debkafile: Despite the crisis in US-Turkish relations over Armenia vote, Ankara has not ordered the Turkish army to push into northern Iraq
debkafile‘s military sources report that small Turkish armored and reconnaissance units have been operating inside Iraqi Kurdistan for some time, marking out targets and routes, especially in the Bamerni and Zakho districts. Two Turkish armed divisions have also been poised for months ready to invade at short notice and attack Kurdish PKK separatists in the Iraqi hideouts, from which they have stepped up hit-and-run strikes into southeast Turkey. Turkish generals say it would take 48-72 hours to drive 40 km inside Iraqi Kurdistan.
Concerned at the crisis in relations with a close NATO ally and the anti-American mood in the Turkish street, the Bush administration has sent two officials to smooth ruffled feathers in Ankara over the US congressional committee’ majority vote to condemn the mass killing of Armenians in World War I by Ottoman Turks. They are ex-ambassador Eric Edelman and Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried.
Yet, while Turkey and its people are furious about the vote and US criticism of Turkish cross-border raids against PKK rebels, prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not ordering the army to march into Iraqi Kurdistan.
debkafile‘s sources point to powerful conflicting currents under which the Turkish government is laboring.
The US resolution on Armenia has nothing directly to do with the Kurdish question, yet they combine to make Erdogan look to his people a irresolute and weak leader on the diplomatic and military fronts alike.
Yet he is avoiding decisive action on both. He hopes to ride out both crises while avoiding a large-scale military operation if the Armenian question does not reach the US Congress floor and if no more Turks die at the hands of the PKK terrorists.
The prime minister and many other Turkish politicians are far from sure that an invasion would actually wipe out Kurdish strongholds in Iraq. It was tried in the mid-1990s and failed.
They also suspect chief of staff Gen. Yasar Buyukanit and his future successor, the ground forces commander Gen. Ilker Basbug, of planning to exploit an invasion to crush Iraqi Kurdish autonomy and seize the oil fields of Kirkuk.
Gen. Basbug said on Sept 29: “The time for North Iraq’s independence draws nearer every day and all we do is try to deal with the PKK. We don’t attach enough importance to the issue. Yet the independence of northern Iraq could divide Turkey.”
Finally, the Turkish economy is too fragile to stand up to a full-scale conflict in northern Iraq in defiance of the United States.
Turkey’s trade deficit rose by 6.1 percent to $28 billion (20.4 billion euros) in the first half of 2007 compared with the same period last year, the national statistics institute said. Imports increased by 16.8 percent to $77.4 billion between January and June, while exports were up by only 23.9 percent to $49.5 billion.
To help the Erdogan government weather the storm without further ructions, US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asking her to refrain from allowing the Armenian genocide resolution reach the House floor for a vote.
She explained it would harm American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, affect their supply lines and also damage Washington’s efforts to promote reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey.