Baghdad and Arbil look away as the PKK are attacked

Other News Materials 24 February 2008 19:37 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Imagine there's war and nobody cares. That's what it seems like in northern Iraq where the Turkish military has been fighting Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) rebels in a ground offensive.

All three parties responsible for the area where the rebels have entrenched themselves - the United States, the Iraqi government and the government of the Kurdish Autonomous Region - have declared they don't want anything to do with the war in the mountainous borderland.

The US, which holds military responsibility for Iraq by a UN mandate, has even shown considerable sympathy for the Turkish attacks on the PKK camps.

It has asked Ankara only to keep the offensive in Iraq as "precise" and as short as possible.

The government in Baghdad, which has little power in the north, but is officially also in charge of the northern Kurdish provinces, is staying out of the whole mess.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Saturday flew to London for a doctor's appointment while Turkish soldiers in white camouflage outfits were walking across the snow-covered mountains of Iraq.

Even the Kurdish autonomous government in Arbil, which most people would expect to show some solidarity, did nothing, even though the president of the three autonomous provinces, Massud Barzani, showed up near the frontline shortly after the offensive began.

The accusations by Iraqi Kurds that the Turkish military had destroyed three bridges and other important parts of the infrastructure were also serious.

However, the comments by Iraqi Kurds on the fighting indicate that all the parties affected - except the PKK - had been informed by the Turks in one way or another ahead of the attacks. The US, the government in Baghdad and the leadership of the Iraqi Kurds all knew.

The US in particular, and the al-Maliki government, have been largely sympathetic with the Turkish government no longer wanting to put up with the PKK attacks in the border region.

Both Washington and Baghdad consider the PKK as a terrorist organization.

The Kurdish autonomous government does not go that far. But nor does it exactly sympathize with the PKK. Their radical leftist ideology is alien to the more capitalist and feudal Iraqi Kurds.

That is why official rhetoric from Arbil sends no solidarity messages or brave talk to the PKK.

The Kurds in Iraq might be annoyed about Baghdad's "lame" response to the invasion by Turkish soldiers. But Arbil does not give much more than carefully-phrased criticism of Ankara either.

"We don't want to wage war against anyone, but if they wage war against us we will defend ourselves," is how Prime Minister Nedjirvan Barzani, a nephew of Kurdish President Barzani, sums up the attitude of the autonomous government.

It is hard to say how much longer Turkey will continue the conflict against the PKK in northern Iraq without coming under pressure from Washington, Baghdad or Arbil.

Unofficial sources speak of a 15-day military operation. But the Turkish general staff has said the troops would only leave when they have "achieved our aims."