Turkish Forces Reportedly Enter Northern Iraq

A few days ago, Turkish FM Ali Babacan reiterated that Turkey still reserved the option of cross-border incursions into northern Iraq, weather permitting, to complement the artillery and bombing campaign they've been using to target PKK rebel camps in the Qandil Mountains. I figured the remarks were geared towards preparing public opinion for a spring offensive, since the winter weather in the Qandil Mountains is not very conducive to ground operations.

But this morning come reports that the Turkish Army just sent 10,000 ground forces into northern Iraq following an artillery and air barrage. According to Hurriyet (Turkey), the U.S. and Iraqi governments were informed of the operation by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, but the Iraqi FM continues to deny that any Turkish troops have entered Iraq. In the past, Turkey has entered northern Iraq in hot pursuit operations of PKK guerillas crossing back into Iraq from Turkish territory. But sending in 10,000 troops suggests that this is no hot pursuit operation, especially since it follows a coordinated bombardment.

What's even more alarming than the incursion, which in all likelihood is in isolated mountainous terrain, is the standoff between armored troops from Turkey's FOB's in Iraqi Kurdistan and Kurdish Peshmergas that occurred yesterday. Turkey has maintained a number of these bases in northern Iraq since 1997, with troops (usually described as special forces) numbering in the range of 1,000-plus. Apparently they deployed with tanks yesterday in order to seal off some villages (to deny forward PKK mountain bases access to supplies and reinforcements?), but were prevented from advancing by a Peshmerga force, which proceeded to encircle the Turkish base once the Turkish troops had retreated back to it. Hundreds of Peshmerga reinforcements were then reportedly deployed from Irbil overnight.

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