Bush blames Turkey for extending war

Monday, April 28, 2003

The United States has again blamed Turkey for delays in the Pentagon's "shock and awe" strategy against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

U.S. President George Bush said Turkey's refusal to allow American forces to enter that country to form a second front in northern Iraq was a major blow to the coalition against Saddam. Bush said the result was that Saddam was able to concentrate all of his forces around Baghdad.

Bush said the absence of a northern front reduced the element of surprise against the Saddam regime. The result, he said, was an improvement in Iraqi combat as Saddam moved his forces from north to south.

U.S. officials said the Bush administration remains wary of Turkey even after the fall of Saddam, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said the administration is concerned that Ankara will seek to control northern Iraq and confront Kurdish fighters.

"Shock and awe said to many people that all we've got to do is unleash some might and people will crumble," Bush said in a television interview on Thursday. "And it turns out the fighters were a lot fiercer than we thought.

Because, for example, we didn't come north from Turkey, Saddam Hussein was able to move a lot of special Republican Guard units and fighters from north to south. So the resistance for our troops moving south and north was significant resistance."

Bush said despite the absence of a second front, the U.S. military "handled that [Iraqi] resistance quite well."

So far, officials said, U.S. forces in Iraq have stopped Turkish soldiers from entering Kirkuk. They said the Turkish soldiers posed as civilians and came in vehicles behind a convoy that brought humanitarian aid to the northern city.

Officials said the Turkish mission is meant to inflame tension between Kurds and ethnic Turks in Kirkuk. They said such tensions could be used by Turkey to justify a large-scale intervention in northern Iraq.

Turkey has acknowledged that it wants to send soldiers to northern Iraq.

Turkish officials said the military is waiting for U.S. permission for the entry of six Turkish liaison officers to Mosul to check on the condition of the city's Turkmen population. Officials said 18 Turkish liaison officers are already located in Irbil, Kirkuk and Mosul.

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