Posts Tagged Kurdistan
The United States is continuing to fly drones in Iraq, against the wishes of the Iraqi government. There are US drones operating in Iraq in at least two known programmes, and possibly in other covert operations which are as yet undetected.
According to the New York Times, the US operating a ‘small fleet’ of surveillance drones to protect the massive US embassy, the consulates, and US personnel. They are apparently under control of the State Department, the diplomatic arm of the government, where previously drone operations had been confined to the military and the CIA.
The drones range from small helicopter drones a few inches across, to (as one report suggests) drones the size of a Predator drone. The State Department claims that none are armed or capable of being armed (suggesting that Predator drones are not being used). Most likely these are mostly small drones for protecting convoys, but there is certainly little the Iraqi government can presently do to prevent US ‘diplomatic’ personnel from launching surveillance drones whereever they wish, besides diplomatic outrage.
The US still has 17,000 ‘diplomatic’ staff in Iraq, based mostly in the massive embassy constructed on the outskirts of Baghdad.
It isn’t clear where the drones are launched from, although certainly the smaller drones involved could be launched from within the compound, or perhaps even from convoys travelling around Iraq.
While the flight of American drones has caused a flap, little mention is made of the American involvement in the war against PKK insurgents in Kurdistan, in Northern Iraq.
The US is known to have been supplying Turkey surveillance information from flights over Iraqi Kurdistan to help Turkey attack PKK insurgents. With the departure of the US military from Iraq, the Iraqi government has given permission that US operated Predator drones be flown over Iraqi Kurdistan from their new bases in Incirlik, Turkey. News.az says that four US Predator drones were transferred to Turkey.
In December, 35 civilians were killed by Turkish air raids just inside Turkey, when they were mistakenly identified by drone surveillance over Iraq as Kurdish fighters. As the civilians entered Turkey from Iraq, on a cigarette and fuel smuggling trip, they were successively attacked by a drone and then by Turkish fighter jets. The Guardian labelled the drones as ‘Turkish’ drones, but the Turkish Aydinlik daily went so far as to suggest that first bomb was fired by a ‘US’ Predator drone.
On another front, it isn’t possible to know whether US conducts overflights of Iraq by stealth drones like the RQ-170, which would likely be undetectable by the Iraqi government. Known drone flights over neighbouring Iran are based from sites in Afghanistan, rather than from the west, so it is uncertain whether there is a covert drone presence in Iraqi skies.
The US has again helped Turkey with its war against the Kurds by supplying them with four Predator drones. The Predators will be controlled from an air base in Nevada (presumably Creech), and the images obtained will be processed in the US and forwarded to the Turkish army. Thus the Turks will not have access to real time images at the present time. The Predators will be flown from Incirlik air base in Turkey, and directed over Kurdish positions in Iraqi territory.
Turkey wanted access to the Predator drones presumably because five of the ten Heron drones purchased from Israel are undergoing maintenance in Israel. Relations between Turkey appear to have deteriorated so badly that the Daily Beast has reported that some players in Israel may be considering supporting the outlawed PKK in its war against Turkey.
It’s obviously not the first time that Predators have flown over Iraqi Kurdistan, and certainly not the first time they have aided Turkey. But this movement of the Predators to a base in Turkey marks an escalation of US assistance to Turkey in its fight against Kurds seeking to establish an independent Kurdistan.
The Turkish government also wants to purchase MQ9 Reapers, a more modern version of the Predator but this may be forestalled by congressional opposition, due to the deteriorating relations between Turkey and America’s closer ally Israel.
It’s possible that the Predator deal may be a ‘Trojan Horse’. Some have noted that Predators flying over Turkish territory on their return from Iraq could as easily be spying on Turkey, since Turks do not have control over them. This illustrates the complex diplomatic environment the US finds itself in, as it tries to balance its interest among various warring allies.
Defense News notes that Turkey has become dependent on US supplied aerial intelligence in its war on the Kurds, no doubt increased by the fact that its use of Israeli suppplied drones is now curtailed. Turkey has countered this apparent deficit by creating its own drone program, the ANKA, which has not yet been built.
Meanwhile in other news, some people allege that the PKK may have downed an Israeli Heron drone operated by the Israeli military. The drone crashed in the Mediterreanean in Turkish waters and was recovered by Turkey.
The prime beneficiaries of all this appear to be the arms companies. The losers are the civilians of border areas of Kurdistan.
In 2007 it was reported in Haaretz that Israeli drones were being leased to Turkey for use against Kurds of the PKK in Northern Iraq (Kurdistan), using Israeli crews.
Haaretz reported separately that the Israeli supplier of Heron drones for use in Iraqi Kurdistan was also providing Israeli crews to operate them. It was reported that Heron drones were being used to target PKK rebels in northern Iraq in an offensive in December 2007. This was apparently due to the delay in IAI and Elbit providing Turkey with Heron drones as part of a contract made in 2005.
” “The delays have left the TuAF critically short of UAVs when intelligence input from those valuable reconnaissance assets are exceedingly required,” the Turkish military official was quoted as saying.
According to the Turkish newspaper, the presence of the Israeli crews is an interim solution that was offered following the delay in the delivery of the UAVs. ”
There is relatively little information easily accessible that describes the use of drones in Kurdistan by Turkey. This is hardly surprising due to the sensitive nature of the conflict where Turkey attacks forces in another country, and the alleged use of Israeli crews to operate these drones.
No doubt the reason Turkey wants its own drones is to make it independent of the US for intelligence about Kurdish rebels. In the actions against the Kurds in 2008 Turkey relied on intelligence from US sources, including drones over nothern Iraq, but this made them dependent on the US for information.
In 2008, Associated Press reported that a Turkish drone (a Heron leased from Israel) crashed in Kurdistan.
In January, 2010, an Iranian source reported that Turkey was about to take delivery of 4 Heron drones from Israel, and that Turkish ‘experts’ were in Israel testing them.
At about the same time, al Bawaba reported that Israeli Turkish relations were being mended and that 7 of 13 joint military projects were being complete. The newly delivered Israeli drones would be used to monitor Kurdish separatist hideouts in northern Iraq.
In February, 2010 Kurdmedia.com reported comments by Ahmed Deniz of the PKK that Turkey had demanded a drone from the US in return for increasing its role in Afghanistan. Kurdnet reported that Deniz said that this drone would be used against the PKK.