Turkey said that fifteen of its soldiers had been killed and a military helicopter was lost as of the fourth day of a ground offensive inside Iraqi Kurdistan, the London Telegraph reported early Monday.[1]  --  The Financial Times of London spoke of "a ferocious assault on PKK bases in northern Iraq" and indicated that despite American pleas to keep the operation "short and precise," the Turkish attack "may last for two weeks."[2]  --  "Turkey has imposed what is in effect a state of emergency in two provinces bordering Iraq and has tens of thousands of troops there," Vincent Boland and Demetri Sevastopulo said.  --  The London Guardian said that on Sunday Turkey sent twenty-five additional tanks into Iraq, along with reinforcements.[3]  --  "The incursions have raised tension in Iraqi Kurdistan, where there is anger with the U.S. for giving the green light to Ankara," Michael Howard reported.  --  The Times of London emphasized that for the time being opposition to the Turkish incursion from Iraqis, including non-PKK Iraqi Kurds, was confined to words.[4]  --  AFP said that as in recent months "The United States is providing its NATO ally [i.e. Turkey] with real-time intelligence on PKK movements."[5]  --  AFP also reported that the PKK was calling for retaliation against Turks in Turkey and in Europe:  "The PKK and another militant Kurdish group called on Kurdish youths across Turkey and Europe to unleash urban violence in response to the offensive.  --  'If they want to wipe us out, our youths should make life in the cities unbearable,' Firat [a news agency considered to be a PKK mouthpiece] quoted PKK leader Bahoz Erdal as saying.  'Kurdish youths should unite . . . and burn hundreds of cars every night.'"  --  AP said Turkish military sources claimed operations were underway in four areas on northern Iraq, with troops "destroying rebel shelters, logistic centers, and ammunition.  Retreating rebels were trying to gain time by setting up booby traps under the corpses of dead comrades or planting mines on escape routes, the military said.  --  The bodies of five of the 33 rebels killed Sunday had booby traps under them, the statement said.  --  Late Sunday, several military helicopters took off from a base in the hilltop town of Cukurca, flying with their lights off.  Earlier, Turkish F-16 jets flew into northern Iraq. Armored personnel carriers transported troops, and four long-range guns were positioned at the Cukurca base, one of the main support centers for the Turkish operation."  --  COMMENT:  All these reports refrain from stating the obvious:  that Turkey's motivating interest in northern Iraq is oil, and that the Iraqi disaster, the greatest strategic blunder in U.S. history in the view of many, has reached the point of destabilizing the entire region and is now in the early stages of what historians will likely describe one day as a regional war, in which a weakened hegemon (the U.S.) is unable to restrain a state in its own sphere of influence (Turkey).  --  As the Telegraph's Tim Butcher observed, "Washington is worried about a precedent being set for cross-border raids in case Iran ever sends its forces to help the country's large Shia community." ...

1.

TURKEY ADMITS LOSSES IN PKK OFFENSIVE
By Tim Butcher

Telegraph (London)
February 25, 2008

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/02/25/wturkey125.xml

Turkey lost a military helicopter on Sunday during the fourth day of attacks against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq.

The Turkey military said it had suffered 15 casualties and killed 112 members of the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK, in a series of skirmishes on the mountainous frontier.

PKK sources disputed this, reporting just two losses compared to 47 Turkish dead.

Turkey's incursions into Iraq have put it at loggerheads with the U.S.

Washington is worried about a precedent being set for cross-border raids in case Iran ever sends its forces to help the country's large Shia community.

Robert Gates, the U.S. defense secretary, claimed on Sunday that Turkey's campaign would not solve its problems with the rebels, and instead urged it to take political and economic steps to isolate the PKK.

"After a certain point people become inured to military attacks," he said.

2.

TURKISH STRIKE INSIDE IRAQ TAKES HEAVY TOLL
By Vincent Boland (Ankara) and Demetri Sevastopulo (Canberra)

Financial Times (London)
February 25, 2008

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/2dd2c070-e344-11dc-803f-0000779fd2ac.html

Eight Turkish soldiers and 33 Kurdish separatist militants were killed yesterday as Turkey continued a ferocious assault on PKK bases in northern Iraq.

The assault appears to have inflicted heavy damage on militant hideouts in the mountains that straddle the two countries' border.

Despite a plea by Robert Gates, the U.S. defense secretary, to Ankara to keep its operation "short and precise," the Turkish military appears determined to inflict as much damage as it can on the PKK in a sustained ground and air assault that began on Thursday and may last for two weeks.

The deaths of the eight soldiers bring to 15 the number of Turkish troops who have been killed in the operation, the largest incursion by Turkey into northern Iraq in a decade. At least 112 PKK rebel fighters have also been killed, according to the military.

The casualty figures give some indication of how fierce the fighting is, despite the winter conditions and differing accounts of how many Turkish troops are involved. The PKK disputed the casualty figures on its side and claimed it had killed 47 Turkish troops. It also claimed to have shot down a Cobra helicopter. Ankara confirmed it had lost a helicopter but did not suggest it had been shot down.

In a statement yesterday confirming the deaths of the eight "martyrs," as Turkish soldiers who die in conflict are known, the military said: "Many terrorist shelters and logistics installations and weapons and ammunition in the hideouts were destroyed during the operation."

Ankara's operation has at least tacit U.S. support, despite alarm about how it could destabilise northern Iraq and possibly lead to clashes between Turkish and Iraqi Kurdish forces. Ankara insists the operation is targeted only at the PKK and is aimed at preventing northern Iraq from becoming a "terrorist safe haven."

The PKK has staged several deadly attacks on Turkish targets in recent months and is mostly based in the mountains of northern Iraq.

Addressing Iraqi fury over the incursion yesterday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, said: "Our Iraqi brothers should know that this operation is only to clear the terrorist camps and terrorists."

Mr. Gates urged Turkey to withdraw its forces "as quickly as they can accomplish their mission." He also urged Ankara to open a dialogue with the Iraqi Kurdish regional government, which Turkey does not accept as an interlocutor. Indeed, the Turkish government accuses the regional government of tolerating and perhaps giving succor to the PKK on its territory. Mr. Gates said there needed to be "regular dialogue and openness between the Turkish government and the Iraqi government and also the government of Kurdistan in terms of their [Turkey's] intentions, their concerns, their plans, and their activities, and to work with the Iraqi government in trying to deal with this problem."

Turkey has imposed what is in effect a state of emergency in two provinces bordering Iraq and has tens of thousands of troops there. The military has posted photographs of the operation on its website, showing soldiers laden with backpacks and winter clothing trudging through remote and snowbound terrain.

3.

Turkey

TURKS SEND MORE TANKS INTO IRAQ AGAINST PKK
By Michael Howard

** Conflicting death toll in fierce clashes along border -- Anger in Kurdistan at U.S. green light for incursion **

Guardian (London)
February 25, 2008

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/feb/25/turkey.iraq

[PHOTO CAPTION: Turkish tanks cross into northern Iraq from the Habur border near Turkey's south-eastern city of Diyarbakir.]

IRBIL -- Turkey sent military reinforcements into northern Iraq yesterday as clashes with militants from the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK) continued for a fourth day. According to the Turkish army, another 25 tanks crossed the border to help the hunt for PKK fighters, whom Turkey accuses of launching attacks on its forces from bases in the sparsely populated mountains along the Turkish-Iraqi border.

"The bombings are continuing by land and by air; the clashes are becoming heavier," a Turkish military source told the Reuters news agency.

Roj TV, the voice of the PKK, reported that 5,000 Turkish troops with 60 tanks had launched an offensive against the militants early yesterday in the Matin mountains. Ahmed Deniz, a PKK spokesman, told the *Guardian* that fierce fighting was continuing in several places along the border.

Since the major air and ground offensive began last week, Turkey says 15 of its soldiers and 112 militants have died. The PKK claims that 47 Turkish soldiers have been killed. The PKK spokesman said its fighters also brought down a Turkish army helicopter in the remote Chamsku area, close to the border. Turkey confirmed the loss of a helicopter, but said it was due to unknown reasons.

The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, insisted that the operation was limited. "Our Iraqi brothers should know that this operation is only to clean the terrorist camps and terrorists," he said.

Washington has sanctioned limited cross-border operations by Ankara against the PKK, which has been described by President George Bush as a "common enemy." It has provided the Turkish military with intelligence on the militants' positions and opened up Iraq's airspace to facilitate bombing raids.

Iraq's government criticized the offensive. "We know the threats that Turkey is facing, but military operations will not solve the PKK problem," said a government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh.

The incursions have raised tension in Iraqi Kurdistan, where there is anger with the U.S. for giving the green light to Ankara. "We are their friends and we thought we were their allies," said Muhammad Qadir, a shopkeeper in Irbil. "We don't support the PKK, but we are angry that the Americans are allowing the Turks to wage war against our fellow Kurds."

Many Iraqi Kurds believe Turkish generals are using the presence of the PKK in Iraq as a pretext to destabilize the Kurdish autonomous area. Iraqi Kurdish leaders also complain that Turkish bombing has destroyed civilian infrastructure, including four bridges.

"This is going to destabilize security and safety of the region," Nechirvan Barzani, Iraqi Kurdistan's prime minister, told a news conference in Irbil. He said the region's authorities had taken steps over the past few months to crack down on the PKK, as requested by Ankara and the Americans. "The U.S. told us the operations will be limited, and we expected the crisis would be over by the end of last year, yet unfortunately still it is ongoing," he said.

Kurdish military commanders say up to 30,000 Kurdish peshmerga forces have been deployed in the mountain regions and stand ready to defend Iraq should the Turks go too far or target civilians.

4.

PKK GUERRILLAS SEEK HELP FROM IRAQ KURDS
By Suna Erdem

Times (London)
February 25, 2008

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article3428022.ece

ISTANBUL -- Turkish aircraft attacked rebel hide-outs and ground troops clashed with Kurdish guerrillas in the snowy mountains of northern Iraq as Turkey’s cross-border military operation ended its fourth day yesterday.

The Iraqi Government demanded that Turkey should withdraw, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, gave fresh reassurances of the limited aim of the operation against the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the bases it uses to launch attacks on Turkey.

The U.S. has confirmed that it was alerted in advance of the biggest ground incursion by Turkey, a NATO ally, into northern Iraq for more than a decade. But Robert Gates, the defense secretary, said that a campaign without a political and economic dimension would not solve the problems with the PKK and its fight for a Kurdish homeland in southeast Turkey. The Iraqi Government said that the troops should withdraw as soon as possible. In a statement it said: “The Iraqi Government believes that this unilateral Turkish military operation is a threat to the stability of the region and a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty.”

It called for Turkey to sit down for talks over Iraq with the PKK, which Baghdad concedes is a threat to Turkey and the border regions. Mr. Erdogan is expected to send an envoy to Baghdad this week.

By late yesterday Turkish military sources said that they had killed at least 112 PKK guerrillas and lost 15 troops in close fighting since the start of the incursion on Thursday night. The PKK said it had shot down a Turkish Cobra attack helicopter and killed nearly 50 troops for the loss of two rebels. Turkey’s General Staff said that 63 targets had been hit and several rebel bases destroyed.

It called for support from Iraqi Kurds -- which it had secured during past incursions in the 1990s. The Iraqi Kurdish leadership has threatened that any attacks of Kurdish civilians will result in “massive resistance.” Armed Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga security forces have been patrolling the snowy mountain roads of northern Iraq and threatening to fight if Turkish forces stay too long. Yesterday, however, Necirvan Barzani, the senior Iraqi Kurdish leader, said they understood that Turkey had to fight terror.

In Turkey, the campaign has the full-blooded support of a public that had been calling for action since October, when the PKK launched two ambushes on Turkish conscripts from northern Iraq. Thousands of chanting mourners attended the funerals of four soldiers killed in early fighting.

5.

IRAQ PUSHES TURKEY TO WITHDRAW TROOPS

Agence France-Presse
February 24, 2008

http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5i0kw0D2eDK6vE4tOyaTYRkemaWsQ

CIZRE, Turkey -- The Iraqi government pushed Ankara on Sunday to withdraw its troops from northern Iraq, after the Turkish army warned Iraqi Kurds not to shelter Kurdish rebels fleeing its offensive in the region.

As fighting intensified, the Turkish military said it had killed another 33 militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), taking the rebel toll to 112 since the launch of its cross-border incursion Thursday evening.

PKK rebels "are trying to flee southwards in panic," a general staff statement said.

"Local Iraqi groups are expected to prevent members of the terrorist organisation -- the biggest enemy of regional peace and stability -- from entering their region and being given protection there," it said.

The warning raised the specter of a potential confrontation with the autonomous region's Kurdish administration, and just hours later Baghdad called for a swift Turkish withdrawal.

A statement by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government urged Turkey "to withdraw its forces from Iraqi soil as soon possible" and specifically described the operation as "a threat to Iraqi sovereignty."

"The government of Iraq calls on Turkey to respect its sovereignty and unity and considers that the unilateral operation across the border is a threat to the region," the statement said.

Previously, Baghdad had appeared to accept Turkey's assertions that the offensive posed no threat to its territorial integrity.

Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds are both U.S. allies, and the likelihood of armed confrontation between the two has been a major cause of concern for Washington as it seeks to avoid a relatively stable area of conflict-torn Iraq being thrown into chaos.

Ankara has long accused the Iraqi Kurds of tolerating and even aiding the PKK by providing them safe haven, weapons, and ammunition.

The Turkish army confirmed one of its helicopters had been "destroyed," but gave no details of the incident. PKK rebels claimed to have shot down an attack helicopter Saturday in a border region near the town of Amadiyah.

The army said eight soldiers were killed Sunday, bringing their losses since Thursday to 15. The PKK claimed it had killed 47.

Earlier Sunday, the United States had also called on Ankara to wrap up its incursion as swiftly as possible.

"The shorter the better," U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in Canberra.

Gates, who is expected in Ankara next week, suggested Ankara adopt economic and political measures to win over Turkey's sizeable Kurdish community and erode popular support for the PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community.

"Just using the military techniques are not going to be sufficient to solve the problems," he said.

The United States is providing its NATO ally with real-time intelligence on PKK movements.

The Turkish army said its warplanes bombed dozens of rebel hideouts and ammunition depots Sunday, destroying facilities that form the PKK's "terrorist infrastructure."

It also reported close-contact fighting on the ground and claimed that rebel resistance "was broken to a large extent," with intelligence reports of internal PKK divisions over strategy.

The army did not disclose the locations of the raids, but Iraqi Kurdish sources reported intensive fighting in and around Hakurk, a PKK stronghold, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Turkish border.

The Firat news agency, considered a PKK mouthpiece, reported air raids and clashes in the region of Zap, home to a major PKK base west of Hakurk and said about 5,000 Turkish soldiers and 60 tanks advanced towards nearby Haftanin.

The PKK and another militant Kurdish group called on Kurdish youths across Turkey and Europe to unleash urban violence in response to the offensive.

"If they want to wipe us out, our youths should make life in the cities unbearable," Firat quoted PKK leader Bahoz Erdal as saying. "Kurdish youths should unite . . . and burn hundreds of cars every night."

Erdal also slammed the United States and Iraqi Kurds for helping the Turkish operation.

Ankara says an estimated 4,000 PKK rebels are holed up in northern Iraq and use the region as a springboard for cross-border attacks as part of their campaign for self-rule in the Kurdish-majority region of southeast Turkey.

The conflict has claimed more than 37,000 lives since the PKK took up arms in 1984.

6.

TURKISH HELICOPTER DOWN IN IRAQ
By Selcan Hacaoglu

Associated Press
February 25, 2008

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hHDG79AIius7McB6xz3lTQFLIdhQD8V0TJPG0

CUKURCA, Turkey -- A Turkish helicopter crashed in Iraq and eight soldiers were killed during a cross-border ground operation against Kurdish rebels, who planted booby traps on the bodies of their slain comrades, Turkey's military said Sunday.

The guerrillas said they shot down a Turkish military helicopter near the Turkish-Iraqi border.

Turkey's military said technicians were inspecting the wreck to determine why the helicopter crashed near the border. It was not clear if any of the reported troop casualties were on board. Their deaths bring the Turkish toll since the start of the incursion Thursday to 15, the military said on its web site.

Thirty-three rebels were killed in Sunday's fighting, bringing the rebel death toll since Thursday to 112, according to the armed forces.

The incursion is the first confirmed Turkish military ground operation in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, are fighting for autonomy in predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey and have carried out attacks on Turkish targets from bases in the semiautonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. The conflict started in 1984 and has claimed as many as 40,000 lives.

Turkey has assured that the operation would be limited to attacks on rebels. The United States and European Union consider the PKK a terrorist group.

"It is only an operation geared to cleansing the terrorist camps," Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Sunday in an address to the youth branch of his ruling party. "Our Iraqi brothers, friends and civilians should know that they will never be targeted by the armed forces."

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday while visiting Australia that it would take a broader approach to erode PKK support in northern Iraq.

"After a certain point people become inured to military attacks," he said, "and if you don't blend them with these kinds of nonmilitary initiatives, then at a certain point the military efforts become less and less effective."

Massoud Barzani, head of the regional Kurdish administration in northern Iraq, warned Turkey would face large-scale resistance if it targeted civilians in its incursion.

The Iraqi government said Saturday fewer than 1,000 Turkish troops had crossed the frontier. Turkish media reports put the number in the thousands.

The office of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said Turkish forces should leave Iraq.

"We demand that the Turkish government withdraw its forces immediately from the Iraqi territory and rely on negotiations to solve this conflict," al-Sadr's political committee said in a statement.

Iran, which is fighting an Iraq-based group of Kurdish militants with PKK links, said it would maintain security measures on its border with northern Iraq.

The Turkish military said clashes with the rebels were taking place in four areas of northern Iraq, but did not specify any location.

"Terrorist hideouts have been effectively destroyed by warplanes, helicopter gunships, and artillery," the military said.

It said advancing troops were destroying rebel shelters, logistic centers, and ammunition. Retreating rebels were trying to gain time by setting up booby traps under the corpses of dead comrades or planting mines on escape routes, the military said.

The bodies of five of the 33 rebels killed Sunday had booby traps under them, the statement said.

Late Sunday, several military helicopters took off from a base in the hilltop town of Cukurca, flying with their lights off. Earlier, Turkish F-16 jets flew into northern Iraq. Armored personnel carriers transported troops, and four long-range guns were positioned at the Cukurca base, one of the main support centers for the Turkish operation.