Morning Report: June 7, 2007

A Turkish offensive sparks rumors and denials.

Turkey-Iraq-Kurdistan update. Debka is standing by its story of a major anti-PKK offensive by Turkish forces, but has backed down from its earlier claim that some 50,000 Turkish troops had entered Iraq. According to a press release, Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gül (and will somebody please tell Debka that the man's name is Gül, not Gulf) denied that any troops had crossed the border at all.
Turkish FM denies troops enter northern Iraq
Published: 06/06/2007 16:28 GMT

ANKARA - Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul denied Wednesday that Turkish troops had entered neighbouring northern Iraq in a cross-border operation to hunt down Kurdish terrorists.

"There is no incursion into any other country at the moment," Gul told reporters here.

He was responding to a question on media reports that several thousand Turkish troops had crossed into the Kurdish-held autonomous enclave to crack down on Kurdish terrorists based there.

Interestingly enough, a similar denial came from Baghdad:
Iraq says sees no sign of incursion by Turkish army
Wed Jun 6, 2007 12:40PM EDT

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said on Wednesday there was no evidence that Turkish troops had crossed the Iraqi border to launch a military operation against Turkish rebels hiding in the mountains.

"We have checked all along the border and there hasn't been any incursion or military operation inside Iraqi territory," he told Reuters.

"Iraq will not tolerate any military incursion. There is always room for dialogue," he said.

A Turkish military official said Turkish troops had conducted a "limited operation" into northern Iraq in recent days in pursuit of Kurdish rebels.

"This cannot be called a cross-border operation, it is a limited operation," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Here's what Debka is saying about the Turkey/Iraq situation now:
June 7, 2007, 3:59 PM (GMT+02:00) - Turkey imposes three-month martial law on its border region with Iraq, closes region’s airspace to civilian flights, DEBKAfile’s military sources report.

The announcement appeared Thursday, June 7, on the Turkish General Command’s Web site and mentioned three zones Siirt, Sirnak, where Turkish forces fighting Kurdish PKK rebels are concentrated, and Hakkari.

It followed the outbreak of fierce battles between Turkish army and Kurdish PKK rebels on both sides of Turkish-Iraqi border. A Turkish Black Hawk shot down over Iraq and several tanks hit. Heavy casualties are reported on both sides.

The PKK Kurdish Workers Party turns out to have been ready for the major Turkish operation, well-armed with anti-tank and shoulder-borne missiles for shooting down Turkish warplanes and helicopters. Despite Ankara’s blackout on the scale of operation against the Kurdish rebels on both sides of the border and the scope of the Turkish incursion of Iraq, DEBKAfile’s military sources report the situation as of Thursday, June 7:

PKK bands, who stole earlier into southeastern Turkey from Iraq and locally, are hitting Turkish concentrations behind the lines and impeding their thrust into Iraqi Kurdistan to destroy rebel hideouts. The Turkish army is therefore fighting on two fronts: in the southeastern Turkish Gabar, Cudi and Bakok mountains and River Cehennem, as well as in northern Iraq.

DEBKAfile’s military sources reported Wednesday that the several thousand troops which entered N. Iraq were only the first wave of the Turkish invasion, with more to come. US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the US ambassador to Ankara had met with the Turkish General Staff, which confirmed that the initial reports of the invasion were not accurate [duh - aa]. Later reports spoke of a “cross-border” raid.

Our military sources estimate that some 15,000 rebel Kurdish Workers Party, PKK, are holed up in Iraqi Kurdistan. To destroy their bases would require many more than the few thousand Turkish troops and longer than a cross-border raid admitted by Ankara – especially if the incursion sparked Iraqi Kurdish resistance as has been threatened. ...

Full post at the link. That's absolutely all I have on this at the moment, so now you know as much as I do. I'll post anything else that comes up.

Commentary. My unscientific guess is that there was a cross-border attack, and the "several thousand troops" figure is closer to the truth. There is probably a lot of backstage poltics going on here; the Kurds are not a political monolith, and Kurds on the Iraqi side of the border may have different interests from those on the Turkish side - with all due respect to the ideal of a unified Kurdistan. I'm hoping Michael Totten will post something on this soon. Right now he's resting up from our road trip with Judith Weiss yesterday.