The discussions were going on amid reports that Turkish warplanes, artillery and tanks were pounding strategic locations in northern Iraq, especially in the Kandil Mountains, where major PKK camps are located. The MGK members analyzed possibilities regarding a military cross-border operation into Iraq during the six-hour-long meeting, which was chaired for the first time by President Abdullah Gül.
The MGK concluded with a decision to recommend that the government “first take necessary economic measures against those groups directly or indirectly supporting the separatist terrorist organization in the region.” Although not stated openly, the next step is expected to involve tougher measures, including a land operation. Turkey has deployed over 60,000 troops along its border with Iraqi and plans on increasing that number even more.
Economic measures will cause serious problems for Iraq’s relatively stable north, which is highly dependent on Turkish investment as the main engine of its economy. From food to energy, all vital supplies are obtained from Turkey. Turkish contractors are restructuring the north by constructing roads, hospitals, residential buildings, apartments and infrastructure.
Hayati Yazıcı, the deputy prime minister who oversees Customs, briefed MGK members about exports conducted through the Habur border crossing and Habur’s role in economic relations. While the impact of an economic embargo on Turkey’s foreign trade as well as possible tradeoffs was also emphasized, Turkey seems ready to waive the lucrative business with Iraq after recent PKK attacks. Deputy Prime Minister Nazım Erken will be responsible for short, medium and long-term planning for the economic embargo.
At the MGK meeting possible areas of embargo were identified and it was decided that no measures should be implemented with respect to health and medication despite the fact that 75 percent of medical products and medication are transported through the Habor border crossing.
Thus, Turkey’s embargo on Iraq will be limited to energy and food. Turkey may cut down the electrical power provided to northern Iraq and prevent the passage of fuel products. Moreover, Turkey may stop cement, iron and paper exports to Iraq, possibly leading to serious repercussions in the reconstruction of Iraq. Also, as a primary supplier, Turkey may opt for implementing measures concerning the foodstuffs supplied to the region.
Decision to be made by Cabinet
The MGK also decided that the Cabinet should determine the details of the embargo in the shortest time possible and made the embargo decision. The date of the next Cabinet meeting is currently not known as its original date coincides with the anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Republic. It reportedly may convene on Oct. 26 or Oct. 30, depending on the detailed work on economic measures to be conducted by Erken and Yazıcı.
Collective and comprehensive struggle
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan noted that their counterterrorism efforts would not be restricted to military measures and that the well-being of the innocent people in the region would not be jeopardized, saying that the phrase “collective and comprehensive” in the MGK’s statement had been inserted to emphasize this point. In this framework, teachers and physicians to be appointed by the education and health ministries in November will be exclusively assigned to posts in the eastern and southeastern regions with a view to improving the education and health services in the region. Furthermore, the budget for 2008 will be revised to provide increased funds to social development projects undertaken by local administrators. Accordingly, small businesses will be nurtured in an effort to compensate for the economic attractiveness of northern Iraq for the people in the region.
Erdoğan briefed the MGK members of his talks in the UK as well as on his visit to the US, scheduled for Nov. 5. Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt noted that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) will be on alert in the winter. Gendarmerie Commander Gen. Işık Koşaner briefed the MGK on information collected by intelligence units related to Massoud Barzani, whose peshmerga forces and ties were also discussed. Furthermore, it was decided that what should be done about eight Turkish soldiers kidnapped by the PKK militants should be discussed in a meeting among Gül, Erdoğan and Büyükanıt.