Wednesday, May 17, 2006



Unless you're well read about the convoluted, intricated history of the Kurds, you may have had a hard time getting your head around what is going on in Northern Iraq today, and how Iran, Turkey and Syria fit into the big picture.

This article from the Asia Times is the most straightforward outline of the current clashes in Northern Iraq, and the looming problems for Iraq and the United States, that we've found so far.

From the Asia Times :

"Both Turkey and Iran have been launching military raids into northern Iraq against a Kurdish paramilitary group that is based there, posing a dangerous new threat to stability both within Iraq and to the region.

"The Iraq-based Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), labeled a terrorist group by the United States, Britain and the European Union, is a paramilitary party that preaches Kurdish nationalism, especially in Turkey, where it is demanding political rights and better living standards for the country's 12 million Kurds.

Turkey recently launched a massive military operation involving more than 250,000 troops against the PKK (nearly double the number of US troops in Iraq), concentrated in the mountains along Turkey's borders with Iran and Iraq.

"Extensive incursions into Northern Iraq have been reported, aimed at cutting off the PKK's supply lines to Turkey from its camps in northern Iraq. Turkey also claims that "the PKK has recently increased its activities and obtained weapons from Iraq".

"Iran, meanwhile, has begun attacks on PKK units based in Iran, and the Iranian military has entered Iraqi territory in hot pursuit of PKK militants. This represents a different approach from recent years, when Turkey regularly accused Tehran of turning a blind eye to the PKK in Iran.

"The Baghdad government has objected, claiming a violation of its sovereignty, but both countries insist that they are acting in self-defense.

"The PKK wants to create a Kurdish state out of southeastern Turkey, northeastern Iraq, northeastern Syria and northwestern Iran.

"PKK broadcasts have claimed that 2006 would be "a year of destiny" for Kurdish nationalism. The PKK rebellion, which has hit Turkey the hardest, has led to the death of 35,000 Turks (including 5,000 soldiers) and cost the Turks billions of dollars.

"The PKK's long history of violence - and the violence used in turn by the authorities - all but ceased after its leader Abdullah Ocelan was arrested in 1998, but it resumed activities in June 2004, claiming that the Turkish military was still attacking it.

"'In a message to Iraq, Turkey said, 'They [PKK] are the infiltrators and we are protecting our border. Do not allow the terror network to use your territory. Fight against the terrorists who will only terrorize you in the future.'

"Another communique issued by Turkey addressing the Iraqis read, 'We are not considering ending our activity there [in Iraq] for as long as the PKK is also present and active in that area.'

"The Turks claim that up to 4,000 members of the PKK have been using Iraq to launch attacks on Turkey."

The Asia Times story also has an interesting analysis on exactly what are the problems and major difficulties facing the new Iraqi government today, and how the different religious groups are jostling for position, and power.

Read the rest of this story here.