In-depth Business Intelligence
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Books on Turkey
Update No: 125 - (26/10/07)
Kurdish militants attacks Turkish troops - the fall-out
The Turkish government of Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the ruling AK
Party, are in a genuine quandary. The militant wing of the Kurdish Workers'
Party make regular incursions into Southern Turkey. On one such on October 21
they killed at least12, and perhaps as many as 17, Turkish soldiers.
Ankara has to react to these outrages somehow or risk the umbrage of the
military, already distrustful of the Islamicist character of the AKP, so alien
to the secular traditions of Turkey.
But Washington is urging restraint. It does not want to see a Turkish invasion
disrupting the stability of the Kurdish provinces of Iraq, the only stable and
successful parts of the country.
Ankara has announced its right to retaliate militarily, but is still seeking
every way out, short of crossing the Iraqi frontier.
MGK advocates economic measures against the PKK
Turkey's powerful National Security Council (MGK) said on October 23 it had
recommended that the government take economic action against groups helping
separatist Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq.
The call from the MGK, comprising political leaders and army top brass, added to
the growing Turkish pressure on northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdish
administration to act against the rebels in order to stave off a major Turkish
military incursion. "The MGK has made a recommendation to the cabinet
concerning economic measures that should be taken ... against groups which
directly or indirectly support the separatist terrorist organisation in the
region," an MGK statement said.
It did not say what measures should be taken or which groups would be targeted,
but Ankara has strongly criticised the Iraqi Kurdish administration for failing
to crack down on the PKK, which is outlawed in Turkey.
Erdogan mooted the possibility of economic sanctions against northern Iraq
during his visit to London on October 22.
His AK Party has said these could include cutting off electricity supplies to
northern Iraq and halting or slowing down road traffic at the Habur border gate.
Northern Iraq relies heavily on Turkey for its power, water and food supplies.
Foreign Trade Minister Kursad Tuzmen said earlier on October 23 that Ankara was
capable of excluding the north and maintaining trade relations with the rest of
Iraq if the crisis over the PKK escalated.
The MGK statement followed an unusually long six-hour meeting under the
chairmanship of President Abdullah Gul. Erdogan and General Yasar Buyukanit,
head of the powerful military General Staff, were among those attending the
Ankara awaits proposals from Baghdad
Turkey expects "concrete proposals" from Iraq, as its defence minister
arrived in Ankara on October 24 in a last ditch attempt to assure Turkey that it
is ready to clamp down on the activities of the PKK in northern Iraq.
Ali Babacan, Turkey's foreign minister, said the visit by the Iraqi delegation
"would have no meaning" unless they were able to demonstrate they
could carry out their pledge to do so.
The Iraqi defence minister's visit came after the Turkish military bombarded PKK
bases inside northern Iraq over the previous few days, following the incident in
which at least 12 and probably as many as 17 Turkish soldiers were killed.
General Abdel Qadir Jassim arrived at the head of a delegation including Iraq's
national security minister after repeated threats of a large-scale military
incursion by Turkey. Ankara accuses the PKK in northern Iraq of attacking
Turkish targets in incidents that have killed scores of civilians and soldiers
in recent weeks.
Many observers in Ankara are sceptical that the Iraqi government can shut down
PKK operations in Iraq. The region of northern Iraq where the separatists are
based is controlled by the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) - (if this wild
mountainous border region can be said to be controlled at all), which takes
small notice of the central government in Baghdad.
However, the government in Ankara has long refused to have official dealings
with the KRG, insisting reasonably enough, that the onus was on the Baghdad
government and the US to address Turkish concerns about the PKK.
Turkey's political and military leaders also met for a regular national security
council meeting on October 23, at which the PKK issue was the main item on the
agenda. The NSC is the ultimate policy-setting body in Turkey on issues related
to foreign and military affairs and to security threats such as the one posed by
Invasion force assembled on the border
Turkey has moved at least 60,000 troops, helicopters, and heavy equipment to the
provinces of Hakkari and Sirnak, which border Iraq. The US and Iraq are
obviously opposed to a Turkish incursion because they believe it would undermine
Iraq's most peaceful region.
Analysts, commentators, and diplomats in Ankara suggest that there will be no
significant incursion into Iraq by Turkish troops before Erdogan meets President
George W. Bush in Washington on November 5, or unless there is another PKK
attack inside Turkey that claims more civilian and military lives.
The small-scale incursions seen recently are expected to continue in the
meantime, as the Turkish military targets PKK bases 20km to 40km on the Iraqi
side of the border.
Observers said the US had no quarrel with such operations by Turkey so long as
they did not provoke any wider conflict with the Kurdish government or with its