US considering air strikes on Kurdish rebels in Iraq

The United States is considering air strikes against Kurdish PKK rebels operating in northern Iraq in an attempt to head off a Turkish incursion, the Chicago Tribune reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed government officials.

In a Monday telephone conversation President George Bush told Turkish President Abdullah Gul that US officials were seriously looking into options beyond diplomacy to deal with attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Tribune reported, citing an official familiar with the conversation.

Cruise missile launches against PKK targets have been discussed, but air strikes using manned aircraft was an easier option, the newspaper said.

“In the past, there has been reluctance to engage in direct US military action against the PKK,” the official told the paper.

“But the red line was always, if the Turks were going to come over the border, it could be so destabilising that it might be less risky for us to do something ourselves.

“Now the Turks are at the end of their rope, and our risk calculus is changing,” the official told the Tribune.

The PKK—which Washington considers a terrorist group—said it had captured eight Turkish soldiers after an ambush on Sunday on a military unit near the village of Daglica on the Iraqi border, which left 12 troops dead.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to launch a military drive into northern Iraq unless Baghdad clamps down on the rebels and turns over the PKK leaders it accuses of masterminding cross-border attacks. - AFP

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