Turkey looks to Iraqi Kurdistan govt KRG
for help against PKK rebels
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye
Analysts say the Iraqi Kurds
have limited influence to halt PKK violence.
Kurdistan region president Massoud Barzani (L)
shakes hand with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan prior to their meeting in Istanbul, on April
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July 5, 2012
Seeking an end to the rising tide of PKK attacks
from the mountains of northern Iraq, Turkey is again
enlisting the support of the Iraqi Kurdish
leadership. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd,
and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President
Massoud Barzani have been urging the PKK to declare
a ceasefire -- and eventually lay down its arms --
in order to give a political solution a chance.
The Iraqi Kurds' efforts comes as Turkey and the KRG
have experienced a remarkable blossoming of
relations over the past three years, with added
strategic importance since the US withdrawal from
Iraq and the uprising in Syria.
Turkey's economic and political weight over the KRG
has been matched by domestic reforms to address the
Kurdish issue. Despite the numerous hiccups and the
failure of the much vaunted "Kurdish opening" in
2009, the Iraqi Kurdish leaders recognise Turkey has
taken unprecedented steps to address Kurdish rights.
Viewed from Erbil, the PKK is a problem that also
provides the KRG with leverage over Turkey.
Ultimately though, the Iraqi Kurds believe a
solution lays in negotiations between the PKK and
Turkey alongside democratic and rights-based reforms
that would meet Kurdish demands and make the PKK's
armed struggle irrelevant.
Barzani has condemned PKK violence and stated the
Kurdish struggle for rights cannot be won by force
of arms, but neither can Turkey solve it with the
heavy hand of the military.
Hemin Hawrami, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic
Party's (KDP) Foreign Affairs Office, told SES
Türkiye the Iraqi Kurds believe there is no
alternative to dialogue and a democratic, peaceful
"We ask the PKK to lay down their arms and give a
chance for a political solution within the framework
of the Turkish political process in parliament. We
also salute the Turkish government for their
initiatives so far and we do encourage them for more
steps in this regard," he said.
The Iraqi Kurds would like the PKK and its Iranian
offshoot, PJAK, expelled from its territory to avoid
regular Turkish and Iranian cross-border operations.
But they have limited military capabilities and the
tough terrain of the PKK's mountainous redoubts has
thwarted even the Turkish military for nearly 30
In the 1990s, the Iraqi Kurds at times fought the
PKK at the cost of many fighters, or peshmerga,
something Barzani is quick to point out. There is
little love between the PKK and Barzani. The close
relationship between the KRG and Turkey has only
made Barzani less credible in the eyes of the PKK.
"The PKK will never take its orders from Barzani,"
said Denise Natali, a scholar on the Kurds at the
National Defense University.
Syria -- where the PKK's Syrian offshoot, the PYD,
enjoys widespread support -- provides an example of
just how little influence Barzani may have over the
PKK. At the prodding of Turkey,www.ekurd.net
Barzani has unsuccessfully been encouraging the
Syrian Kurds -- one-third of which support the PYD
-- to join the opposition Syrian National Council
based in Istanbul.
According to Natali, "It is unlikely that Barzani
will ultimately be able to influence the Syrian
Kurdish opposition that supports the PYD/PKK because
they are anti-Turkish and Barzani is not."
The Iraqi Kurdish leaders know how much importance
their powerful northern neighbour accords to
hindering the PKK's presence, but the Iraqi Kurds
must also be attuned to their own Kurdish public
opinion which would hardly support tough measures
against the PKK.
"Barzani can make all the promises he wants to
Ankara, but the internal pressures by Kurdish
nationalists inside the Kurdistan Region, and the
PKK presence that has and will continue to
destabilise the northern area will remain a thorn in
his own side for years to come, at least until the
Kurdish problem is resolved in Turkey," Natali
Ahmed Ali, an Iraqi affairs analyst and editor of
Iraq Shamel, told SES Türkiye policy-makers in
Ankara "should be cognizant of these facts and
limitations and should probably have low
expectations of what Barzani and Talabani can
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