ANKARA Ñ Turkey's military has quietly warned the government that the Kurds south of Turkey in northern Iraq will emerge as the primary U.S. ally
unless Ankara and Washington cooperate in the expected war against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.
Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok briefed Prime Minister Abdullah
Gul on the military's assessment of the expected war against Iraq. The
briefing came in wake of parliament's rejection of the government request
for U.S. troops in Turkey on Saturday and the subsequent refusal by Ankara's
military to allow U.S. officers to cross the border into Iraq.
Kurdish forces have warned that they will treat Turkish troops crossing
the border into Iraq as the enemy. The warning has alarmed Turkish military
leaders, who have asked the Bush administration to intervene, Middle East Newsline reported.
"There is no reason anymore for Washington to consider Turkey's
interests in northern Iraq," a Turkish military source said. "If the United
States acts alone in northern Iraq, then the Kurds will be the main military
ally of Washington."
[On Monday, parliamentary speaker Bulent Arinc ruled out the
reintroduction of the government request for up to 62,000 U.S. troops. "The
motion regarding the dispatch of Turkish soldiers abroad and deployment of
foreign armed forces in Turkey should not be submitted to parliament again
in the same way," Arinc said.]
Ozkok was said to have warned Gul that parliament's rejection of the
U.S. military presence would threaten the prospect of cooperation between
Ankara and Washington regarding the future of Iraq. The general asserted on
Sunday that without a U.S. military umbrella Turkish troops in northern Iraq
would be under threat from Kurdish forces.
"If Turkish troops enter the northern Iraq, this would cost Turkey,"
Ozkok was quoted as saying. "It wouldn't be appropriate for the TSK [Turkish
military] to enter the northern Iraq under these conditions as it didn't get
enough support from the United States."
[In Washington, the Bush administration acknowledged that Turkey's
rejection of U.S. troops could be final. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer
said the administration would reassess U.S. war plans as well as relations
with Ankara. "Turkey is reviewing its options," Fleischer said on Monday.
"The United States is reviewing its options. And I think it's impossible to
make any judgments beyond that at this time."]
Western intelligence sources said Turkey has deployed a division, or
about 20,000 troops, in northern Iraq. They said Turkey had planned to
deploy up to 80,000 troops in northern Iraq during the war against Baghdad.
Turkish military sources said parliament's rejection of a U.S. troop
deployment in Turkey has torpedoed a draft memorandum of understanding with
Washington on the conduct of the war in Iraq. Under the MoU, Ankara would be
allowed to deploy tens of thousands of troops in northern Iraq under Turkish
military command as well as receive billions of dollars in U.S. aid.
The military sources said the Gul government has been told that
Washington does not plan to wait for a Turkish reversal of the parliamentary
decision. They said the U.S. Defense Department has prepared plans to divert
at least two divisions to Kuwait and airlift special operations forces from
the Mediterranean over Israel and Jordan and directly to northern Iraq.
"The greatest nightmare would come to be true if the United States goes
ahead without Turkey and wins the war against Iraq," Turkish analyst Ali
Nihat Ozcan said. "In this case, it will have no responsibility to ask
Turkey's opinion on how to restructure Iraq."