Turkish Parliament approves military action in Iraq

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Flag of Turkey.

On Wednesday, Turkey's Grand National Assembly voted 507-19 to authorize sending troops into northern Iraq to pursue Kurdish rebels. Although the authorization is valid for one year, Turkish officials made clear that it would not necessarily result in military action. Both the United States and Iraq have recently warned Turkey against such an incursion.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that although the motion does not indicate that a military operation is imminent, it is necessary for Turkey to be able to respond to bomb attacks which have been blamed on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels in Iraq. Turkey has been asking for help in dealing with the PKK for months, and the Turkish public has grown frustrated with America's perceived lack of action on the issue.

Map showing Kurd-inhabited region overlapping national borders.

Both the United States and Iraq have recently warned Turkey against an incursion into Iraq. "The Iraqi government calls on the Turkish government to pursue a diplomatic solution and not a military solution to solve the [problem] of terrorist attacks which our dear neighbor Turkey has witnessed from the PKK," Iraq government spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh said earlier this week. White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe called on Turkey "to continue their discussions with us and the Iraqis and to show restraint from any potentially destabilizing actions."

Responding to the motion, U.S. President George W. Bush urged Turkey not to carry out an attack, saying "[we are] making it clear to Turkey it is not in their interest to send more troops in... there is a better way to deal with the issue."

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad defended Turkey's decision and criticized the U.S. position, saying "It is important to note that the powers that have invaded Iraq are those primarily responsible for the terror activities and attacks because they control the country." "We certainly support and back the decisions by the Turkish government in combat against terror and terror activities," he said.

Murat Karayilan, the leader of the armed wing of the PKK, warned Turkey of the consequences of an attack in an interview with The Times. "If the Turkish Army attacks Iraqi Kurdistan we will struggle and resist against this until the end," he said. Karayilan nevertheless said he hoped that the crisis could be resolved peacefully but continues attacks on Turkish soldiers, killing 12 in an ambush yesterday.

U.S.-Turkish relations have been strained recently after a U.S. House of Representatives resolution passed committee, labeling the World War I era killings of up to 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as "genocide". Turkey strongly disputes these claims. Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi says the US House of Representatives will vote on the resolution "soon."

President Bush criticized the resolution at a press conference on Wednesday, saying "One thing Congress should not be doing is sorting out the historical record of the Ottoman Empire."