Tuesday, December 18, 2007
According to a spokesman for the Kurdish Regional Government, Turkey sent 300 troops into a "deserted mountainous area" in northern Iraq overnight. A Turkish official reported that the troops were sent as permanent reinforcements for the forward operating bases Turkey has maintained in the area since 1996. FOB's that have generally functioned to locate PKK positions for artillery and air strikes. Here's the takeaway quote from the article:
Abdullah, the spokesman for the regional Kurdish government, also criticized the operation and cautioned that Turkish forces should "be careful not to harm civilians" who might be living in the area.
"If the Turkish military conducts limited operations against the rebels, this is a problem of their concern," he said. "But if this ... leads to harm for civilians, we will absolutely be against that and reject that."
So there's the red line for just what the Kurds will tolerate. And it's a red line that Turkey is almost certain to cross should it insist on launching air strikes on PKK mountain camps rendered unreachable by ground troops due to winter conditions.
Having followed this story closely since this spring, I can't help but conclude that Turkey is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory here. They patiently used a blend of sabre-rattling and diplomatic initiatives over a period of six months to gain American and Kurdish cooperation in their fight against the PKK. What's more, the winter is traditionally a time of reduced PKK activity due to the conditions in the mountains. Even if there were isolated PKK attacks, they would only have lent added legitimacy to an effective ground operation launched next spring.
Given all that, the decision to launch airstrikes seems awfully short-sighted.