Apologies if already posted, I couldn't see the threads if so. General: Turkey's troops ready for Iraq By SELCAN HACAOGLU, Associated Press Writer Thu May 31, 3:18 PM ET ANKARA, Turkey - Turkey's top general said Thursday his army which has been massing troops on the border with Iraq was prepared to attack separatist Kurdish guerrillas in a cross-border offensive. Gen. Yasar Buyukanit said the military was ready and awaiting government orders for an incursion, putting pressure on the government to support an offensive that risks straining ties with the United States and Europe and raising tensions with Iraqi Kurds. "As soldiers, we are ready," Buyukanit said at an international security conference in Istanbul. Although the United States has branded the guerrillas a terrorist organization, Washington fears that Turkish military action could destabilize northern Iraq the most stable part of the war-torn country. Washington is also concerned that supporting Turkey in an incursion could alienate the pro-American Iraqi Kurds. Many Turks believe a major incursion would help finish off the rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has been fighting for autonomy in Kurdish-dominated southeastern Turkey since 1984. Turkey's human rights record has been stained by allegations of excessive use of force in the fight against the guerrillas in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people. Turkey last carried out a major incursion into Iraq a decade ago, before the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. But separatist Kurdish guerrillas, taking advantage of a power vacuum in northern Iraq, have escalated attacks on Turkish targets. The military says up to 3,800 rebels are now based in Iraq, and up to 2,300 operate inside Turkey. Turkish intelligence reports say that Iraqi Kurdish groups, which previously supported the Turkish military in fighting the guerrillas, were preparing defenses against a possible Turkish incursion into northern Iraq. Turkey fears that Iraqi Kurds want to establish an independent Kurdish state, which could revive the aspirations of separatist Kurds in Turkey. Although the Turkish government promised to back the military, it has not so far asked Parliament for permission to deploy troops, anticipating problems with Washington, Iraq and the European Union all of which have urged Turkey to show restraint and find diplomatic ways to deal with the Kurdish rebellion. Turkey frequently complains that the United States and Iraqi Kurds have done little to stop the separatist rebels. On Thursday, Buyukanit denounced what he said was a lack of assistance from allies. "Turkey does not receive the necessary support in its fight against terrorism," the general said. "There are countries which directly or indirectly support PKK terrorism." He did not identify those countries. Public support for an offensive is high, especially following the recent killings of soldiers and a suicide bombing that killed six people. On Thursday, suspected rebels attacked a group of forestry workers in the predominantly Kurdish province of Bingol, killing four of them and wounding four others, officials said. On Thursday, military trucks hauled more tanks and guns to the border area, local reporters said. The deployment has made it more difficult for the rebels to retreat to bases in northern Iraq, the military said. Turkish troops, reinforced by planes and helicopter gunships, have killed 14 PKK guerrillas in operations near the border since Monday. But the U.S. State Department said Wednesday it had seen no evidence of a significant movement of Turkish military forces in the border. Past Turkish military incursions have yielded mixed results, with guerrillas sheltering in hide-outs and emerging again after most Turkish units withdrew. Turkey set up a buffer zone along the 200-mile border in 1997, but gradually withdrew the bulk of its troops under international pressure, leaving about 1,000 inside Iraq. Those troops act as monitors, but have not pursued the rebels. "To set up a buffer zone, Turkey needs to secure the consent of both Washington and the Iraqi Kurds," said Nihat Ali Ozcan of the Economic Policy Research Institute in Ankara. "However, the military buildup clearly puts more pressure on U.S. and Iraqi forces to do something quickly." Turkish army build-up fuels anxiety on Iraq border By Daren Butler Wed May 30, 7:35 AM ET GORUMLU, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkey sent more tanks to its border with Iraq on Wednesday in a military build-up that is fuelling U.S. concern about a possible incursion into northern Iraq against Kurdish rebels. A group of 20 tanks loaded on trucks emerged from army barracks in Mardin near Syria and headed towards the Iraqi border in southeast Turkey, already the scene of a major army offensive against rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Speculation about an imminent incursion into Iraq has grown since Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said last week he saw eye to eye with the army over possible military action, despite unease in the United States, Turkey's NATO ally, about such a move. There was also anxiety along the border in southeast Turkey, where many Kurdish villagers form part of a state-backed militia which fights alongside the army against the PKK rebels. "We support the operations in the mountains here because the PKK made us suffer a lot. I lost 10 people from my family," said Nadir Karadeniz, an official in the village of Gorumlu, located near a military base just a few kilometers from the border. But there was reluctance to take the fight into the Iraqi mountains, where thousands of PKK fighters are based, given the strong opposition from Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani -- a respected figure among Turkey's own Kurds. "I don't think it would be good to go into northern Iraq because Barzani said he would not accept Turkish soldiers there," Karadeniz said, before a military jeep arrived in the village and told journalists to leave the area. Military operations are focused on the rebels already inside Turkish territory. Security forces killed 10 PKK fighters in clashes across the southeast on Tuesday. The United States has repeatedly urged Turkey not to send troops into Iraq because it says it will only complicate the situation. The two countries have agreed various measures, including financial ones, to try to curb the PKK. CLOSE LINKS TO IRAQ Local concerns are focused on the impact of an incursion, which would hurt relations between Turks and Kurds, and also on the economy of the impoverished region, closely linked with northern Iraq in trade terms as well as ethnically. "This (operation) would mean great suffering, great losses and a blow to the harmony between Turks and Kurds," said Muhsun Kunur, mayor of the town of Silopi, around 15 km from the official border gate to Iraq. The prospect of an operation has also stirred tensions between Turkey and the United States. On Tuesday, Turkey formally asked Washington to avoid any further violation of its air space after two U.S. F-16 warplanes briefly flew into Turkish air space near the Iraqi border. U.S. diplomats said the incident was an "accident" but Turkish media said it was intended to send a message to Ankara not to send its troops into Iraq. But pressure within Turkey for an incursion is growing after a suicide bombing in the capital Ankara last week killed six people and injured scores more. Authorities blamed the attack on the PKK, which denied any involvement. A day later, six soldiers were killed when their vehicle was blown up by a landmine believed to have been planted by the rebels. On Wednesday, another soldier was killed after treading on a PKK landmine in Hakkari province near the Iraqi border. Erdogan feels the need to act tough ahead of national polls due in July. On Tuesday, he reiterated his frustration over the failure of U.S. and Iraqi government forces to crush the PKK rebels in Iraq despite Ankara's regular appeals for action. More than 30,000 people have died in the conflict with the PKK since the group launched its insurgency in 1984. Against this backdrop and given the military build-up, locals in Silopi see an operation as increasingly likely. "We see a 90 percent chance of them crossing over. They are now stationed on the border," said hairdresser Sadik Pusat, 32. "If the military goes into northern Iraq we will have to leave our lives here and migrate to the West." Turkish army bolsters forces on Iraq border amid heated debate for incursion The Associated Press Wednesday, May 30, 2007 ANKARA, Turkey: Turkey has sent large contingents of soldiers, tanks, guns and armored personnel carriers to reinforce its border with Iraq amid heated debate over whether to stage a cross-border offensive to hit Kurdish rebel bases. The military has said the border reinforcement is routine in summer, to prevent guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, from infiltrating from bases in northern Iraq. For weeks, television stations have broadcast images of military trucks rumbling along the remote border with Iraq's Kurdish zone, and trains transferring tanks and guns to reinforce an already formidable force in the area. "The PKK must be eliminated as a problem between Iraq and Turkey," Turkey's special envoy to Iraq, Oguz Celikkol, told CNN-Turk television on Wednesday after visiting Baghdad this week. Asked whether Turkey could take unilateral action, Celikkol said: "Our expectation is that this issue is resolved before it comes to that point." Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the United States and Iraq on Tuesday to destroy PKK bases in northern Iraq, and did not rule out a cross-border Turkish operation. "The target is to achieve results," Erdogan said. "Our patience has run out. The necessary steps will be taken when needed." Turkey's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday urged Iraq to take action. "What we want from the Iraqi government is to take necessary steps to stop the terrorists' activities by any means," Foreign Ministry spokesman Levent Bilman told reporters. Asked whether Iraqi authorities had been informed about a possible cross-border Turkish operation, Bilman said: "Such a decision is only Turkey's business. We do not have to inform anybody about the possibility of such an intervention." Past cross-border operations have yielded mixed results, with many guerrillas sheltering in hide-outs and emerging to fight again once the bulk of Turkish units withdrew from Iraq. The Turkish military says up to 3,800 rebels are now based in Iraq, and up to 2,300 operate inside Turkey. Iraqi Kurdish groups who run northern Iraq have threatened to resist a Turkish incursion. If U.S. forces take action, they risk alienating Iraqi Kurds, the most pro-American group in the region. If they do not, they risk increased tensions and possibly worse with two powerful rivals. "Our expectation from the United States and Iraq is to scatter and destroy the bases of the terrorist organization in northern Iraq," Erdogan said Tuesday. "They either turn them over or send them elsewhere. We have to achieve results." Last week, a suicide bomb blamed on the rebels killed six people in Ankara, and a bomb in a southeastern area where guerrillas are active killed six Turkish soldiers. Another soldier died on Wednesday when he stepped on a mine, believed to have been planted by guerrillas near the border. "All the explosives used by the PKK in Turkey are traced back to Iraq," Celikkol said. Turkish troops say they have killed 10 guerrillas in Turkey's southeast since Monday. Ankara has repeatedly expressed disappointment with Washington for what it says is a failure to crack down on Kurdish rebels who take refuge in northern Iraq and frequently attack soldiers and government targets in Turkey. Turkish forces have been battling Kurdish separatists in Turkey's southeast since the rebels took up arms in 1984. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people. 05/28/2007 14:08 TURKEY- IRAQ Ankara threatens military action in Iraqi Kurdistan by Mavi Zambak The government, army and population are ever more united in their fight against Kurdish terrorism, but also in their efforts to impede the autonomous region gaining control of Kirkuks oil. Ankara (AsiaNews) Currents are growing stronger within the Turkish army in favour of halting Kurdish terrorism even to the point of violating the border with Iraq. By exploiting and augmenting popular resentment in the aftermath of the recent explosion, Turkeys government and army are attempting to exert influence over future of Iraqi Kurdistan and Kirkuk. Only 4 days have passed since the explosion of the bomb in a market in Ankara, which killed six people, injured hundreds and destroyed buildings nearby. The building, covered in red and white balloons, giant Turkish flags and slogans, was re-opened to the public last Saturday. People crowded the market in a demonstration of solidarity with market traders and relatives of the dead and wounded. Among the photos of the dead shop assistants are various graffiti against terrorism and the PKK, the Kurdish workers party, which has been accused of providing the young suicide bomber with explosives which he detonated Tuesday last at the bus stop in front of the cover market. The Kurds and Kirkuk The political organisation has denied all involvement, so far no-one has claimed responsibility for the attack; and yet thousands of people have demonstrated against the Kurds with worrying slogans such as Curse the PKK and we will climb the hills and kill them all. At the same time, last Saturday President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, who is strenuously in favour of Turkeys secular nature, boycotted the Parliamentary reform aimed at implementing direct elections of the head of state, thus prolonging the tug of war between secularists, the military and the filo-Islamists. The terrorist attack in the heart of Turkeys capital came at a highly delicate moment in the countrys relationship between civil and military powers. On the one hand it gravely undermined national security; on the other however, it seems to have favoured closer collaboration between the government and military hierarchy, in the name of the fight against terror, to the point of justifying a possible operation in Iraqi Kurdistan. Already on April12 last, Yasar Buyukanit, the highest ranking general of the Turkish forces, boldly declared that military action against the Kurds in Northern Iraq was necessary. This threat risks opening yet another front in a region already oppressed by conflicts and tensions and is broadly opposed by the US military which is calling on Turkey to refrain from any military intervention beyond Iraqs borders. But Turkeys military continues to declare that thousands of Kurdish separatists have found refugee in Iraqi Kurdistan using it as a base to launch attacks on Turkey. Massud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan autonomous region, has reiterated that the main attraction for Turkey is instead Kirkuk and its rich petrol deposits, the fate of which is to be decided by referendum in November. Turkey fears that the city will return to Iraqi Kurdistan control, thus shattering Ankaras hopes of getting its hands on its patrimony of oil which counts for half of all Iraqi reserves. At the same time it is also feared that an autonomous Kurdish region at its borders may reignite the desire for independence among Kurds in Turkey. This would explain Turkeys vehemence in its insistence that it needs to defend itself from terrorism, while at the same time it declares that it wants to protect the Turkish minority resident in Kirkuk. Tensions with the United States The Ankara bomb has brought the brought both the military question and the issues of the Kurds once aging to the public arena, indeed it has further united opinion on the military intervention which the army has long desired. Not even prime minister Erdogan, in the current climate of political tension has drawn back: in order to ingratiate himself with military leaders with whom has had clashed on numerous occasions recently and with public opinion, last Thursday he gave his approval to a possible invasion of North Iraq to counter Kurdish terrorism. It is a most dangerous game, because on one hand it attempts to satisfy the military and his future voters and on the other it creates new problems with the United States, who have no intention of allowing new fronts open in the only calm region in Iraq. In a press conference carried by the Turkish Daily News, Tom Casey, US State Department spokesman clearly stated: We certainly don't think unilateral military action from Turkey in Kurdistan or anyplace else in Iraq would solve anything. He added that while the US believes that the PKK represents a real threat, it is necessary to find a peaceful solution. Which means he declared through "continued cooperation" between neighbouring states. As this declaration was being reported, the independent news agency in Iraq (VOI) announced that two Turkish fighter jets had violated Kurdistan air space, covering almost 10 kilometres inside the Northern Iraqi autonomous regions borders. A Turkish Move Into Iraq? TIME MAGAZINE Friday, May. 25, 2007 By PELIN TURGET/ISTANBUL An explosion at a shopping mall in Turkey's capital, Ankara, on Tuesday killed six people and injured 56. According to its Prime Minister, Turkey may launch an attack on Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq, despite likely U.S. opposition. After a bomb killed six people in the capital of Ankara on May 22, many Turkish officials are calling for retaliation against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which they blame for the attack. The PKK, which has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey since 1984 and is based in the mountains of north Iraq, has denied responsibility for the bomb. Turkey's powerful military has frequently indicated its readiness to launch a cross-border operation, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has resisted until now. Newly under pressure from the secularist army over his party's Islamic roots, Erdogan's thinking about military action in Iraq has clearly changed, telling the ATV Turkish television network that parliament would now approve a military strike if the army sought it. "It is out of the question for us to disagree on this issue with our... soldiers," he said. He also indicated he would not seek the U.S.'s approval, which has opposed Turkish intervention in Iraq. "Turkey doesn't require permission from any country. Other nations should in fact support us in this endeavor," he said. Keen to avoid conflict in Iraq's only consistently stable region, the U.S. has tried to contain Turkish frustration over a steady trickle of casualties in southeastern Turkeyin the latest violence, six soldiers were killed in an ambush on Thursdayby backing a diplomatic force involving Ankara, Washington and Baghdad. That initiative has not, however, produced tangible results, and Turkey has accused the Iraqi Kurdish administration of giving refuge to thousands of PKK guerrillas. "Going into north Iraq would bring Turkey into a head-on disagreement with the U.S.," says Mehmet Altan, a newspaper columnist and political analyst. "That could jeopardize Turkey's stability and position in the region." Always a key behind-the-scenes force in domestic politics, Turkey's military has gotten more involved in governmental affairs recently. Last month it warned of possible intervention if Erdogan posted foreign minister Abdullah Gul, a devout Muslim, as Turkey's next president, citing doubts over his secularist credentials. The ensuing crisis forced the government to back down and call early elections, now scheduled for July 22. Although demands for military action are increasing, some caution that Turkey should focus instead on better integrating its Kurdish minority into society. "The military are putting the pressure on the government" says Altan. "But the Kurdish problem is one that needs to be solved by democratic means, not military ones." As part of its European Union accession bid, Turkey passed a number of reforms designed to improve human and cultural rights for its Kurdish population, estimated at 20 million of Turkey's total 71 million. But that process has stalled amidst backlash from some European leaders opposed to Turkey joining the EU under any circumstances, and a related rise of Turkish nationalism. The government recently refused to revise a rule requiring a party to earn at least 10% of the national vote to land any seats in parliament. That means Kurdish parties will probably be shut out of parliament again in the July elections: Although they garner majorities across south-eastern Turkey, they are not likely to get 10% nationwide. "As long as real democratization is not achieved, military operations will fail to reach their goal," says Ragip Duran, a prominent author and analyst of Kurdish issues. "More blood will be spilled. The Kurdish problem is not based in north Iraq, it's based in Turkey, and that is what needs to be addressed." Anyone have any thoughts?