- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 6, 2006

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Intensified attacks by Kurdish separatists are putting increased pressure on the Turkish government to strike at rebel bases in Iraq.

Washington has warned Turkey to refrain from any cross-border action, but diplomats say Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has replied that Kurdish violence “has gone beyond the limits of tolerance.”

The public and the influential Turkish military have been demanding a more effective action against the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party, known by its acronym, PKK. Some diplomats say that sooner or later, Turkey will enter Iraq in hot pursuit, whether Washington likes it or not.

The United States acknowledges Turkish concern about Kurdish guerrilla activities, but officials think military action across the border would further destabilize Iraq. The PKK’s major bases are in Iraqi territory.

The conservative Greek daily Kathimerini said Mr. Erdogan “is trapped between a disillusioned public and a superpower with strong links to Kurds in Iraq.”

Analysts say the situation is creating new strains in the relationship between the United States and Turkey, despite the “shared vision document” signed during a recent Washington visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.

Bowing to his country’s mood, Mr. Erdogan pledged a full-scale war on the PKK and dismissed U.S. pressure against a thrust into Iraq by saying his government would judge for itself how to wage that war.

Opposition politicians in Turkey have accused the United States of practicing “double standards” by supporting Israel’s war on Hezbollah in Lebanon but opposing any effective Turkish action against the PKK, which Turkey and Washington both consider to be a terrorist organization.

“These are two different cases, they should be judged from different perspectives,” said Ross Wilson, the U.S. ambassador in Ankara.

Although Turkey has forged a friendly relationship with Israel, Mr. Erdogan has bowed to popular pressure. He has criticized Israel for “a new culture of violence” and said “it is unthinkable to remain silent in the face of this new manifestation of power.”

Foreign diplomats and the Turkish press see a connection between the hardening mood toward the Kurds and the appointment of a new chief of the general staff.

He is Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, 66, current commander of the land forces. He is known for his blunt statements and calls for counterterrorist measures against PKK militants and their supporters.

Gen. Buyukanit is due to take command at the end of August from Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, whose political influence has been considerably reduced by Turkey’s negotiations for membership in the European Union.

Some Turkish analysts think that the strongly secular new chief of staff will be a more difficult partner for a prime minister and a governing party with strongly Islamic roots.

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