US Provided Real Time Intelligence for Turkish Strikes on Iraq

Ann Scott Tyson and Robin Wright of WaPo confirm from Washington sources that the US provided to the Turkish government ‘real time intelligence’ on Kurdish Workers Party [PKK] guerrillas holed up in Iraq. That is what Turkish Chief of Staff Yasar Buyukanit had alleged in the wake of Turkish bombing of Iraqi territory. Since the Kurdistan Regional Authority led by Massoud Barzani tacitly supports the PKK, which the US considers a terrorist organization, this provision to Ankara of intelligence from Iraq has to be going by way of Mosul and Baghdad. I.e. the Shiite al-Maliki government and perhaps Shiite Turkmen opposed to the Kurds must be involved in all this somehow. The ominous thing is that the cooperation of former prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari with Turkey on the issue of whether oil-rich Kirkuk province would be joined to the Kurdistan Regional Authority was among the causes for the collapse of his government and his replacement with Nuri al-Maliki. Al-Maliki has very little support in parliament and if the Kurdish deputies start voting against him, his government would be unlikely to survive, at least as a parliamentary regime (he could continue his current pattern of authoritarian rule by cabinet with reference to parliament in theory, though even that might become difficult for him without Kurdish support).

The danger of a US confrontation with Barzani over the PKK, and its implications for the stability of the al-Maliki government, may be among the reasons for US Secretary of State Condi Rice’s surprise visit to Kirkuk. The Bush administration is underlining a recent political breakthrough in the oil-rich province, whereby the Arab representatives on the provincial council elected in January 2005 have agreed to stop their boycott of the council in return for Kurdish acquiescence in the appointment of Arabs in provincial government positions. But that agreement is fragile, and wrangling between Kurds and Arabs over other issues such as PKK provocations against neighboring Turkey could pull it apart. Kirkuk province also has a substantial Turkmen population, some large portion of which opposes incorporation of Kirkuk into the Kurdistan Regional Authority.