Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Turkey's military incursion into northern Iraq illustrates further just how complex and dangerous the U.S. mission was from the start and continues to be. Just when the administration was touting the successes of U.S. forces and allies in gaining control of Iraq, NATO member Turkey has launched an attack with warplanes, attack helicopters and as many as 10,000 soldiers that threatens everything. Ankara contends its incursion is temporary and aimed only at Kurdish guerrillas, who live in the mountainous region on Iraq's northern border and have launched attacks of their own against Turkey to advance their cause of setting up a Kurdish state. Southeastern Turkey is home to millions of Kurds. The United States apparently agreed to the incursion, but now appears to be having second thoughts. The U.S.-backed government of Iraq calls the attack a violation of its sovereignty and demands immediate withdrawal. The last thing anyone needs is a war between U.S.-armed Turkey and the U.S.-trained and armed fledgling Iraq state. Acting Iraqi Prime Minister Barham Saleh said Wednesday that a prolonged offensive by Turkey would lead to "dire" consequences for the region, according to the Reuters international news service. "This is a very dangerous, precarious situation," Saleh told Reuters at a conference in Baghdad. Top Turkish officials are scheduled to meet today in Baghdad. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is due to meet today with Turkish officials in Ankara on Thursday, said Turkey must limit operations in Iraq to no more than a couple of weeks.