Turkish intel report raises fears of Syrian, Iranian support for PKK
August 10, 2011 1 Comment
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
By all accounts, in 1998 Syria discontinued its clandestine support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a leftist secessionist movement that aspires to create a Kurdish homeland comprising mostly of territories in Turkey’s Anatolia region. But a leading Turkish newspaper claims that, according to a classified intelligence report, Damascus has resumed its support for the PKK. The paper, Zaman, said that according to the report, Turkey’s main intelligence directorate, the MİT, has concluded that Syria has “started to support the PKK” again, thus reverting to its pre-1998 stance. It was on that year that Damascus expelled the PKK’s founder and leader, Abdullah Öcalan, who had previously been given shelter and protection in the country. A few months later, Öcalan was snatched by Turkish commandos from the hands of Greek diplomats in Nairobi, Kenya, and flown to Turkey, where he is now serving a life sentence. Following Öcalan’s expulsion, Syria, which is home to an estimated 400,000 Kurds, quietly began cooperating with Ankara against the PKK and its sister organizations operating on Syrian soil. But the MİT report cited by Zaman says that, under the fear of anti-government militancy and continuous popular and ethnic uprisings, Damascus has tried to mend relations with its Kurdish minority, and is now “providing shelter to some of the PKK’s most important leaders”. The classified report, which Zaman says gives “a highly detailed overview” of the PKK’s regional activities, also alleges that Syria has increased its security collaboration with Iran, which is also home to several thousand ethnic Kurds. According to the paper, the MİT believes that Tehran is currently engaged in military operations against the PJAK —the PKK’s Iranian arm— but completely stopped sharing intelligence with Ankara after July 16. Interestingly, that was the day when the government of Turkey voiced its first-ever strong public condemnation of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad —an event which likely prompted the change in Syria’s and Iran’s policy on the PKK. The paper also notes that things may get worse for Turkey once US troops pull from Iraq’s northern Kurdish zone. The latter is widely perceived in Turkey as a PKK shelter zone. A subsequent press release by the MİT said the Zaman news report “did not reflect the whole truth or was missing critical pieces”; but the spy agency refused to provide details.