Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq crossed the border into Turkey on Sunday and ambushed government troops, killing 17 soldiers. The attack intensified domestic pressure on the Turkish government to go after the Kurdish separatists inside Iraq as authorized by parliament last week, but the U.S. has urged Ankara to hold back to avoid creating more insecurity in Iraq. “"Turkey does not have designs on Iraq's territory," Turkish President Abdullah Gul said. "However, if Iraq keeps harboring terrorists, Turkey has the right to destroy this."
What the commentators said
“The ‘Kurdish problem’ used to be a Turkish problem,” said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial (free registration). But with the invasion of Iraq it became “an American problem—and lately, a very vexing one.” The Turks have a “legitimate grievance,” and if the U.S. doesn’t help “quell Kurdish terrorism” by sending its own troops or, at least, pressure Kurdish leaders to “clean up their backyards,” the U.S. could lose a key ally in the region at the worst possible moment.
The longstanding feud between Turks and Kurds is “a conflagration waiting to happen,” said the Berkshire, Mass., Eagle in an editorial. But the U.S. has “little pull” left in Ankara, which is mad at Washington over efforts to brand the World War I–era killings of Armenians as genocide, and over pressure on Turkey to join the White House campaign rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions with sanctions. But Turkey is desperate to join the European Union, so European powers might be the right ones to urge restraint.
It is time for the authorities in northern Iraq to decide, said Ertugrul Ozkok in the Turkish daily Hurriyet. Either they be Turkey’s neighbor, and crush the terrorists who have found shelter within their borders. Or they will become our target. “A handful of F-16s from the Turkish air force carrying out 30 or 40 sorties would result in a northern Iraq that just went backwards 20 years in time. What if American F-16s come in front of us to block us? Let them try, that's their business.”