|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
The US is scrambling to head off a "disastrous" Turkish military intervention in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq that threatens to derail the Baghdad security surge and open up a third front in the battle to save Iraq from disintegration.
Senior Bush administration officials have assured Turkey in recent days that US forces will increase efforts to root out Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK) guerrillas enjoying safe haven in the Qandil mountains, on the Iraq-Iran-Turkey border.
But Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister, MPs, military chiefs and diplomats say up to 3,800 PKK fighters are preparing for attacks in south-east Turkey - and Turkey is ready to hit back if the Americans fail to act. "We will do what we have to do, we will do what is necessary. Nothing is ruled out," Mr Gul said. "I have said to the Americans many times: suppose there is a terrorist organisation in Mexico attacking America. What would you do?... We are hopeful. We have high expectations. But we cannot just wait forever."
Turkish sources said "hot pursuit" special forces operations in Khaftanin and Qanimasi, northern Iraq, were already under way. Murat Karayilan, a PKK leader, said this week that a "mad war" was in prospect unless Ankara backed off.
Fighting between security forces and Kurdish fighters seeking autonomy or independence for Kurdish-dominated areas of south-east Turkey has claimed 37,000 lives since 1984. The last big Turkish operation occurred 10 years ago, when 40,000 troops pushed deep into Iraq. But intervention in the coming weeks would be the first since the US took control of Iraq in 2003 and would risk direct confrontation between Turkish troops and Iraqi Kurdish forces and their US allies.
The US is already fighting Sunni insurgents and Shia militias. Analysts say a surge in violence in northern Iraq, previously the most stable region, could capsize the entire US plan. But pressure on the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is also growing as a result of forthcoming elections. Military intervention was narrowly avoided last summer when he said that "patience was at an end" over US prevarication. Now conservatives and nationalists are again accusing him of not standing up to Washington.
"If they are killing our soldiers ... and if public pressure on the government increases, of course we will have to intervene," said Ali Riza Alaboyun, an MP for Mr Erdogan's Justice and Development party. "It is the legal right of any country to protect its people and its borders."
US support for Iranian Kurds opposed to the Tehran government is adding to the agitation. "The US is trying to undermine the Iran regime, using the Kurds like it is using the MEK [the anti-Tehran People's Mujahideen]," said Dr Logoglu. "Once you begin to differentiate between 'good' and 'bad' terrorist organisations, then you lose the war on terror." But he warned that military intervention might be ineffective and could be "disastrous" in destabilising the region. A recent national security council assessment also suggested that senior Turkish commanders were cautious about the prospects of success.