U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker said Thursday that Iraq should disrupt supply lines and develop a “lookout list” of senior leaders for the Kurdish guerrillas who use the northern Iraqi mountains as a haven for attacks inside Turkey.
But Crocker stopped short of supporting Turkish demands that Iraq take military action against the guerrilla group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK, or extradite its leaders to Turkey. The Turkish government has repeatedly threatened to make incursions into Iraq to strike at the fighters.
Any Iraqi military expedition, Crocker said, would run into the geographic fact that the northern mountains, called the Qandeel range, are remote and inaccessible. “I don’t think it’s realistic to expect that the Iraqis are going to march up that mountain and take on the PKK and arrest their leaders,” Crocker said. “This is in the hard-to-do category.”
It was unclear whether the new American demands would be enough to keep Turkey from crossing the border.
The Iraqi government was also working furiously to avert an incursion, as a delegation of senior Iraqi officials traveled to Ankara for talks on Friday. Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, on Thursday urged Turkish authorities to accept steps that sounded similar to the ones being demanded by Crocker.
Zebari said in a telephone interview that the delegation to Ankara would offer “practical steps and measures to be taken by the Iraqi government to pacify, isolate and disrupt PKK activities.”
The delegation would not be authorized to discuss approving any Turkish military actions inside Iraq, said Zebari, who is himself a powerful Iraqi Kurdish politician. The Iraqi officials, he said, would offer to stop arms supplies and logistical assistance to the rebels.