Turkey’s Kurdish Calculus

September 27, 2012

(Israpundit)Ankara re-embraces its old allies in Washington, at the expense of Tehran and Damascus.
By SONER CAGAPTAY, WSJ
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, has made a bloody comeback in Turkey. According to a recent report by the International Crisis Group, PKK-related violence has killed some 700 people since the summer of 2011. This deadly toll recalls the horrors of the 1990s, when thousands of civilians were killed in PKK terror attacks and a brutal war in eastern Turkey between the government and Kurdish militants.
The resurgence of PKK violence is no accident. It is directly related to Turkey’s defiant posture in support of the Syrian uprising and against the Assad regime and its patrons in Iran. The upside for the West is that Ankara is starting to re-embrace its old friends in Washington.

The breakdown in Turkish-Syrian ties began in the summer of 2011. Since then, Damascus has once again allowed the PKK to operate in Syria. Meanwhile, to punish Ankara for its Syria policy, Iran’s leaders have made peace with the Kurdish rebels they had been fighting, letting the PKK focus its energy against Turkey.
This was not Ankara’s plan. When the Syrian uprising began in spring 2011, Turkish leaders initially encouraged Bashar Assad’s regime to reform. In August 2011, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spent six hours in Damascus asking Assad to stop killing civilians.
The Syrian tyrant not only disregarded Turkey’s pleas; he also sent tanks into Hama hours after Mr. Davutoglu left the capital. Thereafter, Ankara broke from Assad and began calling for his ouster. Turkey began providing safe haven to Syrian opposition groups, and media reports have even indicated that Ankara has been arming the Syrian rebels.
Enlarge Image
European Pressphoto Agency
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
Assad responded by letting the PKK operate in Syria after keeping a lid on the group for more than a decade. In 1998, Assad’s father had cracked down on the longtime presence of Kurdish militants in Syria, after Turkey threatened to invade if Syria continued to harbor the PKK. This spring, Assad allowed the PKK to move some 2,000 militants into Syria from their mountain enclave in northern Iraq. Assad, in effect, signaled to Ankara: “Help my enemy, and I will help yours.”
The Iranian regime has spoken in similar tones. In September 2011, immediately after Ankara started to confront the Assad regime, Tehran reconciled with the PKK’s Iranian franchise, the Party for Freedom and Life in Kurdistan. Tehran had been fighting its Kurdish rebels since 2003, as part of a strategy to take advantage of the rift between Turkey and the U.S. at the onset of the Iraq War. By helping Turkey defeat Kurdish militias, Iran had hoped to win Ankara’s favor at the expense of its own archenemy: Washington. But Iran flipped this posture last year, and by making peace Kurdish militants, it gave the PKK freedom to target Turkey.
The new stance on the PKK could not have worked so well against Turkey had the Syrian uprising not excited Kurds across the Middle East, including in Turkey. As Syrian rebels eroded the regime’s power in northern Syria this summer, Kurds started taking control of cities there, just across the border with Turkey.
Encouraged by this development, the PKK has tried to wrest control of Turkish towns, targeting especially vulnerable spots in the country’s rugged and isolated southernmost Hakkari province, which borders Iraq and Iran. Although the PKK has not yet secured any territory, the battle for Hakkari has caused hundreds of casualties over recent months.
Iran appears to be complicit in this new PKK assault, at least in part. Last month Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters that the government had “received information that [PKK] terrorists infiltrated from the Iranian side of the border” before launching a massive assault on the town of Semdinli in Hakkari. Tehran denies this.
Rejuvenated by its welcome in Syria and Iran, and also by Ankara’s stunted “Kurdish Opening”—an aborted effort in 2009 that had aimed to improve Kurds’ rights in Turkey—the PKK is now spreading tension beyond the Kurdish-majority areas of southeastern Turkey. On Aug. 20, the group killed nine people with a car bomb in Gaziantep, a prosperous and mixed Turkish-Kurdish city that had been spared from PKK violence. Once again, the Syrian-Iranian axis cast its shadow over the assault: Turkish officials alleged Syrian complicity in the Gaziantep attack, and when Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili met with Turkey’s prime minister in Istanbul on Sept. 18, he was also reportedly admonished.
Ankara’s Middle East policy rests on one basic premise: that anyone who supports the PKK is Turkey’s enemy. It follows that Ankara has a problem with Damascus until Assad falls, and a long-term problem with Tehran even after Assad falls.
Accordingly, these shifting stones in the Middle East are also bringing Ankara closer to its longtime ally the U.S. Turkey has agreed to host NATO’s missile-defense system, which aims to protect members of the Western alliance from Iranian and other nuclear threats.
After weeks of attacks and riots against their embassies elsewhere in the Middle East, Americans may well be wondering if the Arab Spring has had any positive consequences at all for the U.S. The severing of Turkish-Iranian ties, at least, can count as one.
Mr. Cagaptay is a Beyer Family Fellow and director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
(image from Venitism – a pro Kurd blog)

fascinating. I was about to open my arms to the Kurds about two years ago when social media rumors were hinting that we should support them as atrocity victims. I’ve no doubt that they are indeed victims, but their recent allegiance to Iran and Syria isn’t exactly the type of response I’d of hoped for. The Kurds are an interesting third or fifth,,, or maybe sixth leg in mid-east politics. I’ve heard that they all aren’t Shia either. Some of the Kurds are also Sunni Islam… or maybe I was being lied to about that as well. It’s hard to know what to believe. Often times Westerners are told they are ignorant about mid-east political matters. That might be true… but usually because the sources we ask lie to us.


Erdogan: Turkey Would Strike PKK Fighters in Syria

July 27, 2012
Kurds protested April 6 in Qamishli against the Syrian government.
Most of the Kurds, however, have not joined the fighting.

I guess the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) is working with Assad… though it is hard to know. This could just be an attempt by Erdogan to tar the Kurds who he likes to kill.

(NYTmes) Mr. Assad has made major efforts to keep them out of the fray, aware that their support for the opposition could prove decisive. He has promised that hundreds of thousands of Kurds will be given citizenship, something the ruling Assad family has denied them for nearly half a century. The Kurds have other reasons for holding back: the opposition movement in Syria is made up in large part by the Muslim Brotherhood and Arab nationalists, two groups that have little sympathy for Kurdish rights, and the Kurds cling to their long-sought goal of a Kurdish state. A wild card in all this is the Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the P.K.K., a well-armed and well-trained militia that has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States. In Syria the group has allied itself with the Assad government, which could use it to stir up tensions along the Turkish border, should Mr. Assad see the need. In the past, Syria armed and protected the P.K.K. in its long campaign against Turkey, though that assistance cooled when relations between the countries began improving little more than a decade ago. The group has already threatened to turn all Kurdish areas in the region into a “war zone” if Turkey crosses the border to intervene in the Syrian crisis.

(Claire Berlinski) via (gatestoneinstitute.org) Speaking late last night on Turkey’s Kanal 24, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Ankara would not hesitate to strike at the PKK if it used Syrian territory to launch attacks on Turkish soil.

“In the north, it (President Bashar Assad’s regime) has allotted five provinces to the Kurds, to the terrorist organization,” Erdogan said on Turkish television late Wednesday, referring to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).
He said the move was explicitly aimed against Turkey and warned that “there will undoubtedly be a response on our part to this attitude.”
Asked if Ankara would strike fleeing rebels after an attack on Turkish soil, Erdogan said: “That’s not even a matter of discussion, it is a given. That is the objective, that is what must be done.”
“That is what we have been doing and will continue to do in Iraq,” he said during a program aired on Kanal 24.
“If we occasionally launch arial strikes against terrorist areas it’s because these are measures taken because of defense needs.”
Turkey regularly bombs suspected Kurdish rebel hideouts in northern Iraq.

Given that Syria has warned that it will use chemical weapons against any external threat–(“if such weapons exist,” Syrian Foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi later clarifed, which of course they do), I suppose we’d all best hope that Turkish columnist Mehmet Ali Birand is right and that Assad is just bluffing.
Me, I’m not so sure.


Shocking Images of Dead Kurdish Fighters:

August 12, 2010

Turkey Accused of Using Chemical Weapons against PKK – Turkish Logic: a Blockade against rocket attacks is wrong, Chemical Weapon are fine as long as it is a Muslim that does it and the Muslim used Taqiyya afterwords

Turkish soldiers on patrol in a Kurdish area of southeastern Turkey: Did the Turkish military use chemical weapons against the PKK?

Turkish soldiers on patrol in a Kurdish area of southeastern Turkey:

German experts have confirmed the authenticity of photographs that purport to show PKK fighters killed by chemical weapons. The evidence puts increasing pressure on the Turkish government, which has long been suspected of using such weapons against Kurdish rebels. German politicians are demanding an investigation.
It would be difficult to exceed the horror shown in the photos, which feature burned, maimed and scorched body parts. The victims are scarcely even recognizable as human beings. Turkish-Kurdish human rights activists believe the people in the photos are eight members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) underground movement, who are thought to have been killed in September 2009.

In March, the activists gave the photos to a German human rights delegation comprised of Turkey experts, journalists and politicians from the far-left Left Party, as SPIEGEL reported at the end of July. Now Hans Baumann, a German expert on photo forgeries has confirmed the authenticity of the photos, and a forensics report released by the Hamburg University Hospital has backed the initial suspicion, saying that it is highly probable that the eight Kurds died “due to the use of chemical substances.”

Did the Turkish army in fact use chemical weapons and, by doing so, violate the Chemical Weapons Convention it had ratified?

Repeated ‘Mysterious Incidents’

German politicians and human rights experts are now demanding an investigation into the incident. “The latest findings are so spectacular that the Turkish side urgently needs to explain things,” said Claudia Roth, the co-chair of Germany’s Green Party. “It is impossible to understand why an autopsy of the PKK fighters was ordered but the results kept under seal.”

The politician said there had been repeated “mysterious incidents of this type that are crying out for an independent investigation.” Roth demanded that Turkey issue an official statement on the possible use of chemical weapons “in order to nullify further allegations.”
Ruprecht Polenz, a member of the German parliament with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union and the chairman of the Bundestag’s Foreign Relations Committee, sees it the same way. “Turkey needs to urgently look into these accusations,” he told SPIEGEL ONLINE, adding that an international investigation would be the best approach.

Turkey has been suspected of using chemical weapons for years, points out Gisela Penteker, a Turkey expert with the international medical organization International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. “Local people have said that again and again,” she explained. Finding proof is difficult, however, she said, because bodies were often released so late that it was hardly possible to carry out a thorough autopsy.

‘PKK Propaganda’

 In Turkey, human rights advocates have long demanded an investigation. The army, however, has refused to comment on the issue. Similarly, the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been stubbornly silent or tried to portray the accusations of war crimes as “PKK propaganda.

“The prime minister is not interested in human rights violations,” says Akin Birdal, a member of the Turkish parliament whose pro-Kurdish BDP opposition party has repeatedly questioned in parliament if Erdogan’s war in the southeast of the country is really being conducted legally. In Birdal’s view, the only thing that matters to Erdogan is that the army eradicates the PKK problem once and for all “by any means necessary.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry has rejected the accusations, according to the Berlin daily newspaper Die Tageszeitung, which reported on the case Thursday. Turkey is a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and its armed forces do not possess any biological or chemical weapons, the ministry reportedly said.
The newspaper also reports that it has obtained additional, shocking pictures in the meantime, supposedly autopsy photographs of six other killed Kurds. These images, too, have now been submitted to the Hamburg-based experts.