The AP is reporting that about 300 Turkish troops have crossed into northern Iraq. Ankara hasn’t confirmed the reports but Kurdish officials are saying that Turkish troops entered Iraq overnight and moved up to three kilometres (1.9 miles) inside
The operation follows air raids over the weekend in which Turkish warplanes bombed suspect Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) bases in northern Iraq over the weekend. Iraqi officials say the bombs hit 10 villages.
Today’s development is the first deployment of Turkish troops inside Iraq since Turkey’s parliament voted to allow the military to conduct operations into Iraq to fight the PKK. Ankara has since then assembled up to 100,000 troops near the Iraq border.
The attacks are coming just as Condoleeza Rice is making an unannounced visit to the disputed Northern city of Kirkuk. Rice has been fairly half-hearted in her public urging for Ankara to show restraint, but it’s thought that the US state department is in a virtual panic over the prospect that Turkey will destabilize the only functioning section of Iraq, the autonomous Kurdish north. Some Kurdish officials have even suggested that the purpose of Turkey’s military operation is actually specifically designed to destabilize Iraqi Kurdistan, fearing that a prosperous and independent Iraqi Kurdistan will motivate the Kurds in Turkey to revolt and demand to join their Iraqi brethren.
For more background on the Iraqi Kurds and the division of Iraq into three separate states you can read my blog entry explaining the situation here.