Thursday, June 7, 2007
Heading For The Border
The trend in the press as the day went on was to downplay early reports of a sizable Turkish incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan. By the evening, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had denied the rumors, and stated that any pre-meditated invasion would need to be presented to and approved by the Turkish parliament. At the same time, however, the Turkish military declared what it called "security zones" in three southeastern Turkish provinces. What exactly that means was not clear.
What is clear is that the Turkish military is crossing into Iraqi territory on a regular basis. A press officer at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs told me that while she couldn't provide any details on these operations, they were no secret. She stated that they were limited to "hot pursuit", where Turkish units engaged by PKK guerillas in Turkish territory subsequently followed them when they retreated back into Iraqi territory.
The press officer stated that this was in accordance with international law, under the legal doctrine of "hot pursuit". The doctrine itself originates from the Law of the Seas, and pertains to a state's right to pursue foreign vessels into international waters for violating laws and regulations in its territorial waters. Its application to ground operations, on the other hand, is far from a settled matter. Some people have used it to argue for American military forces following Iraqi insurgents into Syria, for example, but the argument is not universally accepted.
I doubt we'll hear much about it in Turkey's case, though. For political reasons, the Kurdish Regional Government might not be able to root out the PKK itself. Same goes for the US. But neither do they want to alienate Turkey, with whom they both have strong ties. So it looks like they've decided that the best way to handle this prickly situation is to let the Turks take care of the PKK and pretend as if nothing is happening.