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Kurdish War: Why Iran Hates The Imrali Process
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February 21, 2013: Turkey has made it clear to Iraq that it has no intention of supporting independence for Iraqi Kurdistan. Relations between the two governments have been rough ever since Turkey began negotiating trade deals with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which runs northern Iraq. The Iraq government contends that it alone has the power to negotiate oil and gas deals and Turkey has discussed oil and gas development projects with the KRG. Those discussions prompted several Iraqi politicians to claim that Turkey wanted to break Iraq in to pieces, with Iraqi Kurdistan becoming a separate country. Turkish moves to settle its war with Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels fueled Iraqi suspicions. In other words, Kurds could have self-determination at Iraq’s expense.  The Turks vehemently denied this and in late January, and again this month, took diplomatic steps to reassure the Iraqi government. Turkey and the KRG, however, both argue that Baghdad has been slow to invest in new pipelines in northern Iraq. Turkey has told Baghdad it is willing to invest in pipelines throughout Iraq, but it wants to get Iraqi Kurdistan’s oil and gas flowing. One reason is that Turkey gets transmission fees for crude pumped through Turkish pipelines to Turkish seaports. However, Turkey says that is not the primary reason. Turkey has a G-20 economy and it wants to be able to buy Iraqi oil and gas for its own domestic use. Now there is a Kurdish peace angle to this, albeit a distant one. The Turkish government believes that if Iraqi Kurds see benefits from trade with Turkey they will play a positive role in ending the PKK insurgency. Turkey has not concluded a separate oil deal with the KRG, yet. Though Turkey does not want an independent Iraqi Kurdistan, it does want the Iraqi government to finally pass the long-debated hydro-carbon law that would guarantee each Iraqi region an allotment from national oil revenue. That has not happened, and the Iraqi government has been discussing the reform law since May 2007.

February 20, 2013: Kurdish rebels in northeastern Syria have made peace with the Islamic terror groups who challenged Kurdish control of areas (like the town of Ras Ayn) containing Arabs and Moslems. Although the Kurds are Sunni Moslems, they are not big fans of Islamic radicalism.

February 16, 2013: The Turkish government once again called on PKK rebels to lay down their weapons. The government claimed that it is making a sincere attempt to reach a permanent peace agreement with imprisoned PKK senior commander Abdullah Ocalan. The government said that the discussions will continue. Members of the pro-Kurd Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) will also be participating in the talks. Several BDP members of parliament have met with Ocalan. Turkish media has begun calling the discussion the Imrali Process. Ocalan is imprisoned on Imrali Island, in the Sea of Maramara.

February 14, 2013: The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) have asked the Turkish Ministry of Justice to approve three Kurdish politicians the BDP has selected to participate in peace talks with the Turkish government and PKK. The politicians are Ahmet Turk, Selahattin Demirtas, and Pervin Buldan.

February 12, 2013: Turkish F-16s struck several PKK targets in northern Iraq. Eight F-16s hit targets in the Qandil Mountains and in the Zap and Basyan areas.

French police arrested 15 members of the PKK, who were allegedly operating a terrorist-financing operation in southwestern France. The Kurdish activists were arrested in the cities of Toulouse and Bordeaux.

February 10, 2013: French and other European security agencies are providing more information about their investigations into the murders of three PKK women activists in Paris last January 9th. All three activists were killed with the same weapon. The latest French reports, sourced to French intelligence services, claim that the murders were committed by other PKK activists. According to French sources there had been several disagreements among Kurdish exile factions. Foreign countries may well have used these disagreements to recruit angry PKK exiles to commit the murders. Though no foreign countries were specified, the Turkish government has alleged that Iran was involved in the assassinations. According to Turkey, Iran wanted the three activists killed because the Iranian government thought the atrocity would derail peace negotiations between Turkey and the PKK. One French source reported that investigators believe a Turkish Kurd named Omer Guney is a prime suspect in the assassination. Guney worked as a chauffeur for one of the murdered activists. He was arrested on January 17, by French counter-terrorist policemen. French police later reported that a surveillance video of the building in which the activists were murdered showed that Guney was in the building at the time of the murders. On January 21, a French court charged him with the murders. Guney allegedly joined the PKK in 2010 or 2011. In other words, he is a relatively new PKK recruit, which means he could have been planted by a foreign intelligence agency.

The European Union’s parliament is encouraging Turkey to reach a peace agreement with the PKK. The EU parliament also stated that it is opposed to PKK fundraising activities in EU countries.

February 5, 2013: A spokesman for a Syrian rebel faction, the Al Jazeera-Euphrates Liberation Front (FAEL), claimed that Turkey has provided his organization with military support. The FAEL claimed that it has been fighting Syrian Kurd Popular Protection Units (YPG) militias around the city of  Ras Ayn (also called Serekaniye) in northeastern Syria’s Hasaka province. The YPG militias are loyal to the Syrian Kurd Democratic Union Party (PYD). The PYD is thought to be loyal to the Assad dictatorship. Some Syrian rebels characterize the FAEL as being an extreme political Islamist faction. One senior leader of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) recently claimed that the FAEL is not part of the FSA. The FAEL may be a faction of the Al Nusra Front.

February 4, 2013:  The Turkish government said that it will continue to pursue discussions with PKK senior commander Abdullah Ocalan. The discussions became public knowledge on January 3, 2013, when two Turkish Kurd political leaders met with Ocalan in his prison cell on Imrali Island. The government stated on January 9 that the meetings with Ocalan had produced the initial outline of a peace agreement.

February 2, 2013: The Turkish government announced that the suicide bomber who attacked the U.S. embassy in Ankara on February 1, was not a PKK or radical Islamist terrorist. The bomber was identified as Ecevit Sanli, a left-wing militant who belonged to the Revolutionary Peoples Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C). A Turkish security guard was also killed in the attack. Media originally speculated that the attacker was a PKK rebel. Sanli had been imprisoned for a 1997 attack on a Turkish police station but was diagnosed as having a mental illness. In 2001 he was released on probation. In 2002 he left Turkey, violating his probation requirements.

January 31, 2013: It appears not every member of the PKK supports the Imrali Process discussions. A faction of the PKK said that the new peace process was a lie and an act of psychological warfare by the Turkish government. It said that it would continue to fight for Kurdish rights.

January 30, 2013: A PKK spokesman (probably located in northern Iraq’s Qandil Mountains) said that 20 PKK fighters will withdraw from Tunceli province and give up their weapons. The spokesman indicated that this is a political gesture made by the PKK to show that it regards the Imrali Process as a positive political step. Any further withdrawals, however, will not be made during the winter but could come in spring, if the Imrali Process continues. The spokesman actually referred to Tunceli province as the Dersim region, which is what the area was called during the Ottoman Empire. The PKK likes to use the name because it alludes to Kurdish resistance in the area, which began in the late 1920s. The Dersim region became a full rebellion (hence the Dersim Rebellion) in 1937. Why Qandil as the likely source of the PKK statement? Turkish media has reported that several PKK sources have told them that field commanders in Qandil have said that if Abdullah Ocalan is satisfied with the Imrali Process then they will support it.

January 28, 2013: Iraqi Kurdistan may become involved in the Imrali Process. The Turkish government has acknowledged that their intelligence officers have met with PKK representatives and the initial discussions were held in Norway. If the Imrali Process proceeds discussions will be held with PKK field commanders, and since the PKK’s most important bases are in Iraq, an Iraqi site is the logical choice for a meeting place. Turkish media has speculated that Irbil could host meetings between the PKK and Turkish intelligence. That makes sense.

January 25, 2013: Syrian Kurds report that skirmishes with radical Islamist rebel groups continue around the town of Ras Ayn (Hasaka province, northeastern Syria). The Syrian Kurd report identified one of the groups as being the Al Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra, Assistance Front). The Al Nusra Front is thought to be linked to Al Qaeda. A large battle occurred on January 19, in Ras Ayn, that left at least 33 people dead.

January 24, 2013: A peace agreement between the PKK and Turkey would please Iraqi Kurds and the Iraqi government, but there are several countries and groups in the Middle East and central Asia who hope the Imrali Process fails. Syria and Iran are at the top of the list. Syria is counting on its own Kurds and the PKK to provide a roadblock to potential Turkish intervention in Syria. The PKK is still at least nominally a Marxist organization. It was backed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War and Moscow supported the PKK because it rattled a major NATO nation, Turkey. Now Iran benefits from the PKK’s ability to distract and hinder Turkey. This is why Turkey accuses Iran of providing support for the PKK.

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