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U.S. Helps Turkey Hit Rebel Kurds In Iraq

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/17/AR2007121702150.html?wpisrc=newsletter U.S. Helps Turkey Hit Rebel Kurds In Iraq Intelligence
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 18, 2007
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      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/17/AR2007121702150.html?wpisrc=newsletter

      U.S. Helps Turkey Hit Rebel Kurds In Iraq
      Intelligence Role Could Complicate Diplomacy

      By Ann Scott Tyson and Robin Wright
      Washington Post Staff Writers
      Tuesday, December 18, 2007; Page A01

      The United States is providing Turkey with real-time
      intelligence that has helped the Turkish military
      target a series of attacks this month against Kurdish
      separatists holed up in northern Iraq, including a
      large airstrike on Sunday, according to Pentagon
      officials.

      U.S. military personnel have set up a center for
      sharing intelligence in Ankara, the Turkish capital,
      providing imagery and other immediate information
      gathered from U.S. aircraft and unmanned drones flying
      over the separatists' mountain redoubts, the officials
      said. A senior administration official said the goal
      of the U.S. program is to identify the movements and
      activities of the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), which
      is fighting to create an autonomous enclave in Turkey.

      The United States is "essentially handing them their
      targets," one U.S. military official said. The Turkish
      military then decides whether to act on the
      information and notifies the United States, the
      official said.

      "They said, 'We want to do something.' We said, 'Okay,
      it's your decision,' " the official said yesterday,
      although he denied that the United States had
      explicitly approved the strikes.

      Sunday's airstrikes provoked outrage in Baghdad,
      particularly among Kurdish members of the country's
      leadership. Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish
      regional government, which administers three northern
      Iraqi provinces, called the attack "a violation of
      Iraq's sovereignty." He blamed the U.S. military,
      which controls Iraqi airspace, for allowing Turkish
      warplanes to cross the border. The Iraqi parliament
      also condemned the attacks yesterday.

      The American role in aiding Turkey, a NATO ally, could
      complicate U.S. diplomatic initiatives in Iraq,
      particularly efforts to push Iraqi political leaders
      to enact legislation aimed at promoting political
      reconciliation.

      The cooperation with Turkey also places the United
      States in the position of aiding a country that
      refused to allow U.S. forces to use its territory to
      open a northern front against the government of Saddam
      Hussein in 2003. It also alienates Iraq's Kurdish
      minority, whose leaders strongly support the U.S.
      troop presence in Iraq.

      But persistent attacks in Turkey by PKK rebels
      operating from bases in the Qandil mountains have
      presented a thorny dilemma for U.S. policymakers.
      Turkey has threatened to mount a full-scale,
      cross-border incursion to clear out PKK camps in
      northern Iraq. That could effectively open a new front
      in the Iraq war and disrupt the flow of supplies to
      the U.S. military in Iraq, which receives 70 percent
      of its air cargo and a third of its fuel through
      Turkey.
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      The intelligence cooperation comes as senior U.S.
      military and Pentagon officials have engaged in talks
      with their Turkish counterparts to produce a more
      comprehensive strategy for combating the PKK,
      according to a senior military official familiar with
      the discussions. In addition to providing targets,
      U.S. military officials said they have encouraged the
      Turks to employ nonmilitary measures against the PKK
      and to hold a dialogue with the Iraqi government.

      U.S. intelligence allowed the Turkish military to
      inflict what it called "significant" losses on a group
      of scores of Kurdish rebels in Iraq in an operation on
      Dec. 1. It was also decisive in another Turkish strike
      on Sunday, when Iraqi officials said Turkish warplanes
      pounded Kurdish villages deep in northern Iraq,
      killing one woman and forcing hundreds of villagers to
      flee their homes in the largest aerial assault from
      Turkey this year.

      Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates earlier stated that
      a dearth of "actionable intelligence" was preventing
      more aggressive actions against the separatists.
      Senior military officials acknowledged that the PKK,
      labeled a terrorist organization by the United States,
      had not been not a priority for the U.S. military in
      Iraq as it grappled with a persistent insurgency and
      sectarian fighting.

      "We want to help the Turks with the PKK," Gates said
      in October. "If we were to come up with specific
      information, that we and the Iraqis would be prepared
      to do the appropriate thing and . . . provide that
      information," he said. Until now, however, officials
      had not provided details of the intelligence provided
      or how it was gathered. The officials, citing the
      sensitivity of the subject, spoke only on the
      condition of anonymity.

      Turkey, according to U.S. officials, was eager to have
      the information. "They wanted to go after them," a
      U.S. military official said. The intelligence center
      was set up in Ankara with the help of U.S. military
      personnel. In addition, scarce U.S. military
      reconnaissance aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles
      were diverted from other parts of Iraq to search for
      PKK locations in the mountainous area along Iraq's
      border with Turkey.

      Senior Pentagon officials, including Gen. David H.
      Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq; Gen. James
      E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
      Staff; and Gen. John Craddock, head of the U.S.
      European Command, began talks last month with the
      Turkish military on joint counterinsurgency efforts
      against the PKK that would incorporate diplomatic,
      political and financial measures.

      The United States is also trying to establish a
      regional dialogue among Turkey, Iraq and the
      semi-autonomous Kurdish regional government.

      U.S. officials said Kurdish regional forces in
      northern Iraq recently closed PKK offices and set up
      roadblocks in an attempt to cut off supplies to rebel
      camps.

      The high-level talks are a response to a pledge made
      by President Bush to Turkish Prime Minister Recep
      Tayyip Erdogan on Nov. 5 to address a rash of
      cross-border incursions into Turkey. Ankara deployed
      up to 100,000 troops along Turkey's border with Iraq
      after more than 40 soldiers and civilians were killed
      in PKK attacks this fall.

      Erdogan told reporters before a trip to the United
      States last month that Turkey has "run out of patience
      with the terrorist attacks being staged from northern
      Iraq" and said relations between the United States and
      Turkey were "undergoing a serious test."

      But a senior U.S. administration official said the
      "deal on intelligence" and military visits had created
      "a sense that we're in a different phase of this
      relationship. The Turks want to see how this works."

      Special correspondent Zaid Sabah in Baghdad
      contributed to this report.
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