Government official affiliated with the Turkish Consulate Mr. Osman Köse had been brutally assassinated in the middle of Erbil in broad daylight on July 21, 2019. The perpetrators of the crime were swiftly apprehended by the IKR authorities, two were killed in a Turkish Air Force in an airstrike around the same time and two among them were sentenced to death by a local court on the 11th of February 2020. Interestingly, others involved got much lighter one to two years prison sentences. It is still not clear, at least to me, how and why a prominent businessman by the calibre of Sidqi Bradosti was involved in the attempted escape of the assassins.
Since then, many targeted killings of the high level PKK commanders followed suit mostly within the traditional mountainous hide-out border areas of the terror organisation and some around Sinjar mountain. No spectacular pushback in the form of hit and run operations either against the IKR security and intelligence authorities or against Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) came to light. By now, the TAF managed to effectively carve out a buffer strip, gnawing into until now strongly defended areas like Hakurk in the triangular area among Turkey, Iraq and Iran. The way military operations baptised Claw and Eagle proceed, one can fairly assume that this time around these will not be the usual temporary forays into Iraq but the TAF is there to stay for the long haul.
Nevertheless, the fog of war appears to have thickened lately. PKK claimed to have successfully targeted the Kirkuk-Ceyhan crude oil dual pipeline in Midyat near Mardin inside Turkey right across the border. IKR published a somewhat confusing statement on this event leaving the reader to guess that there is no second attack inside Iraq and that it is the PKK that carried the attack as it is not specified in the text. IKR Security Council also made a statement to the effect that following a four month pursuit operation a dozen persons belonging again to unnamed terror organisation are taken under custody. These allegedly were planning to target again an unnamed diplomatic mission in Erbil. Right after the three PUK members of the said council declared they had no clue whatsoever about these alleged attacks and blamed the two KDP members for taking the podium on behalf of them.
Which by every account leads one to believe that the foreign mission in question would be the Turkish Consulate and the ones that are now under custody would be PKK members. Strangely enough this version of events remains yet to be officially confirmed by the Turkish authorities and the PKK outright rejected the claim. Any component of IKR security organisation like Parestin, Zenyari, Asayish, Peshmerga, Zeravani, you name it, or any minister or high level official on behalf of the IKR government bothered to clarify the issue. Furthermore, there is the killing in his home village of the KDP Asayish unofficial Serzer border crossing (in Dohuk’s Amediye with Turkey’s Çukurca in Hakkari province) director Mr. Gazi Saleh on the 8th of October. His brother referred to the animosity of the PKK towards the slain KDP official and blamed PKK for the murder. PKK again avoided responsibility denying allegations.
Last but not the least, an even more “fantastic” attack happened in Hatay province’s İskenderun (Alexandrette) town on the 26th of October. Yet again allegedly a member PKK team would have flown in to Turkey from Munbij in Syria using paramotors. Two of them were killed by Turkish security authorities apparently in the mountainous area where they have landed and the pictures of the paramotor in question circulated in the media. Two others wearing suicide bombing jackets exploded themselves while exchanging fire with the local police causing no harm than killing themselves in action. Few days later PKK claimed responsibility of the foiled attack but denied the official version of story adding that further clarifications will be shared later on. As far as I am informed, these details still are awaited. If one leaves the 2001 Al Qaeda attacks, this will put PKK together with the now defunct LTTE (Sri Lanka Tamil Tigers) in the same league as the only other terror organisation with a pseudo air power.
Further muddying the waters or the airwaves so to speak, there are all sorts of wild rumours that armed KDP units directly responding to IKR PM Masrour Barzani would be starting a military operation up in Gara mountains to eradicate the decades old PKK footholds there. Others claim that IKR President Nechirvan Barzani in turn would be effectively mediating between Ankara and Qandil to find an end to the armed conflict on the IKR soil by convincing the PKK to pull back from the Turkish border. Not a rumour but a fact this time is that US Syria Deputy Envoy Ambassador Roebuck established an initial understanding between the IKR but mostly KDP affiliated ENKS and the PKK affiliated YPG in the east of Euphrates based on which the so-called “Roj Peshmerga” will finally be incorporated within the SDF. An even wilder claim concerning a potential evacuation of Qandil by the PKK is in circulation.
There are constants for sure. Like if Qandil is evacuated such a strategic post cannot remain vacant for long. There is also an evergreen power struggle within the KDP and between the KDP and the PUK. Even if KDP tends to cooperate with the Turkish authorities in its combat against the PKK, it is highly unlikely that any Kurdish faction including the PKK will take up arms against the other. It is also a fact that there exists a tacit agreement between the PKK and the KDP that the former will not take any action inside the IKR. Inside Turkey, in the last six years only over twenty thousand HDP members including party co-chairs, MPs, mayors, provincial chairs are taken under custody and half of those are arrested.
Ankara’s self-proclaimed “assertive” foreign policy in Libya, in Syria (both Idleb and the East of Euphrates), in the Eastern Mediterranean and even to certain political extent in Qarabgh reached a dead end. The only still moving part and by default the sole remaining window of opportunity for much needed added action is in Iraq. And to repeat banality no major power cares about what is going on the border areas among Turkey and Iraq. Mr. Erdoğan is battling the COVID-19 pandemic worsened economic and his AKP is under %30 for the first time according to prestigious Metropoll.
Now, call it a hunch, a whiff, doomsaying, an educated guess, an off-the-cuff remark or armchair quarterbacking if you will but it appears to me that something is burning and somebody is in the kitchen. Something is about to give in. PKK may be getting into “desperado” actions. Or, some other powers may be actively getting into a push to instrumentalise the PKK against Turkey. Some power holders in Ankara may be guessing a last opportunity to make a final push against the PKK. Even some others may be seeing their holding to power in a never ending war against the PKK. By any account, to me at least, lasting peace seems to be further afar today than yesterday and tomorrow will even be worse than today. I sincerely hope to be proven wrong.