Thursday, April 12, 2007

Turkish Saber Rattling

The senior military commander in Turkey steps in front of the microphones for the first time since taking the leadership position eight months ago and starts off with some good old fashioned saber rattling.

Military says incursion into northern Iraq a must: Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt yesterday asked for government approval to launch a military operation into northern Iraq to fight outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists there, who he said are accelerating their terror attacks in Turkey.

General Büyükanıt - the Great Performer: His opening gambit was to say that the Turkish Armed Forces were ready to go to war -- or at the very least to launch a cross-border operation into northern Iraq against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). We can do it, we want to do it and we think it’s worth the trouble, he told his audience in almost as many words. Then he tossed the ball into the government’s court.

The General’s words follow shortly after a diplomatic message delivered to the elected government of Iraq. Ethnic Kurds living within a region transected by the “legal borders” of Iran, Iraq and Turkey have a long standing separatist movement with an extremist wing prone to violence. Turkey prefers the trouble makers stay in Iraq.

Turkey won’t watch silently if Iraq takes no action: Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül said Turkey's intention was extremely clear. "Our intention is to build friendship and brotherhood in the region," he said. However the foreign minister emphasized that this would only be possible if countries in the region respected each other's legal borders.

"It is obvious that Turkey favors stability in the region, as well as maintaining peace with its neighbors," he said, adding: "But if there harm spreads to Turkey from its neighbors then the neighbors should do whatever is necessary. If [that neighbor] doesn't have the sufficient power to do so, then international law offers opportunities for doing so," Gül stated.

The good news is the armed forces are, for the moment, acting in deference to the elected officials. Ankara is speaking a unified message to all foreign interests that as long as everyone honors the boundaries the situation can remain calm. I do suspect if PKK operatives cross the line to kidnap or kill, the Turkish response will be less civil than the British response to Iran.