Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wikileaks Reveals Iraqi Kurdish Secrets 

By Wladimir van Wilgenburg 

December 5, 2010

AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands, — Kurdish affairs such as Kirkuk and drug trafficking are under the international spotlight with the recent release of hundreds of thousands of confidential US documents by whistle-blowing Wikileaks.

In leaked US diplomatic cables the Turkish ambassador to Iraq, Murat Ozcelik, told US officials on January 11th that for the first time a Kurdish official understood that Kirkuk would not be included in the semiautonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, indicating to Turkey that a compromise and a special 10-year status for Kirkuk was needed.

Ozcelik said that, during tri-lateral negotiations on December 21st 2009 in Erbil involving Turkey, the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Kurdistan Interior Minister Karim Sinjari said the KRG had now understood that Kurdistan would not be incorporating Kirkuk into the region.

The Turkish official claimed it was the first time a senior Kurdish leader had suggested that there could be some flexibility in the KRG's approach to the implementation of Article 140, which would determine the future of disputed multi-ethnic regions including Kirkuk.

However, Sinjari denied making any compromise on Kirkuk saying that his words were “taken out of their context.”

“My words were neither like that nor in that context. They have been misinterpreted,” said Sinjari.

“We insist on the implementation of Article 140 without any compromise on it. But we are ready to negotiate in order to facilitate the implementation of the article as it needs cooperation.”

Ozcelik speculated that if the parties were able to buy enough time, the Kurds would understand that increased economic activity in the context of a more stable Iraq made administrative boundaries less important.

Furthermore, Ozcelik said Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani had asked him to participate in Turkoman-Kurd and Sunni Arab-Kurd reconciliation efforts in Kirkuk and Nineveh respectively. He indicated that Kirkuk’s Turkomans realized the limit of their influence in the election law debate and were more receptive to work with Kurds.

Ozcelik admitted that Kurds were seen in Ankara as troublesome and also noted that, despite recent progress in ties between Turkey and Kurdistan, Kurds feared the Turkish military’s hard-line elements could reverse Turkey's current policy of reconciliation. Ozcelik said it was important for Turkey to emphasize to the KRG that Turkey's long-term security and, critically, commercial interests lay in keeping Turkey-KRG relations on an even keel.

Other secret cables leaked by Wikileaks alleged that Turkey’s Kurdish guerilla movement, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), was involved in drug trafficking.

During a meeting between officers from the US and Iraq at the Trilateral Intelligence Sharing Office hosted by the KRG on November 25th 2009, Major General “Delshad” of the Kurdish Border Guard (Zerevani) said the “PKK/Kongra Gel is involved in narcotics trafficking through transportation and associated services, like protection.”

“Safa”, an aide of Iraqi Major General “Fukaiki” added that “the PKK regularly uses the border seams to traffic narcotics from Iran through the mountains west to Turkey and onward to the European market.”

Wikileak’s revelations are not new as the PKK has often been accused of being involved in the narcotics trade by Turkey and Europol. In October 2009 the US Treasury named PKK leader Murat Karayilan and two other PKK members as drug trafficking "kingpins", but the PKK denied this, claiming they were against drugs.

But the leadership of the PKK dismissed the allegations as “baseless.”

According to further leaked documents, published by Arabic language newspaper Al Akhbar, an outspoken critic of Kurdish security forces in Nineveh,www.ekurd.netYezidi Progress Party head Wa'ad Hammad Matto was arrested at his Nineveh home and then detained in Baghdad by Iraqi military intelligence for meeting with Baathists in Syria in October 2009.

Matto, a former KDP-member, claimed the KDP orchestrated the arrest because he did not join the pro-KDP Ninewa Fraternity List led by a KDP leader, Khasro Gorran, in Nineveh in the Iraqi elections.

But, according to the documents, US intelligence sources said he had meetings with prominent Baathist politicians in Syria and was not politically motivated by the Kurds, and this was why he was arrested.

The document shows that Sheihk Abdullah of the Sunni nationalist al-Hadba party paid $20,000 for Matto´s defense in court.

Yezidis are primarily ethnic Kurds, mostly living near Mosul, with smaller communities in surrounding countries. Their religion incorporates local Kurdish and Islamic Sufi beliefs.