Kurdish War: Party Time

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February 21, 2010: Several years ago Turkey got the EU (European Union) to agree to label the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) a terrorist organization, but the European countries did not do a lot (especially in Turkey's opinion) to stop the fundraising activities of pro-PKK militants and sympathizers. But now that seems to be changing. European nations are putting increasing pressure on local Kurdish groups (most identified as Kurdish nationalist groups in the European press) who provide financial and political support for the PKK. Recently, Belgium's civilian intelligence and security organization, the State Security Service (SE, Surete de l'Etat) issued a report warning about pro-PKK operatives working within a number of self-described social organizations. What these groups do, according to the report, is conduct political lobbying for the PKK in Belgium and elsewhere in Europe. The Turkish government has been making that claim for a couple of decades. Reports like this Belgian report are small, incremental successes for Turkish diplomacy, but successes nonetheless.

February 13, 2010: Turkish security forces arrested 86 people the government claimed had “significant connections” to the PKK. Several of the people arrested belong to the new pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), but Turkish media reported most of those arrested belonged to the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK, also called the Peoples Confederation of Kurdistan). Turkish police have accused the KCK of being involved in many of the recent violent demonstrations occurring in southeastern Turkey. The KCK operates as an umbrella group for several pro-PKK factions.

February 11, 2010: The editor of a Kurdish newspaper in Turkey was sentenced to 21 years in prison. The Turkish government accused the editor of printing PKK propaganda (in the view of the Turkish government, pro-terrorist propaganda).

February 7, 2010: Turkey and the US have focused intelligence and reconnaissance resources on tracking PKK fighters in Iraq and along the Iraq-Turkey border. Now Turkey wants more intelligence help and will likely get it. The US Department of Defense has indicated that it will provide more intelligence-gathering equipment to Turkey for the anti-PKK mission. What might the equipment include? The first thought is more access to imagery from unmanned aerial recon aircraft or perhaps more surveillance UAVs for Turkish security forces. There are other ways to improve Turkey's ability to monitor its border and the sensitive Qandil (Khandil) Mountains area in northeastern Iraq where the PKK holes up. Turkey has employed passive sensor systems along the border. Virtual walls (ie, electronic and acoustic sensors, ground-level radars, etc) are notoriously difficult to operate. The sensors generate a lot of false data (false positives or false identifications). Better communications equipment and better trained operators can help sort out the mistakes.

February 6, 2010: The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), the new Kurdish party in Turkey, proclaimed that it is completely separate from the PKK. The BDP is trying to position itself so the Turkish government cannot accuse it of being a political mouthpiece for the PKK. Essentially the BDP said that it will let the PKK issue its own statements. This is not simply an attempt to survive politically within Turkey. Since 2004 the European Union had been asking mainstream Kurdish political parties (like the DTP, the Democratic Society Party) to distance themselves from the PKK. In 2009 a Turkish court ordered the DTP to disband, because of its connections to the PKK.

January 26, 2010: The US made an appeal to Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The US asked the KRG to work to resolve border issues with Iraq's central government prior to Iraq's elections in March. The city of Kirkuk remains a problem. The KRG has agreed to work with the national government to politically isolate the PKK.

 

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