Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Perspective: Iraqi Kurds fear a new war

Above: PKK fighters in Iraq

QANDIL MOUNTAINS, Iraq-Iran-Turkey - The fragile quiet in this no-man's land was broken by a young fighter shooting into the air at a regular morning ceremony to "commemorate martyrs". The firing was more than ceremonial. A new threat of war is looming in this mountain range in the north of Iraq, cutting into Turkey and Iran.

All three countries have large Kurdish populations, and their governments are worried about a Kurdish uprising for a separate homeland. Only in Iraq do Kurds have an autonomous region of their own.

Over the past few months, Turkey and Iran have been threatening to sweep positions held by the Kurdistan Workers' Party of Turkey (PKK) off these mountains. They accuse the PKK of launching cross-border operations from Iraq's soil into Turkey and Iran.

The PKK announced a unilateral ceasefire last October 1, symbolically on World Peace Day, but it was rejected by the Turkish government.

"We don't want to be forced to fight, and are still expecting a positive response to our ceasefire message from the relevant parties," said Rostam Joudi, a member of the PKK's leadership council. "Otherwise, we are quite prepared to counter any [Turkish] military operation. We can raise the level of the conflict ... and it may get bigger than [the] Iraq and Arab-Israeli conflicts."

Read the rest at Asia Times Online