Despite the geographic distance we can find great similarity between Turkey’s war against Kurdish rebels operating from the Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq and Israel’s fight against Palestinian organizations operating from the Gaza Strip.
Just like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian groups, the Kurdish PKK is attempting to force the Turkish government to comply with its political demands through terrorism. Just like the Palestinians operate from the haven of their autonomy in the Gaza Strip, the Kurds operate from their autonomous region in Iraq.
Their objective is to force the Turkish government to grant independence or at least autonomy to the mountainous region in eastern Turkey, which is mostly populated by Turkish-Kurds.
Turkey is home to 12-15 million Kurds. About 40,000 people lost their lives since the PKK, under the leadership of Abdulleh Ocalan, launched its terror war against the Turkish government in 1984. In 1998, Turkish intelligence agencies managed to capture Ocalan and brought him to trial. The PKK declared a ceasefire, which lasted about five years, but recently the group renewed its operations.
Several months ago, the organization managed to kill and capture about 20 Turkish soldiers within Turkish territory. In the face of the violation of Turkish sovereignty, the parliament gave the Turkish army the go-ahead to embark on a large-scale operation in northern Iraq.
The Turkish army and government are not quick to realize the mandate given to them by parliament. This may be a result of pressure by the US Administration, which is concerned that such invasion would further undermine Iraq’s stability, and apparently also because of fears that even a large-scale military operation would not put an end to Kurdish terror and would only lead to the killing of civilians and Turkey’s isolation in the international arena. Sounds familiar?
For the time being, the Turkish army has been adopting tactics that are similar to what the IDF has been doing, and is still doing, in the Gaza Strip. Turkish artillery fires at rebel bases, airplanes bomb rebel bases deep in Kurdish territory, and on Tuesday we saw Turkish Special Forces infiltrating about 2 miles into Iraqi territory and targeting two rebel groups.
The Americans are assisting the Turks mainly in order to minimize the need for a large-scale Turkish operation in northern Iraq. Yet the conflict on the Turkey-Iraq border, which threatens America’s efforts to stabilize the situation, is still far from being over.