Monday, August 13, 2007

Update on a recent post #2

On August 2 I mentioned the report that a covert operation is underway to target leaders of the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers Party. The word is that over the last two years the PKK has been staging more cross-border raids from Kurdish-controlled Iraq into Turkey and Turkey has been responding with cross-border shelling and recently, increasingly ominous threats of going after the PKK in Iraq.

Last week, AP reported,
Turkey and Iraq agreed ... to try to root out a Kurdish rebel group from northern Iraq, but Iraq's prime minister said his parliament would have the final say on efforts to halt the guerrillas' cross-border attacks into Turkey. ...

"We have reached an agreement to spend all efforts to end the presence of the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK in Iraq," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a news conference with his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri al-Maliki.
However, it may not be all that simple. For one thing, al-Maliki's seriously-weakened government is in no position to alienate the Kurds. The US, which likes to point to the largely-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq as an invasion success story, does not want to rock the boat, either. As a result,
[w]hile reaching agreement on Kurdish rebels, al-Maliki refused to sign the counterterrorism agreement requested by the Turkish authorities. He said it was not in his power to commit Baghdad to the agreement without first putting it before parliament and his Cabinet, an Iraqi government official said. ...

The official said al-Maliki refused to sign the anti-terrorism pact because of Kurdish objections to a description of the PKK as a terrorist organization.

The Kurds told al-Maliki that such language would give the Turks a pretext to invade, according to the official.
Actually, the Turks probably figure they already have all the pretext they need, including the fact the the US officially considers the PKK a terrorist group, and I suspect the first part of the statement is more truthful: The Kurds just don't want the PKK labeled as terrorists, less because of what it could prompt Turkey to do in Iraq than what it would be used to justify doing in Turkey. Which may be part of the impetus behind that covert operation: It would be a way to make everybody happy - Turkey, the US, Iraq, even the Kurdish administration, which isn't all that taken with the PKK - while allowing them all to declare they had nothing to do with it.

It's a dangerous game and there's a hell of a lot that could go wrong. The issue of the Kurds is still a great unresolved question, one that gets overlooked in the midst of the chaos elsewhere in Iraq, but one that will not go away.

Footnote: I don't know if I've mentioned this before, so I will here. Back in January, KTK at Lean Left declared himself "unfashionably unsympathetic to the Kurds," denying their right to a homeland. I responded in comments here (Comment #5 if you'd rather scroll than do the linky thing); his answer and my rejoinder follow right after. You might find it interesting.

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