War in Kurdistan?
Iran is shelling northern Iraq and massing forces along with Turkey to contain the Kurds, the Guardian reports.
Turkey and Iran have dispatched tanks, artillery and thousands of troops to their frontiers with Iraq during the past few weeks in what appears to be a coordinated effort to disrupt the activities of Kurdish rebel bases. Scores of Kurds have fled their homes in the northern frontier region after four days of shelling by the Iranian army. Local officials said Turkey had also fired a number of shells into Iraqi territory.
Although fighting between Turkish security forces and PKK militants is nowhere near the scale of the 1980s and 90s – which accounted for the loss of more than 30,000 mostly Turkish Kurdish lives- at least 15 Turkish police officers have died in clashes. The PKK’s sister party in Iran, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (Pejak), has stepped up activities against security targets in Kurdish regions. Yesterday, Kurdish media said eight Iranian troops were killed.
Frustrated by the reluctance of the US and the government in Baghdad to crack down on the PKK bases inside Iraq, Turkish generals have hinted they are considering a large-scale military operation across the border. They are said to be sharing intelligence about Kurdish rebel movements with their Iranian counterparts. “We would not hesitate to take every kind of measures when our security is at stake,” Abdullah Gul, the Turkish foreign minister, said last week.
There has been sporadic shelling of the region since May but officials worry that concerted military action against PKK bases in Iraq could alienate Iraqi Kurds and destabilise their self-rule region, one of few post-invasion success stories. Some analysts say Ankara and Tehran may be trying to pressure Iraq’s Kurds, afraid that their de facto independent region would encourage their own Kurdish population.
Josh Marshall observes, “The Israelis have deep ties to the Kurds. And they’d probably like to help them tangle with the Iranians. But Israel also has a key alliance with Turkey. So that might present some problems.” (He also mischaracterizes David Frum as advocating that we “withdraw to the Kurdish north and make our stand there.” The closest he comes to that is to quote Peter Galbraith‘s call for “placing a small ‘over the horizon’ force in Kurdistan,” which Frum considers a “second best” option.)
Obviously, this could be a messy situation. It’s interesting that this has been going on four days and this is the first I’ve heard about it. Then again, sporadic shooting across the ephemeral borders of “Kurdistan” is rather commonplace.