NEWS & ANALYSIS: The Kurds

U.S. urges Turkish restraint on Kurds

U.S. officials began an intense lobbying effort Saturday to defuse Turkish threats to launch a cross-border military attack against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq and to limit access to critical air and land routes that have become a lifeline for U.S. troops in Iraq.

“The Turkish government and public are seriously weighing all of their options,” Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried said after meetings with Turkish officials in Ankara, the capital. “We need to focus with Turkey on our long-term mutual interests.”

But even as the U.S. official appealed for restraint, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking at a political rally in Istanbul on Saturday, urged the parliament to vote unanimously next week to “declare a mobilization” against Kurdish rebels and their “terrorist organization,” the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). [complete article]

Kurdish dreams find a foothold in Iraq

From their autonomous enclave carved out after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Iraqi Kurds have for years quietly undermined attempts by Syria, Iraq and Iran to halt their community’s cultural and political aspirations, throwing open the doors to their brethren in neighboring countries. In doing so, they have also provided shelter to the separatist groups fighting the Turkish and Iranian governments.

“We can’t help them,” a Kurdish official in this city said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “But we can’t hand them over, either.”

Turkey, Iran and Syria, which have long histories of suppressing Kurdish separatist movements, eye the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq warily, even though all have an economic stake in the enclave and maintain cordial ties with its leaders.

In the last five years, hundreds of foreign Kurds have come here to study at universities. Kurdish filmmakers from Iran make movies here that would be forbidden by the Islamic Republic. Linguists have reinvigorated efforts to unify the populace by bridging the gaps between Kurdish dialects that have bedeviled the struggle for a pan-Kurdish movement.

In addition, Kurdish exile groups and political parties, along with Kurdish refugees from neighboring countries, have found protection from political persecution. [complete article]

Iraqi warlord’s defeat only hardens his resolve

The Muslim warlord reclines in suburban opulence. He smiles mischievously despite his recent troubles.

Over the last five years, his once heavily armed Kurdish militia has been disbanded, his mountainside base crushed by U.S. cruise missiles, his movement thrown into chaos. He was locked up at Baghdad’s notorious Camp Cropper with his former blood enemies, including former President Saddam Hussein.

But Sheik Ali Bapir, the charismatic 46-year-old leader of a Kurdish organization called the Islamic Group, believes he has come through his travails as a winner.

His bestselling memoir has gone into a second printing and has been translated into Arabic. He leads a large political movement with its own satellite channel, news publications, six seats in the Kurdistan regional parliament and a plush compound on the outskirts of this predominantly Kurdish city. [complete article]

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