The Iraqi minister caught between the Turks and the Kurds discusses rising regional tensions—and the unexpected Syrian reaction—in the wake of a cross-border PKK raid.
While the last thing Iraq needs right now is a major crisis with one of its neighbors, one may be unavoidable. After a cross-border raid by guerrillas from the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) left 12 Turkish soldiers dead and eight missing on Sunday, dozens of Turkish military vehicles headed toward the Iraq border. Meanwhile, Iraqi president Jalal Talabani announced that he expected the PKK rebels to announce a unilateral ceasefire later Monday. If Turkey does indeed carry out its threats to target Kurdish insurgents hiding in Iraq, the man who will have to deal with the fallout is Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, himself a Kurd, who is urging restraint on all sides. How bad is the situation? Zebari says dealing with the crisis "has been the most difficult job in the world." He met with NEWSWEEK's Babak Dehghanpisheh at the ministry of foreign affairs in Baghdad. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: Do you think Turkey will invade Iraq?
Hoshyar Zebari: I personally don't believe [the Turks] will do anything before this ministerial meeting in Istanbul on the 2nd and 3rd of November. This is a big event for them. This is all of Iraq's neighbors, the P5 foreign ministers [the U.N. Security Council's five permanent members], the G8, the U.N., the EU, everybody. I personally don't think anything will happen until then. After that, [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan is visiting Washington. I don't think he wants to poison his visit by ordering Turkish troops to invade another country. So I think there's a lot of tension. But hopefully by then the weather conditions and Mother Nature also …