Turkey's military campaign in northern Iraq, a gross violation of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, is an accurate model - and predictor - of what it could perpetrate in neighboring Syria.
To gain an appreciation of the scope of what such an operation could entail, in April of 2006 Turkey deployed 40,000 troops near the Iraqi border, joining as many as 250,000 soldiers already deployed in southeast Turkey.
Ankara has since then conducted ongoing air, artillery and ground attacks inside Iraq.
After a year-long hiatus, Turkey resumed air strikes inside the Arab nation last September following a PKK attack that killed nine Turkish soldiers the month before. By the 21st of the month the Turkish general staff announced that government F-16 fighter jets had destroyed 152 targets in the Qandil Mountains inside Iraq.
State Department spokeswoman (and former ambassador to NATO) Victoria Nuland said of the offensive:
"Hope springs eternal. You know where we are on the PKK. We believe that Turkey has a right to defend itself, that the PKK is a terrorist organization, and we continue to urge and try to facilitate good dialogue between Turkey and Iraq."
That is, the Iraqi government must accept armed attacks within its territory by America's NATO ally.
Last October 15,000 elite Turkish forces gathered on the border with Iraq to launch ground operations against Kurdish targets. On the 24th Turkish tanks and armored vehicles, backed by air strikes, crossed into northern Iraq.
The following month the Obama administration promised Prime Minister Erdogan to redeploy U.S. Predator drones from Iraq to Turkey for the anti-Kurdish campaign. At the time Radio Free Europe reported that "The drones are seen by Ankara as a decisive weapon in its battle against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Kurdish rebel group."
In fact, a Turkish newspaper revealed that the U.S. had deployed four Predator drones at the Incirlik Air Base in late October, the same base where the Pentagon has an estimated 90 B61 nuclear bombs.
Turkey has also requested that the U.S. sell it more advanced Reaper drones, to replace Israeli Herons, for use against the PKK.
Radio Free Europe also stated that "Obama is rewarding Turkey for its support in the region, in particular its decision to participate in NATO's antimissile system, which Washington says is aimed at countering threats from rogue states including Iran."
At the same time the Pentagon confirmed that it had notified Congress of the proposed sale of three AH-1 SuperCobra attack helicopters to Turkey, with a Defense Department press release stating they "will improve Turkey's capability for self-defense, modernization, regional security, and interoperability with U.S. and other NATO members."
Last December U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden met with Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Ankara and Gul, speaking for both countries, affirmed, "Our fight against [the] PKK will continue in a strong way."
Two weeks later Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was in Turkey to solicit its assistance in policing Iraq after the departure of American ground troops, and in reference to Russian and Iranian objections to Turkey's hosting of a NATO interceptor missile radar system, he said, "whether they like it or not, other countries are going to have to accept that." He also pledged continued, indeed intensified, U.S. involvement in the war against the PKK, saying:
"We provide some technology and assistance in the fight against the PKK. We try to improve in that capacity and continue to explore other steps."
The Predators operating out of the Incirlik Air Base are maintained by an American ground control unit and operated from the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.
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