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Pentagon Urges Turkey Not to Move Against Kurdish Guerrillas in Iraq

A senior Pentagon official says U.S. forces in Iraq are busy fighting various insurgents and terrorists, and cannot directly address Kurdish terrorists based in Northern Iraq, who launch attacks on Turkey. At the same time, the official urged Turkey not to take military action against the Kurdish group. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell says Iraq is already dealing with what he called "at least two meddlesome neighbors," which he identified as Iran and Syria.

"As we deal with those meddlesome neighbors on either side of Iraq, we do not think this is the time to open up a potential third front in which you then have military action coming over from our good friends the Turks into what is now, arguably, the most stable region of Iraq," he said.

On Wednesday, Turkey's parliament authorized the government to take military action against the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), a group labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. But the Pentagon press secretary says he does not expect Turkey to take any immediate action.

"The Turks are clearly frustrated," he added. "They're clearly angry. But I also do not think there is a great of appetite to take this next step. It would be an enormous step. It would have enormous implications, not just for us but for the Turks. And I don't think there is any rush to war on the part of the Turks."

Many analysts have come to a similar conclusion, noting that previous Turkish military incursions into Northern Iraq have had little impact on the insurgents, partly due to the very rugged terrain where they hide.

The Pentagon's Geoff Morrell says U.S. forces are also not planning any action against the Kurdish insurgents.

"I think we'd like to end all threats to everyone in Iraq, but there's only so much you can do at one time," he explained. "And we certainly have our hands full dealing with Al-Qaida, dealing with, sort of, extreme elements of Jesh al-Mahdi [the Mahdi militia], dealing with other terrorist elements and insurgents within Iraq."

Morrell says he has not seen any intelligence reports that suggest Turkey is preparing for an attack inside Iraq. And he says the United States is encouraging a diplomatic approach to solving the problem.

President Bush made similar comments earlier Wednesday. The president also referred to a Turkish troop presence in Northern Iraq. Morrell says several thousand Turkish troops have been in Iraq since the 1990s, well before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. He says those troops mostly stay on their base and gather what information they can about the guerrillas' activities. He says all their movements are coordinated with U.S. and Iraqi forces, and with the Kurdish regional government in Northern Iraq.