Kurdish War: Northern Iraq Burns


July 28, 2008: Turkish police believe that Kurdish separatists, not Islamic terrorists, were responsible for two bombs that went off in the capital yesterday, killing 16 and wounding over 150. No one took responsibility, which is a typical PKK tactic. Islamic terrorists are quick to claim responsibility, although of late al Qaeda has been calling for bomb attacks that kill fewer civilians. The attack in Turkey was directed against civilians. Police believe this is part of a threatened PKK terror campaign, in response to increasingly effective Turkish raids and bombing attacks in northern Iraq.

July 24, 2008: Turkey still has 3000 security troops inside northern Iraq, manning nine bases. Do the math – Turkey openly maintains a reinforced battalion task force in northern Iraq (around 1800 troops). That puts about a reinforced company (130 soldiers) at the other eight bases—in other words, observation posts capable of putting up a stiff fight. The Iraqi Kurdish regional government also says that the presence of Turkish troops is "an Iraqi issue first" (ie, a national issue). This is another indication that the Iraqi Kurdish government is less and less interested in providing political support for the PKK. That could change, but it has been the trend for four years.

July 19, 2008: Iranian artillery fired on the Iraqi Kurd town of Pushdar (Iraq's Sulaymaniya Province). Six other small villages also took fire. The Iranian forces are trying to interdict PJAK (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan) rebels they claim are based in the area.

July 18, 2008: Two PKK rebels and one Turkish soldier died in a firefight near Banjoul (Turkey). Another Turkish soldier was killed in Sirnak province (Turkey) in an operation along the Iraqi border.

July 12, 2008: Iraqi Kurds reported an "escalation" in fighting along the Iran-Iraq border as Iraqi border guards engaged what they later identified as "an armed group" of Ansar Al Islam guerrillas. Ansar Al Islam is an Al Qaeda-affiliated Sunni terror group operating in Kurdistan. This report came amid reports of Iranian shelling of suspected PJAK Kurdish rebel bases. On July 11 Turkish authorities claimed security forces killed ten PKK rebels in a clash in the Kato Mountains (Sirnak Province) along the Turkey-Iraq border. Sound dangerous? It is. Turkish, Iraqi, and Iranian forces are fighting a chaotic mix of rebels. The PKK and PJAK share similar aims – essentially PJAK is the Iranian Kurd wing of the PKK. Ansar al-Islam, however, is an Islamist terror organization.

July 10, 2008: The Turkish Prime Minister visited Baghdad and got some very encouraging words from the Iraqi Prime Minister, who said that Iraq will help Turkey stop PKK guerrillas operating along the Iraq-Turkey border. In return Turkey promised to "normalize" bilateral relations between Iraq and Turkey. Turkey believes that the future of Iraq is the future of the region. All this is important, especially if Iraq does indeed crackdown hard on the PKK.

July 9, 2008: PKK rebels in eastern Turkey kidnapped three German climbers near Mount Ararat. That's right, the mountain where Noah's Ark is supposed to have come to rest. Mount Ararat is Turkey's tallest peak. The PKK demanded that Germany end its crack-down on the PKK and pro-PKK groups who provide financial support for the organization. Turkey has had increasing diplomatic success in getting Western European countries (like Germany) to act against pro-PKK organizations.

July 6, 2008: Iraqi Kurdish authorities accused Iran's Revolutionary Guards of crossing the Iran-Iraq border and "arresting" 11 people. The Iranians also took 350 head of cattle. Iraq asked for an explanation but Iran refused to reply. Iraq later called the move by the Revolutionary Guards a "breach of sovereignty." However, there appeared to be no follow-up. Smugglers and thieves complicate the various guerrilla wars in the region. The lack of follow-up suggests this may be a case of running down rustlers.

June 28, 2008: PKK leader Murat Karayilan issued a statement asking the Turkish government to negotiate with the PKK instead of establishing an "anti-Kurd" alliance with Syria and Iran. Turkish media indicate that Karayilan still operates from a base in the Khandil (Qandil) Mountains inside Iraq.


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