Commentary: Balancing Relations with Turks and Kurds
February 29, 2008
On February 21, Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq to attack bases belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The operation was Turkey’s biggest cross-border incursion in over a decade and followed a series of Turkish air strikes on PKK targets since December. While Turkish civilian and military leaders were consistent in their assertions that military action would continue, the operation was abruptly terminated on February 29 by the Turkish General Staff (TGS).
Although a White House spokesman confirmed on February 22 that the United States was “notified in advance,” Washington began to display unmistakable signs of discomfort as the operation proceeded with no clear end in sight. Significantly, it was Defense Secretary Robert Gates who assumed the task of sending public signals to Ankara from Canberra on February 23 and New Delhi on February 27 that the operation should be “as short as possible,” then personally delivering the message in Ankara on February 28.