Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hard To Please

The Turkey-PKK crisis has cooled down quite a bit since last it made front page news, mainly because President Bush and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan seemed to have found the ideal solution: the US would help Turkey target pinpoint strikes on PKK bases in Iraq's Kandil Mountains by providing actionable intelligence, the Iraqi Kurds would isolate the PKK from their supply and support base within Iraqi Kurdistan, and everybody would act like everything was hunky dory.

Only trouble is, two days ago, State Department spokesman Chase Beamer complained that the Kurdistan Regional Government wasn't doing enough to rein in the PKK, and today Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan made the same claim. Which is hard to understand in light of this (lengthy) excerpt from the Beamer article:

Under diplomatic pressure from both Ankara and Washington, the regional Kurdish administration in Iraq has started announcing new measures against the PKK almost every day. Following the Turkish military's operations over the weekend, the largely autonomous Kurdish region's peshmerga security forces positioned reinforcement troops near the border in order to prevent PKK infiltrations into Turkish territory. Heavy armament, cannons and armored combat units have also been sent to the area near the border, the Cihan news agency reported on Monday from Qanimasi, northern Iraq.

Peshmerga forces have been on constant guard particularly near the Kandil Mountains, which is a strategic settlement area for the PKK terrorists as well as the northern Iraqi cities of Zakho, Begova, Qanimasi, Amedi, Batufa, Bamerni and Choman, Cihan reported. Only villagers living in nearby villages are allowed to cross into the area after being searched thoroughly by the peshmerga forces deployed there, peshmerga officials said. Small-scale operations are also carried out to curb PKK movements.

The measures, coupled with increased security on the Turkish side of the border, appear to have confined the PKK to the mountainous region, according to Cihan. Over the weekend, an Iraqi-Kurdish official said the PKK, unhappy with the Iraqi Kurdish administration's recent measures to curb its supplies, is a threat to the Iraqi Kurds.

"The PKK is trying to destroy us," said Fazil Mirani, secretary-general of Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). "We have fought for 50 years and secured some achievements. We have no intention of giving them up because of the PKK."

For what it's worth, Barzani is the hotheaded President of the KRG who earlier this year threatened to intervene in Turkey's internal affairs should Turkey interfere in the Kirkuk referendum. So the fact that the Secretary General of his political formation is basically cutting the line on the PKK is pretty significant. And the deployment of Peshmerga units to the border not to repel the Turks but to contain the PKK is a 180° turnaround from even a month ago. I'm not sure just what the folks in Ankara were hoping for, but they do seem to be a bit demanding on this one.

[And if you're thinking that the main reason I wrote this post was to put the names "Chase Beamer" and "Ali Babacan" in the same sentence, you wouldn't be all wrong.]

Posted by Judah in:  Iraq   Turkey   

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