Kurdish War: You Go First


May 15, 2012: The Turkish government and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) are once again engaged in a political drama that ought to be titled "You Go First". Last month the government indicated that it is interested in a ceasefire and suggested there is a possibility it will end military operations against the PKK. However, the PKK has to lay down its arms-- first. Offering to end military operations comes close to meeting a key PKK demand. The PKK, on the other hand, says the government has to end military operations before it disarms. So the Kurdish War continues, right? The answer is yes, but. The government’s ceasefire language is part of its diplomatic waltz with Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). For several years the KRG has tried to get the PKK to enter serious, decisive negotiations with the Turkish government but has failed. Now Turkey sees the KRG as a responsible trading partner and potential political partner. The government already treats the pro-Kurd Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) as the legitimate political representative of Turkish Kurd interests. The government is triangulating, working with the KRG and BDP but isolating the PKK. The idea is that sometime in the future Turkish Kurds will see that the BDP, through Turkey’s democratic political process, is achieving enough of the Kurds’ cultural and economic goals to warrant the end of financial, political, and moral support for the PKK by the vast majority of Turkish Kurds. Meanwhile, the Iraqi KRG will keep telling the PKK to quit fighting. Economics plays a big role in the evolving Turkey-KRG relationship. The KRG relies on Turkey for business capital and trade. Iraqi oil from fields in Kurdistan could provide Turkey with relatively low-cost crude. (Austin Bay)

May 9, 2012: Turkish security personnel have arrested 28 people in an investigation of the Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK). The government contends that the KCK is the urban wing of the PKK. The KCK organizes violent demonstrations and helps finance the PKK.

May 6, 2012: A Syrian Kurdish politician claimed that the PKK has 2,000 fighters in Syria. The Syrian-wing of the PKK reportedly has a major training base in an area called Mount Kurd, which is also known as Aleppo Mountain.

May 4, 2012: Three Turkish soldiers died in an attack by PKK fighters in Tunceli province (eastern Turkey).

April 30, 2012: Turkish gendarmes arrested four PKK rebels in Sanliurfa province (southeastern Turkey, Syrian border). The government indicated that the four PKK fighters had received terrorist bomb training in PKK camps in Syria. This led to speculation that the Syrian government of dictator Bashir al-Assad was using PKK fighters to attack Turkey. Rash statements made by Syrian members of the PKK, in 2011, and earlier this year, explicitly said that the PKK would launch attacks in Turkey if Turkey intervened militarily in Syria.

April 26, 2012: The Turkish government asserted that the PKK’s biggest source of financing is a tax imposed on material smuggled into Turkey from Iraq and Iran. The smuggled material includes illegal narcotics and petroleum products.

Six PKK fighters were slain in a series of firefights in Bingol province (southeastern Turkey). One PKK rebel was captured. Two Turkish soldiers died in the battles. The Turkish military indicated that the number of armed clashes with the PKK is increasing because the weather is warmer.

April 23, 2012: American media have reported that the president of Iraq’s KRG, Massud Barzani, may be pursuing a deal with Turkey in exchange for Turkish support for increased KRG autonomy from Iraq. The KRG would provide Turkey with all the oil it needs. This story has appeared before, but the Iraqi national government’s decision to remain neutral regarding Syria’s civil war has fueled new speculation that Turkey’s relationship with the Iraqi government will face new strains.

April 21, 2012: One Turkish soldier was killed when he stepped on a land mine near the town of Uludere (Sirnak province).

April 20, 2012: KRG President Massoud Barzani has held a meeting in Turkey with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo and other senior officials. The meetings followed a statement by the Turkish government that it will cease all military operations against the PKK when the PKK lays down its weapons. Before he left Turkey Barzani said that the PKK should end its armed struggle with the Turkish government or face terrible consequences.

April 19, 2012: A group of PKK political supporters threw eggs and stones at the Turkish embassy in Athens, Greece and police arrested 16 demonstrators.

April 18, 2012: Turkish security personnel (this usually means gendarmes or national police special operations units) arrested 21 people in Hakkari province. The counter-insurgent sweep took place near the town of Cukurca. The government claimed that the 21 people detained are suspected of belonging to the PKK. Several of the arrested may have helped the PKK conduct its attack of October 19, 2011, on a border post near Cukurca which left 24 soldiers dead.

April 15, 2012: A gendarme unit killed two PKK terrorists in what was described as a PKK hideout. One of the terrorists was identified as the senior commander of PKK operations in the Black Sea region. The gendarme operation took place in Amasya province (north central Turkey, not far from the Black Sea) after two Turkish soldiers were slain in the town of nearby Çigdemlik on April 11.

April 13, 2012: Turkish security forces killed two PKK fighters in a battle near the town of Nusaybin (Mardin province, southeastern Turkey).

April 12, 2012: Turkish Army units battled PKK militants in a series of firefights near the town of Uludere (Sirnak province, Iraqi border area). Two Turkish soldiers died in the firefights and three soldiers were wounded. The army reported that it had heli-lifted reinforcing infantry units into the area after the firefights.

April 9, 2012: The Syrian wing of the PKK continues to make pro-Assad regime statements. Meanwhile, several Syrian Kurdish groups say that while they favor the rebellion (and do not support the PKK) they do not believe Syria’s rebels will defeat the government. These Syrian Kurdish groups are demanding that the rebel Syrian National Council (rebel political umbrella organization) support cultural and political rights for Kurds. So far the SNC has not.

April 7, 2012: The Turkish government reported that senior Syrian PKK leader Fehman Hussein has returned to Iraq after getting medical attention in Syria. Hussein was wounded in a battle inside Turkey earlier this year.

April 6, 2012: The U.S. government has asked Iraqi KRG president Massud Barzani to improve relations with the Iraqi national government in Baghdad. Barzani visited the U.S. and spoke with the American vice-president.



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