Sunday, October 21, 2007

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Oh, s#$t

Not good. Not good at all:

At least 12 Turkish soldiers were killed in an ambush by Kurdish militants shortly after midnight on Sunday, in an audacious attack that sharply increased the pressure on Turkey’s government to send troops into northern Iraq.

A group of Kurdish fighters moved into Turkey from northern Iraq, the Turkish military said, and attacked Turkish soldiers based near the town of Hakkari, about 25 miles from the border, in three different locations, killing 12 and injuring another 16. Turkish soldiers then struck back, firing from helicopters and from the ground, killing at least 23 militants, according to the military, which provided its account in a statement.

In a statement on a Kurdish website, the militants said they captured eight Turkish soldiers, but the claim could not be substantiated.

The attack came just four days after Turkey’s parliament voted to give the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan full authority to send troops into northern Iraq to strike at Kurdish militants who hide there.

At the time, Turkish officials emphasized that they would not immediately apply the authority, and security experts said the resolution would be used mainly as political leverage to press the United States and its Iraqi Kurdish allies to act against the Kurdish militants, the Kurdistan Workers Party, known by its initials, the P.K.K.

But Sunday’s attack was one of the worst in recent memory, and the government, which has been skeptical of an offensive in the past, will be under intense pressure to act.

UPDATE: The AP calms me down... a little:
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday it appears Turkey's military is not on the verge of invading northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish rebels responsible for a deadly attack on Turkish soldiers.

Gates told reporters that in a meeting with Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul, he advised against launching a major cross-border incursion despite the continuing provocations.

''I'm heartened that he seems to be implying a reluctance on their part to act unilaterally, and I think that's a good thing,'' Gates said. ''I didn't have the impression that anything was imminent.''....

In his remarks to reporters, Vecdi said he told Gates that Turkey expects the U.S. to do more to constrain the PKK in Iraq, although he would not spell that out in detail.

''We'd like to have something tangible'' from the Americans, he said. ''We expect this. Any kind of tangible actions.''

Asked what Turkey's military leaders were preparing for, Gonul replied: ''They are planning to cross (the) border.''

ANOTHER UPDATE: The NYT has more on what the U.S. will need to do to prevent Turkey from a cross-border incursion:
Mr. Erdogan said he had told Ms. Rice in a phone conversation Sunday night that Turkey expected “speedy steps from U.S.” in cracking down on Kurdish rebels, and according to The Associated Press, he said that she had expressed sympathy and asked “for a few days” from him. The Iraqi government also began a concerted effort to reach out to Turkey.

“Our anger is great,” Mr. Erdogan said on national television here before he conferred with Turkey’s top political and military officials in an emergency security meeting. “We have the decisiveness to act on these events in cold-blood, and so we are determined.”

The early-morning attack, which were condemned by Iraqi officials and the Bush administration, sharply increased the pressure on Turkey’s government to ignore the wishes of its American allies and send troops into northern Iraq.

posted by Dan on 10.21.07 at 01:22 PM


Quick, can anybody name 'our' ambassador to Ankara?

posted by: Mitchell Young on 10.21.07 at 01:22 PM [permalink]

Any idea what the motivation behind the attack was? A strategy of inducing a Bushian overreaction/overextension? An attempt to indirectly destabilize Barzani/Talabani/whoever? Just angry people lashing out? A group looking for local short-term gain and not much concerned with longer term effects?

posted by: rilkefan on 10.21.07 at 01:22 PM [permalink]

All things considered, that sounds like a pretty stupid thing to do and it is hard to imagine what, if anything, the PKK would hope to gain from such an attack at this point. Makes one wonder if those responsible are really PKK.

posted by: RW Rogers on 10.21.07 at 01:22 PM [permalink]

The American ambassador to Turkey is a career FSO named Ross Wilson, a Zoellick person who has held responsible posts before. It makes sense, given the nature of the Turkish government, the prominent American military presence in Iraq, and the kind of incident this was, that our contact with the Turks would occur at the defense minister level. But the recent surge of PKK terrorism within Turkey represents real trouble that will be with us for a while, so there will be plenty of work for the diplomats over the next several months.

posted by: Zathras on 10.21.07 at 01:22 PM [permalink]

This coming Turkish invasion of Iraq was the most obvious thing in the world. Ever since the Americans invaded Iraq, it was totally clear that the Kurds would threaten Turkey and that it was very likely it would come to war.

My position on this is two fold:
1) It is really sad that this whole war is increasingly causing death, destruction and instability in the region. As was predicted, i can see the Kurdish issue continuing to gather steam and increasingly dragging Turkey, Syria and Iran into the quagmire.

2) The Kurds have become too arrogant as a result of the American invasion. They currently dominate the Iraqi central government (ironically, since they usually don't even consider themselves Iraqi), and they have created a totally independent state in Kurdistan (in everything but name). I generally support Kurdish rights, and believe that they have lived a similar existence to that of the Palestinians, but practically speaking I think they need to check themselves and lower their aspirations for the moment. As this situation with Turkey shows, they have put themselves in a very vulnerable position by playing their hand too large. Right now it seems like they think they can do anything that they want and hide behind the Americans. But they are going to get a severely bloody nose unless they start to play it cool. This shows an extreme immaturity on their part and it is going to cause them to crash and burn if they keep it up.

posted by: Joe M. on 10.21.07 at 01:22 PM [permalink]

WHo cares if Turkey invades to kill the PKK? Seems like a good idea, to me. After all, the Turks invaded numerous times in the 90s, with tens of thousands of troops. (Remember that we were formally protecting the Kurds at the time, through the No Fly Zones.) And there was no awful effect of those massive invasions.

No doubt, if the Turks do invade, Drezner is going to claim it is a disaster caused by the Bush administration. But that's the role of the academic - to claim that everything that occurs in the world is a disaster caused by Bush.

posted by: A.S. on 10.21.07 at 01:22 PM [permalink]

I got to say that it's kind of bizarre that a member of the foreign policy community - very serious or not - is yet again slapping his head in surprise regarding another consequence of the invasion of Iraq.

posted by: Hal on 10.21.07 at 01:22 PM [permalink]

This conflict is a civil one between Kurdish rebels and the Turkish government. It does not effect the security of the United States and therefore this country will remain completely uninvolved and uncaring of the outcome. As soon as some terrorist kill some of our troops, we will release a harsh statement condemning the action and fire a cruise missile into a building somewhere to show we're serious. Until then, we must stay out of it or Mrs. Sheehan will be unhappy.

posted by: POTUS-HRClinton on 10.21.07 at 01:22 PM [permalink]

Perhaps your original article title is right on the money:

posted by: Robert Bell on 10.21.07 at 01:22 PM [permalink]

Robert Bell: Of course, Mr. Ozkok acknowledges only one very narrow side to the situation, doesn't he?

posted by: Useless Sam Grant on 10.21.07 at 01:22 PM [permalink]

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