Turkish troops have entered Iraq in a move that can not be good for anyone.
No Turkish official is willing to put their name to the story confirming the operation, while the Foreign Minister has openly denied anything happened. But as Selcan Hacaoglu of the Associated Press notes, the nation’s authorities rarely acknowledge such activity.
Estimates of the number of troops ranges from thousands to several hundred — initial speculation put the figure at 50,000, which was the case in 1997 — but what runs consistent is that the military is pursuing Kurdish fighters.
It may only have been a couple of miles across the frontier, but it is troubling.
The military has for some time been pushing for a large-scale incursion to tackle the Kurdish separatists, the PKK, which Turkey considers terrorists. The Turkish army has been massing along the border in preparation; last week the country’s top general, Yasar Buyukanit, said his forces were awaiting government permission to cross into Iraq.
Turkey’s alliance with the US will grant it some degree of protection should it decide to step up its campaign against the PKK, which launches attacks from bases in Iraq. However, a full-scale incursion can only add to Iraq’s instability.
The introduction of this hostile actor in such a volatile stage will have unpredictable and uncontrollable results. The Kurds — who dwell in a stretch of territory that includes south-eastern Turkey and northern Iraq — will be squeezed into a corner. The Iraqi government will be in an intolerable position: if it allows a Turkish incursion its claim to govern its national territory will be null and void, while if it resists it faces provoking a conflict with its neighbour.
I am struck by the absence of international condemnation.
Imagine the outcry if the US was pushing for a military operation inside Canada, or China in Japan, or Britain in Ireland.