Saturday, February 23, 2008

Turkey Invades Iraq

There has been much talk over the past couple of weeks of a possible invasion of northern Iraq in attempt to diminish the capacity of the PKK to carry out attacks inside Turkey in the coming spring. The PKK usually launches offensives in the spring and the Turkish military is claiming that the action is necessary in order to prevent future attacks. However, most experts note that the attack is unlikely to be very successful since the PKK has a firm guerrilla presence inside northern Iraq and knows the terrain much better than the invading Turkish troops.

The invasion puts the United States in the difficult position of balancing its alliance with the Kurdish Regional Government with its much older alliance with Turkey. It is not clear if American officials were told in advance of the attack and the size of the Turkish force that crossed the border is disputed. The TSK is reporting that 10,000 troops crossed, but the KRG and American sources are indicating that the force was much smaller. The government has said that the operation will be quick and limited.

Here is today's article from the New York Times as well as coverage from The Independent. The latter insinuates that the invasion is linked to Turkey's domestic politics, which is hard to deny. An invasion of northern Iraq in search of the PKK will rally nationalist sentiment and divert public attention away from the ongoing türban debate, but it will also weaken support for the AKP among Kurds and will draw the military ever more into the AKP governments' more conciliatory handling of the Kurdish problem, essentially making it less conciliatory. Just how domestic politics have influenced the invasion is hard to say, for foreign policy decision making is far from transparent and it is difficult to identify the actors, much more their intentions.

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