Turkish warplanes attacked Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant targets in northern Iraq on Wednesday, military sources said.
That came hours after a rebel attack killed a dozen soldiers in Hakkari province’s Cukurca district near the Iraqi border. The sources said the planes struck PKK targets in the Kandil and Zap regions of northern Iraq where the rebel group has bases including anti-aircraft defences and rebel shelters.
Earlier there had been signs that Ankara was preparing for a showdown with the PKK. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said: “We have reached a point where words are meaningless.” He added: “The retaliation they will find will be manifold and strong.”
Events are moving very fast in Turkey. At the beginning of this week the date for a military operation was expected to be the end of this month. Erdogan had given the first signs of an operation last weekend during his party’s 10th anniversary. He said “We are trying to be patient because we respect the month of Ramadan. After Ramadan the history of peace will be very different in this country.”
However Wednesday’s attack changed the timeline. President Abdullah Gül in his first reaction said: “The war against terror does not stop.” Then came Erdogan’s “our patience is over” statement.
Many observers think that the Kurdish movement is trying to drive Turkey into a corner in order to gain more at the negotiation table.
According to Professor Mesut Hakkı Caşın, from Yeditepe University, a boycott of Kurdish MPs, unilateral declaration of autonomy and refusal to pay taxes, combined with military escalation are supporting this strategy. But the statements from the AK Party government are signs of a tougher stance against the PKK. Professor Caşın also believes that the PKK, under pressure from Iran, is trying to prove its strength.
Another expert on military affairs, Atilla Sandıklı, said that Turkey has to strengthen its strategy of democratic openings to solve the Kurdish issue with more focus on security. He emphasizes that for the last couple of years Turkey has not carried out regular operations to boost democratic measures and the PKK took advantage of that, establishing itself in rural areas in Southeast Turkey. Now, he says, there is a need to clean this areas from PKK members.
Turkey’s last big air and land operation in Turkey and Northern Iraq against the PKK took place in February 2008. Military observers believe that this time Turkish forces are again likely to launch cross-border attacks.
On Thursday Turkey’s National Security Council is meeting to discuss the new strategy.