Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
08BAGHDAD594
2008-02-29 18:21:00
SECRET//NOFORN
Embassy Baghdad
Cable title:  

TURKISH ENVOYS AND AMBASSADOR DISCUSS GOI

Tags:  PREL PGOV TU IZ 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO1722
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #0594/01 0601821
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 291821Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5972
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 BAGHDAD 000594 

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/28/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV TU IZ
SUBJECT: TURKISH ENVOYS AND AMBASSADOR DISCUSS GOI
RELATIONS, PKK, ONGOING OPERATIONS

REF: A. ANKARA 376 AND PREVIOUS (SITREPS)

B. BAGHDAD 570 (MCNS)

Classified By: Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 BAGHDAD 000594

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/28/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV TU IZ
SUBJECT: TURKISH ENVOYS AND AMBASSADOR DISCUSS GOI
RELATIONS, PKK, ONGOING OPERATIONS

REF: A. ANKARA 376 AND PREVIOUS (SITREPS)

B. BAGHDAD 570 (MCNS)

Classified By: Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).


1. (S/NF) Summary: Turkish PM Advisor Ahmet Davutoglu
asserted to Ambassador that Turkish ground operations were
inevitable after the October kidnapping of Turkish soldiers
and refused to predict when the operation would end.
Ambassador pressed for operations to end before they upset
the fragile political balance in Iraq and urged frequent
public messaging that Turkish actions in the north are aimed
at the PKK only and are limited in scope and duration. Both
agreed that President Talabani's official invitation to visit
Ankara in the near-term is an important aspect in managing
both bilateral and internal Iraqi tensions, although
Ambassador noted that Talabani is unlikely to go so long as
there are Turkish troops on the ground in Iraq. Ambassador
urged that Talabani's delegation include Kurdistan Regional
Government (KRG) representatives. Davutoglu and GOT Iraq
Coordinator Murat Ozcelik cautioned that including someone
from the KRG would be very difficult but that a Kurdistan
Democratic Party (KDP) representative might be acceptable.
Davutoglu agreed with Ambassador that the solution to the PKK
problem lies in political and diplomatic actions and not just
military, but provided scant details on Turkish plans other
than the Talabani visit and increased bilateral engagement.
End Summary.


2. (C) Ambassador met February 27 with Turkish PM Advisor
Ahmet Davutoglu and GOT Iraq Coordinator Murat Ozcelik at the
start of the Turkish envoys' one-day visit to Baghdad.
Accompanying Ambassador were Political-Military
Minister-Counselor Marcie Ries, NSC Senior Director Brett
McGurk, and Senior Advisor David Pearce. Accompanying
Davutoglu and Ozcelik were PM Deputy U/S Hakan Fidan, Turkish
CDA Ahmet Yazal and several Turkish embassy officials. The
delegation's schedule included meetings with FM Zebari and VP
Hashimi, a lunch hosted by President Talabani and an
end-of-day briefing with MNF-I CG Petraeus and Ambassador

before departure.

Operations Should Come to a Close ASAP
--------------


3. (S) Ambassador expressed appreciation for the visit, which
he said would help keep relations steady and on track. The
meetings should provide a good sense on how Iraqi reactions
(to Turkish military operations) are shaped. Particularly
since just before the Turkish ground operations began (ref
a),Ambassador emphasized that he has been intensively
engaged with the Iraqi leadership, especially Kurdish
leaders, to ensure that events do not spiral out of control.
He said since the extremely tense first day of the ground
incursion on February 21, tensions have lessened but the
cumulative effect of ongoing operations continues to take a
toll. As operations continue, emotions in Iraq are rising.
For example, Ambassador noted, at the Ministerial Council on
National Security (MCNS) on February 24 (ref b),the Iraqi
leadership raised several exaggerated rumors about Turkish
activities, such as an intention by the GOT to introduce the
Turkish armed forces to the entire north. This underscores
the need to wrap up the kinetic operations as soon as
possible, the Ambassador pressed; the longer it goes on, the
higher the risk of something untoward occurring that
escalates the conflict and destabilizes Iraq.

Talabani Invite to Turkey; KRG Inclusion in Talks Vital
-------------- --------------


4. (S) Ambassador said he had reinforced with President
Talabani that his invitation to Ankara is important and he
should accept it, including with careful thought about how
best to organize the visit and contribute to bilateral
relations. However, Ambassador noted, the timing could be
problematic; we are not sure that Talabani can conduct a
visit while Turkish operations are ongoing. We are trying
hard to keep Talabani and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)
President Masood Barzani linked up and cooperating,
Ambassador stated. A split in the Kurdish ranks under this
stress would not be good for them, for Iraq, for the U.S. or
for Turkey. In that vein, Ambassador continued, direct GOT
engagement with the KRG is vitally important, particularly
over the longer-term. For that reason, Ambassador urged, it
is important that when Talabani goes to Turkey,
representative(s) from the KRG join his delegation. Under
the umbrella of a state visit, including the KRG could be
used as a beginning for some direct public discussion.


5. (S) In the context of improving Iraqi-Turkish-Kurdish
relations, Ambassador said it is time to look again at the

BAGHDAD 00000594 002 OF 004


Makhmour refugee camp issue and whether such progress as
Kurdish language rights in Turkey might lessen the reluctance
of the refugees to return to Turkey. Ambassador mentioned
that, among several issues on which the U.S. is pressing
President Barzani, the issue of the KRG asking the Turkish
special forces based in northern Iraq to leave will remain.
Ambassador reiterated the importance of using the Turkish
visit to lower the temperature and urged the envoys to
reiterate useful messages, i.e., that the operations are
solely against the PKK and not against Iraq or the Kurds and
that they will be limited in duration and scope and will end
as soon as possible.

We Understand Need for Dialogue
--------------


6. (S) Senior Advisor Davutoglu responded by thanking the
U.S. for its increased cooperation in fighting the PKK. He
said particularly after PM Erdogan met President Bush, the
coordination with the U.S. has been excellent and the GOT is
"very grateful." Davutoglu admitted that the success of any
military operation requires diplomatic and political
elements. He asserted that the GOT had been very patient
since the October kidnapping of its soldiers who were brought
to northern Iraq; Turkey could have retaliated immediately
but it would have caused problems between the GOT and GOI/KRG
and the GOT and USG. Instead, the GOT has upped the tempo of
its direct coordination with the GOI, Davutoglu noted,
including PM to PM talks as well as Davutoglu's discussions
with GOI spokesman Ali Dabbagh and Ozcelik's contacts with PM
Maliki's advisors. Prior to this increase, we also had
channels to the north (KRG),some of them open. A common
strategy against terror is in all of our interests, Davutoglu
said; this includes not only diplomatic and political
initiatives, but also military.

Cannot Predict When Operations Will End
--------------


7. (S) Davutoglu noted that the GOT instructed the Turkish
General Staff (TGS) that the sole target of military
operations is the PKK and that even under provocation,
Turkish forces should not fight the Peshmerga or the Iraqi
Security Forces. The targets and the scope of the operations
are clear, Davutoglu emphasized; Turkey, too, wants to bring
the soldiers home to their families as soon as possible. But
the timing of withdrawal will depend on when objectives are
achieved. Since the day ground operations began on February
21, Davutoglu said the GOT continues to make efforts to
engage with the GOI, USG and "the north." For example, on
the accusations that airstrikes destroyed key bridges,
Davutoglu asserted the bridges were primitive footpath
bridges used to supply terrorists and not bridges used by
civilians. He said the message "to the north" (i.e., Masood
Barzani) noted that there were no civilian casualties, no
operations in settled areas and no bad confrontations between
Turkish forces and the Peshmerga. The GOT asked that the KRG
and GOI not provoke the situation and offered to repair any
civilian bridge destroyed. Davutoglu claimed that after
these messages were passed, the statements from the north
were moderated.

Public Messages Are Important
--------------


8. (S) If Turkey's intention was to create problems for Iraq,
Davutoglu asserted, Turkey could have done so via numerous
means -- including economic sanctions or the closing of the
Habur Gate. Instead, Turkey established links with the
north. But the way ahead also depends on the attitude of the
Kurds and their public statements. Both countries need to
control "psychologies" and be aware of each country's public
reaction. "High emotion" displayed by the Kurdish leaders
may end up making it difficult for Turkey to end military
operations soon. Ali Dabbagh's statement on the eve of the
visit, Davutoglu said, caused extreme upset and made the GOT
believe the GOI wanted to sabotage the visit. Referring to a
U.S. request for more useful messaging by Turkey that
emphasized limited operations against the PKK (and not Iraq
or the Kurds) and made reference to non-military options,
Davutoglu said Turkey had responded positively, including via
PM Erdogan's televised remarks.

Kurds Are Difficult but We Want Talabani to Visit
-------------- --------------


9. (S) Davutoglu said that the PKK is also a threat to Iraqi
Kurds; the Kurds should work with Turkey against the PKK,
like in the 1990s. Kurdish rhetoric is a problem and has
caused missed opportunities in the past to get a GOT-KRG
dialogue going, such as when Masood Barzani's comments

BAGHDAD 00000594 003 OF 004


comparing Kirkuk to Diyarbakir last February derailed a
planned meeting between KRG PM Nechirvan Barzani and then-FM
Gul. The GOT needs to see a change in the KRG mentality,
Davutoglu continued, before Turkey can welcome a KRG
delegation. As for the Turkish Special Forces based in
northern Iraq since 1997, Davutoglu said their removal would
have to be in parallel with the PKK's elimination as they
serve a deterrent function.


10. (S) Davutoglu made clear that the GOT would like
President Talabani to visit as soon as possible, within days
or weeks but not months. President Gul invited him
personally and he accepted. The GOT is concerned about mixed
signals since the ground operations began regarding this
visit; Turkey cannot guarantee to have its troops out of Iraq
beforehand. If the PKK steps up attacks in Turkey as the
Kurdish new year approaches in March, we will be hard-pressed
to extend the invitation again. Such a trip, in fact, could
help end operations sooner, Davutoglu asserted.


11. (S) Ozcelik said that the GOT needs to know what Masood
Barzani is thinking and expressed concern about Masood's
pride getting in the way of moving ahead in the relationship.
Turkey has no intention of playing Talabani against Masood
Barzani. The GOT can work with KRG PM Nechirvan Barzani. If
President Talabani visited Turkey without the condition that
Turkish troops are out of Iraq, it will show that the Iraqi
President, a Kurd, is trying to put things on the right
track. The GOT understands, Ozcelik continued, that a future
solution lies in working with both Barzanis. Perhaps for the
Talabani visit, a Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)
representative could join the delegation but not an official
of the KRG. It is a delicate line we must straddle.

Iraqi Politic is Fragile
--------------


12. (S) Ambassador agreed that moving ahead requires careful
calculation but said he wanted to underscore the fragility of
the Iraqi political construct. It will take constant effort
by all of us to keep things in balance, he said. The issue
of public statements needs to be understood in the context of
Iraqi politics. When Iraqi spokesman Ali Dabbagh makes a
statement, it is in part to moderate Kurdish reaction against
the GOI because of political tensions. Ambassador repeated
that the longer the kinetic operations, even within the set
parameters, the more stress is put on both the delicate
political balance in Iraq and on key leadership relationships.

It is the KRG that is Problematic
--------------


13. (S) Political and diplomatic action is needed to
eliminate the PKK problem, Ambassador said. Talabani's visit
is an important vehicle for the two governments to discuss
how to work together, and the KRG and KDP are an essential
part of the final solution. Talabani is a moderate force for
Iraq. Ambassador said that for Masood Barzani and the KDP,
it is important to realize that they do not see the situation
the same way as Turkey. Ambassador explained that at the
core of their concerns lies the belief that the GOT has made
a fundamental decision that the KRG should not exist.


14. (S) Davutoglu complained again of the missed
opportunities in 2007, but expressed the belief that once the
Turkish public saw a visit by the Kurdish Iraqi President,
such demonstrated cooperation would "open new gates" with the
KDP and help with the Turkish public's ability to tolerate
relations with the KRG. He said there is a constitutional
question, and while it is unresolved, Iraqi Shia and Sunni
will not like it if we get too close to the KRG. Once the
constitutional process is resolved, we can talk to the KRG,
Davutoglu opined; in fact we can talk to the KDP and PUK now.
Ozcelik continued by noting that the GOT understands the KRG
is a part of Iraq and hopes the KRG understands that the GOT
and KRG have reconcilable differences on such issues as
territorial aims. Turkey is the most helpful neighbor to
Iraq, Ozcelik added. Ambassador said it is important that
the GOT find a way to move ahead now and use this opportunity
for a new start -- "leap over some small barriers that have
prevented dialogue." Ambassador asked Davutoglu to elaborate
on his constitutional point. Davutoglu explained that
constitutional review is ongoing and the Sunnis have concerns
about federalism, regions formation and disputed territories
(i.e., Article 140),asserting that "the Iraqi political map
is not finished." (Note: Ozcelik later privately asked
PolMil MC to disregard Davutoglu's comments on the
constitutional issue. End Note).

Comment
--------------

BAGHDAD 00000594 004 OF 004




15. (S/NF) Davutoglu's comments that the Turks will be in
Northern Iraq until the mission succeeds did not help matters
much here. In our view, the longer the operation continues,
the deeper the cleavages between the Prime Minister and KRG
leaders, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, and so
on, with attendant consequences for our agenda here. That
said, we understand the meeting between Talabani and
Davutoglu went quite well, with Talabani accepting the
invitation proferred, albeit keeping his options open about
when he will make the trip, as going while there are still
Turkish troops in Iraq would clearly be very badly received
by his constituents.
CROCKER