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Iraq: No plans to take on Kurdish rebels

  • Story Highlights
  • Iraqi army has no plan to deploy its soldiers near Turkish-Iraqi border
  • Senior general satisfied with efforts by Iraqi Kurdish regional authorities
  • Turkish Parliament expected to authorize incursion into Iraq
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Iraqi army has no plan to deploy its soldiers near the rugged Turkish-Iraqi border to take on the Kurdish rebels targeting Turkey, and Iraqi authorities are satisfied with the efforts by the Iraqi Kurdish regional authorities to deal with the militants there, a top Iraqi military official told CNN Wednesday.


Turkish military trucks carry tanks on a road in southeastern Turkey on October 10.

"It's a mountainous area, difficult terrain and our troops are not trained for that," said Lt. Gen. Nasier Abadi, Iraqi Armed Forces deputy chief of staff.

Iraqi officials have been taking all-out diplomatic efforts to keep Turkey from carrying out cross-border assaults against Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK rebels, in northern Iraq.

U.S. officials fear such a Turkish move would undermine the stability of the American-backed government in Baghdad and jeopardize the supply lines that support U.S. troops in Iraq.

In an agreement signed in late September, Iraq has agreed to crack down on the PKK, which the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist organization.

But Abadi said it is in the interest of the Kurdish Regional Government to deal with the Kurdish rebel problem because of its economic relationship with Turkey.

"They can't afford the PKK to spoil it," he said.

Abadi underscored the importance of cross-border trade, saying that the Kurdish region lost $1 million a day in trade when the Iraq-Iran border was closed during the recent Ramadan holiday.

Iran closed border points in the Kurdish region to protest an arrest of a man the U.S. military called a member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps - Quds Force, a point disputed by Iran.

Abadi added that the Turkish military in the past has conducted a series of hot-pursuit-style raids over the vast and mountainous border into northern Iraq in recent years and it didn't find a single Kurdish rebel.

He said most PKK rebels are believed to be in southern Turkey, Syria and Iran.

"They are very good at hiding; it's guerrilla warfare up there," Abadi said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has called for a series of steps to tackle the dispute, including the dispatching of top-level political and security delegation to Turkey.

Iraqi state TV said al-Maliki phoned his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Wednesday and reassured him that Iraq has banned PKK terror activities.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu News Agency reported that Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi said Turkey "should give a chance to the Iraqi government to prevent cross-border terrorist activities" against Turkish targets.

Al-Hashimi -- a top Iraqi Sunni Arab leader and one of Iraq's two vice presidents -- arrived in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Tuesday to meet with Erdogan and Turkish President Abdullah Gul.

Erdogan's government asked parliament on Monday to authorize approval for a military incursion, with a decision possible by Wednesday.

He said the parliamentary vote wouldn't necessarily immediate trigger military action and many analysts doubt that a full-scale invasion would be launched.

The United States has been attempting to use its influence to keep Turkey from launching an incursion but a U.S. domestic political dispute involving the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire around 90 years ago has enflamed passions in Turkey and presented challenges for American diplomacy.

Ties between the NATO allies are strained over a symbolic measure making its way through Congress that would declare the Ottoman-era killings of Armenians "genocide."

Two senior U.S. military officials told CNN that commanders in Europe have been told to be "prepared to execute" alternatives to using Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey if Turkey follows through on threats to restrict U.S. use of the base in retaliation for the resolution, which a House of Representatives committee approved last week.

Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday that Pentagon planners are looking at "a broad range of options" to keep food, fuel and ammunition flowing to U.S. troops in Iraq if Turkey pulls the plug on Incirlik.


"We're confident that we'll find ways to do that," Ham told reporters at the Pentagon. "There's likely to be some increased cost and some other implications for that, and obviously we'd prefer to maintain the access that we have."

The move is a preliminary step to ensure that alternative aircrews, planes, fuel and routes are lined up and that troops in Iraq will see minimal interruption in their supply lines, the senior officials told CNN. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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