November 2, 2004
By Murat Yetkin
Among the questions Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug will face on Tuesday will concern reports that the Second Army will be sent to northern Iraq if Kurds try to change the population composition of Kirkuk.
No one expects Basbug to claim the Turkish Armed Services (TSK) does not prepare for various scenarios to counter possible sensitive developments in the region, indeed, if they didn't, it may even be considered negligent behavior. One of the principal duties of the Office of the Chief of Staff is to prepare various action plans and operations against any possible developments.
Everyone knows the military prepared for various scenarios when President Suleyman Demirel made a public and political attack on Syria in 1998, a country sheltering the leader of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK/Kongra-Gel) Abdullah Ocalan. Such preparations are expected; this is part of the duty of the military.
Just as Foreign Ministry Spokesman Namik Tan said on Oct. 30, Basbug will say that Ankara needs to be prepared for any eventuality.
I will be very surprised if Basbug confirms reports in Cumhuriyet and the dailies in the Middle East about Turkey sending 20,000 troops (40,000 in Milliyet) to Kirkuk to establish stability if the situation gets out of hand, with the approval of the United States no less. Officials from the U.S. Embassy in Ankara say that there have been no discussions on any such a matter. There is also the press statement made by U.S. Ambassador Eric Edelman last week, who said they would not permit a Kurdish state to break away from Iraq.
It appears Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Massoud Barzani's insistence on holding onto Kirkuk has forced the United States to change its attitude.
We really need to know how the United States can approve the deployment of 20,000 Turkish troops in Kirkuk when it refused to allow 10,000 Turkish troops to enter Iraq at a time when it really needed them.
We must also note these reports became public after Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkok said on Oct. 29 that Turkey had to be careful not to make mistakes prior to Dec. 17.
No matter what is behind these reports, we can say many surprises await the government and the Office of the Chief of General Staff before Dec. 17.