Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey will attack Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq despite appeals to the contrary from America and NATO, The Times of London Reported. Erdogan tells The Times that he does not need permission to defend his country.
Speaking hours before the PKK, the Kurdish Workers’ Party, killed at least 17 more Turkish soldiers yesterday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey had urged the U.S. and Iraqi governments repeatedly to expel the separatists but they had done nothing. Turkey’s patience was running out and the country had every right to defend itself, he said. “Whatever is necessary will be done,” he declared in an interview. “We don’t have to get permission from anybody.”
Erdogan, who begins a two-day visit to Britain today, also offered a bleak assessment of relations between the U.S. and Turkey, a country of huge strategic importance to Washington. He said that a “serious wave of antiAmericanism” was sweeping Turkey, called America’s war in Iraq a failure, and served warning that if Congress approved a Bill accusing the Ottoman Turks of genocide against Armenians during the First World War, the U.S. “might lose a very important friend.”
The somber and unsmiling Prime Minister was only a little less critical of the European Union, accusing some members of reneging on their promises to admit Turkey and claiming that the EU had inflicted a “big injustice” on his country over Cyprus.
Erdogan’s belligerence will cause alarm in Washington and London, and was probably designed to do so. One aide said that he was engaging in “open diplomacy.” The Kurdish regional government, which has a force of about 100,000 men, has promised to resist any incursions. The PKK is threatening to destroy pipelines carrying Iraqi oil to Turkey, and the only peaceful region of Iraq could easily be plunged into chaos.
A Turkish attack on PKK bases in northern Iraq would also cause a serious breach with Washington. Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country of 75 million people, has NATO’s second-largest army, is a key ally in America’s “war on terror” and provides a vital supply route for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Late last night Erdogan said that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had asked Turkey to delay any action for a few days. He told Rice he expected “speedy action” from the U.S.