Turkey deploys troops on border Security zone along Iraqi border called ‘temporary’

USA TODAY
September 9, 1996, Monday, INTERNATIONAL EDITION
BYLINE: Tom Squitieri
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 4A
LENGTH: 674 words
DATELINE: ANKARA, Turkey

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller said her government had received a request from one of two Kurdish groups inside Iraq — the Kurdish Democratic Party — to help seal Turkey’s border with Iraq.

The request apparently is aimed at stopping opponents of the Kurdish Democratic Party from smuggling aid or personnel across the border, or making terrorist strikes in Turkey.

Turkey’s latest moves followed heightened activity in northern Iraq, where Baghdad sent troops last week to help a Kurdish faction take control of the main city of Irbil from a rival group. The United States launched two missile attack on southern Iraq in response to Baghdad’s move into the north.

Sunday, Ciller said troops would deploy along the border, adding: “We are . . . working on an electronic system around the border which will help us to do that without a military action of any kind eventually.”

Turkey has said a temporary security zone is needed to prevent infiltration by separatist rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) using bases there for its 12-year-old insurgency in southeast Turkey. The rebellion has cost more than 20,000 lives.

Ciller did not say if the thousands of Turkish troops massing in eastern Turkey had crossed into Iraq or would cross. But U.S. officials in Turkey’s capital said their reports indicated Ankara’s troops were inside Iraq. “We informed all our friends that this dangerous situation is a threat to Turkey’s interests,” she said.

U.S. officials said Washington would neither condemn nor support the action. They said Turkey’s military move — as a unilateral action — was not connected to any NATO operation or “Operation Provide Comfort,” the U.S.-British-French humanitarian effort that has fed and protected the Kurds since the Gulf War ended
in 1991.

U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said in London over the weekend that Washington understood Turkey’s reasons for establishing a security zone in Iraq and had been assured it would be temporary.

But France, Russia, Gulf states and Syria have opposed the Turkish plan. Iraq rejected it as “unacceptable.” Britain said it was seeking details.

Privately, the United States and moderate Arab nations are angry with Turkey for setting a precedent that other, less-friendly nations might follow.

For example, Iran now can claim danger from Kurdish separatists on its border and make military strikes into Iraq. Also, Syria can point to the Turkish move as support of its own occupation of large parts of Lebanon, claiming it needs soldiers there for protection against Israeli terrorists.

U.S. officials also are upset at the continued, fierce fighting between the Kurdish Democratic Party, supported by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and its rival group, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which is backed by Iran.

Intelligence reports received by U.S. officials said the Baghdad-backed Kurds continue to make strong military gains near the towns of Dagala and Koi Sanjaq — key crossroads in northeastern Iraq.

Sunday, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan said it was driven out of both towns by Iraqi forces and Baghdad’s Kurdish allies.

Glum U.S. officials said by the time this round of fighting is finished the big victor may be Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein:

— The latest fighting has successfully split apart the two Kurdish groups, weakening Kurd opposition to Baghdad. By helping the Kurdish Democratic Party, Saddam is backing the group that has been more
willing to deal with him.

— When Iraqi troops took Irbil last week, they wiped out a few hundred soldiers from the Iraqi National Congress — mainly Iraqi defectors who had hoped to form a democratic Kurdish government.

— By allying himself with the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Saddam now can say his government is dealing politically with a group that represents the Kurds. This may allow him to argue that U.N. trade sanctions against Iraq should be lifted.