Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Turkey Threatens to Invade Iraq, Destabilize the Whole Region - A Brief History of the PKK

As the United States works towards peace in the Middle East, one country is threatening stabilization. Who? One of America’s greatest allies: Turkey.

The ruling Turkish party, the AK Party, said it would request the Turkish Parliament’s authorization for a ‘major incursion’, according to Reuters.

The government there has come under increasing pressure, as the PKK rebel group has stepped up its attacks in the country.

A brief history lesson

The PKK, or the Kurdistan Workers Party, is a Kurdish nationalist group listed as a terrorist organization by a number of states and organizations, including the U.S., NATO, and the E.U. The PKK’s goal is an independent, socialist Kurdish state encompassing northern Iraq, south east Turkey, west Iran, and parts of north east Syria. It has no qualms against using violence to obtain its objectives.

Turkey has a large minority of Kurds, who feel that they have been treated as second-rate citizens since the creation of modern Turkey in 1923. The PKK has fought a deadly guerilla war since the 1970s that has claimed over 37,000 lives.

Around the year 2000, following the capture of its leader, the PKK suspended military operations and called for a truce. This truce ended in 2004, and since then, the paramilitary group has increased the ferocity and frequency of its attacks.

Oct 7: PKK fighters killed 13 Turkish soldiers, including 1 officer, after Turkish soldiers shot dead a suspected PKK fighter earlier in the day.
Jun 13: 4 Turkish soldiers killed in multiple attacks.
Jun 10: A bomb in Istanbul wounds 14 Turkish civilians. The PKK is suspected.
Jun 7: 3 Turkish soldiers are killed by a PKK landmine.
Jun 4: A PKK suicide bomber kills 8 soldiers and wound 6 at an army checkpoint.
May 22: A suicide bombing hits Ankara killing 9 and wounding over 100. While no one claims responsibility the PKK is blamed by the government.

The effects of a Turkish invasion

Obviously, a Turkish invasion would be destabilizing, especially with the size of the incursion Turkey is currently considering. It is worth taking into consideration that Turkey would like to see a powerful central government in Iraq to keep the Kurds and the PKK under control. It is also important to note that an invasion would most likely be most disruptive in the Kurdish region, where it is already peaceful, which means it would most likely not inflame Sunni-Shia tensions.

What should Turkey do?

It is in Turkey’s best interest to invade, but in the worst interests of the Bush Administration. A Turkish invasion would be a huge setback for the Administration. Sadly, there is very little the U.S. can do to stop Turkey. They have been a very close ally, but since the Iraq war, relations have cooled. Not so much as that the U.S. has no influence over what goes on in Turkey, but the Bush Administration has already spent the last 3 years trying to stop Turkey from sending in troops. If Turkey and its new president have decided they finally want to go and attempt to wipe out the PKK, the U.S. may be unable to stop them.