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Report: Turkish Tanks Nearing Iraqi Border
Ankara's Obfuscation Generating High Anticipation, Much Confusion
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 11/16/2007 11:28 AM ET
A convoy of Turkish army drives towards Mount Kupeli near the Turkey-Iraq border in the province of Sirnak, southeast Turkey, 14 November 2007.
Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP/Getty
A convoy of Turkish army drives towards Mount Kupeli near the Turkey-Iraq border in the province of Sirnak, southeast Turkey, 14 November 2007.

Will they or won't they? And if they will, then when? The prospect of Turkish troops crossing the border into northern Iraq has the media in a heightened state of expectation, goaded on by regular false reports that an operation has commenced.

The sometimes ominous comments of Turkish leaders do not tend to illuminate the situation, and the military's lack of an effective public communications apparatus makes it unsurprising that a dense fog of confusion has settled over Iraq's northern border.

VOI reports this morning that Turkish tanks were spotted rolling towards the Iraq border, though neither Baghdad or Ankara have confirmed that anything significant has begun.

"More than 17 Turkish tanks drew near three kilometers from the district of Zakho, close to the Iraqi-Turkish borders," Col. Hussein Tamr told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

Eyewitnesses and border guards from the village of Qargula, western Zakho, reported seeing Turkish tanks near their village on Friday morning.

The new development comes after Prime Minister Erdogan launched harsh criticisms against the media for not verifying earlier reports about Turkish planes targeting PKK sites across the border, arguing that publishing speculation and false information was serving the purpose of the terrorists.

Comments made last night by General Ilker Basbug, head of the Turkish land forces, has added to the long-running media speculation regarding the imminence of a border incursion.

"The parliament has authorized the cabinet (on a cross-border operation). We are now in the process of implementing the mandate for a cross-border operation," Basbug said, according to Anatolia news agency.

"When and how this mandate will be implemented is, of course, a completely separate issue," he added.

The general did not specify when such an operation could take place, only saying that: "Our to deliver a blow to the terrorist organization wherever it may be, at home or abroad, when the right conditions are in place."

Media outlets have widely interpreted these comments as Basburg indicating with some significance that the military is preparing to cross the border, though his comments differ little from the recent rhetoric emanating out of Anakara.

Turkey's strategic communications of late regularly include an element of obfuscation--making strongly-worded threats, but without enough specificity to constrain the options for action. If they do intend to follow through with cross-border military action, however, the window of opportunity has arrived.

The US just began sharing real-time intelligence with Turkey earlier this week, and the winter snows are starting to dust the higher elevations of the mountainous border area.

A campaign of targeted aerial assaults could have a more flexible timeline, but if the Turkish military intends to send troops across the border, it would have to occur within the next week or two or else wait until the Spring.

The singular report of 17 Turkish tanks advancing towards the Iraqi border Friday morning could indicate the military getting into position for a cross-border operation. It could also be an example of Turkish antagonism, or simple military exercises combined with the heightened excitement of Iraqis eying the coming Turks. Iraqslogger awaits confirmation.


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