Another Bush Legacy in Iraq: Barzani asks PKK to Leave

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

On Sunday morning, Kurdish separatist guerrillas launched a suicide-bombing strike on Turkish forces in Angri province, using a tractor laden with explosives.

On Saturday, the president of the Kurdistan Regional government of northern Iraq, Massoud Barzani, condemned the Turkish airstrikes on Iraq and asked the PKK guerrillas to withdraw from the territories he rules. The KRG complained that the airstrikes had killed Kurdish civilians.

Barzani is likely worried that the PKK will become an even bigger factor in the politics of Iraqi Kurdistan now that it is being targeted. He wants both to placate the angry Turks and to constrain the radical Kurds.

The mainstream media in the US will not note that some of this recrudescence of ugly ethnic nationalism in eastern Turkey is the fault of George W. Bush.

The Kurdish-speaking areas of Turkey are in turmoil after the guerrilla group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) over the past year disregarded its peace process and launched attacks on Turkish military and security personnel. In the past two weeks, the Turkish government has also explicitly given up a “peace process” with the PKK Kurds and launched dozens of air strikes on PKK bases and safe houses.

By 2002, the Kurdish insurgency in eastern Turkey that erupted in the 1980s and after had wound down. Guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan had been captured and was negotiating.

Then in 2003 George W. Bush invaded Iraq, dissolved its army, and threw it into chaos.

In the midst of the chaos, some 5000 old Kurdish guerrillas from Turkey relocated into remote areas of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Kurdish super-province. The paramilitary of this Iraqi super-province, the Peshmerga, were the closest US allies during the occupation. But they declined to move against the guerrillas from Turkey, having some ethnic affinity with them (though they are ideologically quite different. The Peshmerga serve a government in which the center-right Kurdistan Democratic Party takes the lead. The Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK is far left and had been communist in earlier decades).

The US military never moved against the PKK either. At one point Bush dealt with the problem by allowing Turkey to bomb American-occupied Iraq, surely a violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention.

Barzani’s move is surprising since the KRG has during the past year considered that PKK fighters based in Iraqi Kurdistan are potential helpmeets in the task of rolling back and then defeated Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). Before that, the two Kurdish guerrilla groups had a deep rivalry.

Related video:

Aljazeera English: ” Iraqi Kurds, PKK rivals but have one common enemy ”

6 Responses

  1. George W,’s “fault”?
    Or was he just complying with and implementing the destabilize-the-ME policy?

    • I think he was just very ignorant re the ME. “Terrorists” were a fuzzy category in his mind. There was the old grudge plus he envisioned he could knock out a [at-one-time] user of WMDs. Of course, for our ends they were ok. But according to W’s fuzzy thinking…ok then but not at the later moment when the ends weren’t US approved. He probably was only on & off aware of to what ends they were used prior. Intelligence might have kept him out of the loop re the then present just as they did Reagan (even Powell didn’t get super pushy until ONE forced confession popped up). I conjecture knocking out one WMD user was his first pipe dream. If it got protracted, his friends in Defense Inc and contractor-land would be even closer friends. When presidents take the later outcome-then-option lightly, then they’re set to destabilize. But IMO they don’t understand it…don’t grasp the whole picture or potential blowback. Part and parcel of that beltway bubble thing. All he had to do was read Institute for Policy Study books, but that evidently required too much effort. Think of all the pols for whom it’s too much effort. When folks realize how much is at stake with the Iran treaty I hope they’ll start demanding to hear Jill Stein. What has Sanders had to say about it??

      • We elect Presidents to be political leaders. That means they take in all the facts and opinions around any given issue and assess whether one or another course of action benefits America or not. An American President as ignorant of the ME as Bush is a betrayal of the office.

        • In regard to what the framers intended (at least Washington, and Jefferson somewhat), yes it’s a betrayal. But I think we should acknowledge a certain large force-of-maya in the modern era. Even if they see a sliver of light beyond the thing, often leaders are politically coerced into an intervention at the last minute [can we think of any folks who might have been persuasive with Bush?]. We have to acknowledge this as the little people we are in this whole huge thing. Otherwise, when we talk about politics…it is as if we’re deluded into thinking some nutso executive has upset the heretofore undisturbed default balance (all the while, though, judicial & legislative were abdicating just as much). Nowadays there’s no one who’s worked harder for peace…no one wiser or more relevant than Jimmy Carter. He wasn’t just some rube in his younger days either. But, for instance, it appears he got talked into something by Brzinski that certainly didn’t pay off. link to

          It’s not that I don’t appreciate all the Mr Smith’s that go to Washington, and try. I do. It’s a tough job. But if I don’t acknowledge that they (and the polity too) have been acting like they don’t understand the world outside…at least ever since the WWI war debt put on Germany…then how I see the world outside ends up not counting and uncommunicated.

  2. “The raids [Turkey’s raids] came after the PKK reportedly killed two Turkish police officers in retaliation for an attack claimed by Islamic State and what the PKK sees as Turkey’s collaboration with IS. ” BBC link (first link…having very useful chart)

    Any evidence Turkey was complicit in any respect re said attack claimed by SC-IS? With this perspective, now it looks like the PKK messed up (shouldn’t I doubt they’re infiltrated, and it was a false flag? So far, I do doubt it). There’s a lot of stuff floating around about complicity, but this piece and its links help explain things.

    Dates, like “8/2,” would help besides days of the week…same goes for BBC.

  3. Sorry, but the PKK did not disregard the peace process “over the past year”. This analysis would regard the governing AKP merely as responding to the alleged non-civil stand of the PKK, which is just not the case.

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