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16 April 2014, Wednesday
 
 
Today's Zaman
 
 
 
 

Turkey enlists northern Iraq's help in countering threat of Syria-PKK alliance

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TURKEY'S PRIME MINISTER RECEP TAYYIP ERDOĞAN (R) AND IRAQI KURDISH LEADER MASSOUD BARZANI POSE FOR MEDIA BEFORE THEIR MEETING IN İSTANBUL, 5 NOVEMBER 2011. (PHOTO: EPA)
23 March 2012, Friday /ABDULLAH BOZKURT
Turkey has been actively working with the Kurdish Regional Administration in northern Iraq for some time now to counter the growing threat from its southern neighbor Syria, where Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government is courting terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants to strike Turkish interests, Today's Zaman has learned.

A senior government official who has deep knowledge in intelligence because of his position said Turkish officials have been meeting with Kurdish leaders in the northern Iraqi administration to put in place a comprehensive strategy to diffuse the threat posed by the PKK in the Syrian Kurdish community. The official spoke with Today's Zaman on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

“We have come to an understanding from Kurdish officials in Arbil that the PKK threat in Syria is seriously undermining the legitimate aspirations of Kurds in the region,” he explained. “What is more, they also realized that the PKK's support of the violent regime in Syria puts all Kurds in the region in an awkward position. They do not want Kurds to be seen as supporting a brutal regime that has been cracking down on civilian protestors.” The official said the meeting of Syrian Kurds from 32 countries held in Arbil was held Jan. 27-28 under the auspices of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) as an important step towards the direction of sidelining the PKK. The PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria was not invited to attend this conference. “[Massoud] Barzani [president of the KRG] is telling us that his ultimate goal is to build a coalition as wide as possible against the PKK so that they can be effectively marginalized,” the same official explained. “In the long run, Barzani even aims to include the PYD under the Kurdish National Council Syria [KNCS] provided that they put some distance to the PKK,” he predicted.

The KNCS was founded in Qamishli in the outer northeast of the country as a consequence of the Syrian uprising in October 2011 and was regarded as a representative body of Kurdish interests there. The KNCS says it supports a peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurdish question on the basis of self-determination or some sort of autonomy. It has been in negotiations with the Istanbul-based Syrian National Council as well as the National Coordinating Committee for Democratic Change (NCC) and other opposition groups, to strike a deal for the position of Kurds in the post-Assad era. The most contentious issue during discussions was the status of Kurds and how that will be tied to the Arab identity of the Syrian Republic. Assad also uses the PKK to prevent Kurdish opposition from unifying while the PKK helps Assad pre-empt Kurds from joining the Arab opposition groups as well.

In the meantime, Turkish intelligence reports submitted to the government detailed how the Assad regime has been providing support to the PKK in Syria by giving them freedom to operate in the northern part of the country bordering Turkey. The reports, explained to Today’s Zaman this week by a senior government official, underlined that last year’s assassination of a leading Kurdish figure, Mishaal al-Tammo, by Syrian intelligence officers after he allied himself with the Syrian opposition was in fact a shot across the bow for Turkey. Al-Tammo was known to be strongly opposed to the PKK taking a stronghold among Syrian Kurds and thereby hijacking the legitimate demands of Kurds there. By taking him out of the picture, the Syrian regime allowed breathing room for the PKK to aggressively work towards its goals.

Assad thinks the PKK and affiliated Kurdish groups in northern Syria may act as a buffer force when Turkey decides to intervene in Syria, either alone or acting under the mandate of a regional organization or a UN Security Council resolution. The PKK has already signaled it is ready and eager to assume such a role. Cemil Bayık, number two in the PKK, has warned that if Turkey were ever to intervene against Assad, the PKK would fight on Syria’s side.

PKK’s acting leader Murat Karayılan said on Thursday to the Europe-based Fırat News Agency, a mouthpiece of the PKK, that Turkey was preparing the groundwork for an intervention in Syria. “The Turkish state is planning an intervention against our people,” he said. “Let me state clearly, if the Turkish state intervenes against our people in western Kurdistan, all of Kurdistan will turn into a war zone.”

Western Kurdistan is the term Kurdish nationalists use to describe Kurdish areas of northeast Syria, while by Kurdistan they mean the Kurdish areas of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran.

Kurdish intellectual and writer Kemal Burkay told the Human Rights Commission in the Turkish Parliament in January that the PKK moved as many as 2,000 militants from Iraqi hideouts to northern Syria to help Assad’s forces.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last week that setting up a “safe zone” or a “buffer zone” along the border with Syria to protect civilians from Assad’s forces was among the options being considered should the stream of refugees turn into a flood. Setting up such a zone would involve troops entering Syria to secure territory.

Intelligence reports also verify that to mobilize Kurdish support for the ailing regime in Syria, Assad quickly moved to offer citizenship rights to some 350,000 stateless Kurds so that they can travel, own property, enroll in universities and secure employment in Syria. The PKK-affiliated PYD in Syria, though officially illegal, was also allowed to start networking with other Kurdish parties established in the Syrian Kurdish region.

The Syrian opposition suspects that Assad has gone as far as promising autonomy to Kurds in exchange for support to his regime and loyalty. The noticeable restraint used by Syrian security services in the face of protests against the Assad regime in Kurdish areas may be another indication that the regime is counting on Kurdish support for the coming days and weeks.

This new approach is quite a contrast to the March 12, 2004 Kurdish riots in Qamishli, the capital of Hassekah province, as well as in Kurdish neighborhoods of Aleppo and Damascus during which the regime responded violently to crack down on Kurdish protest movements. While there have been clashes between protesters and Syrian security forces mainly in Sunni Arab towns during the year-long uprising, Kurdish areas have remained relatively calm.

While Turkey has been carefully monitoring developments in Syria, Damascus seems to have returned to the adversarial policies of the ‘90s during which it tried to use the PKK as trump card against Turkey over Syria’s claim to Hatay province and the Euphrates River, which flows from Turkey. Assad’s father even sheltered the now-imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, for many years before he was forced to leave the country under Turkish pressure. He was later captured in Kenya by Turkish intelligence operatives and brought back to Turkey for trial.

The PKK, labeled as a terrorist organization both in the US and EU, has been fighting a secessionist campaign against Turkey for almost 30 years. The conflict has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 PKK terrorists, soldiers and civilians.

 
 
COMMENTS
GeneralSherman, I will oppose anyone who tries to forcefully carve out land from Turkey. I will oppose PKK and its supporters. But, I will oppose anyone who tries to deny an ethnic gropu their right to exist and develop. Let me ask you again, as I have repeatedly asked you in the TZ article "Tension...
Baris
Kotakk I'm a kurd too. but clearly kurds don't need the pkk to support our cause. those days are over. sure turkey has many steps to take to give the kurds what they want. as long there is Europe, UN and Kurdistan government of Iraq pkk is not needed. and if any kurds that support Assad should not b...
azzi
The problem is Barzani does not have the essential power to influence Kurds in Syria or Turkey. He only enjoys the support of 30% people in Iraqi Kurdistan. His dictatorial regime will soon be toppled by Kurdish nationalists and patriots.
E-Kurd
Turkey is just fooling itself!! there is something called reality here!!! you need to wake up and be aware of! PKK has control and much more influence on Kurds people than Barzani or any other Kurdish leader!! I am from northern Kurdistan ( Iraqi Kurdistan) I know how powerful PKK is when is coming ...
Hawkseye
Yes more stories to justify the Turkish invasion of Syria. Lots of use of the term 'Terrorist' as a substitute for argument and analysis. And what is the fact of the Western classification of the PKK as 'Terrorist ' worth, nothing. The West classifies its various Imperial adventures as benign inter...
Babeouf
Turkish leadership are individuals who lacks common sense.. Barzani is leader so long work deligently for Kurdish cause ,He will be a Misleader if he works with such dark and savage force like Turkey ..
Esfandyar
If the PKK want a war with Turkey, I say bring it on. There is no other way these blood thirsty killers will stop. The bullet is the only language they know. Go into the mountains and clean out the trash. Stuff the EU. Execute Ocalan.
Metin
All this is hype, It is just DEVIDE AND CONQUER
George
Make it short and easy: Barzani is Turkey's surrogate. Talabani is Iran's.
Baqi Barzani
Pm Erdogan criticizes Assad because the latest doesn's listen to his people. may i ask you Mr,Erdogan: Are you listening to your people?????Kurdish issue should be solved soon otherwise , turkey will be like syria.why more blood?
Hassan
There will be no cooperation with Turkey in committing war crimes. It is totally out of Barzanis power. This idea will not be supported by vast majority of Kurds. 3 decades of war has proven futile. It has shoddily affected Turkish economy. Kurds have managed to survive. Consecutive Iraqi regimes ...
Sardar Barzani
The main problem is that there is no voice that speaks for Kurds of Turkey. The PKK/KCK/BDP are the same organization and they just want to gather power to themselves at the expense of Kurds. The PKK has killed many Kurds and has done everything it can to stop economic development of SE Turkey. The ...
Friend of Turks
Barzani is a JEW, how can you hold talks with a JEW who is inviting mossad jew terrorists to make bases in north iraq? No logic, Turkey should be uprooting them instead!
attur
Kotakk, there is no such thing as kurdistan nor has there ever been. That middle part of your post summarizes exactly what I've been saying about the kurds "Second, kurds should and will kiss the hands of satan himself if he would help us in our cause. If Assad is willing to be that satan even at t...
GeneralSherman
Hamma Mi, the PM of Turkey is not waging war on kuds, unfortunately. Him and his kurd-loving government are the best thing that ever happened to you terrorists. Let me ask you this: why are the kurdish terrorsts waging war on Turks and other Muslims on behalf of foreign imperialists. The kurds a...
GeneralSherman
karim, there is no kurdish issue in our country. There is a kurdish terrorist problem in northern iraq. Those are not kurdish "activists" detained. They are kurdish terrorists. There is NO such thing as "kurdistan" nor has there ever been. Kurds have no "legal demands". Hey Baris, here are mor...
GeneralSherman
Let me help you with the abbreviation, KRG is short for KURDISTAN regional government, not Kurdish regional government. Second, kurds should and will kiss the hands of satan himself if he would help us in our cause. If Assad is willing to be that satan even at the expense of life of some thousand a...
Kotakk
Why PM of Turkey is waging war on Kurds? PM of Turkey is playing with fire. The war between n Israel-Iran will bring Turkey larger wars. Kurds are seeking peace in Turkey. Why PM of Turkey is seeking help from Iraqi Kurds and others instead of making peace within Turkey? Turkey’s intelligent officer...
Hamma Mi
do not hesitate resolve the kurdish issue in your country first. the policy of detained kurdish activits in north of KURDISTAN does not give you anything instead makes kurdish people more insist on their legal demands
karim
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