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Vol. 71/No. 41      November 5, 2007

Turkish troops mass on border of Iraqi Kurdistan
(front page)
WASHINGTON, October 23—Tensions between the Turkish government and the U.S.-backed regime in Baghdad sharpened when Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas launched a cross-border attack October 21 that killed 12 Turkish soldiers. Turkish troops massed on the border, as the government in Ankara pressed Iraqi authorities and Washington to crack down on the rebels, who are reportedly operating from northern Iraq.

The Bush administration warned the Turkish government against taking any action that might upset the fragile stability in northern Iraq.

On October 23 Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki said his government would not allow the PKK to function on Iraqi territory. Kurdish officials in the Iraqi government condemned the rebel actions, but strongly rejected Ankara’s demand that PKK leaders be arrested and handed over to Turkey.

The previous day, dozens of Turkish military vehicles loaded with heavy weapons were sent to the border with Iraqi Kurdistan, the Associated Press reported. Turkey’s military said it launched a counteroffensive in which 34 PKK guerrillas were killed.

The PKK has fought a decades-long war for self-determination for the Kurds, an historically oppressed nationality, a majority of whose population lives in southern Turkey. The capitalist governments in Turkey, Iran, and Syria fear that the autonomy won by Kurds in Iraq fans national aspirations of Kurds in their countries.

Thousands demonstrated across Turkey after the cross-border raid, demanding the government take action against the Kurdish rebels. A demonstration in Istanbul of 2,000, organized by the main opposition party, demanded that prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan resign. Offices of the main Kurdish political party were attacked in central Turkey.  
Thousands march in Iraqi Kurdistan
In Iraqi Kurdistan, thousands of Kurds marched in Erbil, the capital, and Zakho and Dahuk. Marchers waved the flag of Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region. They called for negotiations with Ankara but also insisted on resistance to any incursion from Turkey, Reuters reported.

The Kurdish Regional Government said it was “concerned” by Turkey’s authorization of military action in KRG territory. KRG president Massoud Barzani, a leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said his government would fight a Turkish offensive.

An October 17 resolution by the Turkish parliament authorizing the sending of troops into northern Iraq was aimed at getting Washington and the KRG to take action against the PKK.

Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, a leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), said the Iraqi government “will not hand any Kurdish man to Turkey, even a Kurdish cat.”

Talabani also condemned remarks made by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad supporting the Turkish parliament’s resolution. Some 1.5 million Kurds live in Syria. Most are denied citizenship and elementary rights.

While Talabani and leaders of the KRG warned Turkey against attacking the PKK, they have also pressured the PKK to end the fighting and return to Turkey. In an October 21 interview posted on the PUK’s website, Talabani said, “For some time we have been advising the PKK to abandon armed action.” He said Iraqi and Kurdish regional authorities had taken other measures toward the PKK: “We drove them out of the cities and are trying to make them leave all the other populated areas.” PKK offices in Iraq have been closed and the group’s movements and financing restricted, he added.

The Shiite-led government in Baghdad announced October 23 that it would send a military delegation to Ankara but added that diplomacy should be used to resolve the conflict with the Kurds.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the U.S. Congress are backing away from a proposed resolution charging Turkey with genocide against 1.5 million Armenians at the end of World War I. The Bush administration has lobbied against the bill, saying it could hurt the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

About 70 percent of U.S. air cargo for the war in Iraq goes through Turkey, more than half through its Incirlik Air Base. The U.S. military said it is considering Jordan and Kuwait as alternative supply lines.
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