Iraq ordered Kurdish separatists to leave its soil in the wake of a Turkish parliament vote authorizing cross-border attacks on rebels in northern Iraq. Thousands of Iraq Kurds took to the streets to protest Turkey’s threats. Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Ankara still hopes to defuse the escalating crisis diplomatically., but that Turkey reserved the right launch military strikes to stop “terrorism.”
What the commentators said
Turkey’s parliament is playing with fire, said The Boston Globe in an editorial. If Turkey rushes into Iraq with guns blazing it “could ignite a conglagration” that will destabilize Iraq, set a precedent encouraging other countries to violate Iraq’s sovereignty, and scuttle Ankara’s bid for entry into the European Union. Turkey tried and failed to crush the rebels with incursions in 1995 and 1997, so offering the rebels “amnesty” and tugging them into the political process is the only option that might “do more harm than good to Turkey’s true national interests.”
If Iraqi Kurds want the Turkish army to stay on “its side of the border,” said The Washington Times in an editorial, they will have to impose a “zero-tolerance policy” on the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party rebels. The “terrorists” have waged war against the government of Turkey for years, and recently they have launched attacks from the safety of Kurdish Iraq. “The PKK is a menace that must be put out of business,” and no one can fault Ankara for “running out of patience.”
This is one of the real sore points eroding Turkish-American relations, said Graham E. Fuller in the Los Angeles Times (free registration). The House proposal to brand World War I–era killings of Armenians a genocide is “just a sideshow.” Washington has supported Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War, and the Kurds’ near independence has only stimulated Kurdish separatism in Turkey.