Turkey considers offensive against rebel Kurds in Iraq
Turkey’s ruling party decided Tuesday to seek parliamentary approval for an offensive against Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq, a move that could open a new front in the war in Iraq and disrupt one of that nation’s few relatively peaceful areas.
The government did not say it had decided to launch such an attack, which could jeopardize Turkey’s ties with the United States. The U.S. warned against sending troops across the border and urged Turkey to work with Iraq’s government to quell the Turkish Kurd guerrillas.
“If they have a problem, they need to work together to resolve it, and I’m not sure that unilateral incursions are the way to go,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
In the past, Turkish troops have made small-scale “hot pursuit” raids into Iraq that officials say do not require parliament’s approval.
There are widespread fears that a Turkish offensive would destabilize Iraq’s Kurdish area, which has largely escaped the violence and political turmoil afflicting regions dominated by Shiite Muslims and Sunni Arabs.
Iraqi Kurds, who run a virtual ministate in Iraq’s north, have vowed to defend their borders. A spokesman for the Iraqi Kurdish regional government, Jamal Abdullah, urged Turkey on Tuesday to drop the idea of a military attack.
“We call upon the Turkish government to exercise self-restraint and not to turn the region into an unstable one,” he said.
Earlier Tuesday, before the decision was made to seek a parliamentary go-ahead, the government said it had begun preparations for a military operation into Iraq in pursuit of the rebels after a series of deadly attacks on soldiers.
Over the last 10 days, more than two dozen soldiers and civilians have died in attacks by PKK rebels in the southeast. The group, labeled a terrorist organization by Washington and the European Union, has fought Turkish forces since 1984 in a war that has killed tens of thousands of rebels, soldiers and civilians.