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October 1, 2006
Turkey Warns Iraqi Kurds On Terrorism

Newsweek's Lally Weymouth conducts an intriguing interview with Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister, in which he warns Iraq and the US to curb Kurdish terrorists -- or Turkey will do it themselves. Gul has plenty to say on Iraq's internal security troubles, and issues a warning to America about withdrawing from Iraq:

Q. So, would Turkey invade northern Iraq to bring the PKK under control?

A. We will do whatever is necessary to fight this organization. I want to give the message that if our friends don't help us, we will do the job ourselves. ...

Q. In the United States many people believe the time has come to withdraw.

A. How can you leave a vacuum over there? Then, what will happen? All the neighbors of Iraq and the U.S. should work hand in hand with the Iraqi government and the different tribes in Iraq to bring stability. I think it is possible. There is no other way. You have to put things in order.

Q. Here people are asking, why doesn't Iraq split into three parts?

A. The neighboring countries will not accept this. That idea should be forgotten—it should not be an option. Those [who favor it] don't know Iraq or the region.

Gul also feels quite a bit more sanguine about Iran than the US does. He has spoken directly with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who sees the last offer as very positive. Gul says that the main problem is trust; neither Ahmadinejad nor the West want to make the first step. The Turk believes that if the West guarantees the last incentive package, Ahmadinejad will permanently suspend uranium enrichment. Of course, Gul and Turkey would prefer not to have to face a nuclear Iran, but Gul doesn't explain how to square his impressions with the speeches given by Ahmadinejad extolling the virtues of the annihilation of Israel, a feat that would require the nuclear weapons Gul says the Iranians would forswear.

We should remain concerned about the PKK and its activities. Freeing the Kurds from Saddam's grip always held the risk of expansionist impulses for the long-oppressed Kurds, and we have encouraged it tacitly in regards to Iran. The Kurds themselves see Turkey as their main problem and radicals have conducted terrorist attacks in th eastern portions of our putative ally. We cannot afford to have Turkey invading northern Iraq; it would set the entire country on fire and probably end the autonomy of the Kurds. That would douse the momentum that the Kurds started a few years ago into modernizing their terrirtory and engaging with the West.

Gul's warning on an American withdrawal should be considered very carefully here at home. The Turks did not support Operation Iraqi Freedom, and in the end balked at allowing the 4th Infantry Division to transit through their territory, which caused us no end of problems, especially in Anbar. They are just as clear about opposing a precipitate withdrawal. The Turks need to have us on the inside, bringing Iraqi security forces to the point where they can maintain stability and put an end to sectarian violence themselves. They also cannot afford to have supported yet another American administration that fails to complete its mission in Iraq. They had enough of that for the twelve years prior to OIF.

UPDATE: An anonymous CQ reminds us that Gul is a not-so-well-disguised Islamist himself, and he can hardly be described as an honest broker with Iran. Tigerhawk has more on a unilateral PKK cease-fire.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 1, 2006 10:27 AM

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