Thursday, June 24, 2010

Turkey and PKK

The PKK wants to show its power, agitate and harass the Turkish society so it can strengthen its hand in negotiations. What do we do? When reading the papers or watching TV you’ll notice that the scene is heartbreaking. We are amid a chaos. The common trend is to blame the AKP. We think when we drag Erdoğan through the mud terror issues will be solved. Nobody says, "Guys wait. There is not only one responsible. We all are responsible for things getting this far." Let's do some accounting together.
Let's start with the ruling party. The AKP has done something no one else has dared to do and started the Kurdish initiative, or the so-called democratic initiative. That is why I don’t agree with those who say that the PKK has become legal. On the contrary, to an important extent it has broken the relationship between the PKK and its grounds. But it could not sustain because it was not prepared and not supported in its own country. After the party invited those entering through Habur gate, it arrested again because it was afraid of the public. It destroyed the trust toward the government of the Turkish Republic. It finished the initiative right where it started. It killed its own infant and paved the way for missing out on an historical opportunity.

The above is the opinion of Mehmet Ali Birand (Hurriyet Daily News)regarding the continued conflicts between the Turkish military and the Kurdish wing fighting for their own homeland. That is one opinion from Turkey, it is not the opinion. The PKK is the Kurdish group we tend to focus on because it has bases in northern Iraq. There is more than just that Kurdish group. Despite repeated promises from the Bush White House, the PKK 'issue' was never dealt with. It hasn't been under Barack either. This is a major issue to Kurds around the world and it is major issue to people living in Turkey. From time to time, it's proposed that the 'answer' for Iraq is to create three regions ('create' if the proposal comes from Iraqis, 'carve up' if the proposals come from the West). It is thought that Turkey will not stand for the KRG receiving further autonomy. In other words, this is a major issue even if the US broadcast media has never treated it as such. Some news outlets have. The Los Angeles Times has probably done the best job covering the KRG since the start of the Iraq War. But the bulk of the media acts a lot like the Bush White House -- ignore the problem until bombs are dropped and then give it a few seconds of attention.

Turkey has sent ground troops into Iraq twice this month. Without the permission of the KRG. (It's disputed whether or not Nouri al-Maliki has given an official or unofficial nod. Iraq's Foreign Minister has called out the incursions.) Turkish war planes have bombed the KRG for years now. But many who count on broadcast media would never have a clue. (Of US cable outlets, CNN has done the best job of covering the issue but CNN International does a better job.) From the June 1st snapshot:

The PKK seeks an official Kurdish homeland (usually within Turkey) and points to decades of persecution. One of their leaders is Abudllah Ocalan who has been in a Turkish prison since 1999. The BBC reported over the weekend that he was rumored to have announced "he was abandoning efforts for dialogue with the Turkish government." Hurriyet Daily News reports that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will hold a terrorism summit on Wednesday (Turkey labels the PKK a terrorist organization).

Despite the fact that the PBS had Turkey's Foreign Minister on The NewsHour the day before the summit, the issue was never touched on, never addressed. Again, Americans dependent upon the broadcast media know very little about this issue. After The NewsHour ignored the issue, this news was in the June 3rd snapshot: "Shamal Arqawi (Reuters) reports that the cease fire the PKK had with Turkey is now off according to 'PKK spokesman Ahmed Danees [. . .] in Kurdistan.' Not unexpected? Over the weekend PKK leader (one of them) Abdullah Ocalan, in prison in Turkey since 1999, stated he was no longer engaging in any dialoge with the government of Turkey. That announcement laid the groundwork for the PKK in the KRG's announcement today." Pakistan's Daily Times reports today, "Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday demanded European allies cut off funding for Kurdish rebels and extradite suspected militants to Turkey, a day after a guerrilla bomb blast in Istanbul killed five." Gregg Carlstrom (Al Jazeera) offers a take on the increased tensions and violence:

Erdogan's political overtures suffered a major blow in December, when Turkey’s Constitutional Court outlawed the Democratic Society Party because of its alleged links to the PKK.

The party's 21 members of parliament resigned after the ruling, which sparked violent clashes in several cities - most notably in Diyarbakir, where more than 5,000 people took to the streets.

Other much-touted initiatives have fizzled out as well.

Thirty-four Kurds, including several former members of the PKK, returned to Turkey last year from years of exile in northern Iraq. The government hailed their return as the first step towards repatriating thousands of Turkish Kurds living in northern Iraq.

But those plans have been put on hold - and all 34 returnees, except for four children, have now been charged with speaking in support of a terrorist organisation.

The attacks have taken on a political dimension for Erdogan, whose ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) faces difficult elections next year.

Erdogan's overtures have helped the AKP win some Kurdish support, but they have also exposed the party to criticism from the rightist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the MHP, recently called Erdogan’s opening "a project of treason".
Turkish and Kurdish politicians talk to Al Jazeera about the escalating violence

The People's Republican Party (CHP), the main opposition party, also blamed Erdogan's policies for the renewed violence, though his criticism was more measured.

Turning to another ongoing issue: the political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance. Together, the two still lack four seats necessary (or so it is thought) to form the government. Reuters notes that the Iraqi National Alliance and the State of Law's inability to agree on a candidate for prime minister. Nouri al-Maliki, Little Saddam, wants to continue as prime minister. His fan club, State of Law, is backing him. The Iraqi National Alliance is not high on the choice.

On the lastest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday), Jasim Azawi spoke with the Iraqi National Alliance's Al-Aharif bin al-Hussein who insisted that the "National Alliance hasn't agreed yet on-on a candidate. Uh, but we expect that to happen in a few weeks." Azawi noted that Nouri's determination not to leave office may fracture the power-sharing coalition between the Iraqi National Alliance and State Of Law. Today Reuters quotes an insider (unnamed stating), "IsCI Badr organizations and Sadrists" Iraqi National Alliance "have decided not to hand the government to Maliki or the Dawa Party" (Dawa is the party Nouri hails from).

Meanwhile Mujahid Mohammed (AFP) reports that 3 Mosul suicide bombings claimed the lives of 1 Iraqi soldier and 4 police officers today and 3 police officers were shot dead in Mosul last night while, early this morning, a Baquba home invasion resulted in two adult brothers being kidnapped and their corpses later discovered. Xia Xiaopeng (Xinhua) reports that 4 family members were taken, that they were Sahwa and that all 4 were killed. In addition, Reuters notes a Kirkuk roadside bombing which injured four people and a two Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left eight more injured. Hannah Allem (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on the way the war has effected Iraq's farming.

Today on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman speaks with IVAW's Camilo Mejia and others; and on The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), the first hour addresses TBI and PTSD.

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee continues addressing a number of issues, check out the DPC's video page, and we'll note Senator Dick Durbin on unemployment insurance.

On the Gulf Disaster, The NewsHour did a report on the people working on the clean up, the low-level workers put at risk and threatened with firing should they speak to the press (link has transcript, video and audio options):

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Like most of the commercial fishermen here at the southern tip of Louisiana, Acy Cooper has had to go to work for BP on cleanup operations. The third-generation shrimper says it's the only way to feed his family now that the oil spill has shut down most of the fishing grounds in the Gulf.

ACY COOPER, vice president, Louisiana Shrimper Association: If we don't have no way to make any money, what are we going to do to pay our bills? Tomorrow, we might have no money to pay our bills. We have kids. People have small kids and families.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: But Cooper and some of his fellow shrimpers say the work is making them sick.

ACY COOPER: Nine of them came in already sickness, and a couple of them confirmed cases of chemical poison, have nose, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, shortness of breath, things in that nature.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: How serious are these problems?

ACY COOPER: It's very serious. We fought tooth and nail to get jobs, but we didn't get jobs to kill anybody.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Forty-nine-year-old Cooper, who is vice president of the Louisiana Shrimpers Association, is one of the few cleanup workers who would talk on camera about the health issues involved. Most said they were afraid, if they spoke to us, they would be fired by BP.

Lastly, Leo Shane III (Stars and Stripes) reports on the new commander of the US war . . . Lt Gen Lloyd Austin who takes over in Iraq this coming September.
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jasim azawi