Thursday, October 25, 2007

Iraq & Turkey

Iraqi Kurdish officials indicated that they were unlikely to help in any crackdown, with the regional government's spokesman denying that there are PKK bases in northern Iraq.
"We believe that the statements of Mr. Maliki about closing the centers of the PKK don't apply to us because we do not have any centers," the spokesman, Jamal Abdullah, said.
"If Mr. Maliki knows about any centers of the PKK in areas under the control of the central government, let him close these centers and we will encourage and support him. But in areas under our control, there is not a single center."
A PKK spokesman said that the Turkish planes attacked several targets near the town of Mergsur, about 90 miles north of Irbil, Iraqi Kurdistan's capital. No PKK forces were in the area at the time, said the spokesman, Abdul Rahman al Chadrachi.
Chadrachi, who was reached by phone at an undisclosed location in Iraq's Kandil Mountains, also said that PKK rebels had clashed with Turkish forces in Turkey, but provided no details except to say that there were no PKK casualties.
Wednesday's raids were the first time Turkey has sent planes into Iraqi airspace since its parliament last week authorized an invasion of Iraq to stop PKK attacks, which have claimed hundreds of lives in Turkey.

The above is from Bobby Caina Calvan and Yaseen Taha's "Maliki can't stop PKK attacks, officials say" (McClatchy Newspapers). While there's denial from the northen region about the centers, reporters have no trouble finding bases. Like Deborah Haynes (Times of London) before him, Patrick Cockburn had no problem visiting those. From his "Kurdish fighters defy the world from mountain fortress as bombing begins" (Independent of London):

For a guerrilla movement awaiting assault, the PKK's leaders are surprisingly easy to find. We drove east from Arbil for two-and-a-half hours and hired a four-wheel drive car in the village of Sangassar. Iraqi police wearing camouflage uniform were at work building a new outpost out of cement blocks beside the road leading into the mountains but only took our names.
In fact the four-wheel drive was hardly necessary because there is a military road constructed by Saddam Hussein's army in the 1980s which zig-zags along the side of a steep valley until it reaches the first PKK checkpoint. The PKK soldiers with Kalashnikovs and two grenades pinned to the front of their uniform were relaxed and efficient. In case anybody should have any doubt about who was in control there was an enormous picture of the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan picked out in yellow, black, white and red painted stones on a hill half a mile away and visible over a wide area.
There were no sign that threats from Mr Maliki in Baghdad or from the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, were having an effect. The PKK soldiers at a small guest house had not been expecting us but promptly got in touch with their local headquarters.

In the Los Angeles Times, Asso Ahmed and Yesim Borg's "Turkey, Iraq discuss Kurdish attacks" offers some perspective on the PKK centers (not the training camps Cockburn's visiting above) in northern Iraq:

And on Wednesday, the White House demanded that Iraqi officials make good on a year-old commitment to close down offices of the PKK.
Prime Minister Nouri Maliki promised on a visit to Turkey in November that he would shut down the PKK offices. However, they were never formally closed, and Maliki renewed the pledge this week, as Turkey threatened to send its military across the border to attack PKK sites in northern Iraq.
White House Press Secretary Dana Perino in a briefing noted Maliki's restatement of his 2006 pledge, which has been questioned by Turkish officials.
"We can understand why the Turks would be skeptical, because that pledge was made. It does need to be fulfilled," Perino said. "We'll be talking to the Iraqis about that as well."
A senior Pentagon official involved in talks with the Turks said the U.S. also was pressing the Kurdish regional government to take concrete action against the PKK, including severing logistics lines and curtailing the movement of Iraq-based cells of the separatist group.

Let's note again that The War Comes Home's Aaron Glantz reported on the situation for Pacifica in April of 2004 noting a meet up in DC between the Turkish government and the US government when then US Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Meyers stated, "This is an issue the coalition forces inside Iraq take very seriously. Let me assure you that there is very close collaboration with Turkey and that they [the PKK] will be dealt with appropriately." So it's not just al-Maliki -- in fact the US supposedly addressing this predates al-Maliki's installation as puppet. What is going on along the border between Iraq and northern Turkey remains in question. Christine Spolar (Chicago Tribune) reports:

Reports on Turkey's state-run Anatolia news agency about military activity appeared to be deliberately vague. Helicopters and warplanes struck rebel mountain paths, the agency said, but it did not indicate whether Turkish pilots had crossed the border.Cross-border action has been cited in one report by The Associated Press -- but the incursion happened last weekend. The AP, quoting an unnamed government official, said Wednesday that Turkish helicopters had chased Kurdish rebels 3 miles into Iraqi territory Sunday.
The PKK, known formally as the Kurdistan Workers' Party, is considered a terrorist group by the U.S., but the rebels have not been constricted since U.S. forces entered Iraq in March, 2003. This week, as thousands of protesters in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities rallied against the PKK, Turkey criticized the U.S.-backed Iraqi government's inability to quell the attacks.
The PKK trains and resupplies itself in the mountains of northern Iraq; regional leaders who are Kurds have said they do not support the PKK but that Turkey has refused to negotiate over the rebel group.

Evren Mesci (Reuters) notes:

Turkish tanks and artillery helped beat off an attack by up to 40 PKK rebels late on Wednesday on a military post in Hakkari province near the border, security officials told Reuters. After fierce clashes, the guerrillas withdrew into northern Iraq, taking an unknown number of dead and wounded, the officials said. One Turkish soldier was wounded. F-16 fighter jets took off early on Thursday from the airport in Diyarbakir, the largest city of Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast region. Their destination was not known. An Iraqi Kurdish security official said a Turkish warplane bombed a Kurdish village on Wednesday but gave no details of damage. In a visit described by Turkish officials as a last chance for diplomacy, an Iraqi team, led by Defence Minister General Abdel Qader Jassim and including members of northern Iraq's Kurdish administration, was due in Ankara later on Thursday.

Turning to economic factors, Martha notes Joshua Partlow and Ellen Knickmeyer's "Turkey Intensifies Border Operations" (Washington Post):

On Wednesday, after an hours-long emergency meeting of Turkey's National Security Council, Turkish leaders moved closer to economic sanctions against the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, which Turkey accuses of harboring the rebels. The security council members recommended unspecified economic measures against those entities that "directly or indirectly support the separatist terrorist organization in the region," a council statement said.
Turkey is a leading trade partner with northern Iraq, one of the few regions of the country that has enjoyed relative peace and prosperity since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Turkish construction firms are responsible for 90 percent of rebuilding projects in Iraq's Kurdish north, officials there estimate, and Turkish companies are taking part in many private projects as well in a post-invasion building boom in the north.
Wednesday's statement by the Turkish security council did not name northern Iraq. But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan mentioned the possibility of sanctions against the Iraqi north on Tuesday. Officials of his governing party have said measures could include cutting electricity to northern Iraq and restricting traffic through border crossings.
In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States intends to activate a trilateral commission, to involve Turkey, Iraq and the United States, to prevent future cross-border attacks. Rice acknowledged difficulties in containing the PKK in the rugged mountains but said, "That isn't an excuse."

Staying with the topic of economics, from Mark Bentley's "Turkey Warns of Wider Operation Against PKK in Iraq" (Bloomberg News):

The prospect of Turkish military intervention in Iraq has brought the Turkish lira's biggest rally in at least 30 years to a standstill. The lira has depreciated 2 percent since reaching a record high of 1.18 against the dollar on Oct. 9.
Turkey's National Security Council, an advisory body of military and civilian leaders, yesterday called on the government to implement "immediate'' economic sanctions against northern Iraq, including closing border crossings and halting exports of electricity, Vatan said.

And Polly notes the BBC's report today on oil prices:

Oil prices surged within touching distance of record highs after an unexpected fall in US crude stockpiles fanned winter supply fears.
US light sweet crude added $1.62 to $88.72, having earlier touched $89, and is now back within reach of the $90.07 peak that it hit last week.

And C6 of this morning's New York Times contains a tiny Reuters article (bottom left corner) entitled "Profits Higher at Military Contractors" which tells you that "Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics posted higher third-quarter profit yesterday and raised their financial forececasts as a result of strong Pentagon spending." You also learn that Lockheed Martin ("the world's largest military contractor") is raking it in but that fears over "a slow-down in the building of military hardware" has many trying to increase their "information technology and civil projects" over that fear. Good thing Bully Boy declared he needs more blood money this week, right?

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