Tensions over the problem with Iraq's northern border have declined significantly over the past week, as an increase in access to intel has given the Turks additional tools in their fight against the PKK. New efforts by the Kurdish Regional Government to stem the activity of Kudish rebels operating on Iraqi soil has also earned a positive nod from Turkey, though has provoked the ire of the PKK.
The Intelligence War
Turkey's pursuit of reliable intel on the location of PKK cells got a boost this week with the arrival of three Israeli-manufactured UAVs, along with a support team of trainers.
The New Anatolian reports three Heron UAVs, originally scheduled for delivery in the Spring, have arrived at their new home in Batman province in southeastern Turkey. Sources also reported that a team of Israeli pilots have come to brief Turkish officials on the system and are providing training to Turkish pilots.
General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, also arrived in Turkey this week for a brief visit to discuss plans to combat the PKK.
The generals met with Turkey's Deputy Chief of General Staff General Ergin Saygun at military's headquarters, the office of the General Staff said in a written statement yesterday.
"At the meeting, cooperation and comprehensive sharing of intelligence in the continuing struggle against our common enemy the PKK were discussed," the General Staff statement said.
Turkish generals dismissed the claims that a new mechanism has been established, saying that "it was something like a red line which was already functioning for some time," according to the privately-owned NTV channel.
NTV news also reported the Americans left for Iraq following the talks, and had planned meetings with the central government in Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish administration in northern Iraq. Without denying or confirming the report, officials at the US Embassy in Ankara told Today's Zaman they had no information regarding a recent trip to northern Iraq.
PKK Feeling the Heat
Turkish President Abdullah Gul has given Iraqi Kurds credit for altering their approach towards the PKK, telling reporters Wednesday, "We see that common sense has started to slowly prevail in northern Iraq," according to the Anatolian news agency.
"They (Iraqi Kurds) are aware of the cost of failing to show the courage to stand against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party rebels)."
Comments by a top-ranking leader in the PKK, Cemil Bayık, appear to confirm the group is feeling the heat. "Turkey and the US have agreed on eliminating us. Kurdish groups in Northern Iraq have taken a stand against us," he told the PKK-friendly Firat news agency. "They are forcing us to lay down our arms and to surrender."
While the news the Kurdish rebels are feeling strong pressure to surrender--particularly from Kurdish groups in northern Iraq--may spark cheers in Washington and Ankara, Bayik also warned that his group would not back down.
"If we want we can create instability and place their interests in danger," he said. "Our position...is clear: we will resist. We will never surrender," he added.
Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, views the improved cooperation between Baghdad and Ankara as resulting in an increasingly lower probability of Turkish attack.
“The danger is still there, to be honest ... but I think the chances of a major invasion are less now,” Zebari told reporters on Tuesday upon his arrival for a meeting with Javier Solana, European Union foreign policy chief, in Brussels.