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Turkish Troops Head Toward Iraq

Turkey has begun massing troops for what seems an inevitable march toward war with the PKK rebels in northern Iraq.

Dozens of Turkish military vehicles loaded with soldiers and heavy weapons rumbled toward the Iraq border on Monday after an ambush by guerrilla Kurds that left eight soldiers missing and killed 12.

Iraq’s president said the rebels would announce a cease-fire later in the day. Turkey’s government, which has rejected similar announcements in the past, said the country will pursue diplomacy before it sends troops across the rugged frontier.

[…]

In Washington, the State Department said the United States has opened a diplomatic “full court press” to urge Turkey not to invade northern Iraq. “In our view, there are better ways to deal with this issue,” spokesman Sean McCormack said, stressing that the United States regards the the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PKK, as a terrorist organization.

But isn’t U.S. policy on attacks by terrorist organizations that the best course is a fast resort to overwhelming military power? That we don’t negotiate with terrorists?

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. markm says:

    You’d think we’d be spending more time telling the Kurds to cough up the extremists rather than telling Turkey to not cross the border. I can’t say that I blame Turkey for going in and getting them.

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  2. DC Loser says:

    We should try to be consistent in our message about dealing with terrorists. Last year we fully backed Israel’s attack against Hezbollah. This is going to blow up in our face because we are in fact being hypocritical when we tell the Turks they can’t protect themselves.

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  3. Cernig says:

    I think the last PKK unilateral ceasefire, a couple of months back, was less than 2 weeks old before they broke it.

    Regards, C

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  4. Anderson says:

    Wow … what a depressing, solutionless, COMPLETELY FORESEEABLE consequence of invading Iraq this is turning out to be …

    The bottom line is that the peoples in the “Middle East” had their own interests and conflicts before Europe drew a bunch of lines on the map post-Ottomans, and that it’s pure fantasy to imagine that those map-lines were going to hold those interests and conflicts in check forever. In retrospect, it’s a marvel that “Iraq” lasted so long … and might have lasted longer, had we not gone in & kicked the anthill.

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  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Anderson, perhaps you can connect the dots for me between the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and PKK attacks on Turkish interests from bases in Iraq. The PKK has been doing that since the mid 1980’s. There was a brief hiatus after the Turks captured Ocalan back in 1999 but it was just a hiatus.

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  6. DC Loser says:

    Dave – let me take a stab at that.

    The US invasion shored up Iraqi Kurdistan’s de-facto independence. This and the protection provided by the northern no fly zone since Desert Storm allowed the PKK and other groups to establish bases for operations into Turkey. There’s no reason to believe Talabani or Barzani doing anything to hinder the PKK, even though they pay lip service when denouncing terrorism. Thus, sooner or later the PKK would be emboldened to launch more attacks against Turkey. At least back when Saddam was in charge, I don’t think the PKK had a free run of the Iraq-Turkish border.

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  7. Dave Schuler says:

    This and the protection provided by the northern no fly zone since Desert Storm

    That would have been my take. That is, I think that whatever additional activity there’s been since 1992 could possibly reasonably be attributed to Iraqi Kurdistan’s relative independence. The question then becomes what increment in activity by the PKK can be attributed to events since 2003. I doubt it’s very much.

    So, if the complaint is that we should have left Saddam Hussein in Kuwait, I think we should be ready to entertain that idea.

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  8. Bob Sile says:

    If Turkey can make a run into Iraq to clean out PKK then why can’t Iran logically do the same? Or the reverse, can’t US make a run into Iran to eliminate sites where enhanced IEDs are made, stored, and then smuggled into Iraq? Not securing borders is a recipe for escalating tensions between nation states. Someone needs to get a handle on PKK if its not too late.

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  9. Triumph says:

    This validates the argument that we should invade Iran immediately.

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  10. Matt Dailey says:

    Do as I say, not as I do.

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  13. Sam Cunningham says:

    DOUBLE STANDARD:

    Why do we call it “War on Terror” when it comes to us and Israel, yet call it “Invasion” when it comes to Turkey?

    Didn’t we support Israel when it invaded Lebanon and killed so many people? Why don’t we support Turkey in this case?

    We went after Al Qaida because of their deadly attack in 9/11, which killed 3,000 innocent people in our soil. PKK killed more than 40,000 people in Turkey’s soil and yet to be stopped.

    Aren’t we hypocrites?

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  23. […] James Joyner notes that the US reaction seems to be a bit awkward: the US calls on the Turks to talk with the PKK and to limit itself. “But isn’t U.S. policy on attacks by terrorist organizations that the best course is a fast resort to overwhelming military power? That we don’t negotiate with terrorists?” he wonders. This will once again give people the impression that what goes for the US doesn’t go for other countries. […]

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