Hot Pursuit Across Internationally Recognized Borders
7 Jun 10 Increased
Violence in Turkish-Occupied Kurdistan,
Arutz Sheva, Avi Yellin
2 May 10 Israel Reportedly Training Kurdish Forces, Arutz Sheva, Avi Yellin
15/22 Apr 08 Dohuk meeting report, Q&A, Anton Keller answers some questions by Orhan Ketene
5 Apr 08 Washington says no change on PKK status, Today's Zaman
5 Apr 08 What an EU court’s ruling means in Brussels, in Ankara, Today's Zaman
5 Apr 08 PKK still on the list, says Lagendijk, Turkish Daily News
3 Apr 08 Judgment by the European Court regarding terrorism list, PKK asset freeze and Ocalan
24 Mar 08 Unwelcome Guests: The Turkish Military Bases in Northern Iraq, Terrorism Monitor, Gareth Jenkins
1 Mar 08 Adopted Guidelines, Mosul Vilayet Council (Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish)
2008 PKK positions in Northern Iraq
9 Nov 07 Mosul Vilayet: a Pathway Out of Mideastern Gridlocks, Today's Zaman, Anton Keller
6 Nov 07 Clouds Over Northern Iraq, Wall Street Journal, Norman Stone
5 Nov 07 Kurdistan's Hope for Talks, Washington Post, Nechirvan Barzani, comments
28 Oct 07 MOU on the Turkey-Iraq border zone (draft)
27. Okt 07 Die PKK fordert internationale Vermittlung, NZZ, iro
24 Oct 07 Who's fooling whom: U.S. Officials Upbraid Kurds on PKK, NYT, RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. et al.
24 Oct 07 Iran accuses US of backing Kurdish militants on its border, Sydney Morning Herald, Richard Oppel
24 Oct 07 AKP BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE, EDM, Gareth Jenkins
23 Oct 07 PKK Battlefield Tactic Changes Reflect Political Goals, Eurasia Daily Monitor, Gareth Jenkins
21 Oct 07 PKK threat: attack us and we blow up Iraqi oil pipeline and tanker trucks, al-Sharq al Awsat
15 May 92 Good Offices offer by the Mosul Vilayet Council
29 Mar 46 Turkish-Iraqi Treaty of Friendship and Neighborly Relations, Protocol 6
source: Washington Institute, 2008
Dohuk meeting report
Anton Keller answers some questions by Orhan Ketene
Dear Mr. Keller:
It has been a month and a half since we met in Istanbul. [www.solami.com/workshop.doc | .../iraqsplit.htm#guidelines]. After that you went to Duhok, I hope your trip was successful. Did you get fruitful results?
I haven't heard anything from our coordinator Mr. Riyaz Sarikehye about his contacts with tribal leaders for the June meeting in Amman.
How do you evaluate the situation in Mosul province? Is the Amman meeting agenda clear?
I appreciate your concerns - including as to my 7 day delay for explicitly and in detail responding to your query. I've sent you though some indirect answers in the form of copies of related recent correspondences of mine.
Now, to your questions. My meetings in Dohuk were
held under the umbrella of my long-time political and diplomatic comrade-in-arms,
Baghistani (and, reportedly, under the cloud of explicit displeasure
and disapproval of some current leaders concerning our Istanbul workshop
and my visit to what they and others seem to consider to be their US-sponsored
inherited fiefdom of "Southern Kurdistan"). As discussed in Istanbul, my
two main objectives were:
1. to appraise senior PKK leaders of our research results concerning Protocol 6 of the Turkish-Iraqi Treaty of Friendship and Neighborly Relations of 29 March 1946 (www.solami.com/bordertreaty.pdf) as a readily available instrument for bridgeing the current gaps between the public positions of Iraq and Turkey in particular regarding the PKK, the current PKK positions in Northern Iraq (.../const140.htm#PKK), and - in line with its long-standing offer (.../a31.htm#goodoffices) - under what circumstances the statutorily neutral Mosul Vilayet Council and the military forces eventually placed under its command and originating from its constuant communities could provide effective good offices to the parties to that still fully binding Treaty of 1946, with due consideration of both the currently evolving circumstances in the Turkish-Iraqi and the Iranian-Iraqi border area, and what are seen to be legitimate interests of the PKK and the people they represent (.../MOU.htm); and
2. to explore the sentiment among members and leaders of the local communities regarding the desirability, necessity and implications of holding the referendum initially called for December 2007 under art.140 of the current Iraqi constitution, and to appraise them of practical institutional alternative roads for resolving overlapping territorial claims in the Kirkuk and other areas of the Mosul Vilayet in particular (.../registrars.htm).
3. Upon my arrival in Dohuk, discussions held on the margins of the funeral of a key leader of the Mirani tribe - consisting of both Arabs and Kurds - brought to light the generally-held deep respect for a key leader of the Al-Tai tribe, Sultan Hashim Ahmed, Saddam's former Field Marshal and Defense Minister who, since some 8 months now, is on death row in Baghdad. Particularly in light of his eventual liberation's apparently unsurpassed impact towards a prompt, across-the-bord and lasting reconciliation of Iraqi society, we discussed available ways and means for effectively halting Sultan Ahmed's execution, and for eventually turning it into a presidential pardon tied into a wider reconciliation package. I thus decided on the spot to make this issue the third point of my main agenda. And I asked Daud to arrange for immediate consultations with Moktada al-Sadr. The idea being that it takes a principled and highly venerated leader if he is to get his community to essentially reverse its emotion-driven and thus strongly-held position - in this case the Shia's bad memories and sufferings at the hands of the former regime's henchmen and their corresponding call for meting out capital punishments. But not unlike Saddam, Moktada's political instincts, visions and leadership might, just might, uniquely enable him to initiate the politically rewarding drive to abolish the death sentence in all of Iraq even before the United States grew up to that level of civilization. A corresponding lawmaker initiative might then, politically, allow Talabani to issue an immediate staying order which would save notably the life and reconciliation benefit of Sultan Ahmed while Iraq's lawmakers will have all the time to haggle about the details of the corresponding abolition law. And if this results in Chemical Ali's life to be spared as well, so be it, the more so as that nasty piece of work would thus in fact be put into a much more lasting and harsher purgatory and social doghouse.
Unfortunately - and mostly due to the military operations under way - the PKK leaders trip to Dohuk took longer than I was able to stay, for I had imperative obligations in Geneva on March 12. I've given detailed instructions to Ibrahim Farhad Rahman, our long-time able translator who did his job as best as he could. Thus, many misunderstandings arose particularly in the mind of PKK's Heval Kemal (Murat Careilan), were not recognized and set aside on the spot, and may be removed only in eventual successive personal meetings whose outcome I do not wish to compromise with comments based on the incomplete and thus inconclusive reports at hand.
On the matter of the Kirkuk referendum, I found among my interlocuteurs a disconcerting if not alarming degree of uninformed, tired and even fatalistic laisser-faire attitude to prevail. True, I was in "Barzani country". But after so many years outside the effective control of Saddam's extended ears and eyes when the omni-present Saddam spies, moles and informers had either made the critical minds to shut up or risk to be treated as enemies of the public, Westerners like myself might have expected the essential characteristic of self-respecting thinking humanoids to have developed wider-spread and deeper roots. As indicated in the eye-opening report "Iraqi Kurdistan's Downward Spiral" by Kamal Said Qadir (Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2007, pp. 19-26), some attitudes and customs practized under previous regimes still dominate civil society. Nevertheless, my arguments in favor of alternative approaches to resolve the over-lapping territorial claims and the associated smoldering conflict over Kirkuk seemed to make encouraging dents and open up the minds in every one of my numerous meetings in and around Dohuk. I was greatly honored by the frank discussions I thus had not only with KDP officials but also with religious personalities and leaders notably of the Arab Al-Jubor, the Al-Tai and the Al-Shammer tribes.
On the matter of the efforts to abolish the death sentence in Iraq and to involve key Shias in that drive, I was also already away when Moktada al-Sadr's delegation arrived in Dohuk. Reportedly, the discussions went fairly well and led to direct contacts which proved helpful in tempering and eventually stopping the fight that broke out again at that time notably in Basra.
Finally, since my return to Geneva, in the absence of any sign to date from our friend Riyaz Sarikehye whom, at our March 1 executive meeting in Istanbul, we unanimously entrusted with the organization and coordination of our follow-up June meeting in Amman, I have concentrated on collecting ethnic Iraqi maps which would illustrate the kind of additional - avoidable - problems of over-lapping territorial claims, the involved communities and the decision-makers here and there would foreseeably have to face if and when the "Kirkuk" referendum would be pushed through, as provided for particularly in art.140 of Iraq's ill-advised and ill-considered current constitution (.../const140.htm; compare to: .../iraqdraftcon.pdf | www.aemam.net). And, as a matter of urgency, I invite you and all those concerned to look for and email me notably correspondng maps, be they of an official or non-official nature. For me, the Amman agenda is clear: I'm leaving there tomorrow for some exploratory talks. Beyond that, we'll see whether President Carter made any use of the material which, by way of a long-time comrade-in-arms on the Geneva NGO front, I entrusted to him for his discussions with Hamas representatives in Damascus (.../palestineinexile.htm).
+4122-7400362 +4179-6047707 firstname.lastname@example.org
"THE COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE (Seventh Chamber)
1. Annuls Council Decision 2002/460/EC of 17 June 2002 implementing Article 2(3) of Regulation (EC) No 2580/2001 on specific restrictive measures directed against certain persons and entities with a view to combating terrorism and repealing Decision 2002/334/EC in so far as it concerns the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK);
2. Orders the Council to bear, in addition to its own costs, all the costs incurred by Osman Ocalan on behalf of the PKK before the Court of First Instance and the Court of Justice;
3. Orders the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Commission of the European Communities to pay their own costs."
Unwelcome Guests: The Turkish Military Bases in Northern Iraq
By Gareth Jenkins
Following the Turkish military’s raid on northern Iraq in late February, the little-known and poorly understood presence of Turkish military bases in Kurdish Iraq has become a major issue in relations between the two countries. On February 26, the parliament of the Kurdistan region of Iraq approved a motion calling on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to demand the closure of all Turkish military bases in northern Iraq (Today’s Zaman, February 27). The decision came during the incursion into northern Iraq by Turkish troops against elements of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and demonstrated not only the KRG’s often ambivalent attitude toward the presence of the PKK on the territory under its nominal control, but also the suspicions of many Iraqi Kurds that Turkey is using its war against the PKK as a pretext to stifle their own dreams of independence.
Turkey’s long-term military presence in northern Iraq has generated surprisingly little international attention. In the months leading up to the Turkish incursion in February, there was considerable debate about the impact that Turkish ground troops crossing the border might have on what has long been the most stable region of Iraq and almost none on the several thousand Turkish ground troops who have been deployed in northern Iraq for over a decade.
Why Are Turkish Bases in Northern Iraq?
The PKK has been operating out of northern Iraq since it launched its insurgency in 1984. Initially, northern Iraq was primarily a forward staging area. Until 1998, the PKK’s high command and main training camps were located in Syria and the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. However, the mountains that straddle the Iraqi-Kurdish border were much more suitable as a platform for infiltrations into Turkey than the relatively flat and heavily mined terrain along Turkey’s border with Syria. The PKK also benefited from the defeat of Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Gulf War and the creation by the U.S.-led Alliance of a no-fly zone above the 36th parallel. Although the Allies’ intention was to create a safe haven for the Iraqi Kurds, the resultant power vacuum in northern Iraq also indirectly provided the PKK with immunity from the regime in Baghdad. At the time, the Iraqi Kurds themselves were divided between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by current KRG President Massoud Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), headed by current Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Neither leader had the ability to suppress the PKK. Indeed, each appeared more interested in using what military capabilities they did possess to pursue their long-running and frequently violent rivalry.
After the 1991 Gulf War, Turkey increasingly took matters into its own hands. It already had an agreement with the regime in Baghdad for cross-border hot pursuits of PKK militants. Starting in 1992, the Turkish military began to launch a series of large-scale incursions—sometimes with tens of thousands of troops—into northern Iraq to strike at PKK camps and bases there. It even established an informal alliance with Barzani, under which the KDP peshmerga militia served as guides for Turkish units in operations against the PKK, at times even fighting alongside Turkish troops. In return, Turkey gave the KDP the arms and supplies it captured in raids on the PKK’s camps and bases in northern Iraq.
Although most of the Turkish troops were withdrawn once the incursions had achieved their operational objectives, in practice Turkey retained a small, permanent, military presence in northern Iraq, consisting of intelligence officers and personnel responsible for liaison with the KDP. The situation was formalized when the United States finally succeeded in brokering an agreement between the KDP and the PUK. From 1997 onward, Turkish troops were formally deployed to northern Iraq as part of a ceasefire monitoring mechanism, whose mandate came up for renewal on an annual basis. Turkish regular forces were deployed in the northwest of the Kurdistan Region, in territory under the KDP’s control, while Turkish Special Forces established offices further south in the cities of Arbil and Sulaymaniyah (AFP, October 16, 2007).
Monitoring the PKK
Publicly, Turkish officials insist that the troops were invited into northern Iraq by the Kurds to contribute to regional peace and stability. Privately, they admit that their main motivation was to establish a formal presence in northern Iraq to monitor PKK activity in the region. Today at least, the Iraqi Kurds tend to regard the agreement as something that was imposed upon them and which, after more than a decade without serious clashes between the KDP and PUK, is simply no longer needed.
Initially, the Turkish deployment consisted of a brigade of around 5,000 men, mostly Special Forces and commandos backed by armor and artillery. In August 1999, following the capture and imprisonment of its founder Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK announced that it was abandoning the armed struggle. In the following years, the number of Turkish troops deployed in northern Iraq was gradually reduced and does not appear to have been substantially increased since the PKK returned to violence in June 2004.
No official figures are available but there are currently estimated to be around 2,000 Turkish troops still deployed in northern Iraq under the 1997 agreement. They are concentrated in a strip of land approximately 10 miles deep along the Turkish border in Dohuk province in the northwest of Iraqi Kurdistan. Most are located in a Turkish base at the former Iraqi military airfield at Bamerni, approximately 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of the Turkish-Iraqi border. There are smaller bases both to the west of Bamerni, close to the town of Batufa, and to the east in the al-Amadiyah district, close to the town of Qanimasi and on a hill which has been named Dilmen Tepe by the Turkish army. In addition to commandos, Special Forces and support units, the deployment in northern Iraq also includes a tank battalion, most of which is based at Bamerni. The troops are usually supplied by land from Turkey. Although it is not used for fixed wing aircraft, helicopters—including both transport helicopters and Cobra attack helicopters—fly in and out of Bamerni. In 2006, in an indication that it had no immediate intention of leaving Iraq, the Turkish military upgraded its facilities at Bamerni, including increasing its helicopter-handling capabilities.
The importance of the deployment in northern Iraq to Turkey’s war against the PKK is disputed. There is little doubt that the Turkish bases are useful as platforms for intelligence gathering and covert operations against the PKK in the surrounding countryside. However, under the terms of the agreement, the Turkish troops are deployed in a monitoring capacity only and are not supposed to leave their bases unless they have the agreement of the Iraqi Kurdish authorities. As a result, the Turkish troops deployed under the agreement have not been used to engage the PKK militarily in northern Iraq.
Effectiveness against PKK Infiltration
The number of PKK militants in the Kurdistan Region varies, falling in the summer and rising in the winter when the snow blocks the mountain passes on its infiltration routes and most of the organization’s fighting units withdraw from Turkey to wait out the winter in northern Iraq. There are currently estimated to be around 3,500 PKK militants in northern Iraq with perhaps another 1,000 in winter hideouts inside Turkey. However, the PKK’s main infiltration routes and most of its militants in Iraq are located to the east of the Turkish bases and separated from them by high mountains. Some routes are close to the border, such as in the Zap region, which was the target of the February incursion (see Terrorism Monitor, March 7), while others are closer to the organization’s headquarters and main training camps deep in the Qandil mountains, close to Iraq’s border with Iran and around 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of its border with Turkey.
The Turkish military presence in northern Iraq is resented by both the local populace and the Iraqi Kurdish authorities. Although it has repeatedly presented its war against the PKK as a struggle against terrorism, Turkey has traditionally been at least as concerned by the PKK’s ultimate goal, namely Kurdish separatism, as by the methods used to try to achieve it. It has long feared that the development of a Kurdish political entity could eventually culminate in full independence, which in turn could further fuel separatist sentiments amongst Turkey’s own Kurdish minority. Ankara has always insisted that it will never allow the Iraqi Kurds to establish an independent state. Many Iraqi Kurds suspect—probably with a degree of justification—that the main reason for Turkey retaining its bases in northern Iraq is to serve as a physical reminder of its military might and political determination.
Opposition of the Kurdistan Regional Government
The KRG has always insisted—probably with more bravado than conviction—that it will resist militarily any Turkish attempt to interfere in Iraqi Kurdistan’s internal affairs. Since 2004 peshmerga bases have been built next to the Turkish ones. On February 21, the first day of Turkey’s eight-day incursion, approximately 350 Turkish troops in armored vehicles and around 12 tanks tried to leave the Turkish base at Bamerni. The KRG had received no prior notification of the deployment. Peshmerga surrounded the base and refused to allow the Turkish forces to leave. After a confrontation lasting 90 minutes, the Turkish forces backed down and withdrew inside the base (Radikal, March 4). In retrospect, the attempted deployment appears to have been a diversionary tactic, designed to distract the PKK from the coming attack on the Zap region. Nevertheless, the 90-minute standoff at Bamerni underlined the potential for a much more serious confrontation.
In practice, there appears little the KRG can do to force Turkey to close down its bases in northern Iraq. The Turkish General Staff bluntly dismissed the resolution calling for the bases’ closure and vowed that it would remain in northern Iraq until the PKK had been eradicated (Vatan; NTV, March 5). In reality, the KRG appears to lack both the military muscle and the political authority to force the issue, not least because it is the central government in Baghdad, rather than the KRG, which is responsible for handling Iraq’s relations with other states. The central government is unlikely to want to risk a confrontation with Turkey by insisting that it close its bases.
On the other hand, neither the KRG nor the central government in Baghdad is likely to welcome a plan touted in the Turkish media following the completion of the Turkish military incursion into northern Iraq in February. According to a report in Today’s Zaman, the Turkish General Staff is contemplating the establishment of an additional 11 military bases on the Iraqi side of the Turkish-Iraqi border in order to block the PKK’s main infiltration routes into Turkey (Today’s Zaman, February 29). However, the sourcing for the report was unclear and, in an interview in the same article, Turkish government spokesman Cemil Cicek explicitly dismissed the suggestion that Turkey was planning to create a security zone in northern Iraq—something which would likely be opposed not only by the KRG and the Iraqi government but also by the United States.
Ultimately, although cross-border raids can harm the organization, Turkish hopes of eradicating the PKK presence in northern Iraq depend on persuading the KRG to cooperate. The KRG’s peshmerga may not be strong enough to destroy the PKK in its almost inaccessible bases in the mountains, but they can exert considerable pressure by staunching the flow of militants and supplies from the lowlands to PKK camps. In its relations with the KRG to date, Turkey has tended to opt for intimidation rather than engagement; not least because it fears that engaging on an official level with the KRG would be regarded as recognition of its political authority in the Kurdistan Region, which could in turn encourage the KRG to push for full independence. However, as demonstrated both by the confrontation with the peshmerga on February 21 and the February 26 call for their closure, the military bases in northern Iraq continue to fuel considerable resentment amongst Iraqi Kurds. Most believe that the bases are designed to serve as a deterrent to Iraqi Kurdish political aspirations rather than to monitor the KDP-PUK ceasefire or combat the PKK. Under such circumstances, KRG cooperation against the PKK is likely to be grudging at best, and may simply not happen at all.
Israel Reportedly Training Kurdish Forces
by Avi Yellin
According to recent media reports, Israeli military and intelligence agents are currently operating in Iraqi Kurdistan. Their primary role, according to reports, is to train elite Kurdish commandos in guerrilla warfare and anti-terror tactics. The Kurds - whose country is currently occupied by Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria - are reportedly again, after many years, accepting Israeli assistance in their struggle for independence.Fearing an al-Qaeda backlash, Kurdish leaders have denied cooperating with the Jewish state and have refused to even issue comments on the matter.
Kurdish commandos have also reportedly accompanied Israeli operatives across the Iraq-Iran border in recent years to install sensory devices meant to monitor suspected Iranian nuclear facilities.
Like Jews, Kurds are a non-Arab indigenous Middle Eastern people seeking independence in their ancestral homeland. Active Israeli support towards a free Kurdistan is seen as a natural and pragmatic policy by many in the region. “By aligning with the Kurds, Israel gains eyes and ears in Iran, Iraq and Syria,” a former Israeli intelligence officer told the New Yorker.
Hamas leaders are reportedly concerned by reports of Israel operating in Iraqi Kurdistan and have begun investigating the possibility of Israeli infiltration into their own ranks. According to the terror group, the recent assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai could have been planned and executed by Israeli agents operating beyond the Jewish state's borders.
Arutz Sheva 7 June 10
Violence in Turkish-Occupied Kurdistan
by Avi Yellin
Three Kurdish resistance fighters were killed over the weekend during clashes with Turkish military forces currently occupying Northern Kurdistan (often referred to as South East Turkey). Two of the rebels were killed near Uludere in Sirnak province, close to the border with Iraqi Kurdistan, when soldiers pursued a group of fighters from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) who had allegedly detonated explosives on a road as a military vehicle passed. The blast had failed to claim any casualties.
A third rebel was killed in Beytussebap, also in Sirnak, in a battle that erupted after a group of PKK guerrillas opened fire on a Turkish police checkpoint.
Last Friday, PKK spokesman Ahmed Denis announced that the rebels had ended a unilateral truce with Turkey - in place since April 2009 - "because of Turkey's continuing hostility towards the Kurdish people."
The statement came against a backdrop of rising violence between Turkish forces and the PKK. In one of the bloodiest attacks in recent months, the PKK fired rockets at a navy base last Monday, killing six soldiers and wounding seven. Since 1984, the PKK has been engaged in a war of liberation for the mainly Kurdish populated territories that make up the north of historic Kurdistan but currently exist as Turkeyâ€™s southeast. The war for Kurdish independence has since claimed roughly 45,000 lives, with Kurds making up the vast majority of casualties.
As a non-Arab Middle Eastern minority, the Kurds hold positive
attitudes towards Israel and generally view Zionism as a model to follow
in their quest for independence. The PKK has demanded an end to all discrimination
in Turkish laws against ethnic Kurds, hoping instead to be
granted full political freedoms. The party has also demanded Turkey's recognition of the Kurds' identity in its constitution and of their language as a native language along with Turkish in Kurdish populated areas. Most Kurds currently living under Turkish occupation openly sympathize with
the PKK despite it being considered a 'terrorist' organization by both Ankara and Washington.