WASHINGTON – Turkey's vote authorizing peacekeeping troops for Iraq is a victory for the Bush administration, which has been working for months to entice allies to send more forces — especially Muslim troops — to ease pressure on American forces.
But Turkey's move, while welcomed by the White House, could further complicate the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. Iraq's American-appointed governing council opposes having troops from neighboring Turkey in the country, reflecting fears Turkey wants to dominate the country or suppress its Kurdish population.
And any new Turkish forces probably won't arrive in time to erase the need for two National Guard brigades activated for duty in Iraq, U.S. defense officials said.
Turkey's decision comes as work has stalled in the United Nations on a resolution meant to attract contributions of even more troops to Iraq. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and military commanders in Iraq have said for months they would like at least another division of international troops.
American officials asked Turkey to send a division to Iraq, or about 10,000 troops. While final details must be worked out, Turkey's parliament voted Tuesday to authorize sending forces to Iraq. Pentagon officials said Turkey probably will send about 10,000.
They will join about 22,000 troops from 31 countries and about 130,000 American forces. Pentagon officials say the Turkish troops may not replace U.S. troops but will ease the burden by taking over some of the military workload.
Turkey's contribution is a welcome show of support from the only Muslim-majority country in NATO and a turnaround for the government in Ankara, which had rebuffed U.S. pressure in March to allow American troops to invade Iraq through Turkey. A delegation of Turkish military officials met for several days with U.S. commanders in Baghdad last month to discuss the issue.
"We welcome countries coming in to provide even broader international participation in our efforts in Iraq," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
Details still to be worked out include precisely where the Turkish troops will serve, how many there will be and what they will do.
Also unclear is what, if any, incentives Turkey will receive in exchange for sending troops. That issue will be worked out among the United States, Turkey and the Iraqi Governing Council (search), State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Tuesday. Pentagon officials said Turkish military representatives did not ask for any loans, money or other aid.
Iraqi Kurds have strongly resisted the idea of having Turkish troops in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. Turkey has repressed its own Kurdish minority and had thousands of troops in autonomous Kurdish areas of northern Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.
Francis Brooke, an American adviser to the Iraqi Governing Council, acknowledged there is little enthusiasm among Iraqi Kurds for a Turkish military role.
"The (Iraqi) Kurds need to be persuaded, but there hasn't been much persuasion so far," Brooke said.
The United States will insist that the Turkish troops participate, despite opposition from Iraqis, an administration official said Tuesday, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
Turkish officials have said their forces would be based in the Sunni Muslim (search) areas of central Iraq away from Kurdish areas. Most Turks are Sunni Muslims.
Having thousands of Muslim troops in Iraq could help counter the view that the United States is leading an occupation of a Muslim country by Christians and other non-Muslims. About 70 troops from another Muslim ally, Albania, are currently in Iraq.
But many Iraqis, including members of the governing council, are wary of what they see as interference by a neighbor who ruled what is now Iraq for centuries under the Ottoman empire (search).
The terrorist groups that American officials say are infiltrating Iraq also view Muslims who help the Americans as traitors to their religion. Such feelings could prompt attacks directed at the Turkish forces.