Military: Incursion into N. Iraq a must

Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaþar Büyükanýt yesterday asked for government approval to launch a military operation into northern Iraq to fight outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists there.

Military: Incursion into N. Iraq a must
Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaþar Büyükanýt yesterday asked for government approval to launch a military operation into northern Iraq to fight outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorists there, who he said are accelerating their terror attacks in Turkey.

"An operation into Iraq is necessary," Gen. Büyükanýt said. "Would it be useful? Yes, it would. And we (the military) will succeed in that (operation) to a great extent. But a political decision needs to emerge [for this operation to take place]." From the military point of view, a military operation in northern Iraq must be made, Gen. Büyükanýt told a news conference yesterday, adding that a political decision from the government was first required to authorize such a step. There has been no request to Parliament from the military for a cross-border operation, he added.

Speaking at his first press conference, which lasted almost one-and-a-half hours, since he took office almost eight months ago, Büyükanýt attempted to address the latest developments such as PKK terror, a leaked memorandum, or "andýç," that classified Turkish press members as pro or anti-military, as well as diaries said to have belonged to former Navy Commander Adm. Özden Örnek that revealed two failed coup attempts organized by the top commanders of the military in 2004 against the ruling conservative Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

As Büyükanýt was holding his press conference, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan was holding a meeting with his deputies to hear their views as to whether he should run for the presidency.

Gen. Büyükanýt confirmed that a third lieutenant (3 Lt.) who had completed his military service had been arrested and then released on bail in connection with the leaked memo. He noted that the leak as well as the diaries, which Örnek himself had earlier denied the existence of, were attempts to wear down the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).

The press conference, broadcast live, was attended by top-ranking commanders and accredited journalists, though Büyükanýt during the same press conference dismissed any discrimination by the military among the journalists.

Gen. Büyükanýt defended the andýç but said that accreditation did not mean punishment of some journalists.

Barzani is 'spoiled' by US

Büyükanýt stated that a large-scale military operation in southeastern Anatolia against the PKK has been continuing. The offensives were launched to coincide with the spring, when melting snow facilitates infiltration into Turkey of the PKK terrorists from Iraq through mountain passes, he said. Turkey has been intensifying pressure on Iraq and the US to crack down on PKK terrorists launching raids from bases in northern Iraq. Büyükanýt also said that the TSK was expecting increased PKK terror activity.

Büyükanýt, without explicitly naming it, accused the US of "spoiling" Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, who heads Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, noting Barzani's provocative statements threatening to stir unrest in Turkey's Southeast if Ankara intervenes in the process of determining the status of Iraq's disputed city of Kirkuk. He also accused the Kurdish leader of extending logistical support to the PKK.

"The PKK has huge freedom of movement in Iraq," Büyükanýt said. "It has spread its roots in Iraq."

In comments on Büyükanýt's remarks, the US urged Turkey to refrain from launching cross-border raids against the PKK bases in Iraq, although it agreed the group "needs to be dealt with."

"Certainly that's an option that everybody should work to avoid," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. He also urged Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdish leadership to pursue US-brokered negotiations aimed at curbing the PKK activities. "It's in their interest to come up with lasting solutions for problems that might arise," he said. "We're lending our good offices to that good effort."

"Ideally you do not have a resort to cross-border operations. I think that is not an appealing option," he said. But the US spokesman went on to say it was imperative to counter the PKK. "Clearly the terrorist activities of the PKK are completely unacceptable," he said. "They are a terrorist group and they need to be dealt with."

Büyükanýt was also pessimistic that Iraq's territorial unity could be protected. "It is difficult for the three main groups in Iraq to continue to live together," he said. "I am not of the opinion that there would be a solution in short or even medium term."

Objection to Erdoðan's presidency?

Büyükanýt described a president that the TSK would like to see as someone who would abide by the Turkish Republic's unchangeable principles such as integrity and the secular character of the state, not in words but in essence.

"That is what we (the TSK) hope for," Büyükanýt said, apparently signaling an objection to Prime Minister Erdoðan's possible bid for the presidency. But the final decision rests with Parliament, the general added.

During most of the press conference Büyükanýt stressed the attachment of the TSK to the rule of law and added that because the president is also the commander in chief of Turkey, the issue concerned the military as well, and that this was why he touched upon the issue of the presidential election. However, Büyükanýt refrained from answering questions directly concerning the looming presidential election.

Turkey's Parliament is due to elect a successor to current incumbent Ahmet Necdet Sezer next month. Turkey's secular elite, including the military, is worried that Erdoðan will stand for the post.

"We hope the next president will be somebody genuinely bound by the basic values of the republic, including secularism, not somebody who just pays lip service to them," Büyükanýt said. But he declined to comment on possible candidates in the election.

Erdoðan's ruling AK Party is expected to name its candidate soon. As the party has a significant majority in Parliament, its candidate is virtually certain to become Turkey's next head of state.

Financial markets are sensitive to political pronouncements from the military, which has ousted four governments in the past few decades, most recently in 1997, when it drove from office a prime minister it perceived as too Islamist.

Coup diary

Büyükanýt also touched on the diaries that are said to belong to former Navy Commander Adm. Örnek and said there had been no evidence within the General Staff's archives confirming the existence of the diaries. He talked to Örnek, too, who denied that the diaries belonged to him. "If there have been documents (confirming the diary), then legal action could be taken, but there has been no document as such at the General Staff," he said, hinting that no legal action could be taken by the Office of the Chief of General Staff.

Büyükanýt's statement comes soon after an interview given by former Chief of Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök to the Anatolia news agency on Wednesday, during which he neither denied nor confirmed the diaries' existence, passing the decision to the courts.

Özkök was chief of general staff when the alleged coup attempts took place. In the diary Örnek accused Özkök of acting passively against the government and said the planned steps could not be put into motion because of a lack of support from Özkök. Gen. Özkök was also described as "close to the Islamists" in Örnek's diaries.

Ethnic nationalism and terror

Gen. Büyükanýt also stated that Turkey has been facing terror, a racial act based on violence and ethnic nationalism. He described ethnic nationalism based on politics as the beginning of the road towards terror.

Comments that nationalism has been rising in Turkey have inflicted major damage on Turkey's security, he added. "Concerns that nationalism in Turkey has been rising is an admission of not knowing Atatürk, not understanding him," he said.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16