Pretty damn close, I’d say:
ANKARA, June 4 (RIA Novosti) – Turkish foreign minister Monday defended his country’s right to move into neighboring Iraq to destroy separatist bases there as eight soldiers died in the latest suicide bombing involving ethnic Kurds.
The suicide attack, which occurred at a Turkish checkpoint, killing at least eight soldiers and leaving six wounded, is the latest in a series of terrorist attacks allegedly carried out by Kurdish militants.
“We respect Iraq’s territorial integrity but we cannot tolerate terrorist activities near our borders and on our territory,” Abdullah Gul told an Ankara news conference after a meeting with EU officials.
Apparently, the European Union is giving it’s tacit support to Turkey, or at least their major leaders are not condemning the Turks’ plans to invade Northern Iraq where the Kurdish militia, Peshmerga, recently took over all security responsibilities for the region from the United States military.
Speaking after their meeting with Gul, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, and Olli Rehn, the EU enlargement commissioner, neither condemned nor openly supported the plan. Renh said, however, that the EU was definitely on Turkey’s side where counterterrorism was concerned. […]
Amid the Turkish military buildup near the Iraqi border in past weeks, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani, head of the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq, said Sunday the Turks had bombed Iraqi territory in one of several pinpoint raids against PKK gunmen, a claim neither confirmed nor rejected by the Turkish General Staff.
What’s even more telling is that Iraq’s Prime Minister, in an effort to bolster his own lagging political fortunes, has been actively supporting the Kurdish parties in Iraq’s Parliament, giving them his approval to allow Kurdish militants to operate out of Northern Iraq. These are the same militant groups which are being blamed for terrorist activity in Iran and Turkey. Iran may not be eager to do much about these incursions (no reason to give Bush another excuse to attack) but the Turks, as part of NATO, and a long time US ally apparently feel no such compunctions.
It is widely acknowledged that the PKK cannot operate out of northern Iraq without the full blessing of Maliki, President Jalal Talabani (a Kurd), and the United States.
Yet far from trying to defuse the situation, even after being requested to do so by Turkey, Maliki went to Iraqi Kurdistan on the weekend and met with its president, Massoud Barzani, a strong ally and patron of the PKK. Maliki said his government will not allow the relatively peaceful area of northern Iraq to be turned into a battleground.
And in light of his standoff with former premier Iyad Allawi, the Sunnis and other Shi’ites, Maliki said he is right behind the Kurds and even added, to Barzani’s delight, that execution of Article 140 of the constitution (which relates to the oil-rich and disputed district of Kirkuk) is “obligatory”.
Maliki was referring to the article that calls for a plebiscite in oil-rich Kirkuk to decide whether the region should be incorporated into Iraqi Kurdistan, along with a population census to see how many Kurds live there.
Turkey is particularly concerned that Iraqi Kurds’ efforts to incorporate Kirkuk into their self-governing region would embolden Kurds seeking self-rule in southeastern Turkey. In January, a committee (with Maliki’s endorsement) said 12,000 Arab families living in Kirkuk should return to their original homes in southern and central Iraq. That would be Step 1 in showing that Kirkuk is an all-Kurdish region that should therefore be incorporated into Iraqi Kurdistan.
If Maliki goes ahead with his pro-Kurdish agenda, he will automatically end all hope of reconciliation with Sunnis, who are categorically opposed to Kirkuk becoming “Kurdish”. It will also bring him into further confrontation with Allawi. He would, though, be guaranteed Kurdish support in Parliament.
It appears Maliki is using the Kurds to send a message to his Sunni political adversaries, and strengthen his hold on power over the fragile Iraqi central governement. However, those same moves make a war with Turkey ever more likely, because they see support for Kurdish “autonomy” (and the oil wealth of Kirkuk which would come with it) as a very dangerous develop,ment ofr their own security.
It seems it’s only a matter of time before the Turks open a new front in the Iraq war, this one in the only region of the country that has known relative peace during the US occupation. I doubt anything the US can say will stop the Turks, since we have redeployed our troops south to help with the Bush “surge” being carried out under the direction of General Petraeus in the Sunni regions of Baghdad and Anbar province. The Turks have the diplomatic backing of the EU. They have no US forces in the region to worry about, and Kurdish militants continue to employ terror attacks in and around Iraq’s border with Turkey. What’s to stop Turkey from invading Iraq’s northern border in pursuit of PKK terrorists, and then confronting the Peshmerga in direct combat?
It appears, absent some major and successful diplomatic efforts by the Bush administration [insert appropriate belly laugh here], that June could become a very ugly, very violent month in the ever expanding Middle Eastern chaos generated by the policies of Bush and Cheney.