Turks on the march
Well, this is just great. Reuters is reporting that Turkish foreign minister (and previous prime minister) Abdullah Gul said that Turkish troops will soon be moving into Iraqi Kurdistan “within the next few hours.” [BBC]
Jonny Dymond of BBC says Turkey has up to 10,000 troops are sitting on the border waiting to move into Iraqi Kurdistan.
[UPDATE 6:57 p.m. EST: BBC is reporting that Turks have already crossed the borders.]
This is slap to the United States, which has “cautioned” the Turks not to move into the region, but the negotiations between Turkey and the United States possibly grew so bitter that Turkey feels it now doesn’t trust the United States to watch out for its interests in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Qubad Jalal Talabani, the deputy representative of the PUK in Washington, appeared on BBC to explain his party’s viewpoint.
“It is very worrying for my people,” he said. “We believe that Turkish intervention in Iraqi Kurdistan is a recipe for disaster.”
He worried about the precedent it might set, and expressed concern that Iran or Syria might also decide to move troops into the region to protect their own interests. (Syria and Iran have their own restless Kurdish populations.)
Kurds have faced this threat for some time now, and many Kurds have pledged to fight the Turks. In an email sent to me some days ago from Arbil, Karzan Aziz, a friend of mine, said, “I do believe that Turkey will face problems if [it] invaded Kurdistan,ï¿½as I have met so many people [who] all repeat the same thing: ‘As weï¿½have been fighting against Saddam from many decades, we are ready toï¿½fight Turkey some more other decades.'”
Turkey says its goal is to prevent an influx of refugees and “terrorist activities,” according to Gul.
[ASIDE: BBC also is reporting that Turkey has finally agreed to open up its airspace. Since this has flipped back and forth all day, I’ll believe this when F-16s fly over Incirlik.]
But Talabani said this is not needed. “The displacement of the population at the moment is not heading toward the mountainous borders,” he said. “They’re dispersing among their families in the nearby towns and villages.”
“The Kurdish people are actually concerned that the Turkish military intervention is not to prevent an influx of refugees into Turkey, but it is in effect an attempt to strangle Kurdish aspirations,” he added.
Many Kurds feel this is the first step toward Turkish attempts to annex territory. (It has long coveted the oil-fields around Kirkuk and Mosul.)
“We understand the allied forces will probably try to leave our region as quickly as possibly,” Talabani said. “But I’m not sure the same can be said for our neighbors.”