October 23, 2007

Will The US Attack The PKK?

The US has successfully held off Turkey from invading northern Iraq to pursue the PKK terrorists who have launched cross-border attacks. Despite an overwhelming vote for military action by the Turkish parliament, the Turks have begun talks with Baghdad to coordinate political and economic pressure to bring an end to the terrorist actions in southern Turkey. However, the Turks also believe that the US is about to bring its own military action against the Iraqi Kurds, in coordination with the Turks:

Turkey reassured Iraq on Tuesday that it wants a diplomatic solution to the problem of Kurdish rebel rear-bases but rejected a conditional ceasefire offer made by the guerrillas.

"Politics, dialogue, diplomacy, culture and economy are the measures to deal with this crisis," Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told a joint news conference in Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari.

Obviously, the continuing diplomatic efforts between Ankara and Baghdad sound a note of hope. The Iraqi foreign minister pledged cooperation with the Turks on ending the terrorist activity that has the two nations on the brink of war. However, Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan mentioned a meeting he had with Condoleezza Rice, and that he believed she saw the need for direct action against the PKK:

Erdogan, who was in London for talks with his British counterpart Gordon Brown on Tuesday, said he had discussed with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the possibility of joint action against the rebels.

"We may conduct a joint operation with the United States against the PKK in northern Iraq," Erodgan told the mass-selling Turkish daily Hurriyet on his flight into London.

Erdogan said he received the signal that Washington might become involved during a telephone conversation with Rice on Sunday.

"She was worried. I saw she was in favour of a joint operation," he said. "She asked for a few days' time and said she would come back to us."

That puts us in a precarious position. We have built a strong relationship with the Kurds since the Gulf War in 1991, primarily by providing military cover against Saddam Hussein. That cover allowed them to build a strong economy and even a budding tourist industry, and solidified our friendship and our biggest success story there. Launching military attacks against the PKK threatens to diminish our strength in the region and puts us into a centuries-old conflict.

We probably have no choice. Under our own doctrines, the Turks have every right to cross the border and invade Iraq as long as the PKK continues its activities from Iraqi territory. It would also provide a pretext for Iranian and Syrian military action, and could start a regional war if the PKK aren't stopped. The security of the Iraqi nation has to be the highest priority, and a trilateral invasion would create an untenable situation for the central government and for our own forces.

If the PKK won't shut itself down, we can expect to hear of limited military actions against them by joint American/Iraqi forces soon. We have to demonstrate our commitment to the security of our NATO ally as well as to Iraq.


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Comments (15)

Posted by Andrew X | October 23, 2007 9:05 AM

No choice. And if the Kurds don't get that they have to stomp, HARD, on 'nads of any Kurds inclined to launch terror attacks inside Turkey, or support same, then, they (the Iraqi Kurds) are not worthy of our support.

They DAMN sure owe us that kind of deference. If they can get ten years of some element of regional autonomy, which they have now, and economic growth etc, I suppose Iraqi Kurds vs. Turkey will be their own issue, and they can do whatever, although terrorism is always a disgrace.

But right now, they step on these guys going into Turkey, and I mean big time, or they'll rue the day, and rightly so.

Posted by TomB | October 23, 2007 9:35 AM

Large part of the land, where Kurds are in majority lays in Turkey. Some Kurds probably consider it their heartland. I don't know if majority of Kurds in Turkey want an independent country, but right now we are putting ourselves in an unpleasant situation by taking sides in one of many unsolved problems of the Middle East, similar to the East Germany – West Germany split of the past. Maybe Kurds deserve their own country, even if right now we would like to have peace in this area? The split worked quite well in case of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, or Soviet Union.

Posted by unclesmrgol | October 23, 2007 10:06 AM

Since the PKK is not in power in Iraq, and competes with the Kurds who are in power, they need to be restrained or destroyed.

That the leader of the Kurds in Iraq have given the PKK free reign in the north of Kurdistan is a problem which needs to be addressed. The Peshmerga need to be on the side of the Turks, not against them, and their leaders need to understand that the stability of what they control is in question otherwise.

The Turks have a right to defend themselves, and to assert their sovreignty over their entire country. If sabre rattling gets the job done, all the more power to Turkey. But if it takes force, the Turks have the right.

Posted by Samt | October 23, 2007 10:32 AM

Turkey has a Kurdish problem, and we are supposed to step in for them? Why? The Kurds have been oppressed by the Turks' refusal to allow them a measure of autonomy. And we're supposed to help the Turks version of colonialism?
Nuts! Let's remember our friends, and the Turks are not our friends.

Posted by Cycloptichorn | October 23, 2007 10:33 AM

Well, you can forget about the Kurds tamping down on the PKK - they probably can't and probably won't even if they could. They have as much to gain or lose in the inevitable outcome of the Iraq war as anyone else, and allowing Turkey to get the upper hand just isn't going to be a part of the equation.

There's also the Kirkuk situation...

Posted by Jason | October 23, 2007 1:46 PM

Unlike Samt, I'm not going to make excuses or look for the root causes of terrorism.

However, that said, as long as Rice is going to be putting the screws to the Kurds, maybe she could also use this opportunity to pressure the Turks to drop their Orwellian official stance that "there are no Kurds in Turkey".

Posted by Terry | October 23, 2007 3:59 PM

Memo to Ed:

The Kurds are a more reliable and, ultimately because of it, are a more important ally of the US than Turkey is.

Turkey turned against the US LONG before the the Dems started making hay about the Armenians.

What support the Turks have given us amounts to the inertia of bureaucracy. Their significant turn against 4ID didn't prevent the US from taking Baghdad and their opposition now won't prevent the US from maintaining our presence in Iraq. Their help is expendable and replaceable through southern and westerly means.

The Turks know this.

Furthermore, they are well aware that the US military has shifted focus into options of using Kurdistan/Iraq as THE locus for a US long-termed presence, especially after Turkey chose the wrong side in 2003.

The Kurds would be only too happy to see the Turks shoot themselves in the foot by refusing basing rights to the US armed forces; such a move ENSURES that the US will relocate to Kurdistan, thus preventing Turkey from EVER conquering Northern Iraq.

The Turks know this.

But I hope they fan the flames some more. The US military serves America only, but if given the choice, most US troops (particularly those familiar with the local politics in Turkey and Iraq) would rather see the Kurds benefit from their presence than the Turks.

We're practically laughing at the Turks right now who are impudently threatening to roll over US forces.

No, I'm not joking. The Turkish population is calling, literally, to attack Northern Iraq in HOPES of defeating US forces there. It's been like that since 2004.

And, no, the Turkish military won't survive an attempt to take the Northern Provinces. It's not that they're afraid of the Kurds and it has nothing to do with "forebearance". Most of the Turkish brass know that they won't survive as a modern force if they challenge the US military. (actually they're the more professional and sensible of the rabble in that part of the world, so I give them credit).

Keep watching the pony show if that's your calling. The Turks (especially their military), for all their bluster, are about as interested in a war with the US Army as the Chinese are interested in a war with the US Navy.

Posted by KW64 | October 23, 2007 4:08 PM

Who is funding the PKK? Who is giving them arms?Can we lean on them? It seems the PKK are being more aggressive at exactly the wrong moment for us considering the Congressional resolution on Armenia and the problems with getting Congress to fund our operations in Iraq. Is there a desire by some identifiable party to cause us trouble by cranking up the PKK activities?

Maybe Rice knows more than we do.

Posted by Terry | October 23, 2007 4:19 PM

"Well, you can forget about the Kurds tamping down on the PKK - they probably can't and probably won't even if they could. "

I've long since stopped caring about what our enemies called "terrorists" since they do such a damned good job putting quote marks around their own brands.

The PKK are not Al Qaeda. They don't chop off heads or plant bombs in marketplaces. The PKK does all it can to deny their involvement in terrorism and to discourage those tactics ie they want to become a "respectable" force in Kurdistan (who aren't fond of terrorists no matter what the calling because they want to differentiate themselves from Arabs). The PKK poses no threat to the America herself or to our troops.

I view them the same way that I view the Shiite "death squads"; necessary evils that ultimately do more good than harm. The Sunnis are now begging us to stay after they told us to leave their cities (to their own chagrin, we obliged for a time). Once the Shiites dealt enough death to Sunni arrogance, we offered our assistance; we had some leverage when they realized we could decide NOT to help them.

The same applies to Turkey. For far too long, the Turks have lived comfortably in the knowledge that America would always be on her side. It will be good to turn the tables on Turkey if she decides to drive the world's most country into the arms of her enemies, the Kurds.

Posted by Terry | October 23, 2007 4:23 PM

"I've long since stopped caring about what our enemies called "terrorists" since they do such a damned good job putting quote marks around their own brands. "

BTW, that was aimed at the Turks, who LOVE Osama Bin Laden and are rooting for Al Quaeda and the "freedom fighters" to deal more death to US troops.

No, I don't care who the Turks call "terrorists". Let them root for the Head-choppers and be damned.

Posted by coldwarrior415 | October 23, 2007 5:06 PM

The Turks love Osama?

Must just have happened in the past 24 hours.

Turkey chose the wrong side in 2003?

Not at all. But they did hold us to the NATO and bilateral military treaties we signed with them. If they had turned their backs on us, why is it that most of our logisitics and fuel for the Iraq campaign is still being routed through Turkey?

The Turks have been fighting AQ and jihadis in Turkey for years, and even before 9-11.

The Turks dispatched their Special Operations forces to Afghanistan to assist the U.S. within days of our decision to organize the Northern Alliance and move against the Taliban, long before NATO got out of the starting blocks.

As for the myth of the Turks just up and deciding to stab us in the back regarding the 4th Infantry Division, it is a false assumption to suggest that the Turks did this out of caprice. One has to look at the internal dynamics of Turkey in the days and weeks prior to our invasion of Iraq, and also look as to how we violated the Status of Forces Agreement we had with Turkey at the time, and the very public last minute bribe offered by the U.S. in the days before we invaded Iraq. One doesn't treat allies like they have to be bribed, and one does not do the same in very public fora.

But, no matter, there are those such as Terry who will run with the bumper sticker analysis.

Iraq and Trukey are presently sharing intelligence on the PKK, and the Iraqis have made working with Turkey to counteract the PKK a high priority, and the Kurds in the northern part of Iraq see the PKK as a grave threat to themselves as well. There are no neatly wrapped end-all be-all solutions to going after the PKK, but Turkey will, and so will Iraq.

And, the PKK does indeed kill innocent civilians, and does set off bombs in market places, and they are terrorists. Their activities have not been cranked up to coincide with the Congressional Armenian resolution, they have been ongoing for years and years. It is just that only recently have most Americans have ever heard the term PKK and suddenly now that it has hit the front pages of the MSM, and nightly news, it is suddenly a serious crisis. It has been a serious problem for a lot longer than most Americans can understand. Turkey is just now getting to the tipping point of going after them, a right that the U.S. has expressed countless times over the past decade as a rationale for using military force. If we can do such, with impunity, why cannot the Turks do the same, especially if there are those who refuse to allow Turkey to protect her own citizens within her own borders from organized terror gangs operating across their border?

I've been following Turkey for a few decades, and overall they are doing quite well, and their relations with the U.S. at any moment are often a reflection of our overly simplistic attitude toward Turkey, as evinced by Terry, et al..

Overall, they have shown tremendous restraint in the face of their own internal problems, to ionclude PKK armed incursions onto their soil; the refusal of the EU to allow them entry despite the fact that they have met all requirements for membership years ago; and our own unilateral abbrogation of basing agreements and Status of Forces agreements since 1992.

Give the Turks credit. They deserve it. They also need informed understanding and backing in the face of a very real threat to their sovereignty and security from AQ, jihadis, the PKK and a leftist world press who view Turkey as nothing more than swarthy European wannabees and a source for cheap labor as second-class citizens of the European Community.

Given all that, I am amazed that Turkey didn't throw in the towel years ago and actually toss us and NATO,and the EU out completely. With friends [mostly Dems and xenophobes] like us, who needs enemas?

Posted by patrick neid | October 23, 2007 7:41 PM


Has the President of Iraq, a Kurd, said anything?

Posted by Christoph | October 23, 2007 8:35 PM

If the PKK won't shut itself down, we can expect to hear of limited military actions against them by joint American/Iraqi forces soon. We have to demonstrate our commitment to the security of our NATO ally as well as to Iraq.


Posted by coldwarrior415 | October 24, 2007 1:12 AM

On Sunday, Talibani, speaking with Barzani, the leader of the Kurds inside Iraq, at a news conference in Irbil, told the PKK to lay down their arms or get out of Iraq. He also stated that Iraq would assist Turkey in going after the PKK, acknowledging the difficulty of trying to root out the PKK from the northern mountains aslong the Turkish border. (AP had several news items about this throughout the day.) The Iraqi Parliament also, this past weekend, urged Iraq and Turkey to work together to solve the problem.

No rational person wants to see a protracted military campaign in the North, nor any Turkish large-scale incursion into Iraq. There have been a number of smaller Turkish incursions this past year, but nothing that would resemble an invasion. The overall message is clear, the PKK is a threat to Iraq, to Turkey, and to the region. Iran is using Iranian Kurds to ferry arms into Iraq, and is also providing other assistance. Syria has entered high-level talks with Turkey, though these talks are aimed at something less than one would hope. There are large numbers of dissaffected Kurds in both Iran and Syria, among other nations in the region, and it seems like both Iran and Syria would like to use Kurds in their countries as some sort of club to hit out at Iraq, while at the same time providing a fig leaf of some sort of concern and fellowship with Kurds in their countries, as well as to show Turkey that being allied with the U.S. is not in their interests, nor Turkey's.

Unless the PKK is destroyed, and soon, the problem could loom large over the next few years and do nothing to bring about any sort of regional stability. Iran knows this quite well, and the mullahs in Teheran understand that Kurds are not proper Moslems, let alone proper Shia. But, if it suits their purpose, using the Kurds as a proxy to further destabilize Iraq, and make for a destabilized Turkey, so much the better.

Posted by ajacksonian | October 24, 2007 6:33 AM

One of the little known things about the PKK is that it has ties to the Syrian regime. A Jamestown report on that points out that up to 20% of the PKK are Syrian Kurds operating in Northern Iraq and Turkey. Further the training and arming of the Kurds by Syria goes back into the 1990's and was directly aimed at Turkey. The 'ceasefire' between the PKK and Turkey did not hold due to that influence, and the training camps continued to put out radicalized Kurds from Syria. Today that is coming back to bite Syria, as well as Turkey, when many of those radical elements come back to Syria. The 2006 'ceasefire' lasted an even shorter period of time.

Inside Iraq this has caused problems for the ruling PUK coalition (and we do forget that this is a coalition party at times) and that the coalition itself has been unstable, with the forming of the Kurdish Islamic Union coming about through the backing of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. That said the KIU, itself, has distinct views on Islam separate from MB and tends to be more ethnically and Nationalist aligned than MB goals (as seen in its sponsorship of terrorism in Algeria, Sudan, Palestinian territories, Pakistan and elsewhere). The PKK, while having known associates in Iraq, has been able to operate on the basis of ethnicity and unifying concepts, even when they dropped their Communist dogma after the fall of the USSR.

The US has had time to understand this phenomena in Northern Iraq and gain trust there and the pathway to successful counter-insurgency is to work with local tribes and villages to start ending support coming through Iraq for the PKK and remove its safe havens. The Kurds need to understand that the US sees the PKK just the same as we see al Qaeda, Hezbollah, JaM, and so on... they all sit on our Foreign Terrorist Organization list in the State Dept.

Ending the lines of support for the PKK in Turkey through Iraq then leaves only Iran and Syria as its supporters. Sealing off support from terrorism for Iraq means both incoming and outgoing and while the incoming side has been the worse, the outgoing cannot and must not go unaddressed. The PKK has broken its promises more than once with Turkey and Iraqi Kurds now need to know that this puts all Kurds in a bad light. Ending this would reflect well on all Kurds and demonstrate their ability to have a cultural identity that crosses borders, but that hurts none in that doing.... and Turkey has to learn that the modern era of multi-cultural Nations includes them. We are more than willing to help on that front, too, so that Kurds can practice their cultural heritage as part of a stronger Turkey that respects its ethnic, religious and cultural minorities.

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