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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: If Turkey Invades

Council on Foreign Relations

October 22, 2007
Author: Lee Hudson Teslik

Turkey removed a major legislative hurdle blocking an invasion into northern Iraq with an October 18 parliamentary vote authorizing raids (Turkish Daily News). Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cautioned that the vote would not necessarily translate to an invasion, but analysts did not seem too reassured, particularly after an ambush (BBC) of Turkish troops by Kurdish separatists incited crisis talks in Ankara on October 21. While U.S. and Iraqi officials alike warn Turkey not to invade, CFR’s Steven A. Cook says in a podcast that a controversial vote by a U.S. congressional panel, deeming the slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in World War I a “genocide,” may have given Turkey the political catalyst needed to launch an invasion. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice responded to the ambush by asking Erdogan to hold off for a few days before launching any ground attacks, and the New York Times reports Turkish officials agreed to the request. But the pause did not quell the drumbeat of “what ifs,” and analysts focused their attentions on what the fallout might be if Turkey follows through with cross-border raids.

Most experts say the after-effects of an invasion would depend largely on the scale of the attack and how it is carried out. Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has indicated he prefers limited air attacks (Gulf Daily News) on Kurdish targets to full-on land raids. Iraqi and U.S. leaders say a Turkish ground attack would work to destabilize Iraq’s north, currently one of the less volatile regions in the country. In a recent interview with, the Kurdish head of foreign affairs in Iraq expresses hope the issue can be solved politically..

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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