Rebel defeat in northern Syria cripples Turkey’s plans

It is no longer a secret that when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had his series of meetings with top American officials in Washington last month, he had a specific plan to kick DAESH out from northern Syria. Erdoğan tried to convince the American leadership to give another shot to Syrian Arab groups near Azaz and asked for intensified American logistics support and air cover for their offensives along the Turkish border. That was not a surprise because General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter were already publicly signaling a revival of the train-and-equip program for Turkey-backed Syrian groups. These groups would receive military training, including how to call in airstrikes on the enemy.

Ankara has used every way to make sure the U.S. would stick with the red lines imposed on the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Turkey preventing the PKK-linked YPG’s entrance to Manbij and Jarablous requires an alternative and the U.S. seemed cautiously open to Turkish proposals. As U.S. Secretary of State Jon Kerry said earlier this month, the U.S. still considers sealing the 145kilometers of the Turkish-Syrian border controlled by DAESH as a priority.

This is why the anti-DAESH coalition significantly increased its airstrikes and Turkish artillery fire around Azaz over the past two weeks, and the Syrian opposition seized the crucial town of al-Rai along the border. But the victory was short-lived since DAESH seized the area back and disgraced the Syrian rebels by burning refugee camps and even creating a new wave of refugees to Turkey. Meanwhile, the YPG in Afrin simultaneously continued to attack opposition-held territory and made sure the YPG has no intentions of brokering an alliance in the area with rebels.

Even worse, DAESH has begun to target Turkey’s border town of Kilis with Katyusha rockets, which has caused great harm on the civilian population. DAESH has targeted the town for the last two weeks and, as a result, five Syrian refugees, three of them children, and two Turkish citizens died while dozens of citizens were wounded.

Let’s face it, Ankara is backed into a tight corner with these developments. It cannot tolerate the Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) additional seizure of territory and it cannot transform weak rebels into a victorious force in a night either. And DAESH is still infiltrating into Turkey from across the border and targeting Turkish citizens and Syrian refugees. No problems are solved and U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, especially the pro-PYD officials, thinks their point is getting validated.

This is why we hear more American calls for a PKK cease-fire and a complete withdrawal of PKK forces from Turkey to Syria and Iraq, because the U.S. believes the chances for a Turkish plan to succeed are not very high and pushing the PKK into its caves while it is aiding the fight against DAESH seems a calculated move.

The problem with this plan, however, is Ankara is still not giving up on its own plan. There is no other option for Ankara, which does not believe the PKK would abandon violence unless it is militarily defeated. The point is that Ankara tried to figure a way out regarding the PKK since 2009, and it has not worked. Now, a PKK affiliate ruling a large swathe of territory in Syria makes it even a lesser possibility that the PKK would return to the negotiating table.

If Washington is seriously planning to convince Ankara on this front, officials should make sure the PKK ends its violence at once and withdraws from Turkey without any preconditions. Maybe there might be some hope for this American adventure. Who knows?

Daily Sabah

PKK: A wolf in sheep’s clothing

On July 11, the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that includes the PKK, issued a written statement to unilaterally end the two-year cease-fire citing public projects, including the construction of dams, in southeastern Turkey. Several days later, a member of the KCK Executive Committee called on PKK militants to take up arms against the Turkish state. Finally, PKK militants killed two civilians and two police officers under the pretext of retaliating against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) suicide attack on July 20. Four days later, Turkish F-16s started launching airstrikes on PKK positions in northern Iraq in an effort to push the organization to reinstate the cease-fire and withdraw of armed militants from Turkey as a first step toward disarmament. More than a few international media outlets, however, would like you to believe that the Turkish government, specifically President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, broke the cease-fire in order to help the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) reclaim its parliamentary majority. Although there is no evidence whatsoever to support this claim, more than a few reporters conveniently ignored the basic principles of journalism in order to pass off full-blown conspiracy theories as news.

It all began in 2011 when the Turkish government launched the Kurdish reconciliation process to sponsor public projects in the southeast and promote broader cultural rights for the Kurdish community. Despite paying lip service to the prospect of peace, the PKK seized the opportunity to stockpile weapons, recruit new members and draw out plans for future attacks, which enabled the organization, whose withdrawal from Turkey has been pending for two years, to perpetrate attacks with relative ease. Considering that the vast majority of Turkey’s Kurds continue to support the disarmament talks, it should be quite clear that the PKK not only disagrees with, but also ignores the demands of millions of Kurds for peace.

Believing that anyone with a basic sense of time can figure out that the PKK shot first, let us offer an often ignored yet quite crucial question: What exactly does the PKK aim to accomplish through violence? The government has already taken steps to promote Kurds’ cultural rights by forcing the authorities to deal with the Kurdish question through dialogue and democratization as opposed to violence. The fact that international journalists are too busy with softball interviews for the record does not relieve the PKK leadership of their responsibility to explain, without resorting to conspiracy theories, why they thought it was a good idea to turn their back on peace and started walking around guns blazing. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has neither been able to distance itself from terrorism and make a genuine effort to push for the PKK’s disarmament.

The real reason behind the PKK’s most recent attacks has been the understanding that they can translate the Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) territorial gains in northern Syria and international popularity into political momentum in Turkey. Moving forward, the PKK leadership aims to expand the conflict zone into residential areas and town centers in order to promote violence among the general population. In other words, the organization seeks to trigger an ethnic conflict, akin to the sectarian tensions across the Middle East, which will be fought at the grassroots level.

Daily Sabah believes that the rising tide of violence takes a disproportionate toll on the Kurdish community. Not only are many Kurds affected by terrorist attacks in their vicinity but the organization itself not infrequently launches direct attacks against Kurdish members of the security forces and civilians. In order to promote peace and stability in Turkey, bridging the development gap between the country’s various parts remains a must. The PKK, as such, must reinstate the cease-fire without further delay in order to continue negotiations with Turkish authorities and find meaningful alternatives to violence.

For weeks, the media and the international community have given the PKK a free pass citing the organization’s role in fighting ISIS. Another serious problem with the media coverage is that major news outlets tend to present Turkey’s ongoing military effort as a war against the Kurdish people, which simply does not reflect the truth. Excited by the PYD’s advances against ISIS in Syria, many observers seem to have forgotten that not only Turkey, but also the United States and the European Union designate the PKK as a terrorist organization. In the age of global terrorism, there is no room to play favorites.

Daily Sabah

6 PKK terrorists killed in SE Turkey

Six PKK terrorists have been killed on Wednesday after an attack was launched by the group on a gendarme command in the Bitlis province. Four soldiers were also injured during the clashes with the PKK group.

The PKK terrorists initiated an armed attack on Hizan district’s gendarmerie command on Wednesday morning. The soldiers retaliated and a clash between the sides pursued. Four soldiers were injured and six terrorists were killed during the armed conflict.

The wounded soldiers were taken to Tatvan military hospital via helicopter. One of the soldiers, whose condition was critical, was referred to another hospital in the Van province.

Security forces have launched an operation to track the terrorists in the region.

In a separate attack on Wednesday, PKK terrorists commenced fire on a minibus carrying police officers in the eastern province of Iğdır. The incident occurred at around 11 a.m. near the Taşburun village. The police officer named O.Ş. was injured in the attack and was taken to Iğdır State Hospital.

Formed in 1978, the PKK terrorist organization had been fighting the Turkish government for an independent state until the early 2000’s. The group then shifted its goal to autonomy in predominately Kurdish inhabited regions of Turkey.

The PKK announced on July 11 that the cease-fire which was declared via a message from the PKK’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan in 2013 has ended.

Daily Sabah

8 PKK members killed in clashes in southeast Turkey

Turkish security forces killed eight alleged members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party during clashes in the southeastern province of Bingöl today. 

AA photo
AA photo

Bingöl Gov. Hakan Güvencer said the militants were killed in a clash near Yayladere town of the province.

Güvencer said security forces were conducting an operation on a house where suspected PKK members were hiding when. Security forces called for the residents to surrender, Güvencer said, to which the militants responded by opening fire.

“Eight PKK members, of whom five were women, were killed in the ensuing firefight,” Güvencer said.

Meanwhile, 28 people were arrested for alleged links to the PKK in a separate operation in the Aydıncık town of southern province of Mersin.

Security forces seized 12 kilograms of explosives, 32 bomb mechanisms, 18 hand grenades and five long-range assault rifles.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

 

 

BİNGÖL – Anatolia News Agency

December/15/2011

Army denies using chemical weapons against the PKK

The Turkish military denied on Thursday it was using chemical weapons in its fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and said it did not even possess such arms.

AA Photo
AA Photo

“There have been no chemical weapons or ammunition registered in the inventory of the Turkish Armed Forces,” said the General Staff, which presides over the armed forces, according to the Anatolia news agency.

“The fight against the separatist terrorist organisation continues in compliance with national and universal rules of law,” it added.

The military was responding to claims published in some media at home and abroad that the army was using chemical weapons in its operations against  PKK militants.

The claims are “baseless, biased and aimed at slandering the Turkish armed forces,” the General Staff said.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

 

 

December/08/2011

ANKARA – Agence France- Presse

 

 

 

 

10 PKK terrorists surrender, 1 killed in counterterrorism operations

One terrorist was killed and 10 others surrendered to the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) on Wednesday in the military’s ongoing fighting against the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the provinces of Şırnak and Bingöl.

A group of terrorists who were planning to attack security forces in the southeastern province of Tunceli were detained on Dec. 7 during an operation against the PKK. (Photo: Cihan)
A group of terrorists who were planning to attack security forces in the southeastern province of Tunceli were detained on Dec. 7 during an operation against the PKK. (Photo: Cihan)

A written statement from the Şırnak Governor’s Office on Wednesday stated that Turkish intelligence was informed that a group of PKK terrorists were inside a seven-story-high cave in the Cudi Mountain in the southeastern province of Şırnak, bordering Iraq. A unit of TSK commandos went to the area by helicopter and a land unit surrounded the cave on the ground. Terrorists surrendered to the commandos when all other options were exhausted.

The statement also mentions that three other people who are reported to be PKK sympathizers were captured with the terrorists. They allegedly helped the terrorist organization launch attacks against public buildings, civilians and security forces in cities.

While searching the cave, security units found seven Kalashnikov rifles, two binoculars, ammunition, one rocket launcher, a laptop, a power generator, an LCD TV, a radiophone, a DVD player, PKK administrative documents and a large amount of food.

The terrorists who surrendered stated that there are many PKK terrorists who also want to surrender but cannot find the opportunity. They also stated that many of the PKK groups in the mountainous regions of Turkey find it hard to survive, as they are facing a lack of food and — critically, in these bad weather conditions — shelter.

Furthermore, one PKK terrorist was killed and seven others surrendered to gendarmes in a clash in the district of Karlıova of Bingöl province on Wednesday. Security units are continuing their operations against the terrorist PKK in Bingöl.

The conflict with the PKK has claimed tens of thousands of lives and cost Turkey hundreds of billions of dollars. The group is labeled a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States, which has supplied Predator drones to Turkey to assist in its fight in the rugged Southeast.

Court sends captured senior PKK terrorist to prison

Suphi Yalçınkaya, a high-level member of the terrorist PKK who was captured by police in İstanbul on Sunday, was sent to prison after being interrogated at İstanbul’s Beşiktaş Courthouse on Wednesday.

The terrorist was captured over the weekend in a police operation carried out in İstanbul’s Esenyurt district. He is known to be the right-hand man of Fehman Hüseyin of Syria, who goes by the codename Bahoz Erdal.

 

08 December 2011, Thursday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL

 

 

 

Danish prosecutors say Roj TV, voice of PKK, should be banned

Copenhagen prosecutors overseeing an investigation into Kurdish-language television station Roj TV have said the TV station is the voice of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and have requested a Danish court ban the channel from broadcasting.

(Photo: Cihan)
(Photo: Cihan)

Prosecutors Anders Risager and Jakob Buch-Jepsen announced their final opinion during the 28th hearing of the trial on Wednesday. They submitted evidence of orders from PKK executives to Roj TV and photographs of Roj TV employees taken in the PKK’s bases in the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq. Buch-Jepsen said during the hearing that the evidence they put forward clearly proves that Roj TV is completely under the control of the PKK, both administratively and economically.

The PKK is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and the European Union. Its members are fighting for autonomy in Turkey’s southeast, a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984. Roj TV has a Danish broadcasting license, but has no studios in Denmark.

Stating that the channel said it would be based and managed in Copenhagen when its founders applied for a license from Danish authorities, Buch-Jepsen said the channel is being run from the Brussels-based pro-PKK news agency Roj NV and all broadcasts of Roj TV are being provided by Roj NV. The prosecutor added that Roj TV is the successor of Med TV and Medya TV, which were earlier banned in Germany, France and the UK, noting that it is enough to follow the programming of Roj TV to see that it is the successor of these channels.

After countless complaints and petitions from the Turkish government over a number of years, in August 2010 Denmark’s public prosecution filed a court case against Roj TV, charging it with helping to promote the PKK. When filing the case, top Danish prosecutor Jorgen Steen Sorensen said Roj TV was promoting the activities of the PKK.

Turkey’s minister for European Union affairs, Egemen Bağış, who was in Copenhagen for an official visit, commented on the Danish prosecutors’ opinion in the Roj TV case on Wednesday, saying he does not want to even think about the possibility of a ruling against the closure of Roj TV. “I want to hope that the Danish judiciary will make the correct decision on this issue, which clearly shows that Roj TV has become the mouthpiece of the PKK,” he told reporters.

“Let’s wait for the ruling,” he added. Bağış said the single issue that negatively affects Turkish-Danish relations is Roj TV. The TV station has long been a cause of tension between Denmark and Turkey. Ankara believes it is broadcasting propaganda for the PKK and has called for the station to be closed, but in the past Denmark has refused to do so, citing freedom of the press.

 

08 December 2011, Thursday / EMRE OĞUZ, COPENHAGEN

 

 

 

Turkey’s new plan includes killing 300 senior PKK terrorists

According to Turkish intelligence officials, the Turkish government has started implementing a new strategy according to which some 300 important Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists have been put on a death list.

Experts believe this new strategy is being carried out to destroy the claim of top PKK members, in which they say that the Turkish government has killed at least one person from every single family in Turkey’s Southeast.

It can be said that Turkey has adopted this new counterterrorism strategy under current Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, who assumed the post from the previous interior minister, Beşir Atalay. Within the scope of this strategy, Turkey simply put the political sides of the PKK issue aside and instead carries out heavier attacks on the terrorist organization while targeting its top 300 members.

Ankara’s new strategy started after the terrorist PKK killed 13 Turkish soldiers, while its so-called cease-fire was still in place.

Turkey’s answered the PKK attacks more heavily when several terrorist groups carried out simultaneous attacks against the gendarmerie and police in which 24 Turkish security personnel were killed, and 18 others were wounded in October. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) attacked PKK militia bases in the mountainous regions of Hakkari and Şırnak provinces.

Speaking to Today’s Zaman, government officials state that the reason behind Turkey adopting a strategy to kill the foremost PKK members is because young PKK terrorists who are mainly in the front line of the clashes with the army are getting killed and PKK leaders use these deaths as propaganda, stating that the government has killed at least one person from every single house in provinces that are predominantly Kurdish. Kurdish youth being killed in operations is strengthening hatred towards Turkey; therefore, the government now targets top PKK members.

Minister Şahin stated in October that National Police Department special ops teams will take part in counterterrorism operations carried out in rural areas. Intelligence officials told Today’s Zaman that the police and the gendarmerie now act together in counterterrorism operations; previously, there was no coordination between these organizations whatsoever.

Difference between Atalay and Şahin

In the past 30 years of counterterrorism operations against the PKK, governments have always taken measures and actions with the will of the TSK only, and this policy caused various ministers to introduce different tactics against the PKK.

Atalay was in charge in 2009, and later the government tried to solve the Kurdish problem politically. The government took the risk of losing its credibility and started negotiations with the terrorist PKK. Within the scope of this strategy, Atalay has always looked for political solutions to the PKK issue.

Turkish intelligence officials state that the current interior minister, Şahin, believes that political reforms can’t solve the Kurdish issue without reducing PKK attacks against security forces and civilians. The terrorist organization seems to have psychological superiority in the mountainous regions, which Şahin is currently trying to end in order to stop the terrorist organization’s propaganda, which states that Turkey adopts reforms only because the PKK puts pressure on the government with its terrorist attacks.

 

 

 

04 December 2011, Sunday / LALE KEMAL , İSTANBUL

Kurdish leader says in touch with PKK, to exercise maximum pressure

Iraqi Kurdish leader has said his regional administration has been in talks with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to stop their assaults against Turkey and will exercise the maximum pressure on the terrorist organization.

Massoud Barzani (Photo: Reuters)
Massoud Barzani (Photo: Reuters)

“We are in contact (with the PKK) and will exercise the maximum pressure on the PKK to stop their military operations because this is playing with the fate of the Kurdish people,” said Massoud Barzani, himself a former militant leader.

Attacks by the PKK members on Turkish military have prompted Ankara to launch airstrikes on the Iraqi border mountains since August this year.    

“Now is not the time for military operations, one can fight for a cause in peaceful and democratic ways, this is the solution,” Barzani told Reuters in an interview.

His region is facing shelling and air strikes by troops in neighboring Iran and Turkey who are trying to strike camps run by the PKK and its Iranian offshoot PJAK. Both use the Iraqi border mountains as a refuge from Turkish and Iranian military.    

Shelling and air strikes have forced some Kurdish villagers from their homes along the border.    

Barzani said his government could consider sending local Kurdish Peshmerga forces to the region’s borders with Iran if the situation deteriorated further.

Future status of Kirkuk

Speaking about the US withdrawal and the future status of Kirkuk, Barzani said the US withdrawal from Iraq next month will not impact security in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, but Baghdad’s delay deciding the fate of the disputed city of Kirkuk could prove “dangerous.”        

He said he is ready to work with the central government to avoid a deterioration in security as Washington pulls out its remaining 13,000 troops by the end of December.    

“The US withdrawal will not have any impact on the security situation in the Kurdistan region, because there have been no American forces in the region. As for the rest of Iraq’s security, there is a worry,” he said.    

“We are ready to cooperate with Baghdad so as not to allow any security breach or void,” he said.    

Baghdad and northern Iraqi capital Arbil have a long-running dispute over territory and oil rights along their internal border, especially over who controls Kirkuk city, which sits atop some of the world’s largest oil reserves.   

A census to determine whether the city has a Kurdish or Arab majority that would back up either claim has been repeatedly delayed. The tussle over the disputed territories is seen as a potential flashpoint as US troops withdraw.    

Barzani said his administration will continue demanding a vote on the fate of Kirkuk — claimed by the Kurds as their ancestral homeland — without any concessions.    

“We have exercised the maximum levels of flexibility on this issue and when we approved article 140, we had no doubt on the identity of these areas, they are Kurdish areas,” Barzani said.    

Article 140 in the Iraqi constitution calls for a resolution of dispute areas through different stages including voting in a referendum. The census would be a key initial step toward a vote on resolving the territorial dispute.    

“The future of Kirkuk is linked to the execution of article 140, if this article was executed then the issue of Kirkuk would be solved and the people of Kirkuk are the ones who will decide their fate,” he said. “If there are delays or (attempts) to avoid the Iraqi constitution, then the future will be really very dangerous.”    

Iraq territories disputed by Kurds and the Arab-led government in Baghdad, include Kirkuk and areas in the troubled northern Nineveh province.    

Asked if he was willing to offer concessions to Baghdad by giving away Kirkuk to solve a long-standing row over oil revenue and contracts, Barzani said: “No way. This is an identity issue, an issue of honor, an issue of dignity, how could we? The issue of oil and gas is another subject, you can never link them.”

 

 

 

30 November 2011, Wednesday / TODAYSZAMAN.COM WITH REUTERS,

Talabani calls on PKK to drop arms

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was “convinced” by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani regarding a solution to the bloody conflict, according to a TV report. Talabani also said the PKK had proposed two conditions to lay down arms.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is trying to convince PKK to lay down arms. Hürriyet photo
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is trying to convince PKK to lay down arms. Hürriyet photo

“They told me they want a general amnesty for PKK members and that the new constitution should state that Turkey consists of not only Turks but also other people,” Talabani told the Iraqiya TV channel, according to private broadcaster CNNTürk.

Talabani said he was successful in convincing the PKK on a solution and “half-successful” in convincing the Turkish side.

Speaking in Moscow, a top Turkish official said the PKK must not use any potential cease-fire as an opportunity to prepare for new battles but should instead abandon its armed struggle. The era marked by the policies of denial and assimilation are now over in Turkey, Ömer Çelik, the deputy leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), told reporters in Moscow.

“No rights can be won by armed struggle, the PKK should lay down arms,” Çelik said, Anatolia news agency reported.

Çelik’s comments followed a similar call by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Speaking to semi-official Iraqiya television, Talabani said the PKK had proposed two conditions to lay down its arms.

“They told me they want a general amnesty for PKK members and that the new constitution should state that Turkey consists of not only Turks but also other people,” Talabani said, according to private broadcaster CNNTürk.

Talabani said he was successful in convincing the PKK on a solution and “half-successful” in convincing the Turkish side.

Meanwhile, 28 people were detained in a recent Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) operation in the Cizre and Silopi districts of the southeastern province of Şırnak yesterday.

The detainees include Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) officials as well as provincial council members.

The KCK is the alleged urban wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is recognized as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

On Saturday, 70 people who were detained last week in Istanbul and the southeastern province of Diyarbakır were arrested for alleged links to a terrorist organization.

Lawyers make up 42 of the suspects because of their connections to Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, who allegedly relayed his directives to the KCK through the lawyers from the İmralı Island Prison where he is serving a life sentence.

Öcalan could be questioned as part of the probe, especially to shed light on the alleged links between KCK and PKK, reports said.

Çelik, meanwhile, defended the controversial recent operations against the KCK.

“The judiciary will have the final decision, but no one can call it a civil society group when an organization that names itself the KCK throws Molotov cocktails in city centers and terrorizes people,” said the deputy AKP leader, adding that every state has the right to protect its citizens.

Sunday, November 27, 2011
BAGHDAD / MOSCOW