The Turkish War on Terror

The Turkish decision to go after terrorists in Iraq could get as bloody as the American decision to do the same thing in 2003.

There was probably a collective gulp in the State Department this morning after the Turkish parliament gave its government permission to launch military operations against Kurdish rebels in Iraq.

The Turkish logic is that this is not an invasion: they're going after Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan (PKK, roughly translated as Kurdistan Workers Party) terrorist camps in Northern Iraq. But the idea of Turkey throwing troops into Iraq, especially the one region that has been perceived as showing even passing stability, is a disaster that could destabilize the whole region, and have serious consequences for Europe.

Western diplomacy to Turkey has been a decades-long balancing act of trying to bring it into the fold, while forcing it to calm down its militarism and answer allegations of human rights abuses. Along with Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, it's on the list of candidate countries to join the European Union. But its human rights record has always been an issue, as has its often antagonistic relationship with its eastern and southern neighbors … as well as the fact that it's still nowhere near a meaningful agreement with EU-member Greece over its partial occupation of EU-member Cyprus.

It's also broadly seen in the region as a close and traditional ally of the United States (After all, it was the presence of Jupiter nuclear-tipped missiles in Turkey that in part spurred the Russian's putting missiles in Cuba.) But that relationship has been complicated by the last four years in Iraq. The most stable region in Iraq has been the Kurdish north, which actually concerns Turkey, which has its own large Kurdish population. If Iraq splits apart, an independent Kurdistan could become a spur to separatist Turkish Kurds.

Banned Turkish pro-Kurdish party Halkýn Demokrasi Partisi and its successor, Demokratik Toplum Partisi, have both been alleged to have connections to the PKK. But the PKK is well-liked amongst Iraqi Kurds, and while Turkey remains strategically significant and the US has declared the PKK a terrorist organization, it also can't afford to let Kurdish Iraq become a bloodbath.

It also explains why there was such queasiness about Congress discussing calling the historic slaughter of the Armenians by the old Ottoman Empire genocide.

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Iraq, Turkey, Kurdistan, PKK

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