In the last two weeks, two of the biggest pro-US armies in the Middle East abruptly cut short major offensives against Muslim terrorists, leaving their outcome unresolved.
The first was the Turkish Army, which invaded Northern Iraqi Kurdistan on Feb. 23 for a determined assault on Kurdish Workers Army (PKK) terrorist lairs.
It was followed a few days later by the Israeli armed forces on an expedition to crush the Hamas missile capabilities that had been plaguing Its towns and villages from Gaza.
Turkish troops were whisked out of Iraq Friday, Feb. 29 – just hours after US defense secretary Robert Gates departed Ankara on his way back to Washington.
The respected Turkish columnist Yilmaz Ozdil speculated that Turkey had received its recent $6.2 billion World Bank loan in return for ending the operation. “Bush asked us to get out. We got out. When on holiday, you can’t even check out of your hotel room that quickly. (Hurriyet, March 1)
Three days later, Israeli ground troops stole out of the Gaza Strip in the dark of night shortly before US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was due for a visit.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources state for a fact that both these campaigns were aborted before achieving any of their goals. The opposition had the last word.
The Turkish army did not penetrate Iraq beyond 30 km, nowhere near the main PKK sanctuaries they were assigned to dismantle in the Qandil Mountains.
(See DEBKA-Net-Weekly 399, Feb. 29: Ankara Needs More Time to Crush PKK Havens).
The IDF reached 2.5-3 km into the northern Gaza Strip – like the Turkish army, far short of the Hamas missile infrastructure that was to have been demolished. The troops abruptly turned tail, only to be dogged by a stepped-up hail of missiles and rockets.
Parroting Washington, falling into the Moqawamah Trap
There are very few points of resemblance between the Turkish prime minister Tayyep Erdogan and his Israeli counterpart Ehud Olmert, or between the scale, situations and political structures of the two countries. Yet both found themselves in the same boat, faced with US-dictated frustration in their efforts to subdue terror.
When Erdogan spoke to his party in parliament Tuesday March 4, he referred to “non-military measures” and said: “Combating terrorism is not possible only with military power. There are diplomatic, economic, political and social dimensions, and we will continue to take important steps in this regard.” He was more or less parroting the thesis dictated by Gates, without further elaboration.
Olmert, for his part, assured the visiting US secretary of state that while Israel was committed to combating Hamas, he was equally committed to the Annapolis manifesto and Bush’s two-state vision. He would therefore continue peace talks with the Palestinian Authority to prevent Hamas from seizing control of the West Bank as well as Gaza.
He too sang Washington’s tune without elaborating.
Neither statement had any relevance to the situation on the ground – whether in northern Iraq and southern Turkey or in northern Gaza and southwestern Israel.
The PKK is hardly susceptible to social or economic benefits or sanctions, any more than any other terrorist group, as the White House understood in its early days. The Turkish army’s pullback gave them precisely what they were after, just as Israel’s withdrawal was celebrated by Hamas as a “victory.”
Ankara, pushed by Washington, had fallen into the trap of Moqawamah, the doctrine sweeping the Arab and Muslim radical world, which calls for constant, persistent and perpetual combat with the enemy. It does not matter if victory is elusive, as long as it is also withheld from the enemy.
Aside from massive US pressure, Ankara and Jerusalem had more than one compelling reason for cutting their campaigns short, as will be seen in the next articles.