lundi 12 septembre 2011

Turkey's Bombing of PKK Camps Exposes Rift Among Kurds

By Guy Taylor | 12 Sep 2011

The slow-burning war pitting militarized Kurdish groups in Iraq against the governments of Turkey and Iran has escalated since mid-August. Most notably, Turkish fighter jets have flown multiple bombing runs on bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The Turkish bombing campaign, occurring inside northern Iraq, is reportedly being conducted in retaliation for a series of PKK attacks that have left more than two dozen Turkish soldiers dead since the beginning of the summer. Meanwhile, a PKK offshoot known as the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK) is engaged in ongoing clashes with Iranian forces, with Iranian officials claiming last week that 30 PJAK members had been killed in fighting near the Iraqi border.

The multifaceted conflict reached new heights of complexity last week when Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government, called on both the PKK and PJAK to stop using northern Iraq as a base for plotting attacks on Turkish and Iranian targets.

Barzani has in the past defended the Kurdish guerrillas operating in the Qandil Mountains. Why he now appeared to come out on the side of the Turks and Iranians is the subject of some debate. World Politics Review contributor and Kurdistan analyst Hannes Artens says it is vital "not to look at the Kurds as one unit across all these countries."

Artens, who is currently a doctoral researcher specializing in Iraqi Kurdistan at the University of Exeter in the U.K., told Trend Lines that "there's no such thing as pan-Kurdish solidarity between the Iraqi Kurds and the PKK."

"They each run their own show," he explained. "The main interest of the Iraqi Kurdish parties is to keep what they have got -- they have autonomy status in Iraq, and it depends essentially and vitally on the good will of the U.S. and Turkey."

"Any consideration of pan-Kurdish solidarity, or co-ethnic alliance is secondary," added Artens, who noted that 90 percent of all imports in Iraqi Kurdistan are presently coming from Turkey. "What do the Iraqi Kurds and Massoud Barzani do in order to keep this relationship going and to assure Turkey's good will? They walk a tightrope, using the PKK as leverage. Basically, they allow Turkey every couple of years to strike at the PKK, but at the same time, they have an interest in the PKK not being completely annihilated, because as long as the PKK sits in the mountains, they can use it as a bargaining chip with Turkey."

The same logic runs in the other direction, with Turkey using the PKK presence in northern Iraq to exert leverage over Iraqi Kurds, said Artens, who contends that the United States largely accepts Turkish military action against the PKK because Turkey is an alley in the wider U.S. war on terror. It's worth noting recent reports that Turkey has invited the United States to base a fleet of Predator drones on Turkish soil for cross-border strikes on the PKK, elements of which appear on the U.S. State Deparment's list of foreign terrorist organizations.

While such factors help to explain Barzani's remarks last week, other evidence suggests that Iraqi Kurds are far from compliant to Turkey and Iran when it comes to cracking down on the PKK.

According to Edmund Ghareeb, a Kurdistan expert and professor at American University's School of International Service in Washington, Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party, along with its coalition of other Kurdish parties, including the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Islamic Group in Kurdistan, "took the issue to the Iraqi parliament and asked the Iraqi government to call on Turkey and Iran to stop interfering and end their attacks on Iraqi territory."

"They also called on the United Nations to take more responsibility to pressure Turkey and Iran to apologize to the Iraqi Kurdish people and to pay reparations," said Ghareeb. "Both the recent Iranian and Turkish attacks inside Iraq led to some civilian casualties of Iraqi Kurds, and this angered the Kurdish population of Iraq."

Hannes Artens comments regularly on Kurdistan. His WPR Briefings can be found here.

Aucun commentaire: