Turkey-Iraq Border Tension

Cross-posted from PoliBlog:

Via the BBC: Turkey-Iraq border tension grows

Tension is rising on Turkey’s border with Iraq amid speculation Ankara may be about to launch an incursion to tackle Kurdish rebels.

Turkey is continuing a military build up and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has refused to rule out action.

Turkey blames rebels of the PKK group for a recent suicide bombing in Ankara and a landmine attack on troops.

The PKK has been fighting for an ethnic homeland since 1984. Turkey blames the group for 30,000 deaths since then.


Turkey has an ongoing military campaign against the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers’ Party, inside its borders but the US has warned Ankara that sending troops into Iraq would only complicate the situation.


Thousands of PKK members are thought to operate in mountainous regions of Kurdish-dominated northern Iraq.

Lots of factors on interest here, not the least of which being the Turkish elections that are coming up in July that will put pressure on their government to do something. There is also the fact that US fighter jets penetrated Turkish airspace this week, a move the Turks saw as a threat and that the US claimed was an error.

The Turkish PM has suggested a joint US-Turkey operation against the PKK, but one guesses that the Iraqi Kurds wouldn’t like Turkish troops in their territory under any circumstances. On the other hand, if the PKK is, indeed, sponsoring attacks on Turkey (including suicide bombings), then the US can’t exactly tell the Turks to lay off with any legitimacy.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    This highlights why I’m skeptical about U. S. forces in Iraq “re-deploying” to Iraqi Kurdistan. In Iraqi Kurdistan we’ll be on the horns of a dilemma. Will we stand by and watch as the Turks invade or shell camps in retaliation for cross-border incursions by Kurdish separatists? Or will we intervene on behalf of the Kurds, risking an Islamist takeover of Turkey?

  2. legion says:

    True that, Dave. Putting our troops in between the Turks & the Kurds is one of the few things we could do right now to make the situation in that region exponentially worse.

    Therefore, I predict it will be floated as a trial ballon and/or announced as the administration’s plan by August.

  3. spencer says:

    The very real threat of this happening was one of the strong caution flags raised about the invasion of Iraq before the first shot was fired.

    But all we heard from the war supporters was complains because Turkey would not support the invasion. No one seemed to be willing to understand that Turkey had important strategic interest in the area that did not coincide with US objectives.

    So we are now stuck with having to deal with the well foreseen consequence of the Bush war.

    This is just an example of what I was talking about the other day, it is past time to be debating the war and to seriously start discussing how we deal with the massive adverse consequences it has left us.

    Since WW II Turkey has been one of Americas strongest allies, helping us in numerous way.
    But now we are losing them as an ally.
    But I guess that is what happens when you have a policy that strengthening your enemies and weakening your allies.