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Iraq Begins Crackdown on Kurdistan Workers' Party

The Iraqi government has closed the Baghdad offices of the Marxist Kurdistan Workers’ Party, an anti-Turkish terrorist organization, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has promised his Turkish counterpart that no PKK activities will be tolerated in Iraq. Not only do Iraq and Turkey both have significant Kurdish minorities, but the two countries also have an important bilateral petroleum trade relationship. Yet despite this action in Baghdad the problem remains in Kurdish-dominated northern Iraq, where the PKK has its main Iraqi presence, and reports from yesterday indicated continuing missile fire across the border from not only Turkey but Iran as well. Turkish military activities in Iraqi Kurdistan have been ongoing periodically, as we noted in a recent report, and more recently by the Counterterrorism Blog, the latter being a greater escalation.

This is from the Turkish newspaper Zaman (English):

…Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliqi [sic] called his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and informed that they had taken the decision to enforce the closure of the organization’s offices in Bagdat (Baghdad) and ban all its activities. “We will not allow the PKK to shelter anywhere in Iraq,” al-Maliki said in the half-an-hour phone conversation from the Iraqi capital… [and] emphasized that they will keep working in cooperation with Turkey and the United States…

Immediately after releasing a statement concerning the talks between the two prime ministers, Iraqi Prime Ministry announced its decision to enforce the closure of the organization’s offices in Baghdad and the banning of all PKK activities. Iraqi authorities had formerly given some verbal guarantees that they would close down the PKK Baghdad offices. The first concrete statement on this issue was however made yesterday…

The Iraqi newspaper Al-Rafidayn (Arabic) also carried a story on the issue, and added that Maliki also addressed to Erdogan the transport of oil derivatives from Turkey to Iraq. Iraq exports oil to Turkey, and this appears to be a reference to the Iraqi dependence on Turkish refining capacity.

The Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada (Arabic; second article from the top) also contained a reference to the issue in an article on Iraqi Kurdistan, noting that both Turkey and Iran were launching missiles across the border Saturday morning, targeting anti-Turkish and anti-Iranian Kurdish rebels. While Turkey was clearly targeting the PKK, the article does not make clear the target of the Iranian attacks. It is possible that this incident is related to Iran’s ongoing conflict with the Party for Freedom and Life in Kurdistan (PJAK). Although the PJAK appears to have ties to the PKK, it claims to be a separate organization seeking peaceful change in Iran. The article, published earlier Sunday, indicated that the firing was still going on at the time of publication.