Cablegate: Turkey and Northern Iraq: Kongra Gel (Kgk) Mitigation Strategy

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 002206




E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/14/2029


1. (U) Classified by Ambassador Eric S. Edelman. Reasons: 1.4 (b), (c) and (d).

2. (S) Summary: We agree with CPA that Turkish troops in northern Iraq could become a problem after the June 30 transfer of sovereignty, but Embassy Ankara does not believe the approach recommended in reftel will work with the Turks. Even if the Turks withdraw, as a result of a proposal like this one or on their own, we still leave the President vulnerable to Turkish complaints during his late June visit to Ankara that we have not honored the President's commitment to eliminated the PKK/KGK threat to Turkey in Iraq. Some action--closing urban offices, an IGC statement, a token military step--will be necessary to deter such criticism. End summary.

3. (C) Embassy Ankara agrees with CPA (reftel) about the desirability of dealing with the Turkish troop presence in northern Iraq before the June 30 transfer of sovereignty. We see an added benefit of addressing Turkish concerns about the PKK/KGK presence in Iraq before the President's visit here in late June at the time of the NATO Istanbul Summit. If we don't, we can expect -- at a minimum -- President Sezer, Prime Mininster Erdogan and the Turkish media to remind POTUS of PM Erdogan's January meeting in the White House and the promise he received that Iraq would not be a haven for terrorists of any kind, including the PKK/KGK. For this reason, we do not believe the proposal outlined reftel will have the desired effects with the Turks. (We defer to CPA on the merits of the proposal in dealing with the peshmerga and the Transition and Reintegration program.)

4. (C) Turkey has had long and difficult relations with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Turks believe that the KDP and the PUK are sympathetic to and to some degree actually assist the PKK/KGK in northern Iraq. Thus, they do not trust the peshmerga to contain the threat. This is why the Turkish General Staff (TGS) perceives a need for independent intelligence collection and limited special operation capabilities in northern Iraq. The Turks will likely see the absorption of the peshmerga into the border security force as simply giving them new uniforms, but not changing their sympathetic outlook toward the PKK/KGK, nor their allegance to their parties of origin. They would also see it as confirming their suspicion that the Kurds are over-represented in Iraq's security forces, and their belief that the US favors Kurds over other groups in Iraq. The presence of foreign advisors, as CPA suggests, would help mitigate these concerns, but only if they were American. The Turks, like Iraqis, have long memories and will object strenuously to a British presence on their border.

5. (C) But even if the Turks could be convinced that a beefed up, Baghdad-controlled border security force made up of peshmerga would prevent the PKK/KGK from infiltrating across the Turkey-Iraq border, that would not be enough to prevent PKK/KHK movement into Turkey. The PKK/KGK controls a section of the Iran-Iraq border and they often move between Turkey and Iraq via Iran. To convince the Turks that we have the PKK/KGK threat in northern Iraq bottled up, we would need to take control of this border as well. We expect military action would be necessary, given the PKK/KGK actually attacked an Iraqi Border Service patrol last fall that threatened to interfere with the group's movements.

6. (C) Reftel suggests blocking KGK efforts to set up front groups and to hold "political" meetings might enhance the credibility of its proposal with the Turks. But the KGK already has a front group, the Democratic Solution Party of Kurdistan, with functioning offices in a number of locations in northern Iraq and Baghdad. If existing offices aren't closed, no promise to prevent political activity will have any credibility with the Turks.

7. (S/NF) Even if we could convince the Turks that the PKK/KHK threat has been effectively bottled up, they might still balk at a request to withdraw their forces. Doing so would remove Turkey's eyes and ears on the ground. Publicly and officially, TGS asserts that their troops will remain in northern Iraq as long as the PKK/KGK threat does. They heard from senior USG officials that the US understands and accepts this. A proposal from us to do otherwise would surprise and offend them. However, there are indications that TGS may be reevaluating the intelligence value of these troops in anticipation of an Iraqi request: sensitive reporting suggests that the generals are beginning to think about a unilateral withdrawal of Turkish troops. They recognize the newly sovereign Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government, legitimated by the TAL, could object to Turkish troops' continued presence. In time, they could decide to avoid this eventuality by withdrawing before June 30 of their own accord. However, for all the reasons outlined above, the Embassy does not believe CPA's proposal will convince the Turks to withdraw their forces and could even prevent a unilateral decision to implement contingency planning in that direction.

8. (S/NF) Regardless of whether the Turks withdraw from Iraq, there will still be the question of how the President might handle the issue of the continued PKK/KGK presence in Iraq when he visits here in June. Turkish intelligence suggests that hardliners in Kandil Mountain are currently considering terrorist acts against Turkey by terrorist elements some of whom are already in Turkey. In conversations with the Ambassador and a number of senior US military officials, including VCJCS Gen Pace during a March visit to Washington, TGS Deputy CHOD Gen Basbug has urged the US to demonstrate the "political will" to eliminate eventually with this terrorist presence through some token military action. Basbug clearly believes that a demonstration of U.S. attitude would hasten the fragmentation of the terror group. Moving to secure that portion of the Iraq-Iran border controlled by the terrorists, if visible and effective, would also be a step in that direction, too. Such actions would relieve the domestic pressure on Turkey's politicians to press this issue with the President.

9. (U) Minimize considered.


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