On July 25, Murat Karayilan, head of the PKK Political Council, predicted "the Turkish Army will attack southern Kurdistan." Turkey has a well-trained, well-equipped army of 250,000 near the border, facing some 4,000 PKK fighters hiding in the mountains of northern Iraq. But significant cross-border operations surely would bring to the PKK's side the military forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the best U.S. ally in Iraq.
What is Washington to do in the dilemma of two friends battling each other on an unwanted new front in Iraq? The surprising answer was given in secret briefings on Capitol Hill last week by Eric S. Edelman, a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and now under secretary of defense for policy. A Foreign Service officer who once was U.S. ambassador to Turkey, he revealed to lawmakers plans for a covert operation of U.S. Special Forces helping the Turks neutralize the PKK. They would behead the guerrilla organization by helping Turkey get rid of PKK leaders that they have targeted for years.
Edelman's listeners were stunned. Wasn't this risky? He responded he was sure of success, adding that the U.S. role could be concealed and always would be denied. Even if all this is true, some of the briefed lawmakers left wondering whether this was a wise policy for handling the beleaguered Kurds who had been betrayed so often by U.S. governments in years past.
The plan shows that hard experience has not dissuaded President Bush from attempting difficult ventures employing the use of force. On the contrary, two of the most intrepid supporters of the Iraq intervention -- John McCain and Lindsey Graham -- were surprised by Bush during a recent meeting with him. When they shared their impressions with colleagues, they commented on how unconcerned the president seemed. That may explain his willingness to embark on a questionable venture against the Kurds.