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Cablegate: Turkey: Reaction to Military Strikes Against Pkk

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DE RUEHAK #2983/01 3511253
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 171253Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4690
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/39ABG INCIRLIK AB TU PRIORITY
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RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC//USDP:PDUSDP/ISA:EUR/ISA:NESA/DSCA// PRIORITY
RUEHAK/USDAO ANKARA TU PRIORITY
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 002983

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT. FOR EUR/SE AND NEA/I

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL MOPS PTER TU IZ
SUBJECT: TURKEY: REACTION TO MILITARY STRIKES AGAINST PKK
IN NORTHERN IRAQ

REF: A. ANKARA 2974 (NOTAL)
B. ANKARA 2935

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Reaction to Turkish military air and
artillery strikes (ref A) against PKK targets in northern
Iraq early December 16 dominated Turkish media on December
17. President Gul, PM Erdogan, and other government
officials praised the Turkish military's ability to carry out
night-time raids on PKK encampments. GOT officials called on
PKK terrorists to abandon their mountain hideouts, surrender
to Turkish forces, and return home. They noted such military
operations will continue as necessary. Most commentators
pointed to the strikes as the first real operation against
PKK targets in northern Iraq authorized by Turkey's
parliament in October. Turkish media broadly credited the
United States with supplying the intelligence required to
make the operation a success, as well as with clearing Iraqi
air space to avoid unintended conflict with friendly
aircraft. Off-the-cuff damage assessments varied widely,
with some Turkish officials claiming 75-80 percent of PKK
command was destroyed. Media report the Iraqi government
called in Turkish Ambassador Kanbay in Baghdad and passed a
note verbale expressing concern about the report of one
civilian having died in the bombardment and asked that they
be halted. END SUMMARY

Official Reaction
-----------------

2. (SBU) PM Erdogan congratulated the Turkish General Staff
(TGS) Chief of Defense, the force commanders, and the air
force pilots for the successful airstrikes. Erdogan noted
the GOT is determined to end the terrorist threat posed by
the PKK through whatever means necessary, including military,
economic, and social measures. During a live interview
televised the evening of December 16, Chief of Defense Gen.
Yasar Buyukanit said he felt proud of Turkey's armed forces,
claiming that "all targets were hit" and adding that not a
single civilian or villager was hit. After many years, a
very successful operation was carried out against PKK camps
in northern Iraq. The PKKers may live in caves, but "we will
find and hit them." It no longer matters whether it is
summer or winter; operations will continue regardless of the
season. Buyukanit said the PKK must watch its step from this
point forward, claiming Turkey can watch PKK camps as though
they are on "Big Brother." He added that by opening Iraqi
airspace to the Turkish operation, the U.S. had approved the
operation.

3. (SBU) Deputy Prime Minister and GOT spokesman Cemil Cicek
emphasized in a December 16 statement that the sole target of
the operation was the PKK. He appealed to PKK rank and file
to abandon the organization, saying that they are not on the
right path and will not succeed. He asked that they return
to their parents while there is still time.

4. (SBU) Opposition politicians were reluctant to surrender
the "weak on terrorism" card they have used against the
ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Republican
People's Party (CHP) deputy leader and MP Onur Oymen said
that using only the air force against PKK targets was not
sufficient to wipe out the PKK threat and called on the
government to carry out a comprehensive operation utilizing
ground forces. Nationalist Action Party (MHP) deputy
chairman Oktay Vural complained that the government had
waited so long to carry out such an operation and pointed to
rumors that PKK leaders had escaped the attacks. Pro-Kurdish
Democratic Society Party (DTP) leaders were critical of the
operation. DTP MP Fatma Kurtulan called on the GOT to cease
operations in northern Iraq and focus instead on dialogue and
solving differences through democratic means. DTP deputy
chairman Selahattin Demirtas and Sirri Sakik both criticized

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PM Erdogan for raising the possibility of making changes to a
"Return to Home" (repentance or amnesty) law to attract more
PKKers to abandon their armed struggle, then striking out at
them through a military operation a few days later. Sakik
added, "Today we understood that this brotherhood project
meant bombardment. You cannot resolve the issue by bombing
here and there."

Media Reaction
--------------

5. (SBU) Media outlets uniformly characterized the strikes as
a display of Turkish determination to deal with the PKK
threat and its presence in northern Iraq. Many commentators
termed the strikes as the first major operation since
Turkey's parliament authorized the government to carry out
such actions in late October. Most media reported the
operation was comprised of both air and artillery strikes
against PKK encampments along the Turkey-Iraq border as well
as on PKK headquarters on Kandil Mountain, about 100
kilometers from the border. Some outlets carried reports of
Iranian shelling of PKK camps at Kandil concurrent to the
Turkish strikes, speculating the attacks had been coordinated
ahead of time with Iran.

6. (SBU) A number of media claimed the United States
authorized the attacks and credited the U.S. with providing
the intelligence needed to carry out such attacks, as well as
with clearing Iraqi airspace. The Embassy spokesperson was
quoted widely, noting that Turkey did not seek approval from
the U.S. for the operation but that Turkey had notified us
beforehand. A State Department spokesman's December 16
statement that Turkey has the right to defend itself against
terrorist attacks was also widely reported. "Radikal"
columnist Murat Yetkin pointed out that cooperation between
Turkey and the U.S. "is solving the PKK problem," both
through military activity and a political approach via the
"return-to-home" plan.

7. (SBU) Damage estimates from the attacks varied widely,
with some unnamed Turkish military sources claiming in media
reports that 75-80 percent of the PKK's command and control
operation at Kandil Mountain was destroyed. Some speculated
that PKK leaders Murat Karayilan and Feyman Huseyin may have
been killed in the attacks. A press release from PJAK
claimed that the airstrikes led to the death of one civilian,
with six more wounded. PJAK also claimed that several houses
and a school were destroyed, along with 170 livestock. The
PKK-affiliated Free Life of Kurdistan Party (PJAK) also
pointed to Iranian artillery strikes around the same time
that Turkey was carrying out its attack.

PKK Threat
----------

8. (SBU) In a Firat News Agency (PKK mouthpiece) report, the
PKK threatened the United States, noting that it was very
clear the assaults had occurred with the "approval,
confirmation, and intelligence assistance of the USA." The
PKK statement calls on the U.S. to stop the attacks at once.
Otherwise, America will attract our people's fear and
response, and this may cause new developments.

Iraq Reaction
-------------

9. (SBU) Turkish media reported Iraqi Deputy FM Mohammed
al-Hajj Humoud summoned Turkish Ambassador to Iraq Kanbay to
the Foreign Ministry December 16. Humoud reportedly
expressed concern about civilian casualties suffered during
the airstrikes and demanded they be brought to an end before
they "affect the friendly relations between the two

ANKARA 00002983 003 OF 003


governments and peoples."

10. (SBU) Some media outlets quoted GOI spokesperson Dr. Ali
Dabbagh as supporting Turkish military operations in northern
Iraq in an interview that took place several hours before the
attacks. Dabbagh reportedly said that as long as the PKK
continues to remain in northern Iraq and constitute a threat,
there will be no way other than through a military operation
for Turkey to respond. Dabbagh called the PKK a terrorist
organization and said the GOI believes PM Erdogan does not
wish to destroy Iraq. Dabbagh is quoted as saying, "We do
not oppose a military operation against the PKK, but this
should not be unilateral. Our concern is that these
operations might expand. Our people should not get the
impression that Turkey wants to occupy the Iraqi Kurdistan
region."

11. (SBU) COMMENT: Considering the timing of these airstrikes
in conjunction with proposals made by PM Erdogan on December
9 (ref B) and other GOT officials last week about making
changes to existing repentance laws (Turkish Penal Code
Article 221) for PKKers who surrender to Turkish forces, it
appears the GOT is following a stick-and-carrot approach to
solving the PKK problem and that it may indeed be
coordinating closely with the Turkish military.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/ankara/

WILSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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