- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2007

From combined dispatches.

The United States has given Turkey’s armed forces “actionable intelligence” on rebels from the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, based in northern Iraq, information that could be used to guide a military strike, the Pentagon said yesterday.

“We are assisting the Turks in their efforts to combat the PKK by supplying them with intelligence, lots of intelligence,” Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.

The Pentagon released the statement after Turkish officials reacted angrily to comments by a U.S. commander in northern Iraq late last week that U.S. forces were doing “absolutely nothing” to curtail PKK suspects operating from bases in Iraq’s largely Kurdish north.

But with Ankara threatening a military incursion into Iraq to deal with the PKK, the Defense Department acknowledged yesterday that the U.S. military has stepped up its own anti-PKK activity, including flying manned spy planes over the border area and ordering American troops to capture any rebels they find.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have worked hard to head off a Turkish incursion, but Mr. Morrell said the information being given to Turkish planners could be the precursor to military action.

“The key for any sort of military response from the Turks or anyone else is having actionable intelligence. That’s a pretty high standard and we are making efforts to help them get actionable intelligence,” Mr. Morrell said.

The problem of the PKK, which the U.S. government officially has designated a terrorist organization, is one of the most delicate facing the Bush administration. Turkey, a key NATO ally, has complained repeatedly about PKK strikes from bases in northern Iraq and has massed about 10,000 troops on the border. Turkish helicopters have struck at PKK sites inside Turkey, and Ankara has said it is prepared to hit targets across the border if diplomatic efforts fail to bear fruit.

But Iraq’s Kurdish region is the most prosperous, stable and pro-American section of the country. A Turkish invasion is seen as greatly destabilizing an already difficult security situation in the country.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice travels to Ankara this weekend and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets with President Bush next week in Washington in a bid to repair frayed bilateral relations.

Nursuna Memecan, a member of the Turkish parliament from Mr. Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said popular frustration in Turkey over the lack of action against PKK bases in Iraq has soared in recent months.

“All these journalists seem to have no trouble finding and interviewing the PKK leaders at their bases in Iraq, and yet the U.S. and Iraqi officials say they can’t find them. People in Turkey don’t understand,” Mrs. Memecan said in an interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.

Mrs. Memecan, a deputy to Mr. Erdogan’s chief foreign policy adviser, said Turkey’s government at a minimum wants PKK camps in northern Iraq shut down and rebel leaders either arrested or forced to leave the country.

“People in Turkey are sick and tired of the PKK issue,” she added.

Iraqi officials announced yesterday that they will be setting up more checkpoints along the country’s border with Turkey to block food, fuel and supplies destined for PKK forces.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, pledged to cooperate with Turkey but warned, during a meeting with visiting Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki, that a Turkish strike inside Iraq “would have serious consequences for the entire region.”

Separately, the Turkish Cabinet announced new economic and diplomatic sanctions against PKK rebels and “their associates,” which could affect officials of the autonomous Kurdish administration in northern Iraq.

Staff writer David R. Sands contributed to this article.



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