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Why Turkey's Army Will Stay Home

Despite the Turkish parliament's authorization of cross-border military strikes in northern Iraq, a full-scale invasion is highly unlikely. Turkish Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is well aware that the only winner would be the militant Kurdish separatists that Turkey is trying to defeat.

Just when the smoke from Turkey’s domestic political conflicts of the past year had begun to clear, another deadly attack by Kurdish separatists on Turkish soldiers has the government threatening military attacks inside northern Iraq. That prospect raises risks for Turkey, Iraq, and the United States. But there are reasons to doubt that the situation is as dangerous as recent headlines suggest.

Turkey accuses Iraqi Kurds of harboring between 3,000 and 3,500 of Turkey’s most active Kurdish militants – the PKK separatist guerillas who are blamed for the deaths of 80 Turkish soldiers so far this year. The trouble reached the boiling point on October 7, when Kurdish fighters killed 13 Turkish soldiers near Turkey’s border with Iraq.

The Turkish public has demanded action, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has responded. On October 17, despite pleas for patience and restraint from Iraq and the US, Turkish lawmakers voted 507-19 to authorize Erdogan to order cross-border military strikes into Iraq at any time over the next year.

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