February 29, 2008

Turkey Made Its Point

Turkey has ended its incursion into northern Iraq, according to the Iraqi government, and its troops will return home shortly. The raid intended to wipe out PKK bases in the Zap valley, and some sources in Turkey claim that they have succeeded:

Turkey wound down its major ground offensive against Kurdish PKK rebels inside northern Iraq on Friday, although it declined to confirm an Iraqi minister's statement that it had already withdrawn all its troops.

Turkey sent thousands of soldiers into remote, mountainous northern Iraq on February 21 to crush rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) who use the region as a base for attacks on Turkish territory. Washington feared the incursion could destabilize an area of relative stability in Iraq....

A Turkish military source, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, confirmed only that Turkish forces had fully withdrawn from the key Zap valley in northern Iraq, long a major PKK stronghold, and most had already arrived back in Turkey.

The invasion made its point. The Turks rightly had lost patience with the Iraqis over their inability to control PKK terrorists in Zap. The valley has not come under Iraqi control, and PKK had flourished there as a result. The terrorists used their isolation to conduct attacks in Turkey that Ankara could no longer tolerate.

The US had pressed Turkey to avoid attacks on Iraq, but in the end could not stop the Turks from retaliating against terrorists. Instead, the US tried to contain the fighting to Zap and keep the situation from escalating into the rest of Iraqi Kurdistan. In that, we seem to have succeeded; the Turks did not attack areas controlled by the Iraqi security forces.

Americans and Iraqis have to come to a better solution to the PKK menace. While Kurds in Turkey have legitimate grievances, we cannot allow terrorists to operate in Iraq, especially under our protection. It not only works against the entire mission in Iraq, it will eventually destabilize the relationship between what we hope will be the only two moderate Muslim democracies in the region.

We need both Turkey and Iraq as partners to bolster our fight against radical Islamist terrorists. We don't need them fighting each other, with the US in the middle.

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