DIYARBAKIR, TURKEY -- Desperate to avoid war on yet another front, the Iraqi government vowed yesterday to crack down on Kurdish rebels using the north of the country as a base to attack into neighbouring Turkey.
The offer didn't seem to mollify Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who repeated that his country was ready to invade northern Iraq "at any time" in order to hunt down fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party, better known as the PKK. Two days after a daring PKK ambush that left 12 soldiers dead, Turkish troops continued to mass along the country's 300-kilometre border with Iraq.
Debate in this country yesterday was not about whether to invade northern Iraq, but over how big and how deep such an incursion should be. Funerals held yesterday for the dozen dead soldiers turned into emotional political rallies, as tens of thousands of mourners waved the national flag and chanted for action against not only the PKK, but the Kurdistan Regional Government that administers the north of Iraq, and its President, Massoud Barzani.
As the mood in Turkey grew angrier, the government banned television channels from discussing Sunday's deadly ambush, saying such broadcasting was having a "negative impact on public order" and creating the impression of weakness in the Turkish military.
Many Turks believe that Mr. Barzani, who has thick ties to the PKK dating back to his days as a guerrilla leader fighting for Kurdish independence from Saddam Hussein's Iraq, has been providing support and bases to the group.
"People are calling for something to be done about Barzani also," said Ihsan Bal, a terrorism expert at the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization. "Every day he's on the television saying he cannot do anything against the PKK, and that the PKK is not a terrorist organization. Now people want to see him punished also."
The above is from Mark MacKinnon's "Despite Iraqi pledge, Turkey poised to invade" (Canada's Globe & Mail) and noted by Vince. Meanwhile Mark Bentley and Ali Berat Meric (Bloomberg News) report that Turkey has already begun their attack with Turkey air craft sent on bombing missions "in northern Iraq" as well as having "sent troops into Iraq to hunt down the PKK"
which Thomas Grove (Reuters) also reports has happened (though Grove says a diplomatic answer is stillsought):
News of the sorties, between Sunday and Tuesday evening in which Turkish warplanes flew 20 km (13 miles) into Iraq and some some 300 ground troops advanced about 10 km, put Baghdad under greater pressure to act against PKK rebels operating from the north of its territory.
The sources said 34 rebels of the outlawed PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) had been killed in the sorties. All Turkish troops involved in the operations had returned to Turkey.
Over at the Los Angeles Times, Ned Parker teams up with Asso Ahmed only to be more lost than yesterday. The two have nothing on the reports of the attacks already starting (which Reuters says is confirmed). While Parker does realize today that the Qandil mountain is "remote," he also misses all of yesterday's big news. From yesterday's snapshot:
BBC notes the announcement by puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki, "Iraq says it will close the offices of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebel group and will 'not allow it to operate on Iraqi soil'." All these years later. CBS and AP note that the announcement of the closing of PKK offices "contradicted repeated assertions by Iraqi officials in recent days that the PKK's presence in Iraq was restricted to inaccessible parts of northern Iraq that could not be reached by authorities" and that the Turkish military is "massing along the border".
Search in vain for the PKK's offices in Parker's story, search in vain. Meanwhile, Forbes offers a selection from Oxford Analytica to tell you what Parker can't (won't):
Today the KRG, (which would have to take effective action against the PKK, seeing as the central government in Baghdad exercises no authority in the north) is relying on U.S. acquiescence as it drags its own feet.
Neither of the two common excuses are convincing: KRG President Masoud Barzani maintains that the solution of the PKK problem lies inside Turkey; there is also the argument that the Kurdish leadership will not fight fellow Kurds.
--Barzani's peshmerga militia cooperated with Turkish forces seeking to destroy the PKK in the Kurdish "safe haven" after Saddam Hussein's 1991 defeat in Kuwait.
--At that time it was Jalal Talabani, now president of Iraq, who gave shelter to the PKK in the area away from the Turkish frontier controlled by his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
The real reason Barzani will not act against the PKK today is that Turkey opposes his ambition to incorporate Kirkuk and its oilfields into the KRG area. Barzani's support thus comes at a price Turkey is not willing to pay. Turkish attempts to circumvent Barzani have been hampered by the refusal of the last Turkish president, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, to invite Talabani to Ankara in his current capacity--or to deal directly with the KRG.
If we all act like history didn't happen, LAT seems to feels, then maybe it didn't!
Turkish artillery units have shelled Kurdish separatist positions within northern Iraq, a Turkish government official said on Wednesday, amid continuing diplomatic efforts to avert a major cross-border incursion by Turkish military forces.
[. . .]
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki reiterated an Iraqi pledge to shut down PKK offices in the north of the country and said Iraq would not allow its territory to be used as a "launch pad" for attacks on Turkey.
"The government will do its best in order to limit the PKK and its terrorist activities that are a threat to Iraq just like it is a threat to Turkey," al-Maliki said, following a visit to Baghdad Tuesday by Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Presidency of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq called on the PKK to abandon its armed struggle.
"The current problems should be solved through political and diplomatic methods," the statement urged. "It is necessary to stop using other methods, which are useless, and we demand that the PKK remain committed to the cease fire and not resort to armed operations."
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