Diplomacy must be used to dissuade Turkey from mil. action in Iraq

Allentown Morning Call, PA
Oct 19 2007

Diplomacy must be used to dissuade Turkey from military action in
October 19, 2007

Turkey, with its border on Iraq, is an important U.S. ally in a
troubled part of the world. The country is used for oil transit in
the region. Also, though the United States doesn’t have troops at the
border, it controls the airspace. An American air base, Incirlik, is
in southern Turkey.

Consequently, it was worrisome when the Turkish Parliament decided
Wednesday to authorize cross-border military operations into northern
Iraq in an attempt to combat Kurdish separatist rebels. The
Parliament voted overwhelmingly, 507-19, to give Turkish Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan permission to launch strikes at any
time during the next year.

Military action isn’t expected yet. But the Parliament vote was a
clear signal of the country’s growing lack of patience with the fact
that the northern Iraq Kurdish government has given rebels of the
Kurdistan Workers’ Party the freedom to run its headquarters and
training camps, and plot attacks on Turkey across the border.

President Bush, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and NATO
Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer are urging Turkey to exercise
restraint. They fear that military strikes by Turkey could prompt
involvement by neighboring countries, especially Iran and Syria. As
it is, both Turkey and Iran have fired artillery shells into northern
Iraq in recent weeks. Also, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told The
Washington Post for a story Thursday that his country supports ”all
decisions by Turkey and we are standing behind them.”

Relations between Turkey and the United States took a downward turn
last week when a House committee passed a resolution calling the
World War I-era mass killing of Armenians an act of genocide.
Congressional leaders, recognizing the critical nature of U.S.-Turkey
relations, have since backed away from a commitment to hold a vote on
that bill.

But, U.S.-Turkey relations remain strained because Kurdish rebels in
Iraq have conducted raids into Turkey and the United States has not
responded to complaints from Turkey about the ongoing problem. The
Turkish military estimates that 3,800 Turkish Kurd guerrillas operate
from Iraqi territory and 2,300 in Turkey.

Northern Iraq, where the Kurds dominate, has largely escaped the
strife of the war in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The
situation is complicated, however, because, even though Washington
lists the rebel Kurds as a terrorist group, Iraqi Kurds are reluctant
to fight Kurds who have ties to Turkey.

Parliament’s vote Wednesday sent the price of a barrel of oil up to a
record $89; it then settled at $87.40. But the wider concern, of
course, is that neighboring countries will get involved in Iraq if
Turkey were to finally lose patience and send its troops. Diplomacy
by the United States and NATO is of the utmost importance.

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