Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Aided by U.S. intelligence, Turkish military raids Iraqi Kurdistan

This was originally published in December 22, 2007 Armenian Reporter.

by Emil Sanamyan and Nareg Seferian

Iraq condemns attack, Europeans issue warning

WASHINGTON – Dozens of Turkish aircraft dropped bombs and hundreds of ground soldiers pushed more than 11 miles into Iraqi Kurdish territory early on December 18 before pulling back 15 hours later, international news agencies reported.

The raid was on a larger scale than previous incursions and was intended to target the infrastructure of anti-Turkey Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. Turkish officials said their military was aided by U.S. intelligence on the forces of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

President George W. Bush pledged to provide such information to Turkey in talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Washington in early November (see the front page story in the November 10 Armenian Reporter).

Iraqi officials in Baghdad condemned the Turkish raid, claiming that it targeted civilian infrastructure. Turkey has been threatening action against Kurdish rebels for many months and in recent weeks has also stepped up pressure on pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, which has more than 20 seats in the Turkish parliament.

To allay tensions Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unscheduled visit to northern Iraq late on December 18, where Iraqi Kurdish leaders refused to meet with her. The BBC quoted Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani calling U.S. permission for the attack “unacceptable,” the BBC reported.

Deadlock with EU continues

The European Union (EU) issued a statement calling on “Turkish authorities [to] refrain from taking any military action that could undermine regional peace and stability,” Reuters reported. But Turkish officials said the country reserved the right to conduct more attacks within Iraq.

This week’s incursion came just days after EU renamed its upcoming annual talks with Turkey an “intergovernmental conference” instead of “accession conference” as in the past. The move reportedly came on behest of French President Nicolas Sarkozy who remains opposed to Turkey’s membership in the EU, the Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor reported on December 17.

EU-Turkey membership talks have deadlocked over Turkey’s refusal to establish relations with Cyprus, an EU member, and lack of progress in democratic reforms, accompanied by a rise of xenophobic attacks with Turkey.

On December 16 yet another priest was stabbed and wounded in an apparently nationalist-motivated attack in the city of Izmir, Reuters reported.

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