Kurdish War: Turks In Northern Iraq


December 24, 2007: Over the past month Turkey has conducted an interesting public debate over "psychological war" against the PKK. Criticism of the "psychological campaign" has emerged in the Turkish military. What the military means isn't just "information warfare," but political efforts as well. At least one senior Turkish officer said in early December that the PKK violates human rights. Turkey takes the brunt of human rights criticism, while PKK leaders and terror cadres largely escape criticism for brutality. The issue of democracy and peace should also be on the political and "information" agendas. Turkey has a functioning democracy; the military officers argued, the PKK is a hierarchical, autocratic organization. The Turkish officer has a point. "Apo" Ocalan structured the PKK as a Marxist guerrilla organization with the senior leader a "cult of the personality" figure with absolute authority. Several sharp Turkish media, military, and government people who've commented on this issue suggested that since the early 1980s Turkey missed several opportunities to change the political dynamic with the PKK. In retrospect, one of those missed opportunities was framing the issue (particularly in Western Europe) as a fight pitting a struggling, secular democracy against an armed Cold War-era guerrilla organization with a Stalinist structure. Another missed opportunity was taking a "federal" approach to Kurdish cultural issues – an approach Turkish Kurds have advocated for years. In the last five years increased political campaigning in Kurdish areas by national parties (particularly the AKP) has demonstrated that Turkish Kurds will participate in the democratic process if they believe their issues and concerns will be addressed by the national government.

December 23, 2007: Iraqi leaders claimed that Turkey's recent series of air and artillery strikes in northern Iraq have hit at least 37 villages. The attacks have forced approximately 500 to flee to refugee camps. At least four waves of air attacks have been conducted so far.

December 22, 2007: The Turkish military said that it intends to continue its "offensive operations" against the PKK, both within Turkey and along the Turkey-Iraq border. The statement followed an announcement that Turkish Air Force aircraft had bombed PKK positions in northern Iraq. A PKK spokesman claimed that the air strikes did not cause any PKK casualties.

December 21, 2007: Iraq's foreign ministry has asked the Turkish government to "coordinate" with the Iraqi government before launching attacks into northern Iraq. The statement said that the Iraqi government understands that Turkey has legitimate concerns about "terrorist activities" by the PKK. However, the attacks have harmed innocent civilians.

December 18, 2007: The Turkish military said that the United States had "opened airspace in northern Iraq" that allowed Turkish warplanes to conduct bombing missions against PKK bases. U.S. Central Command does control Iraqi air space, for all aircraft from UAVs to commercial to military. The Turks claim that the act of opening air space to Turkish Air Force warplanes means the U.S. "approves" of these operations. That isn't necessarily the case, at least from an official diplomatic point of view, but from a practical point of view, the claim has merit. The U.S. isn't going to protect PKK bases –it wants to see them removed from Iraq, though preferably by political means. Besides, opening air space reduces the possibility of collisions with coalition aircraft and commercial aircraft. The U.S. wouldn't allow Iranian aircraft to conduct raids, though neither Iraq nor the U.S. has tried to stop the Iranian military from launching artillery attacks on PJAK positions in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Turkish troops launched an attack against "Kurdish rebels" inside Iraq. Approximately 300 Turkish soldiers moved about three kilometers into Iraq. The Turkish military said that the soldiers were "reinforcements" for a Turkish unit already operating inside Iraq. Turkey has around 1500 soldiers in northern Iraq and maintains a base in the town of Bamerni (in Iraq near the Turkish border). The base has been there for a number of years.

December 16, 2007: Turkish aircraft bombed PKK positions in northern Iraq, in the Khandil Mountains. Turkish Army artillery located near the town of Cukurca fired on targets in Iraq.

December 15, 2007: The United States said that it wants to promote a dialog between Iraq and Turkey that leads to a political solution of the PKK problem. The US commended the Iraqi government for "taking positive measures" against the PKK, including measures to stop financial support from reaching the organization.


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