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Turkish Ground Forces Invade Iraq, Battling Kurds (US)


HolyMoses
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It strikes me as being a HUGE development, but the only place it's getting front page coverage is Yahoo.

No mention at all on Foxnews, and I had to hunt at NYTimes

Is this a substantive problem for our involvement in Iraq? I'm not as informed on this as I should be, but aren't we backing the Kurds? What is our position with Turkey?

Turkish Military Says It Is in Iraq

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 7:36 a.m. ET

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) -- Turkish troops launched a ground incursion across the border into Iraq in pursuit of separatist Kurdish rebels, the military said Friday -- a move that dramatically escalates Turkey's conflict with the militants.

It is the first confirmed ground operation by the Turkish military into Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. It also raised concerns that it could trigger a wider conflict with the U.S.-backed Iraqi Kurds, despite Turkey's assurances that its only target was the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

The ground operation started after Turkish warplanes and artillery bombed suspected rebel targets on Thursday, the military said on its Web site. The incursion was backed by the Air Force, the statement said.

Turkey has conducted air raids against the PKK guerrillas in northern Iraq since December, with the help of U.S. intelligence, and it has periodically carried out so-called ''hot pursuits'' in which small units sometimes spend only a few hours inside Iraq.

The announcement of a cross-border, ground incursion of a type that Turkey carried out before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a major development in its conflict with the Kurdish rebels, which started in 1984 and has claimed as many as 40,000 lives.

Turkey staged about two-dozen incursions in Iraq during the rule of Saddam, who launched brutal campaigns against the Kurdish population. Some Turkish offensives involved tens of thousands of troops. Results were mixed, with rebels suffering blows to their ranks and supplies but regrouping after the bulk of the Turkish forces had left.

PKK spokesman Ahmad Danas said two Turkish troops were killed and eight wounded in clashes along the 240-mile border, but there was no comment from the Turkish military and no way to independently confirm the claim.

The Kurdish militants are fighting for autonomy in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast, and have carried out attacks on Turkish targets from bases in northern Iraq. The U.S. and the European Union consider the PKK a terrorist organization.

''The Turkish Armed Forces, which values Iraq's territorial integrity and its stability, will return as soon as planned goals are achieved,'' the military said. ''The executed operation will prevent the region from being a permanent and safe base for the terrorists and will contribute to Iraq's stability and internal peace.''

Private NTV television said 10,000 troops were taking part in the offensive and had penetrated six miles into Iraq, though some reports said that not all the troops had been deployed. The operation was reportedly concentrated in the Hakurk region, south of the Turkish border town of Cukurca.

The state-run Anatolia agency reported that warplanes were seen taking off from the air base in Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey. It said planes and helicopters were conducting reconnaissance flights over the border region, and that military units were deployed at the border to prevent rebel infiltration.

Dogan News Agency reported that the Habur border crossing, a major conduit for trade between Iraq and Turkey, was closed to vehicle traffic.

CNN-Turk television, however, quoted Deputy Prime Minister Hayati Yazici as saying the border gate was not closed but that priority was being given to Turkish military vehicles. Trucks routinely ferry supplies bound for U.S. military bases in Iraq through the Habur crossing.

Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a U.S. spokesman in Iraq, said the military had received assurances from its NATO ally Turkey that it would do everything possible to avoid ''collateral damage'' to innocent civilians or infrastructure.

''Multi-National Forces-Iraq is aware Turkish ground forces have entered into northern Iraq, for what we understand is an operation of limited duration to specifically target PKK terrorists in that region,'' Smith said in a statement.

''The United States continues to support Turkey's right to defend itself from the terrorist activities of the PKK and has encouraged Turkey to use all available means, to include diplomacy and close coordination with the Government of Iraq to ultimately resolve this issue,'' he added.

Matthew Bryza, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for southeastern Europe, cited the importance of a Nov. 5 meeting in which President Bush promised Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Washington would share intelligence on the PKK.

''The land operation is a whole new level,'' Bryza said in Belgium. ''What I can say is that what we've been doing until now has been working quite well.''

The European Commission appealed to Turkey to act with restraint.

''Turkey should refrain from taking any disproportionate military action and respect human rights and the rule of law,'' said Commission spokeswoman Krisztina Nagy.

''The EU understands Turkey's need to protect its population from terrorism,'' she said. ''We encourage Turkey to continue to pursue dialogue with international partners.''

Turkish President Abdullah Gul spoke with his Iraqi counterpart Jalal Talabani late Thursday and gave him information about the goals of the operation, Gul's office said. Gul also invited Talabani to visit Turkey.

The military said its target was PKK rebels and that it does not want to harm civilians ''and other local groups that do not act in enmity against the Turkish Armed Forces.''

Nihat Ali Ozcan, a terrorism expert with the research center TEPAV, said the operation was likely launched to hit the group before the traditional start of the fighting season in the spring.

''I think it is aimed to keep the PKK under pressure before the group starts entering Turkey,'' he said on CNN-Turk television.

Iraqi border forces officer Col. Hussein Tamer said Turkish shelling on Thursday hit several Kurdish villages in the Sedafan area, some 20 miles from the border.

Jabbar Yawar, a spokesman for Iraqi Kurdish security forces, said sporadic bombing had taken place in the border areas, but no casualties were reported.

Fouad Hussein, a spokesman for the semiautonomous Kurdish government in Iraq, said the Kurdish Peshmerga forces had been put on alert.

He said Iraqi Kurdish forces also had tightened security around bases housing Turkish military monitors operating in northern Iraq with permission from local authorities under a 1996 agreement.

''The government of Kurdistan ordered the Peshmerga forces to be on alert in fear of any Turkish incursion on Iraqi territory,'' he said, claiming that Turkish military monitors had tried to leave their bases in violation of the accord.

''Those troops tried to move out, but the Peshmerga forces forced them to return to their camps within half an hour,'' he said.

Turkish media reports said Friday that a total of 1,200 Turkish monitors in four camps in Iraq were helping to coordinate the ground offensive.

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Steve_Bartkowski (2/22/2008)
thesouphead (2/22/2008)
Steve_Bartkowski (2/22/2008)
Turkey is our ally (we have several bases there)

The Kurds are kind of our ally as well... (we have defended them against Saddam before)

is there a point in there somewhere?

It is answering HM's question:

wait a minute........when did you start answering questions? :P

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Update

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080222/ap_on_.../us_turkey_iraq

WASHINGTON - Turkey gave the United States and Iraqi authorities advance notice of its incursion across the border into Iraq in pursuit of separatist Kurdish rebels, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said Friday.

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"We were notified and we urged the Turkish government to limit their operations to precise targeting of the PKK to limit the scope and duration of their operations and we urged them to work, directly, with Iraqis, including Kurdish government officials, on how best to address the threat," Stanzel told reporters.

The separatist Kurdish Workers Party is known as the PKK.

Stanzel said there is a continuing dialogue between the Iraqis and leaders in Turkey, and the U.S. works cooperatively with both nations on how to best confront the threat of the PKK.

"This is something that we were aware of in advance," he said. "And, as you know, the U.S. agrees with Turkey that the PKK is a terrorist organization and is an enemy of Turkey, Iraq and the United States, and we have demanded that the PKK end their attacks on Turkish soldiers."

Stanzel stopped short of saying the United States played any role in coordinating details of the incursion.

"We were notified in advance," he said. "As a NATO ally, we have a long-standing intelligence-sharing arrangement with Turkey."

The PKK militants are fighting for autonomy in southeast Turkey and have carried out attacks on Turkish targets from bases in a semiautonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Turkey's military said its ground operation started after Turkish warplanes and artillery bombed suspected rebel targets on Thursday.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the U.S. was advising Turkey to conclude its military operation as quickly as possible and confine it to PKK targets.

He said the Turkish government planned and executed the operation on its own.

"Our intention is not to be in the middle of it, our intention is to bring the Turkish and Iraqi governments together," McCormack said.

He said the U.S. has made good progress in getting the two governments talking to each other and cooperating.

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Steve_Bartkowski (2/22/2008)
Steve_Bartkowski (2/22/2008)
thesouphead (2/22/2008)
Steve_Bartkowski (2/22/2008)
Turkey is our ally (we have several bases there)

The Kurds are kind of our ally as well... (we have defended them against Saddam before)

is there a point in there somewhere?

It is answering HM's question:

holymoses (2/22/2008)

Is this a substantive problem for our involvement in Iraq? I'm not as informed on this as I should be, but aren't we backing the Kurds? What is our position with Turkey?

And to further add...

Even if we don't like this action, there is NO WAY we would ever go to war with Turkey. They have been good allies for a long time.

This is like one of your best friends getting into a fist fight with a close acquaintance. Our position is that we want them to break it up and get along. As for the actual conflict, we will stay out of it.

But you are either with us or against us.

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For a change, Steve isn´t all wrong here ;)

This is pretty much a Turkish internal conflict. The Kurds the turkish Army is hunting are Turkish Kurds, who are terrorists and hiding in northern Iraq. Everybody knew this was coming and Washington gave the "ok" for this operation months ago

The real problem is not on the battlefield but the poor job Washington has done diplomatic right after the Iraq invasion. By giving the Iraqi kurds pretty much free hand in the north, they created an impossible situation for Turkey. The Turk-Kurd terrorists used that power void to establish bases, just similiar how Al-Queda used the void in central Iraq.

That is the reason why you won´t hear much out of Washington, basicly the Turkish military has to clean up some post-invasion mess in North Iraq

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falconbeast (2/22/2008)
For a change, Steve isn´t all wrong here ;)

This is pretty much a Turkish internal conflict. The Kurds the turkish Army is hunting are Turkish Kurds, who are terrorists and hiding in northern Iraq. Everybody knew this was coming and Washington gave the "ok" for this operation months ago

an internal conflict? like a clash between the Shia and the Sunni? ;)

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thesouphead (2/22/2008)
falconbeast (2/22/2008)
For a change, Steve isn´t all wrong here ;)

This is pretty much a Turkish internal conflict. The Kurds the turkish Army is hunting are Turkish Kurds, who are terrorists and hiding in northern Iraq. Everybody knew this was coming and Washington gave the "ok" for this operation months ago

an internal conflict? like a clash between the Shia and the Sunni? ;)

I should have said, that the root cause for this operation is an internal Turkish conflict

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Steve_Bartkowski (2/22/2008)
Steve_Bartkowski (2/22/2008)
thesouphead (2/22/2008)
Steve_Bartkowski (2/22/2008)
Turkey is our ally (we have several bases there)

The Kurds are kind of our ally as well... (we have defended them against Saddam before)

is there a point in there somewhere?

It is answering HM's question:

holymoses (2/22/2008)

Is this a substantive problem for our involvement in Iraq? I'm not as informed on this as I should be, but aren't we backing the Kurds? What is our position with Turkey?

And to further add...

Even if we don't like this action, there is NO WAY we would ever go to war with Turkey. They have been good allies for a long time.

This is like one of your best friends getting into a fist fight with a close acquaintance. Our position is that we want them to break it up and get along. As for the actual conflict, we will stay out of it.

I'm confused. Is this a conflict between Turkish Kurds and Turkish Kurds who are terrorists hanging out in Iraq?

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octoslash (2/22/2008)
Used chemicals weapons, if I recall. Was that against the Kurds? I forget.

And didn't Reagan give Saddam the weapons? I can't remember.

What a world.

It's like we have the collective memory of a goldfish. We wonder what the possible motivation for the terrorists could be, while conveniently forgetting that we've been actively participating in the oppression and killing of large portions of their population for the better part of a centry now.

While there is no justification for terrorism, there is for **** sure motivation.

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alfred e. neuman (2/22/2008)
octoslash (2/22/2008)
Used chemicals weapons, if I recall. Was that against the Kurds? I forget.

And didn't Reagan give Saddam the weapons? I can't remember.

What a world.

It's like we have the collective memory of a goldfish. We wonder what the possible motivation for the terrorists could be, while conveniently forgetting that we've been actively participating in the oppression and killing of large portions of their population for the better part of a centry now.

While there is no justification for terrorism, there is for **** sure motivation.

Ah, Neuman, that's true...but it's also true that those who hate don't need to leap too far to find a reason. Do you really think that the western world would be impervious to middle eastern terror if THING-A hadn't been done to PERSON-B?

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alfred e. neuman (2/22/2008)
octoslash (2/22/2008)
Used chemicals weapons, if I recall. Was that against the Kurds? I forget.

And didn't Reagan give Saddam the weapons? I can't remember.

What a world.

It's like we have the collective memory of a goldfish. We wonder what the possible motivation for the terrorists could be, while conveniently forgetting that we've been actively participating in the oppression and killing of large portions of their population for the better part of a centry now.

While there is no justification for terrorism, there is for **** sure motivation.

Next thing you know it will be revealed we armed Osama Bin Laden. Oh...wait.

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octoslash (2/22/2008)

Ah, Neuman, that's true...but it's also true that those who hate don't need to leap too far to find a reason. Do you really think that the western world would be impervious to middle eastern terror if THING-A hadn't been done to PERSON-B?

Impervious? No. Less likely? Probably. Maybe they'd have some other direction to direct their hate.

Recognizing these mistakes in our history is important, so that we might learn from them and not repeat them. We must protect our best interests, but we have to make sure we do it with a long-term outlook, and not one that changes year to year and dictator to dictator.

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octoslash (2/22/2008)

Ah, Neuman, that's true...but it's also true that those who hate don't need to leap too far to find a reason. Do you really think that the western world would be impervious to middle eastern terror if THING-A hadn't been done to PERSON-B?

There's no way to ever tell now. The Muslims have elevated grudge holding and revenge to an art form, so even if we all made nice and pulled out of their sand box completely, we'll still be on the hit list for the next few thousand years.

But if we had never begun playing dictator-chess over there to keep our oil interests secure at the expense of basic human rights, I honestly think we wouldn't be in this mess right now.

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