“The bombings are continuing by land and by air; the clashes are becoming heavier.” This was a Turkish military source quoted in a story today in the Guardian, referring to his country’s incursions into northern Iraq yesterday to pursue militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Hundreds of soldiers and rebel troops have died since fighting began last week. (I previously discussed last December’s attack by Turkey into Kurdistan.)
The Turkish offensive, which has been green-lighted by the Bush administration, was criticized by the Iraqi government. “We know the threats that Turkey is facing, but military operations will not solve the PKK problem,” a government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, told The Guardian. Meanwhile, Kurdish anger towards the United States is growing. “We are their friends and we thought we were their allies,” the newspaper quoted Muhammad Qadir, a shopkeeper in Irbil, as saying. “We don’t support the PKK, but we are angry that the Americans are allowing the Turks to wage war against our fellow Kurds.”
A former U.S. official who works in northern Iraq emailed me to say:
The United States is being skillfully handled by the Turks, who are dragging the U.S. into a policy disaster in Kurdistan. The Kurds have moved a lot of fighters and equipment quietly into the area, and are prepared to strike the Turks. Massoud [Barzani, the Iraqi Kurdish leader] has issued all the press comments he can to publicly warn that Kurdish patience is gone. The United States is either ignoring the signals or missing them…The Kurds can and will bloody the Turks badly in a fight.
This former official is close to Kurdish officials and hence an interested party, but his previous reports from the ground have been well-informed.