On 26 February the President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, in an interview televised on the NTV channel, called on Turkey to engage in direct talks to put an end to the tensions resulting from the use of Iraqi Kurdistan as a rear base by Kurdish fighters from Turkey. “Dialogue is the best method of resolving problems and misunderstandings”, he declared. He also insisted on the fact that independence constituted “a natural right” of the region’s Kurds, recalling that the Iraqi Kurds want to include Kirkuk in their autonomous region. This oil-producing city is “the heart of Kurdistan”, he added. Massud Barzani pointed out, on the Turkish television, that the countries of the region would have to accept the fact that the Kurds had a right to independence. This reminder of the rights of the Kurds to self determination aroused sharp criticism from Turkish political leaders. The next day, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, accused Massud Barzani of being “irrational”. “An irrational leadership and maximalist dreams in the Middle East have always plunged the peoples into conflicts”, he declared to journalists in a plane bringing him back from a visit to Afghanistan. He considered that Mr. Barzani’s remarks were “irresponsible in a context, particularly in Iraq, where the situation is critical and where Turkey is pursuing a constructive policy”. For his part, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared on 26 February to the semi-official News Agency Anadolu in reaction to Mr. Barzani’s remarks that “Kirkuk is like Iraq in miniature and is the property of no single ethnic group alone”.
The Kurds’ attachment to Kirkuk is far from just being linked to its underground wealth since exploration of other parts of Kurdistan are increasingly asttracting investors. especially as the Iraqi government approved a Bill on hydrocarbons on 26 February. This Bill offers legal security to the Kurds, since important deposits have been dispovered in Kurdistsn and experts are expecting fresh discoveries, since their proven reserves only represent 2.9% of those of Iraq as a whole. Moreover, the major oil companies are likely to be more inclined to invest in the Kurdish region, rather free of violence. “The Kurds have broadly reached the objectives they had set themselves”, considered, on 27 February, Alex Munton, an analyst who has been closely following the negotiations on behalf of a firm of consultants specialising in fuel and power, Wood Mackenzie.
The Kurdistan regional government, was obliged to make some concessions since it will not directly manage the oil revenues of deposits in its territory, operation if which have begun. However, it will be able to supervise their exploitation. “The initial contracts will be place under the responsibility of the Kurdistan government, then after a certain time transferred to the Federal government”, declared the Kurdish governbment’s spokesman, Khalid Saleh. Concretely, these arrangements allow the Kurds to preserve the advance they have acquired with foreign investors and to continue prospecting in the only region of Iraq where a relative stability reigns. DNO, a Norwegian company, had already concluded an agreement with the Kurdish authorities even before the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and announced the discovery of a deposit at Tawke, near Kirkuk. The Tawke wells could rapidly supply up to 50,000 barrels of crude a day and to the company. By accepting a compromise over revenues, Kurdistan has confirmed the contracts already signed, as the Bill gives them legal security. Thus, even though it shares its good fortune, it will benefit from the direct local spin-offs — esstially in terms of jobs and taxes.
In a speech broadcast by the public television service channel Al-Iraqia, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki welcomed this, hoping that it would have “positive repercussions on the consolidation of relations between all the components of the Iraqi people”. This Bill, that will soon be put before Parliament, is the fruit of a difficult compromise on a burning issue — the oil reserves, the third largest in the world, are mainly concentrated in the Shiite South and in Kurdistan. Once adopted, the new law should allow an equitable sharing between the 18n provinces of Iraq. It also provides for the supervision of this sector by the Federal government and for an independent National enterprise. The oil revenues will be paid into a Federal account, then redistributed to the provinces pro rata to their population —that is 20% for the Kurds. The law will thus favour the country’s “unification”, rejoiced in unisson the american and Iraqi authorities.
The Bill will be examined by the 275 members of the Iraqi Parliament. The government had promised to promulgate a new law before the end of 2006 but, because of objections from the Kurdish parties, it had not been possible to reach an agreement. “This law will guarantee the Iraqis, not only today but also for future generations, complete control of this natural wealth”, stressed the Iraqi Minister for Oil, Hussain al-Shahristani.
The White House had often been accused, before the intervention in Iraq by the Americano-British armed forces, of seeking to lay hands on Iraqi’s black gold on behalf of the major american and British oil companies. However, four years later, the major American and British companies hesitate to venture into Iraq while Russian and Chinese State companies try to re-activate contracts signed in the 90s with the former dictator Saddam Hussein.
Iraq has the third largest oil reserves in the world, but is still obliged to import refined oil products, and its output of crude has still not reached its pre-2003 level because of inadequate infra-structures and bomb attacks. It stands, at present, at about 2 million barrels a day is essentially under the control of the Iraqi National Oil Company
Ankara is showing a growing impatience at the American and Kurdish reluctance to act against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). On 23 February, the Turkish National Security Council (MGK) called for the strengthening of diplomatic efforts with a view to resolving the problem raised by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. during a Press conference in Washington on 17 February, following discussions with American officials, the Turkish Armed Forces Chief of Staff, General Yasar Buyukanit, accused the two principal Kurdish parties in Iraqi Kurdistan of supporting the PKK and supplying it with explosives. General Buyukanit expressed his scepticism about the recent statements by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which he said he was inclined to improve relations with the Iraqi Kurdish parties “if that would contribute to the establishment of peace in the region”. “I cannot interfere if political contacts are to take place. But what am I to discuss with those who support the PKK?”, he concluded. on the other hand, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, retorted that the government would seek dialogue with all the iraqi groups so as to ensure that the problems were resolved by political means. “Soldiers talk with weapons (...) but before coming to that, political men and diplomats have work to do”, he declared to the press, before taking the plane for Saudi Arabia. “This question must not be transformed into a controversy”, added the head of the Turkish diplomatic services, stressing that the points of view of the government and the Army were parts of the same efforts to resolve the problem. For his part, the President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, called on Turkey to for direct talks to end the tensions. He recalled that the question of the PKK was apolitical question, for which there was no military solution, Since 1984, Turkey has carried out about thirty incursions into the region without any lasting results. The PKK is present throughout Turkish territory, even in Istanbul, he recalled, calling on Ankara to engage in a political process including a general amnesty. He also indicated that the Iraqi Kurds would not fight other Kurds, but would not allow their territory to be used for military actions against neighbouring States. He asked Ankara not to seek excuses for interfering with Iraqi affairs.
For its part, the United Stqates advised Turkey not to intervene militarily against the PKK in Iraqi Kurdish territory, as they fear that such an operation would destabilise an Iraqi region that has remained relatively calm. According tom the head of the Turkish armed forces, some 3,500 members of the PKK are at present stationed in Iraq and 1,500 are in Turkey. On 6 February, the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, asked her Turkish opposite number not to have recourse of violence against the PKK fighters who find refuge in Iraq. “We have clearly said, obviously, that we do not want to see any further recourse to violence” in Iraq stated the State Department spokesman Sean McCormac, giving an account of a meeting between Mrs. Rice and Abdullah Gul, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. In August, Washington had appointed a former NATO Commander, Reserve General Joseph Ralston, as special American envoy, charged with co-ordinating the struggle against the PKK"
On 28 February, the office of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced, in a communiqué, that it had issued invitations to an international conference on 10 March, adding that the aim “of this conference was to help advqance the political process, to support the efforts of the Iraqi Government of national Union in favour of security and stability”. The same source made the point that the conference will also have to favour “national reconciliation”. amongst the guests are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Iraq’s six neighbours, the Arab League and the Islamic Conference Organisation. The United States and Syria have announced that they would take part, while iran let it be understood that its presence was possible. France has indicated that it would examine the Iraqi government’s invitation. According to the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, a first meeting should take place in March at top level followed by a second meeting at ministerial level, no doubt in April “with the same guests plus the G8”.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the Director of US National Intelligence services, Michael McConnell, declared that the political situation in Iraq was developing “in the wrong direction”. He also considered that the term “civil war” was an apt description of “the essential elements of the Iraqi conflict”. “Unless the efforts aimed at reversing this situation really have some effect in the next 12 to 18 months (...), we consider that the security situation will continue to deteriorate”, he pointed out speaking before the Senate Armed Forces Commission.
On 10 February, US General David Petraeus took command of the 140,000 American and allied soldiers in iraq, with the task of applying a new security strategy that many in Baghdad have described as the last chance plan. “It is time for all Iraqis to reject violence, crime and corruption and hold up their heads and take a stand against those who employ such methods”, declared General Petraeus. He is familiar with Iraq, where he spent two and a half years following the intervention of March 2003. In particular he had commanded the prestigious 101st Airborne Division, whose headquarters were in Mossul, and as such was responsible for the Northern region. He also supervised the setting up of Iraqi forces until September 2005. Onj his return to the United States he re-vised the Army’s counter-insurrection manuel.
His arrival coincides with the beginning of the application of the security plan for Baghdad, where nearly 17,000 people were killed in 2006 in sectarian violence, according to UNO. This plan, often described as a “last chance plan” by the Iraqis, involves the deploying of 35,000 GIs in the capital and 50,000 Iraqi soldiers and police. General Petraeus’ taking command comes after a particularly bloody week, both for the Iraqis and fopr the American troops. On 3 February, Baghdad was hit by one of the boodiest bomb attacks since 2003, when a lorry bomb killed 130 people in a market. The suicide bomber was transporting foodstuff when he detonated his explosives late in the afternoon, destroying shops and stalls that made up the Sadriyah open air market, according to the police. This bloody attack is one of a series aimed at Shiites, especially the Shiites in Baghdad. The Sadriyah market is in street of fruit and vegetable shops and stalls selling other foodstuff. The district is largely inhabited by Shiite Kurds and is only about 500 metres from a Sunni pilgrim centre.
In Kurdistasn, a double car bomb attack on 17 February caused at least ten deaths and 80 injured in a crowded market in Kirkuk, still within Iraqi jurisdiction. Several vehicles and stalls were destroyed by fire. On 15 February, three of the Iraqi Foreign Minister’s guards were killed in an ambush as they were returning home to Kurdistan on leave. Five people, all guards, traveling in the same vehicle, were ambushed to the South of the city of Kirkuk, three being killed and two wounded. Eight bombs were detonated in the space of two hours in Kirkuk on 3 February. The first, a suicide car bomb attack, aimed at the offices of Massud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, caused two deaths and 30 injured, according to Police Colonel Dishtun Mohammed. Thirteen other people were injured in the series of explosions that followed. responsibility for these attacks was never claimed, but some people fear that they were the work of terrorists fleeing North to escape the imminent drag net in baghdad. Rizgar Ali, head of the Kirkuk Provincial Council, accused insurgents trying to destabilise the city.
Elsewhere, on 21 February the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, announced that Great britain was going to reduce its forces in South Iraq from 7,100 to 5,500, but would keep them in a combat-ready state. 'Mr. Blair did not give any timetable for the withdrawal of these 1,600 troops except that it should take place “in the next few months”. Tony Blair also made the point that the British Army would remain in Iraq until 2008. For its part, Denmark is also going to withdraw its land forces, at present deployed in South Iraq, nextg August, and replace them by a unit of helicopters, the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced. At the moment, Denmark has 460 men in Iraq, including a 4330 strong battalion deployed in Basra under British command.
As against this, the United States is going to reinforce its contingent in Iraq, following the announcement by its President George W, Bush of the despatching of 21,500 additional troops to restore security in Baghdad and Anbar Province. The US has over 140,000 soldiers in Iraq. An Iraqi-American plan for make Baghdad secure was started on 14 February. Shops, closed because of the insecurity have reopened and inhabitants driven from the quarters where they lived by acts of violence between Shiite and Sunni Arabs have returned home. Well aware of the failure of previous security operations carried out last year, the US military leaders have stressed that the activists were liable to adapt their tactics and to lie low watching the situation for a while. Over 110,000 Iraqi and American troops are taking part in this “Imposing Law” operation, which aims at reducing the clashes that cause hundreds of deaths every week and split the capital along sectarian lines, driving tens of thousands of inhabitants from their homes.
The Iranian and Syrian borders have been closed for the duration of the Baghdad security operation. The Iraqi government affirms that half of the Sunni extremists responsible for bomb attacks in Iraq come through Syria. “We have confirmation that 50% of the takfiris and assassins who claim to be Arab jihadists arrive by crossing the Syrian borders”, declared the government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, on 4 February, on the Al-Arabiya TV channel, referring to the Sunni radicals who consider it permissible to murder any Moslems they consider unbelievers. “Syria shuts its eyes to this. As we have already said, and as we say again today, we are going through painful and bloody times because of Syria’s unreliability in controlling its borders”, continued the Iraqi government spokesman. Syria, for its part, states that it is doing all it can to control its long desert borders with Iraq. “The Syrian regime possesses powerful intelligence (services) and not a single bird can fly across the Golan plateau, but as soon as it concerns Iraq (...) they say they do not have the equipment necessary or that they lack something or other”, insisted Dabbagh. On 12 February, the General Secreatry of the Islamic Conference Organisation (ICO) Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, considered, for his part, that the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq would be the worst solution in view of the present “catastrophic” situation. In an interview given to Reuters on the occasion of a visit to Indonesia, the leader of the largest Moslem organisation in the world stressed, furthermore that the ICO, whichn has 57 members, has undertaken to fight against the ideas of “radical movements, fanatics and extremists” that “present Islam in a very distorted manner”.
On 17 February, the President of the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria (ONDHS), Mr. Ammar al-Qorabi announced the release in Damascus of the N°2 of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (Yekiti — banned in Syria) two months after his arrest in Aleppo. Moheddin Sheikh Aali had been arrested on 20 December by the Security services while he was sitting in an Aleppo café with a friend. “He was transferred to the Security services detention centre in Damascus, where he was freed”, the lawyer pointed out. This Kurdish leader “is a moderate, and his arrest was unjustified — especially as no charges were made against him”, added mr. Qorabi, who expressed the hope that this release would be “a first step towards that of all political detainees”.
Otherwise, on 4 February, the High Court for State Security sentenced twelve young Kurds, including two minors, charged with “belonging to a secret organisation” to between two and a half and seven years imprisonment, according to the ONDHS. They were arrested at the end of 2005, after throwing Molotov cocktails in Aleppo, according to the director of ONDHS, Ammar Qorabi. Amongst them are two minors, each sentenced to two and a half years jail. The ONDHS calls on the Syrian authorities to abolish the High Court for State Security, which is an emergency court. Under the State of Emergency, in force in Syria since 1963, the authorities can arrest suspects without any warrant of arrest. About 2 million Kurds live in Syria, out of a total population of 18 million. There are eleven Kurdish parties in Syria, all of them banned. Their leaders deny they ahve any secessionist aims and insist that they just want recognition of their language and of their cultural rights. In addition, some 300,000 Kurds also demand restoration of their Syrian nationality, that was arbitrarily withdraw after a census in 1962.
On 17 February, President Bachar al-Assad began a two-day visit to Iran for discussions with is allky and opposite number Mahmud Ahmedinjad. This is the Syrian President’s second visit to Iran since the ultra-conservative Ahmedinjad took office in August 2005. Accompanied by his Vice-President, Faruk al-Chareh, and his Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, Mr. Assad met former Iranian President Rafsanjani and also had discussions with the Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Mohammad Said Bikhaitan, a senior official of the Baath Party, in power in Syria, declared early in February that a referendum on a renewed term of office for Bachar al-Assad as syrian head of state would take place during 2007. “The referendum on a fresh term of office for president Bachar al-Assad will be a national and patriotic occasion that will enable the people to express its support for (Mr. Assad’s) policy” declared Mr. Bikhaitan, without specifying any date. Bachar al-Assad “leads the country and manages the crises with wisdom. He courageously defends (Syria’s) dignity and rights”, advanced Mr. Bikhaitan in a speech in Damascus. “The next few months will see other important and democratic dates during which the people will express its choices directly”, he continued, referring to the general and municipal elections that are also planned for this year in syria. On 11 July 2000, Bachar al-Assad became President of the Syrian Republic with 97% of the vote following a plebiscite organised a month after his father’s death on 10 June 2000.
Since May 2004, Syria has been subjected to American economic sanctions that forbid, in particular, the import by Syria of American products other than food and medicines. According to the Syrian Prime Minister, Naji Otri, his country had replaced the dollar by the euro for almost half of its currency reserves as a preventive measure against the possibility of American sanctions. The amount of Syria’s currency reserves is not given in the list of some 170 countries that the Bloomberg agency issues every week, as they are kept secret. On the other hand, on 1 February syria announced that it had passed a series of laws to promote foreign investments. The decree, promulgated on 27 January, in particular authorises investors “to repatriate profits from the capital introduced into the country via Syrian banks”. It also provides “exoneration from customs duties of the means of production, including means of transport” and the creation of an “organisation for investment in Syria”, according to the texts of the laws as published in the official media. Syria estimates its needs for investment at 37 billion dollars over the next five years.
Following the arrest, in general round up, over 5 and 6 February, of 14 Kurds and an Australian of Kurdish origin in the Paris region and in Brittany the French courts decided, on 17 February, to release four Kurds taken in for questioning for alleged “terrorist activities” and incarcerated on 9 February. All those arrested were legally settled in France. The investigating office placed Canan Kurtyilmaz, considered the European representative of the PKK, on probation contrary to the demand of the Prosecutor, who demanded she be imprisoned. Mrs. Kurtyilmaz, 33 years of age, had been arrested in Belgium, where she was traveling, on 5 February, and transferred to France on 16 February to be detained for questioning two daqys later. The magistrate, Thierry Fragnoli, one of the three investigating judges charged with the case had detained her for questioning for “criminal associations regarding terrorist activities and financing terrorism”, according to sources close to the case. The investigation conducted by judges Thierry Frangoli, Philippe Coirre and Jean-Louis Bruguière had been initiated in July 2006 after two Kurds, who were trying to change 20,000 euros into dollars, had been taken in for questioning. Eight other Kurds had been released on 23 February. Amongst them were Riza Altun, Attila Balikici, Nedim Seven, respectively considered former PKK representative in Europe, his secretary and the treasurer of the movement. They were placed on probation and forbidden to leave the Paris region, according to their lawyer. The lawyers denounced “an intention by the police to fabricate” a case “out of nothing”, considering that it was “incomprehensible that what had been know and tolerated for years be brutally criminalised today”. Messrs. antoine Comte, Jean-Louis Malterre and Sylvie Boitel stated that “What had struck the court was that we were able to show that the French authorities had maintained regular contact with out clients between 2000 and 2006, thus tolerating their collections (of money) and could not have failed but be aware of and closed their eyes to the offenses of which they were now being accused”. Mr. William Bourdon stated, for his part, that “the Court is again faced with all the consequences of the incoherent attitudes of different departments responsible for the struggle against terrorism: on the one hand the DST (counter-espionage) had been fully aware of their activities for years and on the other hand the DNAT (National Anti-terrorist Division responsible for this case) that suddenly decides to criminalise them”. Several of the people being chargedc explained that they had had “regular relations” with the DST since 2000. The DST confirmed the existence of contacts with the PKK Kurds but solely, they said, to prevent illegal activities. “These arrests are part of a move towards criminalising, and thus disqualifying, those peoples who are struggling against oppression and for recognition of basic rights”, Mr. William Bourdon had earlier said to the French news agency AFP.
Moreover, Mr. Balikci had stated that he had met Mr. Devedjian, at that time junior Minister responsible for local freedom, under Nicolas Sarkozy, “in the name of the Kurdish community in France”. “I have no memory of this, but it is not impossible”, stated Mr. Devedjiaqn, now Nicolas Sarkozy’s political advisor. “I often met delegations of Kurdish representatives but I never met a PKK delegation as such”, he added. Mr. Devedjian indicated that, on 12 February, he had visited, at the request of the Kurds, the Cultural Centre searched the week before, and which was just next to Nicolas Sarkozy’s election campaign Headquarters. “They told me that it was because of Nicolas Sarkosy (Editor’s Note: that here had been the round up). I told them that is was on the basis of a search warrant issued by an investigating judge and that the police were obliged to carry it out”, declared Mr. Devedjian.
During a press conference held at the Kurdish cultural Centre on 12 February, Ahmet Kaya, representatives of the MRAP (Movement against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples), the CIMADE (a third world solidarity organisation), the Peace Movement, the Greens, the Communist party and José Bové had jointly called for the “immediate release” of those people kept in detention. “This is not the first time that, under cover of charges of terrorism, Kurds are arrested when the case against them is completely groundless”, declared these representatives meeting as a collective of support. Renée Le Mignot, Vice-President of the MRAP pointed out that he ten of the Kurds arrested had “possessed the status of political refugees for over ten years”. According to Patrick Farbiaz, for the Greens, this was France’s way “of appeasing Turkey by giving it some gesture after passing the law sanctioning the negation of the Armenian genocide”. On 6 February, a thousand Kurds had demonstrated in Paris against the police round up. “We are not terrorists” the demonstrators had shouted. The Kurdish Cultural Centre had closed as had many kurdish shopkeepers in the neighbourhood.
The Turkish police had welcomed this round up, calling on other countries to do the same. The Turkish newspapers had called it the biggest “round up” against the PKK in France and Belgium. According to police sources, “more or less forced collections” enabled the amassing of about five million euros a year from Kurds living in Europe— about a quarter of which came from France.
A video, in which policemen can be seen posing before a Turkish flag alongside the alleged murderer of the Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, is embarrassing the Turkish authorities. The pictures clearly lead one to think that the suspect is being treated as a hero. On the video and photos published by the media on 2 February, the young suspect can be seen, visibly both tired and amazed, unfurling a Turkish flag flanked by two smiling policemen in front of a calendar bearing the following quotation of the founder of the yurkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk: “The soil of the mother-country is sacred. It must never be abandoned”. The scene is set in Samsun, the Northern harbour town where Ogun Samast confessed having killed the journalist. The Samsun Public Prosecutor, Ahmet Gökçinar, indicated that an enquiry into this incident had been opened, aimed at the police and the gendarmerie (an army corps attached to the Ministry of the Interior). “All that’s lacking is kisses on the assassin’s forehead”, thundered the daily paper Radikal on 6 February, while, for the paper Vatan “these pictures are even more serious than the murder itself”.
Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan also intervened, declaring that it was completely inappropriate to allow it to be thought that people in the service of the State could act against it. The fact remains that this matter embarrasses the Turkish security forces. The policemen involved in this incident were suspended and an enquiry has begun. Ahmet Ihsan Guler, head of the Istanbul Police Intelligence Services, implicated in a report of the Ministry of the Interior report, was suspended on 5 February. He is accused, in particular, of negligence regarding information, obtained before the crime ,about a key suspect,Yasin Hayal, whom is suspected of having incited the 17-year-old Ogun Samast to assassinate Hrank Dink. The police officer is said not to have pursued his efforts to find Hayal and prevent the murder. The governor and police chief of Trabzon (Trebizon), also accused of negligence, were fired last month. four Samsun policemen and four gendarmes, where the alleged murderer was arrested the day after the events, were also suspended.
Hrank dink was shot down in front of the offices of his review on 19 January last. His funeral was the occasion for 100,000 demonstrators to denounce the nationalist extremism which the young assassin claimed to represent. The journalist was detested by nationalist circles, especially because he had publicly recognised the existence of the Armenian genocide, which Turkey officially denies.
On 23 February, faced with criticism from the international community, and to correct the country’s increasingly deteriorating image, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, met 23 elected representative of various European parliaments who were of Turkish descent to ask for their help in fighting what he considered anti-Turkish prejudices in Europe. These representatives, some sitting in the european Parliament some in regional or national assemblies in Germany, Austria, Belgium Denmark and Sweden, were invited to ankara to discuss Turkey’s aspirations to membership of the European Union. “There is a lack of understanding of Turkey in Europe”, pointed out Abdullah Gul. “We need your support (...) to overcome the prejudices against us”. “You know European social structures (...) you are an asset for us”, he added in front of the press before continuing the meeting in closed session. Earlier, a polemic had arisen regarding the invitation sent to two German elected representatives of Kurdish origin, Giyasettin and Helin Baba. The Turkish authorities had, at first, excluded them from the list of those invited because of their pro-Kurdish stands and the fact that they openly stated their Kurdish origins.
Iranian President, Mahmud Ahmedinjad, marked the opening of the celebrations for the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution by insisting, on 1 February, that Iran would not be affected by UN sanctions over its nuclear programme. At the end of December, the UN Security Council had imposed sanctions on Iran’s nuclear and ballistic programmes because of Teheran’s refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment activity. The United States also put pressure on their allies to restrict their trade relations with Iran. The celebrations of of the 1979 revolution, planned to last ten days and known as the “Fajr (dawn) decade”, began on 1 February at exactly 9.33 am local time — the time at which the plane bringing Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini from Paris landed at Teheran airport. Factory sirens, school bells, train whistles and Iranian ships’ sirens all sounded at that moment throughout the country. From the airport, the founder of the Islamic Republic went directly to the capital’s main cemetery, the Beheste Zahra. A mausoleum, ritually covered with flowers every year, marks the place where he addressed the crowd to announce that he was going to set up a new government. The highlight of the celebrations took place on 11 February, the official date of the revolution, with a speech by President Ahmedinjad in Azad (Freedom) Square. The Iranian President confirmed the pursuit of his country’s nuclear programme before hundreds of thousands of Iranians who had assembled in the streets of Teheran. He also stressed that the state of progress in nuclear technology would be progressively made public between that date and 9 April, the anniversary date of Teheran’s first announcement of its success at enriching uranium.
Furthermore, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, announced an improvement in Turkish-Iranian relations and considered that Turkish accusations that iran wished to export its Islamic regime to Turkey (a Moslem but secular State) were things “of the past”. “The days when our relations with iran were desperately worried by fear of the exporting of their regime are far behind us“, stressed the Minister in an interview with his party’s the monthly review Turkey Bulletin, published on 5 February. “Today our opinion of Iran is very different”, stated Mr. Gul, who welcomed a “constant” development of trade relations between the two countries. On a bi-lateral level, Ankara and Teheran have reached agreement on security matters over the last few years. The two countries are united in the struggle against Kurdish fighters and fear that the situation of the Iraqi Kurds might encourage emulation b y their own Kurdish population.
On 28 February, the commander of the Guardians of the Revolution, the Islamic regime’s ideological army, threatened to attack the Iranian Kurdish fighters in Iraq if the Iraqi government did not expell tem from the border areas. “If the Iraqi government does not expel the armed Iranian rebels linked to foreigners from the area, the Guardians of the Revolution reserve the right to hunt them down beyond the borders” of Iran, warned General Yahya Rahim Safavi, as quoted by the Iranian Mehr news agency. “The United States and the Zionists spend millions of dollars to create television networks and to buy arms and ammunition for these counter-revolutionary groups so as to create insecurity in Iran”, he charged. Since 23 February, there have been violent clashes between the Army and the Guardians of the Revolution and Kurdish fighters of the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PEJAK), which is close to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — clashes that have caused about forty deaths in North-Western Iran, not far from the Turkish and Iraqi borders. “Over thirty rebels have been killed”, according to General Yahya Rahim Safavi, commander of the Guardians of the Revolution as quoted by the Irna news agency. Forteen Iranian troops died on 23 February when their helicopter crashed during operations against PEJAK. The Guardians of the Revolution stated they had killed 17 Kurdish fighters during this operation, about 20 Km from the Turkish border. The province of North-West Azerbaijan, which borders on both Turkey and Iraq has a large Kurdish minority.
The authorities in Teheran accuse Washington and London of helping the “rebels” in the border provinces where there are large ethnic and religious minorities, notably in Khuzistan, with a large Arab population and Sistan-Baluchistan. On 14 February, eleven people were killed in a bomb attack in Iran directed at a bus belonging to the Guardians of the Revolution in the Province of Sistan-Baluchistan, which has been the scene of several armed attacks and kidnappings in recent months. The Sunni extremeist group, Jundallah (Soldiers of God), claimed responsibility for the attack. The Arabic-language Iranian television channel, Al-Alam, showed pictures of the bus, which was completely destroyed. The bomb, placed in a car, exploded as the bus was passing, carrying personnel employed at the Guardians of the Revolution’s Mir-Mohsen army base. According to a witness, the attackers, on motorbikes, first stopped the bus by firing at it with sub-machine guns before exploding the bomb by remote control. This is the first time an operation on this scale has been carried out in the middle of a town, by an armed group against Iranian troops. Reputed for being a centre of drug smuggling, Sistan-Baluchistan is located at the borders with pakistan and Afghanistan and has a substantial minority of Sunni Baluchis — whereas the majority of the Iranians are Shiite Moslems. The Jundallah group first appeared in December 2005 by kidnapping nine soldiers near the Pakistani border, before freeing eight of them and killing the ninth. In March 2006, a group killed 22 people traveling in a car along a road not far from the Pakistani border. In May of the same year the group killed twelve passengers of four cars in the Province of Kerman, neighbouring on Sistan-Baluchistan. Finally, on the eve of local elections on 15 December, a car bomb exploded at Zahedan, killing one person.
According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (HCR), while up to 3,000 Iraqis a day are fleeing their country, some 85,000 Iraqi Arabs have chosen the autonomous region of Kurdistan, almost entirely spared from the violence, the car bombs and suicide attacks, the mutual assassinations of sunni and Shiite Arabs that are the daily lot of people in Baghdad, but also in the centre and South of the country. The three provinces that compose Kurdistan are enjoying a veritable economic boom and many jobsin the building sector are filled by Iraqis who have come from the South. This influx of refugees, however, weighs heavily on the provision of social services in Kurdistan. The governor of Suleimaniyah, Dana Ahmad Majid, encourages Iraqis to come to Kurdistan rather than to leave the country, but he deplores the fact that the support provided by the central government for these displaced persons is so slight and calls for more medicines, fuel and electric power to help them. Some 30,000 displaced persons live in Suleimaniyah Province, according to Anita Raman, of the UN High Commission for Refugees. The HCR is providing emergency assistance for the most vulnerable, including paraffin and kerosene lamps, food and blankets. According to the governor, the province, some ten families a arrive every day, quite apart from the 25,000 Arabs who have simply come to find work in the region. The Kurdish authorities are keeping a close watch on the borders and impose security measures to prevent any infiltration by terrorists. While families can enter without special authorisation, single men must have a Kurdish sponsor and a valid work permit before being allowed to pass. The displaced persons also have to overcome the language barrier. While Kurdish is written, in Iraq, using the Arabic script, it ism nevertheless an Indo-European language. Since its de facto autonomy in 1991, while Arabic remains the official language, it has largely been replaced in everyday usage by Kurdish, and the new generation of Kurds do not speak Arabic.
On 14 February, the United States announced that they would accept 7,000 new Iraqi refugees by October, that is 10 times as many as they have accepted since 2003. Widely criticised for its apparent disinterest in the face of the distress of millions of people who have had to flee their homes in Iraq, Washington has also announced an emergency aid of 68 million dollars for iraqis displaced inside the country. According to the UN High Commission for Refugees, over two million Iraqis have sought refuge abroad, mainly in Syria and Jordan, while 1.8 million are displaced inside the country. Some 50,000 Iraqis continue to flee their homes every month, that is the most large-scale exodus in the region since that of the Palestinians in 1948 on the creation of the State of Israel, whereas the population of Iraq is estimated at some 26 million, still according to HCR figures. Yet the United States has only granted refugee status to 466 people since 2003, according to State Department figures.
The US Administration’s about turn was announced after a meeting in Washington between the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres. in the course of a joint press conference with leading officials of the State Department, Mr. Guterres also announced the holding of a conference in Geneva of donors for the Iraqi refugees and displaced persons. Mrs. Rice has committed herself to contributing up to 18 million dollars to the fund that the UN High Commission for Refugees intends to devote to this programme indicated, for her part, the Assistant Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky. The American donation should cover about 30% of the appeal launched last month by the HCR to collect 60 million dollars. These funds are intended to help some 200,000 of the 2 million Iraqis whom have found refuge in neighbouring countries, particularly syria and Jordan as well as up to 250,000 if the 1.8 million Iraqis displaced inside their own country by the violence.
Already, according to the HCR, the Iraqis represent somer 5% of the syrian population (18 million inhabitants). By receiving 700,000 Iraqis, Jordan has increased itspopulation by 12% and Amman is taking measures to contain the influx. As is Egypt, which has received some 130,000 Iraqis. According to Human Rights Watch, Amman refuses any entry to males aged between 17 and 35. Syria, however, has not closed its borders to Iraqis fleeing the war. In some Damascus neighbourhoods only Iraqi accents can be heard… In al-Sayda Zeinab, in the suburbs, the Shiite mosque has more Iraqi than Iranian pilgrims. Amongst the refugees are some 300,000 Shiites. In those areas with a high presence of refugees, the schools now often have as many as 50 children per class. The country’s schools are said to have received up to 28,000 little Iraqis. According to the HCR’s Damascus Office, some 40,000 fresh refugees arrive from Iraq every month. They may remain six months with a visa then must leave Syrian territory and return for another six months. The most simple way of doing this being a journey to neighbouring Lebanon that is organised for 20 dollars.
According to a report of the Minority Rights Group (MRG), published on 24 February, the ethnic and religious minorities of Iraq, that amount to some 10% of the population, are victims of an “unprecedented” violence that could make them disappear from the land. “The ethnic and religious minorities of Iraq face unprecedented levels of violence and, in certain cases, are in danger of completely disappearing from their ancestral homeland”, warned the Human Rights defence organisation. These minorities (Armenian and Chaldo-Assyrian Christians, Baha’is, Failis, Jews, Mandeans, Palestinians, Shabaks, Turkomen, and Yezidis) many settled in in Iraq for over 2000 years, are targeted by attacks, kidnappings, and threats from all sides. The report, entitled “Assimilation, exodus, eradication: the minority communities of Iraq since 2003”, notes that the flight of this section of the Iraqi population is “enormous” and is said to represent a third of the 1.8 million Iraqi refugees seeking asylum. “Despite the fact that many Iraqi Christians flee because they are accused of associating with British and American troops, only a few Iraqis have secured refuge in the United States ands Great Britain”, deplored Mark Lattimer, Director of MRG and quoted in the report. In view of these facts, the organisation has launched an appeal to the international community, and in particular to the two countries directing the intervention in Iraq since 2003, to “share the refugees’ burden and not let it weigh in a disproportionate manner on Iraq’s neighbour States”. “The MRG calls on the international community and on the Iraqi government to recognise the particular vulnerability of the country’s minorities. This must be the fundamental starting point for the survival of the minority groups of Iraq from the present aggressions”, called Preti Taneja, the author of the report.
According to a recent report by the Mandean Society of America, published on 12 February, only 5,000 to 7,000 the Mandeans, over 60,000 strong in the early 90s, are left in Iraq today. These followers of a minority religion that considers John the Baptist as its prophet, are among the victims of the war that has been drenching the country in blood for mthe last four years. Faced with murders, rapes, forced conversions and the confiscation of property by Islamic extremists, many Mandeans have fled the country. For specialists in Mandean culture, their disappearance would be a great loss, the end of this religious movement going back to the time of the Roman Empire. The Mandean Gnostics of the Middle East claim their religion is directly descended from John the Baptist and regard him as their prophet. They advocate baptism to come closer to a “world of light” that in their eyes is better than that reigning on earth.
On 8 February, the Turkish daily Milliyet splashed across its front page the sensational statement sof Nuri Gundes, a former head of the Turkish Intelligence Services (MIT). Questioned on one of the principle television news channels, about Alaattin Cakici, one of the most formidable Turkish “godfathers”, with over forty “executions” to his credit, today imprisoned in Turkey, Nuri Gundes declared his friendship for him, saying “I kiss Alaattin on the cheeks”. Headlined “Kisses from a former chief of the MIT for Cakici! The close links between the MIT and the mafia also shown on the screens” the paper carried the story written by Can Dandar, the journalist who also conducted the interview broadcast in the NTV news channel. Here are extensive extracts of this interview, which once again highlights the collaboration between the Turkish secret services and the mafia godfathers, linked to the Grey Wolves, the Turkish extreme Right organisation, always willing and ready to do the States dirty work.
“The former head of the External Department of the Turkish Intelligence Services (MIT)m Nuri Gundes, was the guest of my “Why?” broadcast on Tuesday evening (Editor’s Note: 6 February 2007) dealing with the “deep State” and broadcast on the NTV channel.
This was the first time he (Nuri Gundes) had taken part in a broadcast discussion and he made some important revelations. To become more fully aware of the extent of these declarations, we must remember that Gundes, who served 23 years in the MIT, led the operation against ASALA (Editor’s Note: the Secret Armenian Army for the Liberation of Armenia) during the 12 September period (Editor’s Note: 12 September 1980, the date of the Army coup d’état led by General Evren). He was also accused, in the first report on the MIT drafted by Mehmet Eymur (Editor’s Note: head of the Counter-Terrorist Office of the MIT) of having taken part in some illegal dealings with Dundar Kilic and Sukru Balci (Editor’s Note: respectively a drug and arms trafficker, assassinated in 1999, and a former head of Istanbul security, who got caught engaging in some major corruption scandals). Nuri Gundes was promoted Prime Minister’s Intelligence Advisor during Tansu Ciller’s period in office.
It was about the operation against the ASALA that he began the conversation. As you know, while the ASALA had targeted Turkish diplomats, the MIT for its part planned ambushes abroad against ASALA leaders and at the same time plastic bombed the Armenian Memorial in Marseilles, with the help, it is said of Abdullah Catli’s gang (Editor’s Note: a Turkish mafia chief linked to the extreme Right, killed in a car accident in 1996 at Susurluk, which brought to light the links between the mafia and State institutions).
Gundes gave his account of the operation, which had cost some 17 million Turkish lire at the time in this way:
“In Marseilles, an Armenian Memorial had been built and inaugurated by the Prime Minister … We went there as people having some war experience, as neither the police or State troops could go there. I didn’t go there personally, but my team did. Must we talk about the “deep State” in this context? If fellow citizens, guided by nationalist feelings carried out an operation, must we describe it as a procedure by the “deep State”?”
“What is the “motivation” that guided these people to carry out this operation? Was it from “national feelings”?”
“They are either nationalist ones, or fueled by hate and ill feelings or again for money. Motivation by hate and ill feelings can wear off with time. (...) We had to make every effort to avoid Turkey being classed amongst the terrorist states”.
We then reminded Gundes that the criticisms of this State operation were that nit instrumentalised men who were not only wanted by Interpol for their involvement in killings but that it had procured passports form them and supplied them with arms. He had indicated that the latter “were not his elements but had taken part guided by their Turkist consciousness”. Then he added “if there’s a fire and someone brings me four buckets of water and someone else says he’ll bring four more, am I to tell him not to? Must I say “You have done this or that in Turkey, don’t throw any water on it let it burn?”. That unreasonable. Who can one send? (...) The State took the decision to carry out this operation through its chain of command. (...) If you consider this as a struggle of the deep State, so be it. But I don’t see it that way”.
Gundes told how some people who came from the ranks of the MHP (National Action Party —extreme right, neo-fascist) and of the Ulkucu Hearths (Turkish Fascist Movements) had provided assistance to the State. They had then used these powers , obtained thanks to the State, for personal ends, to set up mafias and indulge in check trafficking and people trafficking. This was why Gundes was opposed to the system of “village protectors” in the south-East (Kurdistan) (...).
We then reminded him that the assassins of Hrant Dink (Editor’s Note: The Armenian Journalist assassinated by Turkish nationalists in January 2007) had taken as their example Abdullah Catli. “Lets talk about Abdullah…” he cried out then continued, however, about Cakici: “I was questioned about Cakici in a periodical and I stated that I had not worked much with people who could have put the state in an embarrassing position”. He then wrote me a letter from prison. If he hears me today, I would like to kiss him of the cheeks if he has served the State … I do not think he had any ulterior motive in his remarks. If I found myself mixed up in this kind of business or if I was harming the state or again if the state was likely to be criticised because of me, then i would have said nothing when faced with such remarks about myself”.
We later learnt that Cakici had written in that letter “I will no longer call you my big brother”.
In the course of the broadcast, we read out a sentence by Fikri Saglar, a member of the Parliamentary Commission of Enquiry on the Susurluk scandal, taken from the report of the same name written by Kutlu Savas: “The State was unable to put an end to the activities of Behçet Canturk (Editor’s Note: a Kurdish business man involved in drug trafficking, assassinated in 1994). Instead of paying allegiance to the State, Canturk set up a new organisation. The Turkish Security Directorate then decreed his death and the decision was executed”.
On this subject, Gundes retorted that: “The person who laid hands on Behçet Canturk is I. We had arrested him at Erzurum and we brought him before Sadattin Tantan (Editor’s Note: Head of the Inspection Committee of the Istanbul Police, became Minister of the Interior in 1999) for interrogation. He frequented certain people, but what had this man done? With what kind of drug … had he poisoned my Turkish children? One never thinks about these things. But I have never agreed to eliminate someone inside the country. The State has laws, it holds public authority, it can therefore proceed to arrest (criminals) and hang them, since at that time the death sentence by hanging was legal. So let us say that Behçet Canturk was executed. The Baader-Meinhof gang was executed in prison, no one expressed the slightest criticism in Germany. The German press did not even write a single article on the subject. As I have already stressed, the State must, sometimes, protect itself”
In conclusion I questioned him about the attack on Hrant Dink … He found it strange that the latter had not been given protection, despite the threats. Had he been deprived of protection so as to eliminate him?
“I feel unable to say that … such a statement would amount to betrayal and that I cannot do. It is as if it had been said “he were better dead”, but i cannot manage to persuade myself of that…” concluded the former head of the Turkish Intelligence Service.
D’ÉTAT IN TURKEY. In an interview given to the Turkish daily Radikal, Halil Berktay, Professor at Sabanci University, analysed the modus operandi of presidential Elections in turkey, punctuated by successive military coups d’état. He went back to the period of the single party system and the difficult passage to a multiparty system. Here are extensive extractsw from this interview, published on 12 February:
“We found the way Saddam Hussein was hanged shameful. Yet Murat Bardakî (a journalist and historian) has described the ignoble fate suffered by Menderes (Editor’s Note: After the victory of the Democratic Party (DP) at the first multi-party elections of the Turkish Republic, Adnan Menderes became the first Turkish Prime Minister to be deposed by a military coup d’état, on 27 May 1960. He was hanged in September 1960 with members of his cabinet). Before proceeding to his execution, he was subjected to a prostate examination. Why have we never heard tell of this humiliation till now?”, asked Nese Duzet.
“We generally know about the ill-treatment suffered by members of the Democratic Party (DP) and by Menderes in particular on Yassiada Island after the 27 May coup d’état. For a long time historians in Turkey have not developed any dialogue or carried out any research in the important events in Turkish History of the 20th Century. It is also possible that they were unable to reach any scientific consensus on this question”
With the Democratic Party’s (DP) taking office one can talk of the first populist power in Turkey. The political elite that had founded the republic, that is the cadres of the bureaucracy and the regular Army officers, had had a monopoly of power from the Young Turks revolution of 1908 and the Babiali coup d’état of 1913 (Editor’s Note: Orchestrated by the Union and Progress party) and until 1950. Faced with those privileges, the DP politicians were babes in arms who had succeeded the amazing feat of abstracting power from the political elite that, till then, had monopolised it and taking it over with a party that dominated both the Presidency and the government (...) And they were civilians (...) without any military uniforms, which is why the Army opposed them. They did not conform to the ideological pattern, whereby the Army was the true depository and real guardian of the Republic. They were damaging the legend.Probably the treatment meted out to the families of the politicians after the 27 May coup was not unconnected with this. Moreover, the 1958 measures, adopted after the elections of 1957 to help stabilise the economy, as well as the devaluation carried out, not only considerably impoverished those wage earners receiving a fixed salary but also impoverished the Army officers. The impoverishing of the army is one of the reasons generally cited for the coup d’état. indeed, the substantial increase in the wages of the Armed forces only took place after 27 May, since till then the regular Army cadres did not receive a salary so much higher than that of other state officials (...)
It must not be forgotten that this coup d’état did not confine this ill-treatment to the DP politicians and their families. The elitist ideology launched the “tail theory”, which can be summed up as follows: “The DP leaders have been imprisoned, but its tail is outside”. The 4.5 million people who had voted for the DP were considered the “tail”, while the head was in prison, like a a snake whose head, imprisoned, was about to be crushed — yet the tail remained outside (...)
Until 1945-6, Turkey was mot multi-party. Compared with a number of third world countries, it had adopted reforms 20, 30 or 40 years before them. The third world countries, in the mai9n achieved their independence after 1945 and even in the 50s in the context of the decolonisation movement. In Turkey, the nation-state and the modern republic were created in the course of two waves of modernity, from the “Young Turks revolution” to the “Kemalist revolution”, from 1908 to 1923. Just why this revolution ended with a single party (...) the conditions of the time, linked to a very weak (economic) development, led to the monopoly of power by the military bureaucracy, entrusted with the mission of modernising the country. The proclamation of the Republic and of the one-party government, was followed by social and economic development. However, Turkey already bore the sociological and economic advantages of an Ottoman Empire that had never been colonised. In the end, the Unionists and the Kemalists were justified by the creation of a “national bourgeoisie”. This new class, for a long time overshadowed by the military bureaucracy that had founded the Republic, did not limit itself just to the economic sphere but became restless to confirm its political maturity and embark on the political scene.
We came out of the one-party system in 1946. Why is it that many intellectuals in Turkey describe this as “counter revolutionary?” asked Mrs. Duzel.
It is, indeed, one of the great errors of historic assessment, the fruit of a Turkish combination of marxism and Kemalism. The elections and the period between 1946 and 1950 were considered by the (Turkish) Left — with some variations within it — as “counter revolutionary”. And this theory persists to this day. (...) Some fascistic movements of the left take advantage of this theory. By describing the multi-party period as counter revolutionary, they show that they attach no value to democracy and to democratic advances. This idea that the 1946-50 period was counter revolutionary is combined with a historic account that goes back to the 19th Century.
According to this hypothesis, in the course of the 19th century the ruling forces in Turkey handed Turkey over to capitalism and imperialism, in particular by the Baltalimani trade treaty (Editor’s Note: 1839-1876) between the leaders of the Tanzimat (Reform) and the English. In a way they sold out the country. (...) On that basis, the modernising reforms of the 19th century, the development of Turkey, the achievement of the basis of a modern State are all swept out of sight. There is rather a tendency to see the imperialist objective as the defeat of Turkey. (...) Came the Kemalist revolution, led by Mustafa Kemal, that succeeded in lifting Turkey out of the abyss, break the stranglehold of imperialism and found a Republic outside the world capitalist system — autonomous, autarkic and statist (...) This was Turkey’s only period of enlightenment, but the one-party regime that followed the Kemalist revolution experienced difficulty in evolving towards a multi-party system after 1945. The dominant reactionary class, composed of the compradore bourgeoisie and the but agricultural landlords won by fooling a credulous people, that voted for them. They then tried to destroy the gains of the Kemalist revolution and incited Turkey to become part of the american-dominated world imperialist system.
In reply to the question: “What could the DP-led government have done to change things in Turkey?” Halil Berktay replied: “The mechanisation of agriculture, the favourable situation created by the Korean war alongside the increase in agricultural prices (...)The attraction and interest for politics in Turkey thanks to the existence of two political parties and an electoral system that worked (...) lead to political education (...). However, this (improvement) did not last, because the political multiplication (of representation) declined with populism (...) And this populism indulged in terrible behaviour. The events of 6-7 September 1955 were not just the outcome of nationalist populism. (Editor’s Note: On 6 -7 September 1955, a hate-filled mob in Istanbul attacked the houses and shops of Christians in “reprisal” for a phoney bomb attack in the house where Ataturk was born in Salonica) (...) The DP, that came to power with vast popular support, acted increasingly undemocratically and the democratic opposition slipped towards the Republican People’s Party (CHP — Kemalist) (...) The DP panicked and did not want to let go of office. It carried out changes in the balloting methods for the 1957 elections. In the course of these elections the number of votes for the CHP shot up and it won as maqny votes as the DP. But,,because of the unfair changes in the ballot, the DP won even more seats than in the previous parliament. The party seemed to be tending towards a fascist development based on a parliamentary majority”.
“If the 27 May coup d’état had not been stirred up, would elections have taken place? Were the people in favour of such a coup?”, asked Mrs. Duzel in conclusion.
“There had been no coup d’état till then. The Babiali events of 1908 and 1913 were already far in the past. A majority of people pinned theirm hopes on the CHP and on Ismet Inonu. However, in certain intellectual circles of leftist, of kemnalist or of marxists, this desire for military intervention did exist. Every indiscretion that revealed the discontent of the Army was greeted with jubilation”, Halil Berktay pointed out.
In an interview given to the Turkish daily Radikal, Henry Barkley, Professor of the International Relations Department of Lehigh University (USA) and one of the principal advisors at the US State Department during Bill Clinton’s Presidency, analysed American-Turkish relations and Ankara’s Kurdish policy. The following are extensive extracts from this interview carried out by Ms. Nese Duzel and published in the 5 February edition of Radikal.
The first time we heard you spoken about was in 2004 because of an alleged meeting at the US State Department.The Turkish press wrote at the time that those taking part had been assured that the AKP government (Justice and Development Party — in office) had accepted to let the Kurds have Kirkuk. You later stated that you had never taken part in anysuch meeting, as did other of the participants cited. Have you never taken part in a meeting where such remarks were made?
I have never taken part in such a meeting at the State Department. Moreover, I was in Istanbul at the time. However, everyone believed in the reality of that meeting.
Why, in your opinion, was the news of the holding of a nonexistent meeting published by the Turkish press, highly embarrassing the government.
Saying that such a meeting had taken place did, indeed, embarrass the Turkish government. This news was put about by Hakan Yavuz, a lecturer at Utah University, but was denied by the State Department. Yavuz, nevertheless, maintained to Fikret Bila (Editor’s Note: a journalist on the daily Milliyet) that the meeting had, indeed, taken place and that he had been present. Hakan Yavuz was a close friend. For a friend to do such a thing he would either have to be psychologically disturbed or else compelled to do it (...)
What position did you have at the State Department at that time?
I had no position at the State Department at the time. I worked directly with the Secretary of State in the Department of political planning on questions regarding Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Iraq and in the Intelligence Department. I worked there during Bill clintons term and I left in 2000. Talking of Intelligence, the State Department has its own Department for Intelligence. This organisation receives reports drawn up by the State’s different services, including the CIA and carries out an analysis of these items of information. One of my tasks was to carry out a new organisation of these reports.
(...) Turkey is again talking about Kirkuk while you're in Istambul. ('...) Kirkuk is an oil-rich region, which is why it attracts so much greed. What do you think will hqppen to Kirkuk?
Turkey's position is that "Kirkuk should remain outside the Kurdish Federated Stateand that the oil be controled by the central Iraqi State". And the population talks about a ,ilitary operation in Kirkuk. As if going to Kirkuk was just child's play. Yet the town is 450 Km from Turkey. It's no joke. In fact, what will happen to Kirkuk? It is an Iraqi city—but what is going to happen to Iraq? If Iraq does not split up, Kirkuk will enter the Kurdish region and its oil income will go to the Central government. New fuel and power discoveries, such as oil, on the other hand, will belongto Northern Iraq (Kurdistan).
Can Kirkuk be taken by the Kurds?
It depends what you mean by taken. Can they take it forcibly? They can, but that would aggravate the situation. The Kurds zill try and take Kirkuk by democratic meansby having a referendum. They are increasing the city's population. (Editor’s Note: Kirkuk has gone through a series of demographic changes. In 1957, the date of the last Iraqi census with ethnic records, Kirkuk had 178,000 Kurds, 48,000 Turkomen, 43,000 Arabs and 10,000 Assyro-Chaldean Christians. Then during his 23 years in power, Saddam Hussein organised a forcible Arabisation of the city, with mass deportation of Kurds to refugee camps in the neighbouring provinces of Suleimaniyah, Irbil and Dohuk. Since 2003, these deportees have been returning to the city.) They are trying to make the Kurds expelled by Saddam, return. Of course it was not only Kurds that were forced to leave at that time who are returning, a certain number of other Kurds are coming to the city.
What will be the consequences if the Kirkuk retuns to the Kurds?
We are faced with three possible outcomes for Iraq. Firstly, Iraq may remain united. The second is a divided Iraq, and the third is an Iraq in which the present chaos persists. An Iraq reconciling Kurds and Turkomen in a Kirkuk that is part of the Kurdish region is in Turkey's interests. A Kurdish entity under Turkish protection would not only lower tension inside Turkey but also constitute a secular buffer zone and provide it with important economic income. Moreover, Northern Iraq (Kurdistan) needs Turkey (...)
Because the Kurds are secular, they look to the West and want binding relqtions zith Europe. They will not be opened to Europe accompanied by Iran Syria, Saudi Arabia oragain with an Iraqi Sunnistan or Shiitistan. Only Turkey can provide them with this opportunity. The Kurds are even carrying out a policy of favouring the development of links with Turkey and thus are providing as many contracts as possible to businessmen of Turkish origin. Businessmen of Kurdish origin have even expressed dissatisfaction at this. Your President refuses to send an invitation to (Jalal) Talabani because of his Kurdish origins, but Talabani being President of Iraq is a stroke of luck for Turkey (...)
Talabani is a force in Northern Iraq (Kurdistan). Even though the the Kurds there have been psychologically detached from Iraq, Talabani has renewed their connection with Baghdad. In a way, Talabani is preserving the unity of Iraq, which Turkey wants so much. Yet Turkey continues to describe Talabani and Barzani as mere tribal chiefs. They are acting as if the Turkomen constitute a coherent people, despite their being so scattered, while refusing to so recognise the Kurds … The Turks of Northern Cyprus are said to be a people, but no the 4 million Iraqi Kurds … The Kurds often question me on this point, as they find these terms very offensive. Yet Turgut Ozal (Editor’s Note: a former Turkish President) had taken them into account (...) by receiving them at Cankaya (Editor’s Note: The official residence of Turkish Presidents) and giving them Turkish diplomatic passports. This was towards the end of 1992 and at that time tension in Turkey had considerably diminished , even obliging the PKK to announce a cease fire.
Can the Kurds accept that Kirkuk should not belong to them?
No, they are fully committed to that idea.
President Bush recently announced a new plan for Iraq with the despatch of 20,000 additional troops. what will be the consequences of this new plan?
In my opinion, the chances of it succeeding are about 25%. It is a plan that covers Baghdad and the surrounding area, because 80% of the terrorist operations occur in and around Baghdad, populated by a strong Shiite community. Baghdad must be brought under control, otherwise it will be impossible to control the rest of iraq. A country whose capital is in a state of continual chaos cannot remain united. Iraq, today, is on the verge of a civil war (...)
The United States has over thrown the Iraqi State, but has not succeeded in building a new State in its place, because of the mistakes it has committed. With this plan, Bush has transferred the responsibility to the Iraqi government, saying “Go ahead then and build a State. If you fail it will let me withdraw. I’m sending you 20,000 soldiers for the last time”. The fact remains that the Americans cannot withdraw rheir troops entirely. In my opinion, between 50,000 and 140,000 troops will have to be positioned along the borders as a dissuasion force. Because, if the Americans were to withdraw their troops overnight, blood would flow. All the neighbouring countries would start meddling in Iraq’s affairs and start raiding into Iraq.
Iraq has become confusing place, the scene of unbelievable events. Do you remember when some american soldiers arrested Turkish soldiers and covered their heads in cloth sacks. What was behind that incident, which caused considerable deterioration in Turkish-American relations?
The American troops had been informed about the organisation of a terrorist attack against the governor of Kirkuk, orchestrated by elements of the Turkish Special Forces. They thus proceeded to carry out those arrests (...)
I think that plan was hatched by the command of the Special Forces stationed in Iraq. Neither Akara nor The Turkish Armed Forces General Staff knew about this business. The General Staff is a responsible institution, it would never take such a risk (...) It would have seriously endangered relations with the United States. However the Turkish General Staff has very good relations with the United States, despite the refusal of March 1st (Editor’s Note: 1 March 2003 is the date of the refusal by the Turkish Parliament to allow the passage of US troops through Turkish territory at the outbreak of the war in Iraq). The bowler-hatting of two Special Forces generals was just a message from the General Staff to the United States: “See, we have liquidated them”. The Americans took due note and there has not been any reason to treat Turkish officers as al-Qaida agents (...)
Neither Bush nor the US General Staff decided on the way they were treated. It was a reaction by the American soldiers on the spot. They use the same method for all people they arrest. The full truth will come out when some officers have retired (...)
What policy does the United States intend to carry out regarding the PKK.
American policy after the war in Iraq has been not only to help Turkeybut also to prevent as far as possible the entry of Turkish troops into Northern Iraq (Kurdistan). The United Stated had hoped that (the Iraqi Kurds) would find a solution to the problem of the PKK, but they had not succeeded or, more exactly had not wanted, to provide a solution. The American PKK policy thus came to a dead end, but the nomination of co-ordinators was opportune (...)
Today it is possible to envisage a American OK to a Turkish incursion against the PKK into Northern Iraq (Kurdistan). The Turkish General Staff claims to see PKK (fighters) positioned just behind the border. Turkey could envisage launching an operation by ground-to-ground or even air to ground bombing rather than infantry, i am told. On the other hand approval would be needed from the Americans and (Massud ) Barzani and (Jalal) Talabani for such an operation. They would, of course, condemn the incursion oncwe the operation has been achieved. In a few days, (Abdullah) Gul will be visiting Washington and he will be followed by (Yasar) Buyukanit, the Chief of the Turkish Armed Forces General Staff (...) The questions of Kirkuk and the PKK will be tackled. If I was in Abdullah Gul’s place, these would not be my priority issues ' I would rather be asking “What can we do to maintain Iraqi unity?” (...)
What will happen if the Turks intervene in Northern Iraq (Kurdistan)?
There will be an enourmous problem, both with the Americans and with the Kurds. If Turkey were to launch such an operation despite opposition from the Americans and the Kurds with the aim of resolving the Kirkuk problem or preventing the autonomy or independence of the Kurds, this would lead to breaking relations with Europe. But an operation against the PKK with some helicopter-carried infantry would be accepted by everyone (...) In 1999 Turkey intervened in Northern Iraq (Kurdistan) with 35,000 troops and 200 tanks (...) It could not launch such an operation today. An operation without Kurdish acceptance would produce protests and be Turkey’s biggest mistake. The price paid would be heavy. Thus, in my opinion, neither the General Staff or the government wish to do anything of the kind. Apart from the Press, no one seriously wants to send troops into Northern Iraq (Kurdistan) (...) as this would lead to war against the Kurds . (Moreover,) the the americans could be accidentally targeted by Turkish soldiers. Anything might happen. Yet, alongside trans0birder military pressure against the PKK, Turkey could allow the return to Turkey of PKK members without announcing an amnesty. They must be enabled to succeed in being integrated into society. (...) I think that many members of the PKK would surrender, but for this Turkey needs the help of the Iraqi Kurds(...), Because it is not Turkey that can pass such a message on to the PKK but the iraqi Kurds could do this. I am not talking about the PKK’s cadres, who are another problem" These last, if they want to return to Turkey, will be tried and imprisoned.
The Iraqi Kurds enjoy a peculiar status, never before achieved. Do you think they’ll sacrifice their future for the PKK? It is in this perspective that they are seeking a dialogue with Turkey. However, Turkey does not face these issues and keeps its distance. A year ago, the head of the Intelligence Service (MIT), Emre Taner, went to have talks with Barzani(...) Emre Taner had a revolutionary approach, but there was no follow up because the climate in Turkey was unfavourable.
You people only see the Kurds when you talk about Iraq. Yet it is not only the Kurds who do not want Turkish presence in Iraq. The Iraqi Shiites don’t want it either. Some time ago some of the more anti-Shiite Iraqi Sunni groups met at a gathering in istanbul. The Shiites had such a strong reaction to this that they declared: “Let us also organise a conference in Iraq of Kurds from Turkey” …
Can the United States support a process outside the democratic system in Turkey?
It is impossible now to have such an American support. If Turkey leaves the democratic system, relations will deteriorate (...) The USA would withdraw all its support for Turkish membership of the European Union, Turkish economy would be hard hit and there would be strong political pressure on Turkey.
On 25 February, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, was taken to a hospital in the Jordan capital where he is recovering from a state of general exhaustion. King Abdullah II of Jordan visited him the next day. Jalal Talabani last appeared in public on 24 February in Suleimaniyah, where he met the American Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad and Massud Barzani. President of Iraqi Kurdistan. The President’s Office made the point, in a communiqué issued from Baghdad, that the first results of the tests “showed that his condition is normal and stable and that all his vital organs are in a satisfactory condition”. “The examination shows that His Excellence was suffering from extreme exhaustion in the last few days and was suffering from dehydration”, according to the communiqué.
Elected President in april 2005, Jalal Talabani is the first Kurdish President in the history of modern Iraq. He was re-elected for a four-year term in April 2006. Jalal Talabani has acquired the reputation of a man of peace for his efforts to reduce the divisions between the country’s different communities Since the beginning of his Presidency he has tried to ease relations with neighbouring countries, including Syria and Iran. But he has also considered that any premature departure of the GIs would be “catastrophic”.
On 26 February, two leading officials for the main pro-Kurdish party in Turkey, were sentenced to 18 months jail for distributing leaftlets on the occasion of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2006. The President of the Party for a Democratic Society (DYP — unrepresented in Parliament), Ahmet Turk, and his Assistant, Aysel Tugluk, were found guilty of having “praised criminals” because the leaflet mentioned Abdullah Ocalan. The two political leaders were also found guilty of having broken the law on political parties because the leaflets were written in the Kurdish language. Although Turkey has, recently, eased restrictions on the use of Kurdish, the law specifies that only Turkish can be used by political parties in their writings and working.
Several dozen DTP members are at present being sued beore the Turkish courts for “supporting the PKK”. In Diyarbekir, a local DTP leader, Hilmi Aydoglu, was arrested for “inciting violence” and immediately incarcerated on 23 February, for statements reported by the Turkish press, in which he declared that any Turkish Army intervention in Kirkuk would be considered as an attack on Diyarbekir. Moreover, Ibrahim Sunkur, the DTP provincial chief in Van was locked up on 22 February. Some books written by Abdullah Ocalan as well as some photos, banners and documents were seized in the course of a search carried out a few days before. Some members of the party’s youth organisation were also arrested.
Furthermore, the Council of Europe considers that Turkey has fulfilled “at this stage” all its obligations regarding the PKK boss, Abdullah Ocalan, particularly with regard to a retrial. In a resolution passed on 15 February, the Ministerial Committee, the Council of Europe’s executive, considered that Ankara had fulfilled its obligations and decided to close the case opened by the European Court for Human Rights’ ruling of May 2005. “We considered that Ocalan had had the possibility of asking for the re-opening of his trial. Turkey rejected that request, as would have done many other European countries, judging that there were good reasons for thinking that the courts would have ruled in the same way as before”, according to a representative to the Ministerial Committee. “We found nothing to say against this decision”, nor against other measures adopted by Ankara to conform to the May 2005 ruling, the representative added. On the other hand, the Ministerial Committee, one of whose functions is to supervise the effective application of the European Court’s rulings, is suspending judgement on the latest four petitions filed by the PKK chief, until the Strasbourg Court has ruled on them. One of these, basing itself on the May 2005 ruling, calls for a retrial, the three others mainly concerning the conditions of detention and isolation in the island prison of Imrali.
On the other hand, the Danish Court has demanded a new enquiry on the Denmark-based Kurdish television channel Roj-TV, which Turkey accuses of being a PKK spokesperson. “We have asked the Copenhagen police to conduct a new enquiry on this channel, as the matter is not sufficiently clear”, declared the Prosecutor Hanne Schmidt on 14 February. The Prosecutor refused to provide any more details on the conclusions of the enquiry carried out since 2005 into Roj-TV by the Copenhagen police. On the basis of those enquiries, the Kingdom’s Public Prosecutor’s Office had judged the conclusions “insufficient” for closing the case. Ankara, with Washington’s support, has repeatedly demanded that the Danish government close down this channel. Based on Denmark, from which it has been broadcasting to some 78 countries since 2004, Roj-TV has always rejected their accusations. The police enquiry should establish whether Roj-TV has breached Danish law, inciting hatred and openly supporting a “terrorist organisation”, as Ankara alleges. It will then be up to the courts, in the last resort, to rule on whether or not to withdraw the broadcasting license in the event of any broadcasts that break Danish legislation.
On 12 February, the Iraqi High Criminal Court sentenced to death on appeal, the former Iraqi President, Taha Yassin Ramadan. He had previously been sentenced to life imprisonment, in November 2006, for the execution of 148 Shiite villagers in Doujail, North of Baghdad.
Moreover, about 200 to 250 corpses of Kurdish detainees were discovered on 1 February in a mass grave to the West of the locality of Salman in a province adjoining the Saudi Arabian border. Information gathered from inhabitants enabled the discovery of this mass grave, brought to light by a commission of enquiry less than a kilometre from a former detention camp of the Saddam Hussein regime. According to Amin Mohammed Amin, a leading official of the desert province of Muthanna, the mass grave covers an area of 200 m2 and contains the remains of men, women and children — probably Kurdish judging from their traditional clothing.
The commission of enquiry — consisting of a judge and a representative of the provincial council from Samawa, the capital of Muthanna, of the sub-prefect and the head of the Salman municipality — began removing the corpses and reburying them in accordance with Moslem religious practices, pointed out Mr. Amin, himself a member of the commission of enquiry. Over 180,000 Kurds were killed during the Anfal military campaigns in Kurdistan in 1987 and 1988, in the course of which thousands of villages were destroyed and hundreds of thousands of peoples displaced.