Turkish Planes Bomb Northern Iraq for Second Consecutive Day

By Joshua Partlow and Dlovan Brwari
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, December 24, 2007

BAGHDAD, Dec. 23 -- Turkish warplanes bombarded areas of northern Iraq for the second straight day Sunday, according to an Iraqi Kurdish official, as part of Turkey's ongoing campaign to combat Kurdish guerrillas living in the mountainous border region.

Turkey has bombed Iraqi territory several times this month and on at least one occasion sent several hundred troops across the border to pursue members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has carried out attacks in Turkey.

The bombing Sunday lasted about an hour but caused no casualties because "all the villages in the area were evacuated," said Jabbar Yawir, a spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government's security force, or pesh merga.

The Kurdish government's "attitude is clear: It condemned the bombing since the first day," Yawir said. "All the areas in the region are part of the Iraqi lands, and the government should protect them."

Turkey did not issue a statement about the attack reported Sunday, but the Web site of the general chief of staff said after bombings Saturday, "It is obvious that hundreds of terrorists were rendered ineffective."

PKK guerrillas live in a rural, isolated part of Iraq amid farmers and livestock herders. The U.S. military has given Turkish officials access to intelligence and imagery that has helped them choose targets to bomb, The Washington Post reported last week. Both the United States and Turkey have labeled the PKK a terrorist organization.

"We all have a pretty substantial interest in the stability of Iraq, and I think none of us want to see operations pursued in a manner that can threaten basic stability inside Iraq," the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker, said Sunday during a roundtable discussion with reporters in Baghdad.

Crocker added that the United States, Turkey and Iraq shared the goal of bringing "an end to the capacity of the PKK to operate against Turkey from Iraq."

Crocker also discussed the importance of Iran's relationship with Iraq in the coming year. He said there had been a clear decrease in Shiite militia violence, in mortar and rocket attacks, and in the use of sophisticated roadside bombs that U.S. officials say they believe are made in Iran.

Because of the way the Iranian state is structured and operates, Crocker said, he assumed decisions about Iran's influence in Iraq would be made at the "very senior level."

"It's just, what lies behind a decision to decrease?" he asked. "Does it mean Iran is now fully committed to a stable, secure, democratic Iraq, or are there other considerations in play that we may not be able to see?"

Crocker said some Iraqi officials have told him that "there has been a strategic reassessment in Iran that is now manifesting itself in reduced levels of violence." But others in Iraq, he said, "are not so sure."

U.S. officials are negotiating, through Iraqi intermediaries, an agenda and dates for a new round of talks with Iran.

Correspondent Ellen Knickmeyer in Cairo contributed to this report.

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