As the Turkish military continued its aggressive saber-rattling along the border with Iraq this week, the US finds itself in a tough spot. The Turks want a green light to go after Kurdish separatist guerrillas hiding in northern Iraq; the Kurds want protection. “Now the U.S. has to choose,” a Turkish official tells the New York Times, “Turkish people or Kurdish people.”
The choice is particularly unpalatable: The Kurds are America's most consistent allies in Iraq, and the region is the most stable in a country awash with violence. But Turkey allows the US to use a strategically important airbase. The conflict is inflamed by stepped-up attacks from militants operating near the border: 30 Turkish soldiers have been killed in the last two months.