"Kurdistan" v. Turkey v. Iraq
ISTANBUL, Oct. 17 "” Turkey's Parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to authorize sending troops into northern Iraq to confront Kurdish rebels in hide-outs there, sending an angry message to the Baghdad government and its Washington sponsor. But Turkey, a member of NATO, made it clear that it would not immediately carry out the resolution.
The 507-to-19 vote was the culmination of months of frustration here with the United States, which has criticized Kurdish rebels who attack Turkey from Iraq but has failed to get its Kurdish allies in Iraq to act against them. President Bush on Wednesday reiterated American wishes for a diplomatic solution.
The vote to authorize sending troops, which Turkish officials say gives them up to a year to take action, was, in essence, a blunt request for the United States to acknowledge Turkey's status as an important ally in a troubled and complex region.
"We're at a point that our patience has run out," said Cemil Cicek, a government spokesman and a member of Turkey's Special Council Combating Terrorism. With Turkey central to oil transit in the region, United States crude oil futures soared to an all-time high of $89 a barrel on Wednesday, Reuters reported, though prices later dropped.
The vote came as relations between the countries were strained by a House committee's passage last week of a bill calling the World War I-era mass killing of Armenians an act of genocide. In a nod to Turkey's importance as an ally in Iraq, Congressional leaders began to back away on Wednesday from a commitment to hold a vote on that bill.
"We are at a defining moment in Turkish-American relations," said Morton Abramowitz, the American ambassador to Turkey during the Persian Gulf war of 1991, commenting on the Turkish vote. "This is a very big warning sign to the Americans and to the Iraqi Kurds."
BAGHDAD, Oct. 18 "” Turkey's decision to allow the dispatch of troops over Iraq's border in pursuit of Kurdish guerrillas throws into relief a troubling quandary for Iraq's leaders.
On one hand, Iraq wants a cordial relationship with Turkey, a powerhouse in the region and a counterweight to the competing pulls of Iran and Saudi Arabia.
But Iraq has been able to do little to halt the rebel group's activities because Iraq's central government must rely on its ethnic Kurdish minority, which populates the region where the guerrillas are active, to take a stand against them.
Another factor complicating matters for the Iraqi government is that the Qandil mountains of the border region with Turkey are among the most rugged areas in the Middle East, and the area has never been fully under any government control.
Iraq's Kurdish region has been semi-autonomous since 1991 and controls its own armed forces, which also patrol the border with Turkey. All ethnic Kurds, they are reluctant to fight the rebels because it means fighting brother Kurds, with whom they are generally sympathetic.
The guerrillas are ethnic Kurds who come primarily from Turkey and speak Turkish. The rebel group, known by its Turkish initials P.K.K., has an estimated 3,000 fighters in the mountains of northwest Iraq, from which they carry out attacks on Turkey. In the past, the rebel group has aspired to have an autonomous state in Turkey, though it is unclear exactly what the group's demands are now.
While the Kurds in northern Iraq are not thought to participate in the activities of the Turkish rebel group, neither have they sought vigorously to eradicate the rebels "” in part because it would be tantamount to going after their own. "The P.K.K. members are Kurds just as we are," said Rebwar Karem, 31, a student at Sulaimaniya University on Thursday. "The state of Turkey hates the Kurds so while we don't respect the armed struggle of the Kurds in Turkey, I'm against anyone who orders them to leave" the Kurdish area of Iraq.