kurds helping the PKK, even after we did them such great favors and helped them during their plight? Just saying, “What can we do? The PKK members are also Kurdish,” is not a persuasive answer, because the problem is tied to terrorist activities and isn’t a matter of being Kurdish. Attempting to legitimate terrorist activities based on propaganda and killing people would be tantamount to condoning terrorism. In which case a group of “just terrorists” would emerge, due to the moral confusion of such a concept. There is no good or bad, right or wrong terrorist. A terrorist working for a legitimate cause for some, is working toward an illegitimate cause to another.

Terrorism is a method, a cruel method. You either stand up against it altogether, or accept it altogether, or one is faced with chaos.

The entry of Turkish troops into northern Iraq is undesirable, but it has become an obligation. An organization that kills soldiers and civilians is based in northern Iraq, and its existence is condoned despite all complaints that have been lodged against it. Parliament has passed the government’s motion. From this point on, no one can hold back the Turkish Army.

That is why Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, “At this point, whatever will be will be,” thereby displaying his reaction to the United States, Europe and the Iraqi administration. Turkey means business this time. If Turkey is not assisted through diplomatic channels, the Turkish Army will enter Iraq; this is inevitable. If only the situation had not been allowed to go so far; if only diplomacy had been better utilized to comfort Turkey and deter the terrorists…

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