Turkey is certainly a quite sensible word for Europeans. Its candidacy to the European Union (EU) was approved in the Helsinki Heads of State and Government Summit eight years ago, on December 10-11, 1999, but the road to its EU accession is rather tortuous and full of brambles, and no substantial progress has so far been made. Moreover, a recent boycott by the French government has made access of this nation with a population of more than 70 million to the EU more bumpy and the latter's credit has also been subjected to great challenge.
Turkey has so far amassed 100,000 troops to its border area with Iraq and is ready to cross the border into Iraq for a large-scale operation to suppress forces of Kurdish Workers' Party, or PKK, and this, too, landed the Europeans, who have all along been in opposition to war, in a new, awkward position.
To date, EU has been very cautious and prudent with the troop deployment by Turkey. European Commission president Jose Manuel Brroso has appealed to Turkey to resort to diplomatic means to quell disturbances. In a NATO defense minister meeting from October 24th to 25th, Turkey did not receive much concrete support or commitment, though it did draw support from most of its European allies. The NATO secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, was quite evasive and unwilling to make excessive comments.
Such an attitude of the Europeans' can possibly be interpreted as tacit consensus roughly for three ensuing reasons. First, the United States, EU and Turkey have enlisted PKK as a terrorist organization, and strikes against it are beyond any reproaches. Second, EU has offended Turkey on its access to the EU membership already and, thirdly, as Turkey-US relations have been strained recently and it has also been pretty hard for the U.S. and EU to attain a trend for relaxation, so the best option for EU is only to keep a low profile.
Of course, it is not necessarily that Europeans are ambiguous on the difficult choice for Turkey. Any large-scale trans-border move Turkey could take has both the advantages and disadvantages, acknowledge analysts. For the good prospect, they can help quell pressures from public opinion at home and increase their national rallying power. Externally, they will avail of the opportunity to heighten its presence in Iraq, pay a greater role in the country and foster its image as a big nation some day in the wake of the troop pullout by the U.S. and Britain. More importantly, Turkey can exert its effort to prevent the creation of a Kurdish state in the north of Iraq and contain the secessionist tendency of Kurds in southeastern Turkey.
As for the demerits or disadvantages, while infiltrating deep into the hinterland of Iraq, Turkey cannot possibly eradicate or uproot the PKK forces within a short period of time but will cause turmoil in northern Iraq instead and even possibly clashe with American or British forces. So it would surely land itself in a disadvantageous position provided its troops are bogged down.
The Europeans, however, can keep aloof from the issue, since any choice of Turkey does not have much to do with them, and furthermore, the Middle East issue is too complex and they have not contributed much to its settlement, no matter how hard they have tried through their diplomatic efforts over the years.
Turkey is reported to have bombed and destroyed several PKK strongholds within the territories of Iraq with the use of its fighter jets. Whether it is to carry out large-scale military actions will depend on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's imminent meeting with President George W. Bush during his visit to the U.S. from November 5th.
Nevertheless, Ankara claims the PKK is using northern Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks inside Turkey, noted the British “Financial Times”, so it is now irresistible for Turkey's attacks against PKK militants in northern Iraq for the aim to terminate PKK's cross-border actions politically. Even if Turks really want to launch large-scale ground actions, the Europeans will probably remain silent and acquiescent.
By People's Daily Online