US offers Turkey help with operations against Kurdish PKK leaders in Qandil mountain

By Soli Ozel, Haber Turk, Al-Monitor – 23.10.2012 –  ANKARA, –  United States Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone dropped a bomb in his meeting with journalists in Ankara last week. He said the US had proposed a joint operation with Turkey against the leaders of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) at the Qandil Mountain range along the lines of that in which US hunted down and killed Osama Bin Laden.

According to Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey refused the offer because of differences in topographical conditions. Obviously, Ricciardone meant the revelation as a firm response to misgivings of Turkish public opinion. We remember how the Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Ozel complained about not getting sufficient and timely intelligence from the US. Public opinion saw Gen. Ozel’s remark as reaffirmation of their apprehension about the US.

The US ambassador, in a way, tried to erase the Turkish mistrust in his country by saying, “What else do you expect us to do? We proposed the highest levels of cooperation with our best technical means. Moreover, our target was the top command of the PKK, but you didn’t want it.” Ricciardone also took the opportunity to clear the air on how Washington views Turkey’s Syria policy.


The message was that although the US cooperates closely with Turkey on the Syrian crisis, it is concerned with any development that could elevate the crisis to a war. The US also feels that the continuation the Syrian crisis is endangering the stability of the region, especially in Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. Washington doesn’t favor a prolonged crisis as some suggest, but wants the clashes to end as soon as possible. Although all diplomatic efforts seem to have been suspended until the US elections, it is possible to discern a road map from the developments of recent weeks.

It is understood mainly from foreign press reports that there is a reduction in the quantity of weapons provided to the opposition. Under heavy US pressure, the Saudi Arabia and Qatar governments — though their rich nationals might have their own priorities — have ceased sending advanced weaponry to the groups they support in Syria. According to Steve Heydemann of the US Institute of Peace, who played major roles in bringing together the peaceful Syrian opposition and in the preparation of the report “The Day After,” the moderate opposition gets upset with powerful nations that don’t help them. Arms shipments pave the way for the jihadists who are yet a minority in the opposition, but who stand to benefit if the war continues. Heydemann also said the Syrian opposition is slowly marginalizing the jihadists.

The significant consequence of reducing weapons deliveries to the opposition means denying the opposition the power to bring down the regime. It is possible that the recent interception of a Syrian airliner by Turkey could signal the beginning of restrictions on the Baath regime’s weapons procurement.

More stringent controls of Turkish borders and blockade-type operations in the Mediterranean will further erode Bashar al-Assad’s strength. If the intensity of violence and the pace of clashes diminish because of the unavailability of weapons, the ceasefire Turkey and others want for the holidays could become longer lasting. There may well be developments in this direction after the US elections.