From Times Online
Michael Evans, Defence Editor, for Times Online
The ambushing and killing of at least 12 Turkish soldiers near the border with Iraq, by rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’Party, or PKK, appear to have been deliberately designed to provoke maximum retaliation from the Ankara government.
There is already an appetite within the Turkish military for a full-scale incursion across the Iraq border to take on the 3,000-3,500 PKK fighters who are based in camps in the mountainous region along the frontier.
However, any overt invasion of northern Iraq would have huge political and security implications, not just for the Kurdish state which is one of the few areas of Iraq that has enjoyed relative stability since the fall of Saddam Hussein, but also for American strategy in the region and Washington’s relations with Ankara. This is presumably the PKK’s aim - to push its cause higher up the political agenda.
Turkey will, understandably, feel the need to respond to the latest ambush, and, as the British military are doing along the border between Iraq and Iran in Basra and Maysan provinces, challenging Iranian infiltration in the south, so the Turks could deploy special forces to mount raids on PKK positions.
Covert warfare is a dangerous game, especially if it goes wrong, but precisely targeted action could more easily be justified than television shots of Turkish troops and armour crossing the border in full combat formation.
Even though the Turkish army has assembled on a grand scale along the border with northern Iraq, a full-scale invasion would make no military sense - dealing with a few thousand PKK rebels with intimate knowledge of the mountains. It would also be politically disastrous.
The solution to the PKK problem will never be achieved by military action. More than ever before it is time for the authorities in Kurdistan to bring pressure to bear on the PKK to stop cross-border attacks on the Turks, and for the United States and the government in Baghdad to reassure Ankara that they intend to take firm joint action in trying to close down the rebel camps.
There is too much at stake for the PKK to be allowed to wage guerilla warfare at will across the Turkish border. Turkey is such a crucial ally for the US-led coalition in Iraq - 70 per cent of American logistics in Iraq go through Turkey - that any perception on Ankara’s part that the US is not on its side vis a vis the PKK could have damaging consequences.