Turks go the polls next month in presidential elections, but in this secular Islamic republic the army is always backstage, and reserves the right to have its say. Top General Yasar Buyukanit has been warning the military’s patience is close to breaking over Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq: “If you ask me the question whether there should be an operation in northern Iraq I would say there are two issues to address. From a purely military point of view, the answer is yes, it should be done, and it would also be useful”, he said on Thursday.
The General stressed no demand for such an operation had yet been presented to parliament, but with Kurds in south-eastern Turkey, and straddling the northern Iranian border too, their growing influence is a major headache for Ankara. It fears Turkish Kurds will seek to break away and join any Kurdish entity emerging from northern Iraq.
Turkey’s south-eastern frontier with Iraq is one of the most militarised in the world, and the army is on an offensive against Kurdish fighters at the moment. The General’s speech is being seen as putting pressure on the moderate Islamist Prime Minister Erdogan, who is seeking the president’s job. The army has never been comfortable with Erdogan or his Islamist AK party.