It has become highly likely that the US will decide most possibly this Wednesday to allow the Turkish military to stage a cross- border operation into Northern Iraq in late February or early March to render both the PKK/Kongra Gel (Turkey's outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party and Kurdistan People's Congress) terrorists and their logistics in the region ineffective. But this operation will be limited in time, most possibly two weeks, and limited in depth - not too far into Iraq thus limited in geographic boundaries that the US will define. If Washington decides to allow Turkey, in cooperation with the US, to stage a cross- border operation this would also prevent any Turkish unilateral intervention in the region whose consequences would be catastrophic.
Well informed Turkish inte lligence sources told Today's Zaman that US President George Bush's senior advi sors from both the Central Intelligence Agen cy (CIA) and the National Security Council as w ell as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are expe cted to get together on Jan. 24 to decide what to do with the PKK.
According to Turkish mili tary sources, an area almost 20 to 30 kilometer s inside Iraqi territory off the Turkish bord er is controlled by the PKK, making it ea sy for their terrorists to infiltrate T urkey for attacks, mainly in the country' s southeast.
A possible Turkish atte mpt to stage a unilateral cross-border opera tion inside Iraq prompted Washington t o appoint a US Special Coordinator for dealing with the PKK, retired US General and former N ATO commander Joseph Ralston, last year in summ er. This was followed by Turkey appointing r etired General Edip Baþer as the Turkish coor dinator for the same purpose.
Turkis h Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan rece ntly raised his dissatisfaction with the PKK coordination mechanism when he said it had produced nothing in rendering the PKK ineffect ive. This was followed by the first concre te step taken by US and Iraqi forces when they stormed the Makhmur camp in Northern Ira q last week. The PKK has long controlled t he camp stuffed with almost 12,000 Turkish fami lies of Kurdish origin who escaped from Turkey in the early 1990s.
Though the United N ations High Commissioner for Refugees (UN HCR) is responsible for the camp, in reality t he PKK has been using the camp to recruit youn g fighters and to meet its logistic nee ds.
While the US administrati on is expected to make a final decision ove r what to do with the PKK during its schedule d Wednesday meeting, Ralston is expected to visit both Iraq and Turkey later this month. He is expected to give the final touches to a possible Turkish cross-border operation in to Northern Iraq, intelligence sources said .
If the US decides to allow Turkey to un dertake a cross-border operation, this would s ignal Bush's awareness to not lose Turkey while losing hope with Iraqi Prime Minister Nur i El Maliki - blamed by Washington for not bein g effective enough in stopping sectarian vi olence in Iraq as a whole.
The US believes that Iraqi Kurds are not expected to cause any problem if a Turkish cross-border operation is coordinated with the US.
According to Turkish intelligence sources, any possible US-coordinated Turkish cross-border operation is highly likel y to take place in late February. That would a lso enable Turkey to prevent the planned PKK/ Kongra Gel Congress in Northern Iraq to take place during the same time. Zübeyr Aydar and Murat Karayýlan are expected to stand as candidates for Kongra Gel Presidency w hile Duran Kalkan, Cemil Bayýk and Fehman Hüsey in are to become candidates for the presiden cy of the Executive Committee of this terrori st organization.
Operations will be window-dress ing
Both the US and some members of the Turkish political leadership a re well aware that any Turkish cross-border operation would be window dressing for Turkey rather than achieving any long-term so lution to Turkey's Kurdish problem.
But as senior Turkish military officials of ten tell their US counterparts, if nothing has been done against the PKK in Northern Ira q the Turkish people will lose faith in the country's politically powerful mil itary. Turkish Prime Minister Erdoðan, who intends to stand as a candidate during May p residential elections and with a general elec tion later this year, would support a Tu rkish military operation in coordination with the US to win the hearts and minds of the majority of the public which has tended to bl ame the US for increased PKK attacks in t he southeast because they believe the root cau se is Northern Iraq.
M eanwhile, though the Turkish military is aware of the dangers any military attempt to s eize the oil-rich northern Iraqi city of Kirk uk carries, a cross-border operation ag ainst the PKK, they believe, will be an intimi dation factor to the Iraqi Kurds.