US HINTS AT HELPING TURKEY
SBS – World News Australia,
Oct 19 2007
The United States may consider using US and Iraqi forces to take action
against Kurdish rebels, but only if they had more precise intelligence.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said he was determined to work
with the Turks to reduce the threat posed by the PKK, a Kurdish
separatist group accused of carrying out attacks in Turkey from bases
in northern Iraq.
"I think that if we were to come up with specific information, that
we and the Iraqis would be prepared to do the appropriate thing,
and if we had information on them in Turkey, that we would provide
that information," Mr Gates said.
He would not elaborate on what he meant by "the appropriate thing."
The US military has previously indicated that its forces are too tied
up elsewhere in Iraq to be used against the PKK, which the United
States has designated as a terrorist organisation.
Mr Gates reiterated US concern about deteriorating relations with
the Turks over the border tensions and a congressional resolution
denouncing the World War I "genocide" of Armenians under the Ottoman
He said there was "a very real risk" that the Turks would put
restrictions on the movement of US supplies through its airspace or
territory if the Congress were to pass the non-binding resolution.
"I don’t think the Turks are bluffing," he said. "I think it is that
meaningful to them.
"I think they see implications in terms of reparations and perhaps
Mass rallies in Iraq
His comments come amid mass protests in northern Iraq, with thousands
of Kurds marching through city streets, challenging the Turkish
parliament’s authorisation of cross-border attacks against the rebels.
The Turkish vote removed the last legal obstacle to an offensive,
but there was no sign of imminent action as the United States and
the Iraqi government urged restraint.
Turkey says it has the right to attack Kurdish rebels in Iraq in the
name of fighting terrorism, just as US-led coalition forces attacked
the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan after the September 11,
2001 terror attacks.
"Those who criticise us on the parliamentary motion should explain
what they are doing in Afghanistan," said Justice Minister Mehmet
Ali Sahin, a former deputy prime minister.
"Turkey is implementing the same international rules that were
implemented by those who linked the attacks on the twin towers to some
organisations in Afghanistan and sent troops to Afghanistan based on
He was referring to the September 11, 2001 suicide plane attacks in
Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, said the government
was willing to act against the PKK, the acronym for the Kurdistan
Workers’ Party, but it doesn’t have the forces to push the separatist
group out of the country.
"The Iraqi government is not running away from its responsibilities.
"It’s just a question of time," he said.
Other measures considered
But, he said, there were measures that could be taken, such as cutting
off supplies and setting up checkpoints to limit access for the rebels
in the north.
But he complained the Turkish government had not responded to calls
for dialogue to discuss the steps, recommending three-party talks
between Iraq, Turkey and the United States to defuse the situation.
"We would definitely consider a number of measures to take to disrupt
PKK activities…but we need to discuss these," he said.
"We haven’t seen that great enthusiasm from the Turkish side to engage
seriously in a substantive dialogue."
The conflict involving the long time NATO allies US and Turkey –
which has also been a major ally in Washington’s fight against
terrorism – stems from some 3,800 rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’
Party who have found safe havens in the remote, mountainous areas of
the self-governed northern Iraq.
The US lists the PKK as a terrorist organisation and has repeatedly
condemned its attacks inside Turkey. However, Washington has called
on the Turkish government to work with Iraqis to fight against the
rebels, fearing a unilateral Iraqi campaign by Turks might bring
chaos into one of the rare stable areas in Iraq.
At a press briefing in Washington, visiting Iraqi government spokesman
Ali al-Dabbagh chided Iraqi Kurds for not chasing the PKK out of
their autonomous region.
"They (Iraqi Kurds) are also liable to respect the decision of the
Iraqi government that the PKK is a terrorist activity.
"It’s not allowed in Iraq, and not to provide any support," he said.
The spokesman for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also said the Iraq
government understands the suffering that Turkish people have endured
from PKK attacks, and that his government was "doing its utmost to
ban activities of the PKK."
"The Iraqi government is calling the Turkey government not to use the
military solution and refrain from crossing the Iraqi border," he said.
In the protests in the north, more than 5,000 men and women – political
figures and average citizens alike – packed the streets as they marched
to the UN offices in Dahuk, a Kurdish city near the border with Turkey,
some 430km northwest of Baghdad.
The crowd waved the sunshine flag of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish
region and shouted slogans and songs praising Kurdish nationality,
handing representatives at the offices a document calling on the UN
to intervene to stop any Turkish activity inside Iraq.
"No to military action, yes to dialogue," the demonstrators shouted.