Iraqis consider condemning Turkey

Turks authorize strikes on Kurdish rebels inside Iraq

October 21, 2007|By Christian Berthelsen | Christian Berthelsen,Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD -- The Iraqi parliament began debate yesterday on a resolution condemning Turkey for its recent decision to authorize strikes against Kurdish rebels inside Iraq, as an estimated 15,000 Kurds from a village on the border between the two countries protested the Turkish move.

Debate on the measure, which will urge Iraq's northern neighbor to rely on peaceful means to resolve disputes, is likely to last several days. Several party leaders in parliament voiced support for such a resolution, but some said the wording must be tempered also to condemn attacks by the Kurdish rebels and voice understanding for Turkey's position.

On Wednesday, Turkey's parliament voted to authorize its military to conduct cross-border raids into Iraq over the next year targeting rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the PKK, who operate from bases in the mountains of northern Iraq. The vote came after a recent attack by the group killed 13 Turkish soldiers.

Many Iraqi representatives, including those in Kurdistan, do not support the rebel group and are sympathetic to Turkey's position. But Iraqis are also keen to demonstrate their sovereignty, particularly as U.S. forces continue to occupy the country. Another factor at work is the concerns of Iraqi Kurds and their supporters, who fear the Turkish saber-rattling is a pretext for encroaching on the semiautonomous Kurdish state in northern Iraq that sits on Turkey's border.

The U.S., trying to relieve tensions between two allies, has been pressuring Iraq to launch an offensive against the PKK. But with its fledgling security forces stretched thin trying to secure the peace in central Iraq, the chance of a major Iraqi offensive is slim in the near future, said Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari.

The language of the resolution introduced yesterday by Speaker Mahmoud Mashhadani "expresses astonishment" at the Turkish parliament's decision and, among other things, calls on U.S.-led military forces in the country to protect Iraq's borders.

A key debate in the coming days will be whether to label the PKK a terrorist group in the Turkey resolution. Several party leaders said such a declaration would be key to the measure's passage. But others, including Abdul Kareem Enizi, the chief of the Shiite Muslim Dawa Party, suggested the PKK should be given asylum in Iraq.

A crowd of demonstrators estimated at more than 15,000 from the border village of Zakho marched yesterday to condemn the Turkish vote, carrying billboards written in Kurdish, Arabic, Turkish and English calling for a peaceful solution to the standoff. Several marchers said their primary concern was that civilians would be hurt or killed in the cross-fire between the two sides.

"The regional government should not let the two sides finish their internal fights on our lands," said Suleiman Barwari, a 51-year-old resident of Zakho.

Elsewhere in Iraq, U.S. soldiers found and destroyed 20 tons of explosives just north of Baghdad in the last two days, the military reported yesterday.

The ordnance, discovered in five caches west of the town of Tarmiya, primarily consisted of the nitrogen-based explosive powder that is used in making roadside bombs and car bombs, said Lt. Stephen Bomar of the U.S. Army's Task Force Lightning. The group said it was the largest explosives cache found during its 15-month operation in Iraq.

The detonation of one of the caches left a 100-square-foot crater that was 30 feet deep. Bomar said no suspects had been killed or taken into custody in connection with the finds, and declined to speculate on which insurgent or militia groups they might belong to.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, three Iraqi policemen were wounded by a roadside bomb attack yesterday, and six people were kidnapped by gunmen on the highway between Tikrit and Kirkuk. Two Iraqi soldiers were killed yesterday afternoon by a roadside bomb in Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk. Near Hillah, south of Baghdad, gunmen killed a local bureaucrat yesterday morning, and in Baghdad a roadside bomb targeting municipal workers killed one and injured two others early yesterday.

Christian Berthelsen writes for the Los Angeles Times.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.