It's by no means clear what, if any, effect the handover had on Turkish decision-making. But it may be that the Turkish general staff, which has been acutely concerned with terrorism against Turks by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), interpreted the move as a sign that the U.S. was scaling down its commitment in the Kurdish north of Iraq. At the very least, invading Turkish forces wouldn't face a U.S. military command charged with holding and defending the area.
Regardless, any move by the Turks into Iraqi Kurdistan severely complicates the U.S.'s position: a NATO ally is fighting the U.S.'s best friends in Iraq. On Sunday, Defense Secretary Gates was asked about a possible Turkish action against the Kurds:
Q: Mr. Secretary, there have been growing rumblings over the last couple of days about the possibility of a Turkish invasion in northern Iraq to go after the PKK. I'm wondering whether you see that as a real possibility, and if this were to happen, what would it mean to the overall effort to stabilize Iraq and to keep it intact?
SEC. GATES: Well, I think, first of all, the Turks have a genuine concern with Kurdish terrorism that takes place in Turkish -- on Turkish soil, and so it's -- one can understand their frustration and unhappiness over this. Several hundred Turks lose their lives each year, and we have been working with the Turks to try and help them get control of this problem on Turkish soil.
I think our view would be that if -- we would prefer that we continue to work this problem with them to try to safeguard Turkey and would hope that there would not be a unilateral military action across the border into Iraq.
Again, it's not clear what exactly is going on in northern Iraq, but any Turkish action after Gates's statement surely represents as a decision to flout the United States.