ANKARA Ñ The United States has warned that it will revise its
strategic relationship with Turkey unless Ankara agrees to deploy thousands
of troops in Iraq.
U.S. officials have relayed messages to Turkey over the last two weeks
that sought to stress the importance of a decision by Ankara to send at
least 10,000 troops to Iraq. The officials, most of them from the Defense
Department, have warned that Washington has deemed the Turkish troop
presence in Iraq as a major test of strategic relations with Ankara.
Ankara, in turn, has demanded a detailed U.S. plan to eliminate the Kurdish
Workers Party, or PKK, presence in northern Iraq. Over the weekend, PKK
insurgents intensified their attacks in eastern Turkey and a Turkish soldier
was killed, Middle East Newsline reported.
"Since the war in Iraq, our relations have seen a significant downturn,"
a senior U.S. official said. "We now see the question of a Turkish military
presence in Iraq as the key issue in our strategic relations. If Turkey
turns us down again, then there is an
unmistakable conclusion that must be drawn."
The official said the administration has been increasingly dismayed over
the delays by the government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan to reach a
decision on Turkish deployment in Iraq. Washington has relayed three
messages over the last month that discuss the consequences of Ankara's
rejection of the U.S. request, the official said.
[On Monday, U.S. troops engaged in an eight-hour battle with Sunni
insurgents near Khaldiyah. U.S. forces employed F-16 fighter-jets A-10 tank
killers and combat helicopters against the insurgents.]
The Pentagon has taken the lead in downgrading relations
with Turkey. In August, the Pentagon formally blocked Ankara's request for
the transfer of U.S. technology for a Turkish electronic warfare project for
Ankara's F-16 fleet.
BAe Systems Information and Electronic Warfare Systems, based in the
U.S. city of Nashua, New Hampshire, has been designated as the prime
contractor for the Turkish project. The Pentagon decision was said to have
torpedoed the project, which was to have included the production and
development of EW components in Turkey.
The Pentagon has also sought to link U.S. military and civilian aid to
Turkey to the Iraqi deployment question. Last week, Ankara and Washington
signed an agreement for $8.5 billion in U.S. loan guarantees to Turkey.
"According to Ankara's recent agreement with the United States for $8.5
billion in loans, our government must cooperate with Washington in Iraq and
furthermore must not unilaterally deploy troops into northern Iraq," Semih
Idiz, a Turkish analyst, wrote in the Aksam daily.
Turkish officials said the Erdogan government and the military have
discussed a range of proposals with Washington over troop deployment in
Iraq. They said the two sides appear in disagreement over such issues as the
size of the force, the location of deployment and the fate of Kurdish
insurgents in northern Iraq.
The United States wants Turkish troops to be deployed in the Sunni
Triangle near Baghdad about 250 kilometers from the Turkish border. The
Turkish General Staff has relayed a plan for the deployment of troops about
150 kilometers from the border as well as the establishment of a string of
military positions in northern Iraq to ensure the safely of Turkish troops
On Thursday, a U.S. defense delegation was expected to arrive in Ankara
to hold what could
be the last round of talks with Turkey on troop deployment. The Erdogan
government has assured Washington that it will relay the issue of Turkish
troop deployment to parliament for a vote by the first half of October.