Kurdish rebels kill 13 Turkish soldiers
Attacks near Iraq border raise tensions with potentially crucial Middle East peacemaker.
The Associated Press reports that members of a separatist Kurdish group killed 13 Turkish soldiers near the country's southern border with Iraqi Kurdistan on Sunday, raising tensions at a border that separates America's staunchest allies in Iraq, the Kurds, with Turkey, another key US ally.Skip to next paragraph
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Turkey has been pressing Iraq and the United States to hit the bases of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq, and has considered a unilateral military operation across the border to root out the rebels.
An operation to track down the rebels was under way, and troops shelled areas near the border to try to prevent rebels from reaching their bases in northern Iraq, the statement said.
Turkey signed a counterterrorism pact with Iraq in September and had demanded it be allowed to send its troops to Iraq's north to pursue the Kurdish rebels. But Iraq did not agree to the demand under pressure from the leaders of its semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
"We are not concerned with this issue because these clashes and shelling happened inside Turkish territories. This is a Turkish internal problem," Jamal Abdullah, a spokesman for the government of Iraq's Kurdish region, said after Sunday's attack.
The Guardian newspaper of Britain says pressure is growing on Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to take unilateral action in northern Iraq, since many Turkish leaders believe the semiautonomous Iraqi Kurds are protecting the Kurdish separatists.
The Turkish cabinet met today amid heightened pressure to hit back at Kurdish separatists in Iraq after 13 soldiers were killed in an ambush yesterday, and two more today.
Three others were also wounded today in the separate attacks in south-eastern Turkey, which followed yesterday's death toll, the worst the Turkish military has suffered at the hands of Kurdish forces in years.
... Mr. Erdogan has come under intense pressure from the military to be allowed to hit PKK bases in northern Iraq. But the US and Iraq have urged him to hold his military in check for fear that a big incursion would destabilize northern Iraq, an area of relative calm compared with the rest of the country.
In an editorial, Lebanon's Daily Star argues that Turkey could become a crucial player in Middle East peacemaking efforts, as long as steps are avoided that might alienate them.
Given the webs of countries that do and do not talk to one another in or about the Middle East, no one is better-placed than the Turks to defuse tensions by opening up new channels of communication. Turkey is on good terms with both the United States and Israel, and although its bid to join the European Union is an uncertain prospect, its relations with several key European countries are solid. In addition, Ankara has strengthened ties in recent years with both Damascus and another of Washington's favorite whipping boys, Tehran.
Since it is both an increasingly crucial source of foreign investment for Iran and controls the taps for much of Syria's water resources, Turkey is obviously capable of helping to coerce its neighbors.
They must, however, have an incentive to do so if anyone expects them be helpful. Further isolation is likely only to make them feel more threatened - and therefore more determined to undermine US and/or Israeli policies across the Middle East.