Turkey has been changing its operational and tactical approach to fighting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). In 2012 Turkey began to make more frequent use of special operations forces (Maroon Berets) from its Special Forces Command. The army also restructured its special forces and formed a corps of special forces brigades in September 2012. Since then, the brigades have conducted what are essentially their own operations. The units employ a variety of techniques, including placing special operations teams in areas of suspected enemy activity and having them collect intelligence and identify routes used by PKK fighters, supply sources, and camps. Other teams (presumably up to battalion and brigade-sized, if necessary) then conduct quick, highly-precise attacks on PKK forces. The army describes these as surgical (precise) attacks. The units also make use of a variety of sources of real time intelligence. The idea is to avoid killing Kurdish civilians while maximizing the opportunity to capture or kill PKK field commanders. Turkish officers also believe this operational concept takes the battlefield initiative away from PKK. (Austin Bay)
January 17, 2013: Large demonstrations broke out in the city of Diyarbakir as the city prepared for the funeral of the three Kurdish women activists killed in Paris, France earlier this month. Several of the demonstrators chanted pro-PKK slogans.
January 16, 2013: The air force struck PKK positions in northern Iraq. The attacks began on January 14 and continued through today.
PKK gunmen fired on a police vehicle in Mardin province (southeastern Turkey) and killed one Turkish policeman.
January 15, 2013: Iran denied accusations that it was behind the murder of three Kurdish activists in Paris.
January 13, 2013: The government announced that despite the murders of three Kurdish activists in France, it will continue to conduct peace and disarmament talks with PKK leader and senior commander Abdullah Ocalan.
Turkish counter-terror police raided a house in the town of Nusaybin (Turkey-Syria border). The PKK man in the building refused to surrender and threw a hand grenade at the police. The rebel died in the resulting firefight. The government described the man who was killed as a senior PKK field commander but did not release his name. Kurdish sources identified him as Mehmet Sirin Cebe, the PKK's senior commander in Turkey’s Mardin province.
January 11, 2013: The Turkish government initially blamed the murders of three PKK activists in France on an internal feud. Today the government suggested that the murders may have been committed by parties interested in sabotaging peace talks between Turkey and the PKK. This is a suggestion that Iran could be behind the assassinations. Why would Iran kill the Kurds? The theory is that Iran wants to derail new political talks between the Turkish government and PKK senior leaders because the PKK keeps Turkey off-balance. Iran also backs Syria’s Assad regime.
Meanwhile, French authorities confirmed that the victims were either shot in the neck or head (hence the report of execution-style murders).
January 10, 2013: Three female Kurdish political activists were found murdered execution-style in a PKK information office in Paris, France. One of the women, Sakine Cansiz, is regarded as a founder of the PKK. French anti-terrorist police are investigating the murders. The police reported that they are investigating several possible motives, including infighting among rival PKK factions and assassination by far-right Turkish militants.
January 7, 2013: Turkish soldiers killed 14 PKK rebels in a firefight near the Iraqi border (Hakkari province). One soldier died in the action and two were wounded. The PKK rebels were attempting to infiltrate from Iraq.
The Turkish government has now not only openly acknowledged that it is engaged in direct talks with imprisoned PKK senior commander Abdullah Ocalan but it is also asking for opposition parties to support its efforts to reach a deal with the PKK. Two Kurdish members of Turkey’s parliament have been allowed to meet with Ocalan. Even the head of the Republican Peoples Party (CHP), the Kemalist party, has indicated that Erdogan’s initiative has merit. This is a huge turnabout for the government of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkish media has come up with a number of explanations for the change. One that has traction is that Erdogan does not want the Syrian civil war to turn into a larger regional Kurdish war. Syria’s Assad dictatorship has essentially turned over parts of the Turkey-Syria border to PKK allies.
January 1, 2013: The Turkish government claimed that its security forces killed 46 PKK rebels in a cross-border operation that began on December 22. Security forces attacked the PKK’s Kanires encampment (in northern Iraq). The camp is ten kilometers south of the Turkey-Iraq border (Turkish province of Hakkari). Air strikes supported the attack.
December 31, 2012: The Turks confirmed that Turkish intelligence officers from the National Intelligence Organizaiton (MIT) are conducting talks with Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned PKK senior commander. The intelligence agents are discussing how the PKK might be disarmed. Disarmament is a firm Turkish government demand. In exchange for disarmament, Turkey would then reach a political settlement. The first official meeting took place on December 23.
December 26, 2012: Turkish security forces killed ten PKK rebels in a battle near the town of Lice (Diyarbakir province, southeastern Turkey).
December 22, 2012: The Syrian rebellion has exacerbated Turkey’s and Iraq’s complicated diplomatic and political tussle over oil production in Iraqi Kurdistan. Turkey has invested heavily in Iraqi Kurdistan, in part to gain Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) help in dealing with the PKK. Building infrastructure is all right with Baghdad, but negotiating oil deals is not. Despite Iraqi national government objections, Turkey is continuing to pursue oil development deals with the KRG. The Iraqi government contends that the KRG does not have the authority to negotiate and make oil development and sales deals. The KRG isn’t so sure. Turkey is disgusted with the Iraqi national government’s support for the Assad dictatorship in Syria (albeit tepid support). Turkey is far more concerned about the Iraqi government’s ties with Iran. The Iraqi government is caught in a bind because its ability to deal with Iranian subterfuge is limited. Meanwhile, arguments over oil revenue between Baghdad and the KRG has led to a cut back in oil production in Iraqi Kurdistan’s oil fields. One industry source estimated the Kurdish fields are pumping about 30,000 barrels a day. They could pump 1.9 to two million barrels a day. At one time Turkish pipelines carried around 1.5 million barrels of Iraqi oil a day, and most of that came from fields in Iraqi Kurdistan. The oil pipeline runs to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, where it moves by tanker to other export markets. Turkey misses the oil shipment fee revenue (transit fees). The Iraqi government argues that if Kurdistan makes its own oil deals then federal Iraq will fall apart as Iraq’s southern oil-producing provinces will demand the same privilege. Turkey wants Baghdad to curtail support for Assad and Iran.
December 20, 2012: The Turkish government now estimates that the PKK has some 2,000 fighters at its bases in northern Iraq.
December 17, 2012: Syrian Arab rebels reported another firefight with Syrian Kurds near the town of Ras al-Din (Syria-Turkey border, northeastern Syria). Skirmishes have been occurring frequently in the area. A major clash occurred in late November in the area.