WASHINGTON — The United States appears resigned to the prospect that
Turkey will intervene militarily in northern Iraq.
U.S. officials said the Bush administration has been unsuccessful in
efforts to persuade Ankara to refrain from military intervention in northern
Iraq. They said despite appeals and warnings from President George Bush and
Secretary of State Colin Powell, Turkey has already deployed more than 20,000 troops
in northern Iraq and plans major operations against suspected Kurdish
"Turkey sees northern Iraq as part of its strategic zone of influence
and nothing we have said has changed anything," an official said. "We can
expect a massive Turkish military operation as soon as the war begins."
The officials said a Turkish operation against Kurdish insurgents would
focus on the banned Kurdish Workers Party, thousands of members of which are
believed deployed in northern Iraq. They said Turkey has also transferred
weapons to the Turkmen, or ethnic Turkish majority, in what could spark
ethnic battles in the area.
Bush's envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is said to have achieved little headway in
efforts to prevent a Turkish military invasion of Iraq. Khalilzad has met
Turkish leaders as well as help organize meetings between Kurdish military
commanders and Ankara.
"We have been working with Turkey to make sure that we keep tensions on
its northern border, on Iraq's northern border, at the lowest possible
levels, and we expect the Turkish government, as well as the Iraqi parties,
to be responsive to our concerns," State Department spokesman Richard
Boucher said on Wednesday.
So far, Turkish military commanders and officials have met two sets of
Iraqi Kurdish opposition leaders. Turkey has insisted that Turkmen leaders
attend the sessions as well.
The meetings have included Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader Jalal
Talabani, who is regarded as the most pro-American figure in northern Iraq.
Officials said the meetings have been tense.
Officials said Khalilzad's mission has been to ensure
U.S.-Turkish-Kurdish military coordination to avoid clashes in northern
Iraq. Khalilzad said Washington intends to capture the oil-rich cities of
Kirkuk and Mosul.
At the same time, Khalilzad wanted Ankara's commitment that Turkish
troops would stay out of those cities. Officials said Turkey's response was
"We're expecting a dirty war in northern Iraq," an official said. "I'm
not sure we're going to be in the position to do anything about it."
On Wednesday, the Bush administration stressed that Ankara's agreement
for U.S. use of Turkish air space for the war against Iraq would not warrant
special U.S. aid to Turkey. "Overflights are routinely granted by other
without any questions of financial assistance or the need for dealing with
any economic consequences," Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said.]
For their part, Turkey has refused to place limits on how many forces it
would senČ to Iraq. On Thursday, Turkey's parliament is expected to vote on
a new government request to send troops to northern Iraq. The government
proposal also includes permission for U.S. use of Turkish air space.
"Their number will be as much as necessary," Turkish Cabinet spokesman
Cemil Cicek said.