Turks Concerned as Syria Crisis Helps Inflame Kurdish Regions

As Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani increases his political influence in neighboring Syria, Turkey’s prime minister is alarmed about restiveness in the country’s Eastern region. Iraqi internal divisions and border tensions are fueling discontent. Samer Elias Said, Bassel al-Khatib and Sib al-Maamouri report.

al-monitor Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu arrives for the meeting of the Action Group on Syria at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, June 30, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud.

Topics covered

kurdish regional government, turkey, syrian refugees, syrian, peshmerga, pyd, nineveh province, massoud barzani, kurds, krg, iraqi-syrian border, iraq, davutoglu

Jul 30, 2012

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will begin a visit to Kurdistan on Wednesday [Aug. 1] in a bid to discuss developments in the Turkish crisis and the Kurdish issue in particular.

Sources said the aim of Davutoglu's visit to Kurdistan is to deliver a Turkish letter of objection from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the President of the Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani. This letter states the existence of a Turkish veto on Barzani's role regarding Syria's Kurds and stresses Ankara's opposition to any actions leading to the establishment of a Kurdish entity in parts of the Syrian government that are under the control of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which, according to Ankara, is an extension to the PKK.

The Peshmerga Ministry in the KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government] announced that all of its forces are on alert, confirming that two of its brigades are ready to move toward Kirkuk, Iraq. Meanwhile, families fled some villages north of Rabia, in Nineveh province, fearing clashes between the army and the Peshmerga.

A source quoted the deputy minister of Peshmerga, Noor El-Hajj Mahmoud, as saying that the army is illegally deploying in Kirkuk, Jalula and Saadia. He stressed that the federal [Iraqi] government is responsible for any conflict with Peshmerga forces.

The source added that the government forces stationed in Zmar are still in place and have not yet withdrawn. A source from the Peshmerga said that its 3rd Infantry Brigade and the 2nd Infantry Regiment of the 7th Brigade are both on alert in the area of Khanaqin, adding that the two formations amount to 3,600 fighters and they are moving towards the front line of contact with the army.

An official source in Nineveh province said yesterday []uly 29] that the people of al-Qahira village, located north of Rabia, have left the village for fear it would turn into an arena of armed conflict between the Peshmerga and the army, adding that the rest of the border villages are living in a state of anxiety.

The governor of Nineveh, Ethel Al-Nujaifi, stressed that tension was rising between the border guards — who are seeking to control the border with Syria — and the Peshmerga forces, who are spread north of Rabia toward the Turkish-Iraqi-Syrian triangle.

Nujaifi said the residents of the area, in both Arab and Kurdish villages, are voicing concern.

The Office of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces announced earlier that the forces within Kurdistan are acting against the constitution, accusing them of nearly provoking a conflict with the armed forces. Moreover, the fact that the province's forces crossed the borders of the province of Nineveh, took control of the province and important administrations within it while pulling out weapons, was a serious phenomenon which will have serious consequences, the office added.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Peshmerga denied through its secretary general, Maj. Gen. Jabbar Yawar, that any skirmishes had taken place between the Peshmerga forces and the army, adding that the Peshmerga forces had prevented the army from approaching border areas. A local MP for Iraq’s State of Law Coalition, Amer Al-Fayez, revealed in a statement yesterday  [Aug. 29] that a petition had been launched to put pressure on Barzani as a result of the Peshmerga's prevention of the army from deploying on the Syrian border.

MP Abdul Salam al-Maliki, from the State of Law Coalition, accused the Kurdistan regional guards of opening a bridge for militants to pass to and from Syria in the Khabur region.

Meanwhile, Maliki called on the central government to carry out its duties, pointing out that Kurdistan was seeking to create a state within a state.

Maliki said in a statement yesterday [Aug. 29] that there were clear suspicions that the province's guards had turned the region of Khabur, near the Iraqi-Syrian border, into a haven for militants to cross to and from Syria, stressing that this was why they refused the army entry to that area, given that they could cut off supplies to insurgents.

Maliki called on the central government to carry out its duties and protect Iraq's borders without catering to the unconstitutional demands of the region, stressing that the protection of Iraq's borders was the duty of the government alone.

Maliki said that the province's guards went too far and exceeded their limits by repeatedly violating the Iraqi constitution and its law. In fact, they blocked an authority which is originally supposed to protect Iraq's borders, Maliki said, pointing out that the Kurdistan region was trying to create a state within a state and that this was a serious threat and precedent.

Free Iraq MP Alia Nassif called on the government to make ​​a statement and clarify its position on the Kurdistan region's training of Syrian Kurd fighters.

For its part, the Iraqi White Bloc deemed the Peshmerga forces' prevention of federal forces from deployment on the Syrian-Iraqi border as dangerous and against the constitution.

Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
  • Al-Monitor Archives
  • The Week in Review
  • Exclusive Events
  • Invitation-only Briefings

More from  Samer Elias Said, Bassel al-Khatib and Sib al-Maamouri.