In one of the world's most forgotten wars, an improbable coalition of allies has come together to defeat the two groups leading the long Kurdish war for national recognition: The Turkish PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) and the PJAK (the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan), mostly Kurdish rebels of Iranian descent living in northern Iraq.
The US, Turkey, Iran and the Kurdish Regional Government-KRG have combined their military and intelligence operations in a concerted drive to demolish the two Kurdish movements.
The Americans are actually transferring intelligence gathered by drones and observations points along the Iraqi-Iranian border to Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) forces fighting the PJAK rebels. Some Iranian raids take them across the border into Iraq. The information is relayed through the Kurdish Regional government (KRG) of northern Iraq.
It is the first instance of such cooperation since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Furthermore, Turkish special units crossing into northern Iraqi Kurdistan to fight PKK rebels are fed intelligence from both American forces and Iran. This input is also channeled through the KRG, a willing military and intelligence coordinating hub for the US, Turkish and Iranian military drives to defeat fellow Kurds who have been using KRG territory for their revolts against Turkey and Iran.
The four main battle arenas in northern Iraq are located at Sinath-Haftanin, the Qandil Mountain region, Hakurk and Gara.
The KRG accepts role of coordination hub
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources report that last week, Iraqi Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani visited Tehran at the head of a large KRG military delegation which also numbered Kurdish Interior Minister Karim Sinjari, who is in charge of internal security and intelligence.
The delegation met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and senior Revolutionary Guards commanders for aligning joint Kurdish-Iranian military steps against the PJAK rebels.
From Tehran, the Kurdish delegation headed to Ankara for talks with Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. There too they met Turkish military chiefs for more coordination in the wake of the large-scale air and ground offensive Ankara mounted against the PKK on August 17 in reprisal for Kurdish attacks at Hakkari in southeastern Turkey and dozens of Turkish military deaths.
The full scale of the Turkish operation may be appreciated from the figures released by the Turkish general staff: 457 targets were attacked: 349 hit by ground forces and another 108 destroyed by air strikes.
It is obvious that Turkey's massive ground assaults in northern Iraq are carried out with the full knowledge of the Americans and the autonomous Kurdish government of northern Iraq.
Upon the KGR delegation's return home to Irbil, their capital, orders went out to block the roads to Qandil, one of the battle arenas, and the supply and escape routes of the two rebel movements, the PKK and PJAK.
The accords negotiated by the KGR delegation in Tehran and Ankara permitted Iranian troops to advance five to seven kilometers into northern Iraq and destroy PKK and PJAK camps; Turkish forces were allowed deeper penetration of the triangle formed by the Turkish, Iranian and Iraqi borders, particularly in the Qandil Mountains, where the Iranians too began operating for the first time.
The two Kurdish rebel movements face only two stark choices: destruction or surrender.
A recent PJAK declaration of a unilateral ceasefire to halt the Iranian offensive was rejected by Tehran, which announced that nothing less than surrender would halt the IRGC offensive.
KRG's Barzani draws line on annihilation of rebel movements
To keep the wheels of the four-way collaboration spinning, KRG President Masoud Barzani will soon visit Tehran.
At the same time, Barzani draws the line on letting Iran and Turkey go all the way and annihilate the two Kurdish rebel movements. The Qadil Mountain peaks are accessible to no one but the KRG army, the Pershmerga. It is the two rebel movements' last fortress and Barzani will make sure that neither outside armies will reach it.
The Obama administration is very much in favor of Barzani's visit to Tehran and urging him to go as soon as possible. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Washington say the US is convinced that its standing in Kurdistan will profit from Kurdish-Iranian military ties by opening up three new options:
1. American soldiers remaining in Iraq after the drawdown at the end of the year, many in Kurdistan bases, will be safer after the PKK and PJAK rebels are gone. The elimination of the twin Kurdish rebel presence in this territory is rated supremely important in Washington.
2. Intelligence-sharing between Washington, Ankara, Tehran and Irbil against the Kurdish rebels has opened up for the Obama administration a new channel of communication and dialogue with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after a ten-month disconnect.
Communications via Turkey broke down when Ankara and Tehran started bickering. Turkey's threat to invade northern Syria unless President Bashar Assad abandoned his military crackdown on protest elicited an Iranian warning of missile reprisals against Turkish military installations.
US hopes for Turkish-Iranian cooperation in reining Assad in
3. Turkish-Iranian military and intelligence cooperation against Kurdish rebels could, Obama administration strategists believe, bring them together for a joint bid to persuade Assad to turn away from brutal force and begin implementing long-promised political reforms.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iranian sources report that Iran's leaders have begun to appreciate that the Syrian ruler's savage abuses against dissidents are counter-productive and should be stopped.
Indications of this changed approach appearing of late in Iranian state-controlled media were misinterpreted by some Western pundits as a weakening of Tehran's commitment to its bonds with the Assad regime. This, say our sources, is way off the mark. The Iranians are merely advising the Syrian ruler to change his methods in favor of more prudent and appropriate tactics.
The study of these shifting nuances and aiding the Turkish-Iranian offensive against Kurdish rebels, have distracted Washington from its focus on Turkish military intervention against the Syrian regime. They have contented themselves with diplomatic pressure and sanctions against Assad.
Having gained a partial reprieve, the Syrian ruler has turned to settling scores with Turkey and reproving its ally, Iran.
In other parts of the Middle East, US intervention in anti-Kurd operations while making common cause with Iran have raised the level of distrust for the Obama administration and its regional policies.