Turks' raids on Kurds fuel civil war
fears, could be swept up into wider conflicts in the
Middle East 20.10.2011
Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — Fighting between
Turkey's Kurdish separatists and the Ankara
government is escalating with Turkish air raids
against rebel havens in Iraq's Kurdistan region,
raising fears a new civil war in Turkey is looming
in a region already convulsed by turmoil.
But there is a danger, too, that what has long been
a largely internal battle in Turkey could be swept
up into wider, more complex regional conflicts in
the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
Some 40,000 people have been killed in Turkey since
the Kurdistan Workers Party, known by the initials
PKK, launched its armed struggle for an autonomous
Kurdish state in southeastern Turkey.
PKK's aim is the creation an autonomous
and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who
constitute the greatest minority in Turkey,
numbering more than 20 million. A large Turkey's
Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.
The fighting died down a few years ago amid efforts
to find a political settlement but it flared again
in recent months and now seems close to exploding
into a full-blown shooting war.
Pro-government newspapers in Turkey openly discuss a
massive military assault to wipe out the PKK in the
southeast and in the Iraqi Kurds' semiautonomous
enclave in northeastern Iraq.
This time, the Americans may find themselves drawn
into the conflict as Turkey launches air raids on
PKK sanctuaries in Iraq and is expected to mount a
major ground offensive, as it has in the past, if
the Kurds keep up attacks on Turkish forces
The Islamist government of Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan could well be supported by U.S.
Predator drones that are expected to be deployed on
Turkish soil as the Americans withdraw from Iraq.
Indeed, Ankara's growing campaign against the PKK is
becoming interlocked with a worsening revolution in
Syria, Turkey's threat to use military force to stop
Greek Cypriots and Israel from exploiting offshore
natural gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean and
deteriorating relations between Iran and the United
As U.S. troops move toward completing their
withdrawal from Iraq by Dec. 31, Washington is
having to increasingly depend on Turkey, which has
the second largest military within NATO,www.ekurd.net
to help support Iraq, moderate with Iran and
pressure the beleaguered regime in strife-torn
Erdogan last week launched weeklong military
maneuvers on Turkey's border with Syria, as it did
in 1988 when the two neighbors almost went to war
over Damascus' backing for the separatists of the
Erdogan, who wants to make Turkey the paramount
power in the region, has allowed the Syrian National
Council, the umbrella for the myriad opposition
groups that have been seeking the downfall of the
minority Alawite regime in Damascus since mid-March,
to operate out of Istanbul.
Syria's intelligence services, a key pillar of the
embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad, have
threatened to resume arms deliveries to the PKK
unless Erdogan minds his own business.
Turkish authorities uncovered an arms cache in the
southern Kurdish city of Diyarbakir on Oct. 3 that
may have originated in Syria.
Damascus accuses the Turks of arming the Free Syrian
Army and the Syria Free Officers Movement, two
groups formed by soldiers who defected from the
Syrian military to join the uprising in which the
United Nations says more than 3,000 people, mainly
civilians, have been killed.
These two groups, along with other dissident
factions, operate from refugee camps on Turkey's
border with Syria.
The regional upheaval is further complicated by Iran
stepping up attacks on PJAK, the PKK's Iranian wing,
which also has bases in Iraqi Kurdistan.
With the U.S. military pullout from Iraq,
Washington's need for Erdogan's support will almost
certainly intensify. The U.S. State Department has
already branded the PKK a terrorist organization.
"I think Turkey has America's complete support
regarding the PKK," says Soli Ozel, professor of
international relations at Istanbul's Kadir Has
"The U.S. is so dependent on Turkish backing when it
comes to Syria and Iraq, I don't think they'll think
twice about writing off the PKK."
The Jamestown Foundation, a Washington think tank,
cites regional analysts as saying Iran "is using
PJAK and the PKK to militarize the border regions in
case of an American attack."
That prospect may have gained traction from U.S.
allegations that Iran's Revolutionary Guards were
involved in a plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian
ambassador in Washington.
Tehran vehemently denies that and some analysts
suspect the incident was fabricated by U.S.
authorities to discredit Iran and pave the way for
possible military action.
Copyright ©, respective
author or news agency,
does not take credit for and is not responsible for the
content of news information on this page