‘The plan of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the agreement it has made with Turkey is to surrender Metina, Zap, Avashin and Xakurkê to Turkey. The KDP would prefer these areas to be under Turkish military occupation rather than under the control of the guerrillas. The reason is that the KDP wants to weaken the PKK, and also to put pressure on the PKK in other areas,” writes Amed Dicle for Yeni Özgür Politika.
And of course to maintain its existing agreements with Turkey.
The incursions embarked upon by the Turkish state in South Kurdistan last April continue. In particular, there are constant ongoing violent clashes and bombardments in the regions of Metîna, Zap and Avashin. The Press Office of the People’s Defence Forces (HPG) [part of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)] releases daily written statements to the public relating to the clashes and incursions. While footage and images of the military actions of the HPG guerrilla forces against the Turkish forces are broadcast in the Kurdish media, but statements relating to these are not made by Ankara, and the losses are certainly not mentioned in the Turkish state media.
From all information about the daily developments in this war and also from communications from local sources and various statements reflected in the press, it is understood that the Turkish army has deployed soldiers at various places in the aforementioned regions, but that there are also guerrilla forces in these regions. This has been the situation for the last three months.
It cannot be said that the Turkish forces have achieved their objective of taking control of various points previously used by HPG guerillas after heavy bombardment from the air and deployment of paratroopers as Turkish soldiers have been ambushed by the guerillas in many of these places.
‘Centre of Operations’ in Saladin
One of the most talked-about subjects of the war between the Turkish army and the guerrilla forces, particularly during the last three months, has been the stance of the KDP. It is no secret that the KDP is working with the Turkish army. The KDP themselves don’t deny it. A Turkish delegation led by Hulusi Akar [the Turkish Minister of Defence] visited Baghdad and Erbil (Hewler) some time before the incursions started.
It has also been reported in the press that the KDP and Turkish officials were having meetings on a regular basis, and that a joint ‘centre of operations’ has been set up in Saladin near Erbil. Then, after it became clear at the end of April that the Turkish incursions in Metina, Zap and Avashin had not had the desired effect, Hulusi Akar requested that the KDP join in the clashes directly, and on 19 May KDP officials met to discuss this request. There was an increase in the KDP’s mobilisation in the conflict zone after this meeting.
According to the plan drawn up between the KDP and Ankara:
- KDP forces will block strategic routes in areas targeted by Turkish forces.
- Coordinates relating to guerilla movements will be provided to the Turkish forces.
- Lines of logistics will be intercepted.
The KDP’s ‘covert war’
This plan is continuing in the current situation. If the situation appears to have calmed down a little after increasing reactions from the Kurdish public against a “Kurdish civil war”, this is not actually the case. Thus, on 24 July there was a short clash in the Charchel area of Metina. The clash broke out when the KDP made an attempt to force the guerillas out of this area, which had been bombed hundreds of times by Turkey in the previous three months. The KDP pretended it was sensitive to the reactions against a Kurdish ‘civil war’, and preferred not to cover the subject in its media at all. Although there was and is still no direct conflict between the peshmerga and the guerillas, the KDP’s ‘covert war’ against the guerillas continues. This war continues in the form of cutting off the latter’s positions from behind in coordination with the Turkish forces, preventing wounded guerillas from obtaining medical treatment, and blocking lines of logistics.
What areas does the KDP want to hand over to Turkey?
The plan of the KDP and the agreement it has made with Turkey is to surrender Metina, Zap, Avashin and Xakurkê to Turkey. According to an agreement made following clashes between the KDP and the PKK in 1995 these areas were left to the guerrillas. This ‘agreement’ is still to be found in the archives of the two parties. But in the current situation the KDP would prefer these areas to be under Turkish occupation rather than under control of the guerrillas. The reason the KDP wants this is to weaken the PKK, and to put pressure on the PKK in other areas. And naturally, to maintain its existing agreements with Turkey.
Barzani’s 400 companies in Turkey
Looking at it solely from an economic perspective, the Barzani family owns 400 important companies which trade in Turkey. So in fact, the reason for the clashes, rather than being as the KDP says, “the PKK’s presence here [in South Kurdistan]”, is more rooted in the KDP’s own economic presence in Turkey. It is reported that Masoud Barzani [leader of the KDP] himself when interviewed in relation to the subject complained, “They’ve got all the other parts of Kurdistan, they’re not leaving anything for us,” referring to the PKK.
How did the KDP get involved in Ankara’s plan?
It became apparent to all parties after the war for the annihilation of the Kurds was launched by the Turkish state on 24 July 2015 that the role of the KDP would be important. There were many meetings between Erbil and Ankara at the time. Masoud Barzani became personally involved in these meetings when he paid a visit to the Turkish Intelligence Agency in 2015. There were also frequent meetings being held between the PKK and the KDP in the same period. In meetings held between a KDP delegation under the leadership of Masoud Barzani and high level PKK management in the autumn of 2016 the PKK side demanded that the KDP maintain neutrality in Turkey’s incursions, and both sides wanted to come to an agreement. A consensus was reached at a meeting in November 2016. One week after the consensus was reached and just before it was due to be signed by high level management from both sides, Masoud Barzani visited Ankara. And as a result the KDP decided not to sign the agreement, using as a pretext a statement made by Cemil Bayık, the co-chair of management committee of the the KCK [Kurdistan Communities Union] before the meetings had started. The KDP has been systematically involved in Ankara’s plan from that day on.
Many KDP executives oppose the war
It is important to note that the KDP are not of one voice in this matter. Many KDP officials, although they direct various criticisms at the PKK, are against a war between the KDP and the PKK. Many KDP members are very well aware of Turkey’s calculations. If the KDP were to declare war against the PKK directly there remains a big question mark as to the degree to which their own armed forces would be involved. This is the main reason why the KDP leadership sends specially trained units into the operations.
Military preparations in Sheladiz
Many reports state that the clashes are expected to intensify in the autumn, and preparations are being made for attacks on certain new areas. For example, it is stated that in recent days the KDP has been accelerating military preparations in Sheladiz (Şêladizê), and that the target is the Rênçbiraxa line in the Zagros mountains, because the Turkish army has suffered heavy losses on this line and they want the KDP to cut this line off. This is one of the most strategic points in the Zagros mountains. Observers say that any military activity here will inevitably lead to conflict.
Preparations to cut off Xinêrê from the south
At the same time the KDP are also making various preparations directed at the Xakurkê region. It is reported that the Turkish army is making plans to cut off the Xakurkê-Xinêrê line from the south. The areas of Goshine and Berbizina, regarded as being the border of Xinêrê, are being targetted. This place is also parallel to the Iranian border. Certain groups from Rojhilat [Iran] known to be close to the KDP have had responsibility for this place. It has been learnt that the KDP has withdrawn the Rojhilati forces from this area in preparation for this operation. In addition, clearing of mines on this line has been accelerated in the last two months. The KDP has informed Iran that they have withdrawn groups attached to themselves from this border line. A delegation from the KDP visited Tehran last week. It is necessary to Ankara that Iran is persuaded for an incursion on this border line to take place, but it is unclear what Iran will do.
Blockade of Nechirvan Barzani
While on the one hand the KDP is working on putting this agenda created with Turkey into place, on the other it is trying to give form to politics in the region in line with its own strategy. The team headed by Masrour Barzani [Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government] has been severely limiting the influence of Nechirvan Barzani [President of the Kurdistan Region]. Although Nechirvan Barzani sits in the chair of the leader of the region his influence over important matters like intelligence and public order is now non-existent. Likewise his influence over the economy is being restricted. But the most important field that Nechirvan Barzani does have control over is the oil companies. Nechirvan Barzani and the former regional oil minister Ashti Hawrami designed the sector. Last week Aşti Hawrami’s former spouse Chra Khan Rafiq gave a statement to the press, making certain ‘confessions’. Aşti Hawrami and his companies were subjected to accusations. By implication Nechirvan Barzani was [also] subjected to accusations. While referring to numerous incidents of corruption in the same statment, Chra Khan Rafiq stressed that Masoud and Masrour Barzani had nothing to do with the incidents. She also stated that she is their guest at the moment. Chra Khan Rafiq is currently wanted in a number of countries and the files she mentions have become international court cases. It is thought that her statement was made at the behest of Masrour Barzani.
KDP mobilisation in Sulaymaniya
Masrour Barzani and his team assess that total control over the [South Kurdistan] region can only be achieved if the PKK is dealt a heavy blow in certain strategic areas and the KDP gains control over it as a whole, as well as over the PUK [Patriotic Union of Kurdistan]. The Ankara regime is aware that dealing strategic blows against the Kurds will have a similar outcome. Internal conflicts in the PUK are giving Barzani operational ground. It is still unclear how the internal conflicts in the PUK will evolve. But it is known that the Barzani family sees Lahur Talabani [Co-chair of the PUK] as an obstacle. But even if Lahur Talabani was not there it would not be easy for the KDP to shape the PUK. Trusted sources say that after 8 July the KDP started sending large numbers of military personnel in civilian outfits to Sulaymaniyah.
Internal dynamics in the PUK
Clearly the internal problems in the PUK will not turn into armed conflict. But the parties involved have certain opposing interests and the tension will continue for some time. The dynamics within the PUK will change according to the results of the elections in Iraq and there will be a still more tense periods during its congress.
These developments in South Kurdistan have also affected and continue to affect Rojava [NE Syria]. The Semalka border point has been rendered virtually non-functional as a result of the KDP’s practices there. Nothing has been achieved in the recent meetings held between the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria and the KDP. It has been learnt that the Rojava side took a clear stance against the KDP’s involvement in Turkey’s incursions.
Towards a new stage
In conclusion, the process will evolve into a new stage heading towards the autumn. The KDP is not expected to withdraw from its mobilisation in guerilla-controlled areas. This makes KDP a strategic support for the Turkish army. The course of the present war in Metina, Zap and Avashin will have its affect on the ‘autumn offensive’ planned by the Turkish army.