ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkey said yesterday that Israel's action in Lebanon to stop Hezbollah attacks meant it should be allowed to take similar steps against Kurdish guerrillas operating from northern Iraq against its forces.
Despite strong opposition from America, its military is now drawing up plans for either an air or ground assault. "Whatever step needs to be taken will be taken," the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said.
Fifteen Turkish soldiers, police, and security guards have been killed in the southeast of the country in the last week in clashes with fighters from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
It has long been a concern in Turkey that the growth of Kurdish nationalism in northern Iraq, where the country's instability has permitted a Kurdish semiautonomous state to assume near independence, would inflame Kurdish radicals inside Turkey's borders.
Already this year has seen at least 87 PKK rebels and 51 members of the Turkish security forces killed. A similar rise in attacks by Kurdish armed groups targeting Iran's Kurdish regions resulted in Iranian troops crossing the border earlier this year to wipe out guerrilla bases in northern Iraq.
So far American concern that any armed intervention by Turkey would only destabilize Iraq's north, at present by far the most peaceful part of the country, has prevented similar action being conducted by Turkey, a military ally as a member of NATO.
There would also be strong opposition to an attack from within the European Union, which Turkey hopes to join. The European Union has encouraged the government in Ankara to be as inclusive as possible toward its Kurdish minority as an element of its preparation for talks on E.U. entry.
Any military incursion into Iraq would come at a time when Turkey's prospective accession to the European Union is under particular scrutiny.
But Israel's attacks in Lebanon have led to new demands by the Turkish government that it be allowed to follow suit if American and Iraqi forces do not act quickly against the Kurdish guerrillas, who are believed to be based in northern Iraq's rugged Qandil mountains.
The intervention plans are reported to range from limited artillery barrage and airstrikes to attacks by commando forces.