Kurdish War: Separatism Stymied


April 10, 2009:  The PKK remains angry with the Iraqi government, particularly Iraq's president Jalal Talabani (who is a Kurd), Iraqi media quoted him as saying that "an independent Kurdish state" in Iraq is simply not possible. Talabani pointed out that Turkey, Syria, and Iran --not to mention Iraq-- would close off the borders of a separate Kurdish state. He is of course right. What really angered the PKK, however, was Talabani's suggesiton that a separate Kurdish state is a "dream to be found only inside our (Kurdish) poems." Talabani was calling the PKK unrealistic dreamers. He also pointed out that nine out of ten Iraqi Kurds favor a new federal Iraqi constitution -- which means the vast majority of Iraqi Kurds have concluded it is in their interest to remain part of Iraq.

April 6, 2009: US again said it was prepared to help Turkey continue its fights against the PKK. This is another political plus for the Turkish government.

April 2, 2009: Turkish security forces fought with pro-PKK demonstrators near the village of Omerli in Suruc district (Sanliurfa province). Two people were killed in the incident and two were injured. Omerli is the home village of imprisoned PKK leader, Abdullah "Apo" Ocalan.

March 24, 2009: Turkey said that Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was not living up to its promises to fight the PKK. The Turkish accusation, however, also included promises of economic and political cooperation when the KRG helped eliminate PKK bases in northern Iraq. There is a diplomatic dance going on that is complicated, but also signals growing cooperation between Turkey and Iraq. For a long time the Turkish government refused to acknowledge the Iraqi Kurdish regional government. PKK supporters might interpret that as a signal that Turkey was giving up the fight. However, the Iraqi central government's success in its "war for stabilization" has actually encouraged Iraq's Kurds to support the central government. The central government wants to reach a settlement with Turkey regarding the PKK. Since Iraq's Kurds are increasingly opting to publicly support the Iraqi central government (and supporting Iraqi federalism), Turkey is more inclined to deal with the KRG. For its part, the Iraqi central government says that Iraq is "no place" for the PKK to be and the PKK is a major impediment (if not the major impediment) to peaceful relations with Turkey.

March 22, 2009: The Turkish government said that security forces arrested three PKK militants in Istanbul. The security forces also captured a weapons cache including explosives and grenades.

March 20, 2009: The Turkish military now estimates that the PKK has around 2,000 fighters in northern Iraq. Estimates always fluctuate, but generally official estimates had placed PKK strength at from 3,000 to 5,000. Turkey has indicated that more PKK fighters deserted in the last several months. Not only does desertion reduce strength (obviously) but the former fighters are also intelligence sources. The new figure may also be informed by the "intelligence sharing program" run by the combined US-Iraqi-Turkish office in northern Iraq.

March 15,2009: The PKK admitted that Turkish air raids had killed four PKK fighters in northern Iraq.

March 14, 2009: Turkish air force planes hit PKK bases in northern Iraq. The military said the raids were intended to forestall any PKK build-up for a spring offensive.


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