Turkish military operation in Kurdistan imminent - Russian experts

Turkey is certain to launch a military campaign in northern Iraq to repel frequent attacks of Kurdish separatists, Russian experts said on Tuesday.
MOSCOW, October 16 (RIA Novosti) - Turkey is certain to launch a military campaign in northern Iraq to repel frequent attacks of Kurdish separatists, Russian experts said on Tuesday.

The Turkish government asked parliament on Monday to authorize military operations against the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has stepped up attacks on Turkey from the Iraq. Lawmakers plan to debate the issue on Wednesday.

"An operation to prevent further incursions of Kurdish militants will certainly be conducted," said Yevgeny Satanovsky, the head of the Middle East Institute, a Moscow-based political think tank.

Turkey has been amassing troops near Iraq, and shelling suspected rebel positions along the border. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on television earlier that the proposed operation would aim to clear the region of PKK fighters, who currently number about 3,500. The party has been fighting for autonomy status in southeast Turkey for nearly 25 years, and the conflict has claimed about 40,000 lives.

Satanovsky said Ankara's incursion would be a large-scale military operation, involving artillery, armor and aircraft.

"We have yet to see how long this operation will take, but it is clear that it will be a large-scale undertaking resulting in serious destruction on the territory of Kurdistan," the expert said.

He said the possibility of an attack on Kurdistan is very high, because it would directly influence the political future of Turkey.

The Turkish military has been insisting on a decisive strike against the separatists, against urgings from Washington. The president, parliament, and the ruling party are under pressure to back the military.

"If in situation when Turkey is threatened [by separatists], the government does not support the army, the army will choose another government," Satanovsky said, referring to a possibility of a military coup in the country.

Leonid Ivashov, president of the Academy of Geopolitical Sciences in Moscow, also stressed the possibility of a Turkish attack against Kurdistan and said that a military conflict in northern Iraq would create a new "hot spot" of instability near the Russian borders.

"What would Russia get [in the case of a military operation in Kurdistan]?" the expert said. "We would get a whole sphere of instability, risks and challenges that would be very hard to deal with."

Russian lawmakers passed an appeal to the Turkish government on Tuesday, calling on it to show "wisdom and restraint," and warning about possible negative consequences of a cross-border military campaign.

The State Duma, the lower house of parliament, said an incursion into northern Iraq would further destabilize the war-torn region, and added that terrorist threats should be tackled by the U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition in the Middle East nation.

Meanwhile, Turkey's prime minister said on Tuesday he hoped an imminent cross-border military operation against Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq would not be necessary.

The premier said earlier the government wanted parliamentary approval for the operation to remain in force for a year, so that the army could "tackle problems as they arise."

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