Date posted: April 29, 2013
The terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) leader Murat Karayılan (whose last name literally means Blacksnake) claimed that it was, in fact, the US that killed 34 Kurdish smugglers on Dec. 28, 2011, on their way from Iraq to the Turkish border. In a specially arranged interview with four Turkish dailies on the sidelines of his showdown announcement of the withdrawal of PKK militants from Turkey attended by many reporters from a number of countries, the PKK leader said an armed US Predator drone killed all these villagers in carnage that lasted for almost two hours, without offering any evidence to back up his claims.
Unfortunately, Karayılan’s claims were given credence by the cover-up of what really happened in this incident, when the sub-commission of the Human Rights Investigation Commission in Parliament — which was controlled by the ruling party’s deputies — whitewashed the authorities’ negligence in the Turkish jets’ bombing campaign. The report said no particular person or agency was responsible for the air strike order, describing the attack as an “accident in which the smugglers were mistaken for PKK terrorists.”
Looking at the track record of the PKK and at Karayılan’s past remarks, it is obvious that the PKK is trying to drive a wedge between Turkey and the US by throwing out claims that are hard to prove or almost impossible to disprove. Karayılan used similar tactics in the past to sow discord between Ankara and Washington when he deliberately ordered a few of his militants to turn themselves in with the alleged information that the US was helping PKK terrorists. This happened in June 2007, when, after talking to Karayılan, PKK terrorists surrendered and provided information that some US servicemen gave the PKK in northern Iraq boxes of M-16 rifles. The incident, leaked to the Turkish press, even prompted the Foreign Ministry’s then-Undersecretary Ertuğrul Apakan to call on the then-US Ambassador Ross Wilson for an explanation.
The fact that some PKK militants were captured with seven US-made M-16 rifles at around the time this claim was anonymously brought to the Turkish media’s attention was part of the same sinister campaign to make the claim look more credible. The rejection of the accusation by the US administration, which tracked the guns to pro-PKK sympathizers within the Kurdistan Regional Government, an ally of the US forces during the invasion and occupation years in Iraq, did not gain much traction in the public interest. The timing of Karayılan’s latest claim comes on the eve of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s scheduled meeting with US President Barack Obama on May 16. Instead of mounting a major attack that would claim the lives of Turkish citizens, as he used to each and every time the prime minister made a visit to the US, Karayılan drops an equally damaging claim onto the Turkish national agenda before this important visit. The aim is to tap into a growing rift between Turkey and Ankara on a number of issues. Karayılan is also firing a shot across the bow of the US by launching a disinformation campaign to deal a blow to the US image in Turkish public opinion, which is already in tatters.
Second, with his remarks on Uludere, Karayılan amplified his long-held fear of the US providing armed drones to Turkey, something that will put the leadership of the PKK in the Kandil Mountains on edge. This signals that the PKK may have no desire to lay down arms in the future and hopes to derail discussion in the meeting between Erdoğan and Obama for the US to supply armed drones to Turkey. Let’s remember, Karayılan made threatening remarks to the US after then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and then-Commander of US Forces in Iraq Gen. Ray Odierno, visited Turkey in February 2010 when a transfer of armed drones to Turkey was also discussed. Speaking to the PKK mouthpiece the Fırat news agency (AFN) at the time, Karayılan warned the US against supplying armed drones to Turkey, saying that the move would turn the US into a legitimate target for PKK terrorism.
Behind Karayılan’s remarks is also a personal concern. He knows that he cannot escape the wrath and global reach of the US for narcotic crimes he has been committing for years using the PKK, if and when his terrorism career ends. Karayılan and two other PKK leaders were already named by the US as Specially Designated Drug Traffickers in 2009, a year after the US administration designated the PKK as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker under the Kingpin Act. Karayılan may be facing up to 30 years in prison under this US law, a possible deal with Turkey notwithstanding. By poking the US in the eye, the PKK leader may be trying to send a message across the Atlantic that he may be ready to cut a deal. Even if he is willing to give up the futile armed campaign against Turkey, as an exit strategy, Karayılan wants to continue his criminal enterprise of drug trafficking and human trafficking.
Fourth, there is an additional motivation behind Karayılan’s remarks. That is, Karayılan is also paying his dues to Iran, since he was conditionally released following his capture by Iranian security forces in August 2011 and his transfer to the Iranian city of Urmia for debriefing. The intelligence analysis at the time of his capture — which the Iranian parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee Chairman Alaeddin Boroujerdi first confirmed and then later backtracked on after criticisms from Turkey — indicated that there was a substantial deal made between Karayılan and Iranian intelligence. After his release, he immediately declared a halt to all activities by the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), the Iranian offshoot of the PKK. From the remarks he made last week, we now understand that the terms of the negotiations also included helping to make anti-US sentiment flare up in Turkey. Karayılan, who, according to pro-PKK media outlets, sent a letter to Obama in November 2008 in which he claimed that the PKK has never targeted American interests in Turkey or in any part of the world, seems to have turned sharply against the US following his ordeal at the hands of the Iranians.
The PKK leader’s claim that the civic movement of Fethullah Gülen was behind the leak of the voice recordings that revealed secret talks between Turkish intelligence officials and the PKK in Oslo in 2010 can be seen in a similar vein. The Turkish prime minister himself revealed in September 2012 during a televised interview that it was the PKK that was the source of the leak. This was also corroborated by Öcalan’s former lawyer, İrfan Dündar, who identified Mustafa Karasu, an Alevi and the PKK’s liaison commander with Iran, as the source of the leak in his deposition to the prosecutors in the terrorist Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) case currently being tried at the İstanbul 15th High Criminal Court.
The “false flag” statement by Karayılan, despite these explanations, aims to disrupt good relations between the movement and the government. What is more, it is no secret that the movement is not on friendlier terms with Iran because of the latter’s sinister campaign to disrupt social peace in Turkey and in the Middle East with clandestine operations and support of terrorism. Gülen’s views, which always supported moderate Islam and condemned terrorism, stand in sharp contrast with the fundamentalist and radical Iranian ideology that sees no problem with resorting to terrorism as a legitimate proxy war. Hence, Karayılan was barking on behalf of his master with his remarks against the Gülen movement, just as he did with claims against the US.
Schools, study halls, charity events and other social programs supported by the Movement in Kurdish areas have always served as an important bulwark against the spread of PKK terrorism. The fact that the PKK has for years bombed, burned and terrorized these institutions that are dearly loved by local residents and attended by Kurdish youth is a testament to the PKK’s hatred of the Gülen movement.
Lastly, there is a growing rumor circulating in Ankara power circles that an influential faction within the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) that is overtly anti-US and pro-Iran is also putting on this show to disturb the US and the Gülen movement. Since this faction has access to both PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and Karayılan, it was alleged that they are launching a smear campaign and using tactics to discredit Gülen and the US through the PKK so as not to risk exposure. Was it a mere coincidence that both Öcalan in his leaked conversation with pro-PKK deputies in İmralı Prison in February 2013 and Karayılan in his interview last week made similar arguments targeting the US and Gülen, despite the fact that both publicly announced their support for the new settlement process? We’ll know more in time.
All this cynical posturing and dirty games should make us more vigilant and cautious of the settlement process with the PKK. There are state and non-state actors that may complicate the process, even though we need to remain hopeful and supportive of the settlement. Erdoğan’s gamble with on-and-off initiatives to solve Turkey’s PKK problem and the Kurdish issue since he came to power a decade ago have not paid off so far because each attempt lacked comprehensive economic and social programs to complement military measures.
It did not factor in regional and global dynamics well, either. The prime minister’s overtures were largely seen as lip service to his party’s Kurdish deputies because the timing usually followed election cycles, giving the impression that it was a conjectural move. The same questions loom on the horizon for the current settlement process and may even be more valid today, as the country will soon busy itself with three elections, all lined up one after another.
Source: Today’s Zaman, 29 April 2013