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Turkey warns of plan to invade Iraq
Turkey's military has begun preparing for what officials warned could result in a major invasion of neighboring Iraq, reports Geostrategy-Direct, the global intelligence news service.
Officials said the Turkish General Staff has drafted plans for an invasion by at least 20,000 troops into northern Iraq in early 2005. They said the General Staff has urged approval from the government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and discussed the proposed invasion with the United States.
"The current phase is to show the United States that we're serious," a Turkish government source said. "After the Iraqi elections in January, the Turkish military will be ready to move."
The military has called for a massive operation in northern Iraq to prevent Kurdish militias from controlling the area. The General Staff has been particularly alarmed by the reported Kurdish effort to drive out ethnic Turks from Kirkuk, the oil capital of northern Iraq and long claimed by Ankara.Under the Turkish plan, the military would deploy at least 20,000 Turkish troops in an enclave south of the Iraqi-Turkish border. The force would focus on eliminating the Kurdish Workers Party and ensure the return of Turkmens to Kirkuk.
About 3,000 PKK fighters are said to be based in northern Iraq and have been sending insurgents and weaponry for attacks inside neighboring Turkey.
The United States has refused numerous Turkish appeals to eliminate the PKK strongholds.
On Oct. 14 Erdogan and his cabinet reviewed the General Staff's plan. That meeting, attended by Chief of Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok and Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul, discussed the rapid deployment of up to 40,000 troops in northern Iraq.
A scaled-down version of the military plan was discussed in the national security council on Oct. 27. The officials said that over the last week some units have already been deployed along the Iraqi-Turkish border.
Officials said the General Staff has sought to prepare two army divisions to cross the Iraqi border within 18 hours of any approval of the operation.
The first goal of the ground operation, supported by fighter-jets and attack helicopters, would be to destroy PKK strongholds in the Kandil mountains in northern Iraq.
The General Staff has warned the cabinet that Ankara could no longer ignore the Kurdish threat. Officials said the military has determined that Kurds from Iran and Syria have bolstered support for the PKK.
Iranian and Syrian Kurds, they said, have participated in PKK attacks against police and military targets in southeastern Turkey over the last week.
Officials said the General Staff has sought to obtain U.S. approval for the operation in northern Iraq. But Washington has not provided implicit approval.
The Erdogan government has sought to delay any Turkish military operation until after the European Union summit on Dec. 17. The government intends to spare the EU any pretext to delay a date for accession.
Officials said the Peshmerga are digging tunnels and establishing outposts outside Dahouk, near the Turkish border.