U.S., Turkey Share Intelligence on Kurdish Rebels
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
I'm Melissa Block.
And we begin today with the Turkish military action and U.S. diplomacy in northern Iraq. Several hundred Turkish troops entered northern Iraq this morning. It's part of an ongoing operation to root out Kurdish separatist rebels known as the PKK. Turkish warplanes have also bombed suspected rebel bases along the border. The operations have the tacit approval of both the U.S. and Iraqi governments, and Washington has been providing Turkey with intelligence on the rebel positions. Today's raid overshadowed a visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. We'll hear a little bit about the importance of that city in a few minutes.
NORRIS: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson joins us now on the line from Baghdad. Soraya, what's the latest you can tell us about this incursion?
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Well, we're still not hearing much from the Turkish side, but the Kurdish officials up north as well as the PKK or Kurdish Worker's Party spokespeople say that the soldiers have gone back into Turkey. They did not come in very far. Reports were suggesting was maybe a mile and a half or so. And this is an area up north that's near the Iranian border. We're also not hearing much about casualties at this point, but we do know this is a very remote area that's sparsely populated.
NORRIS: A remote area where tensions tend to run high. And we just noted that Washington has been providing Turkey with intelligence on the rebel positions. What's been the Iraqi reaction to this attack?
NELSON: Well, the Iraqis obviously get upset because they don't feel that any country has a right to cross their borders. But they also understand and they certainly reject having terrorists on their soil. And the PKK, at this point, is identified as a terrorist party by many countries in the world, including the U.S. and Turkey, and so the reaction today was fairly subdued. The parliament did react to the attack by error a couple of days ago because one civilian was killed and several were wounded and there was some discussion of displacement which Turkey also denied. But Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari, he was with Condoleezza Rice today at a press conference, and he said they were monitoring the ground incursion closely. He did make a statement saying he would prefer that there were coordination of the - with, or between the Turkish government and Iraq about such operations, but he did not condemn it.
NORRIS: And what about Secretary Rice? Did she have anything to say about the attack?
NELSON: Well, she was fairly vague today about the invasion. She was speaking with the foreign minister. But what she did say was that the United States, Iraq and Turkey share a common interest in fighting Kurdish rebels. But she also had this admonition, and we have this tape here of what she said.
Secretary CONDOLEEZZA RICE (U.S. Department of State): This was a Turkish decision. And we have made clear to the Turkish government that we continue to be concerned about anything that could lead to innocent civilian casualties or to a destabilization of the north.
NELSON: What the secretary didn't say is that Americans have to get permission for Turkish warplanes to enter Iraqi airspace, which apparently we did for at least a few hours on Sunday. And the other thing that we're doing is we're providing intelligence or what's called intelligence sharing with the Turkish authorities. This was a decision reached after the November 5th meeting between President Bush and the Turkish prime minister.
NORRIS: Now, before we let you go, Soraya, I just want to ask another question about Secretary Rice. She began today's visit to Iraq with a stop in the northern city of Kirkuk. What did she do there?
NELSON: Well, she was reinforcing the fact that violence is down and that political progress is needed. And in particular, in Kirkuk, which is known as the Iraqi Jerusalem, if you will, where you a have a lot of tensions between Arabs and Kurds and Turkmen who are all vying for control of that city given the fact that it's rich in oil. I mean, she wanted to promote this political progress and also push at the same time to make sure that there is reconciliation and that these things are handled peacefully.
NORRIS: Thank you, Soraya.
NELSON: You're welcome.
NORRIS: That was NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson speaking to us from Baghdad.