A Kurdish party leader says rebels have started to move out of Turkey to bases in northern Iraq, a key stage in the peace process with the Turkish government.
The Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, declared a cease-fire in March and agreed to a gradual retreat from Turkish territory as part of peace efforts aimed at ending a nearly three-decade-old conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people.
With their opposing armies massed on either side of the contested border dividing southern and northern Iraq, leaders in Baghdad and the semiautonomous Kurdistan region are warning they are close to civil war — one that could be triggered by Exxon Mobil.
Although leaders on both sides are negotiating a walk back from the brink, they also say their armies could easily be provoked into battle. One of the most sensitive tripwires is Exxon, which is preparing to drill for oil in the disputed territories at the heart of the military standoff. Iraq’s two most explosive political conflicts — over land and oil — are primed to combust.
“The prime minister has been clear: If Exxon lays a finger on this territory, they will face the Iraqi army,” said Sami Alaskary, a member of parliament and close confidant of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. “We don’t want war, but we will go to war, for oil and for Iraqi sovereignty.”
Israeli “spies” are scouring Iran’s nuclear bases for evidence that its nuclear program is operating to create weapons, Britain’s Sunday Times reported in a detailed article Sunday. The intelligence gathering has been going on for years, it said, but has been stepped up of late.
The Israeli “special forces” allegedly operate out of a base in northern Iraq, and regularly infiltrate Iranian soil in order to gather evidence of its nuclear weapons program.
According to the report in the London paper, the Israeli operatives dress up as Iranian soldiers and monitor radioactivity at various suspicious locations. Their mission is to find “smoking gun” evidence that Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at production of weapons. They reportedly use “sensitive equipment” to measure levels of radioactivity and to gather evidence of nuclear weapons-related testing.
Black Hawk helicopters are used to ferry “commandos disguised as members of the Iranian military,” the paper reported, and they travel inside Iran in Iranian military vehicles.
The paper said the missions have been going on for years, facilitated thanks to Israel’s good relations with the semi-autonomous Kurds in northern Iraq. Of late, though, the scouting has been stepped up — focusing on the Parchin military base not far from Tehran, which has attracted UN attention (including IAEA suspicions that Iran has tried to cover up nuclear activities there), and an enrichment site at Fordow outside Qom.
The Sunday Times suggested that the cross-border operations might signify an imminent Israeli military strike. Prior to Israel’s strike at a Syrian reactor in 2007, it noted, Israeli troops carried out a clandestine mission to collect information at the site.
Israel’s leaders say a nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat. Iranian leaders often demonize Israel. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said he is willing to give sanctions and negotiations a few more months to deter Iran from trying to obtain nuclear weapons, but suggests that, if efforts fail, Israel could strike this year. Iran insists it is pursuing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but warns it will strike back if attacked.
In Israel, surveys show that a majority oppose a solo Israeli attack on Iran without American military cooperation.
Retired Israeli military and intelligence leaders have advised against striking Iran, arguing, among other reasons, that Israel doesn’t have enough bomb shelters or gas masks to absorb a possible Iranian counterattack.
Turkish airstrikes killed at least 35 people in the Kurdish border region with Iraq on Thursday in what the army said was an operation aimed at separatist fighters. Local villagers said the dead were instead young diesel smugglers who had been misidentified by the Turkish military.
The strikes occurred in northern Iraq near the Turkish town of Uludere along a rugged route used both by smugglers to transport goods like diesel and cigarettes by mules between the countries and by militants from the separatist Kurdish Workers’ Party, or the P.K.K., who launch cross-border attacks into Turkey.
Cross-posted at Deschamps.
This video is really fascinating reporting from Al Jazeera. Chinese foreign direct investment would be expected in an area that is so rich in natural resources but immigration of Chinese and a market for Chinese cultural goods seems like a whole other step towards liberalism.