Iraq Heeds Turkish Demands to Close Kurdish Rebel Offices
For the past two years, since the resumption of PKK activities in Turkey , the Turkish government has endeavored to counter the PKK both internally within Turkey?s borders, as well as outside them. The Turkish government has insisted that the PKK has managed to launch successful attacks largely because they have bases and operational sanctuaries in northern Iraq . The government?s protests on this matter have largely fallen on deaf ears. This issue has also soured relations with the United States . Tensions between Turkey and the United States were already high because of the war in Iraq, and relations were strained further when the US refused to go after PKK forces in the north of Iraq at the behest of the Turkish government. Turkey has often felt that it has not been accorded the appropriate international cooperation in combating the PKK. As a result, the Turkish government has ominously warned that they may take care of matters themselves. The situation in Iraq is already chaotic, and incursions by Turkish forces going after PKK elements would lead to additional security complications. With the upsurge of attacks by the PKK, especially against foreign tourists, and the emergence of related groups such as the TAK , it has become difficult for foreign governments to ignore the threat of the PKK without admitting to a measure of hypocrisy. In addition, there may be fears that the resurgence of the PKK has reached a boiling point, and that the Turkish government is poised to do something about the Iraq situation in relation to the PKK. It seems that both the Iraqi government and the US are finally listening in this case. In a major step, the Iraqi government, mired in its own counterinsurgency and counterterrorism battles, will now take on the PKK. It is very likely that there is US involvement and pressure behind the scenes in compelling Iraq?s move, but it may also be part of a longer term strategy of Iraq to cultivate and maintain good relations with its neighbor. In moving against the PKK, Iraq has agreed to close all PKK offices. Heavy pressure has been placed on the regional government to crack down on the PKK. Iraq has also appointed a special coordinator for countering PKK terrorism, falling into line with both Turkey and the United States on this matter. Iraq has also arrested a few officials associated with the PKK. Iraq?s recent crackdown on the PKK and the appointment of these special coordinators signal a joint international effort on the part of the US and Iraq in taking the PKK threat seriously. Though these efforts are small and mostly symbolic steps at the moment, they should placate the Turkish government for now. Certainly closing down PKK offices is an important first step, but it is likely they will simply go underground. The real test of this new relationship will come when there is resistance from the PKK in Iraq, and the terrorism coordinators are challenged to take firm steps in response. If the Iraqi government is not willing to enforce this new plan against the PKK, and if these coordinators do not suggest any firmer measures, then it is likely the Turkish government will become frustrated once again.