Turkey's Strategy Against Kurds Hinges On Weather

Turkey's Strategy Against Kurds Hinges On Weather
November 5th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Turkey's Strategy Against Kurds Hinges On Weather

Turkey's Strategy Against Kurds Hinges On Weather
Miami Herald
November 5, 2007 A harsh winter could be Turkey's worst foe in northern Iraq.
By Matthew Schofield, McClatchy News Service
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to decide whether to send his army south into Iraq in an effort to destroy rebel Kurdish bases there after a meeting Monday in Washington with President Bush.
But military experts say that what takes place at that meeting may not be as important to Erdogan's decision as another factor that neither Turkey nor the United States controls -- the weather.
''The winter snows are coming,'' said Sedat Laciner, director of Turkey's International Strategic Research Organization.
``The mountains are not an ideal military staging point in perfect weather. Once the winter arrives, they are impossible.''
Turkey has been threatening to send its military into northern Iraq in pursuit of guerrillas from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish initials as the PKK, who have killed 30 Turkish soldiers in the past month.
Hundredsof Turkish militia have been killed in the 25 years that the PKK has been fighting to establish an autonomous Kurdish state in southern Turkey.
But the United States, which has long included the PKK on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, is hoping to dissuade Erdogan from launching an attack.
U.S. mediates
On Sunday, U.S. officials served as the go-between in the return to Turkey of eight Turkish soldiers who had been captured Oct. 21 by PKK guerrillas.
Whether that will appease Turkish anger over PKK activities is unknown.
There was no official Turkish reaction to the release, except an acknowledgement that the soldiers were back in Turkey.
In a statement, the PKK said it expected Turkey to launch a military action soon and vowed to defend their positions in Iraq's Kandil Mountains with ``a ferocity that will teach them a lesson they will never forget.''
There will be no compromise, the statement said. ''We long for self-determination, and any solution that doesn't accomplish that -- to guarantee cultural, social and political rights -- will be refused,'' the statement said, quoting Zardesht Jody, a member of the PKK's leadership committee.
Still, military analysts said Erdogan's decision will be governed not by politics as much as by the difficulty of a winter military campaign.
Turkey has gathered tens of thousands of troops near the Iraqi border, a far larger force than the 3,000 PKK guerrillas Turkey estimates have taken refuge inside Iraq.
But the Kandil Mountains have few trails and roads. Sharply angled, and sparsely vegetated, military experts consider them impassable in the winter, especially for heavy equipment, or troop movements.
That could argue for a decision to move quickly, said Robert Ayers, an expert on terrorism at London's prestigious Chatham House research center.
Harsh terrain
Ayers just returned from a visit with Turkish security officials.
''They can't move 30,000 into those mountains, only to have them trapped by the snows, both their escape route and supply routes cut off,'' Ayers said. ``If they're going in this year, and the mood seems to indicate there is the will to, there isn't much time left.''

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