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Turkey and US plan ‘intelligence shield’ and Syria 'after Assad'

Published time: August 24, 2012 16:51
Edited time: October 12, 2012 16:43
Syrian Kurds are seen holding their rifles in the Kurdish town of Jinderes, near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, on July 22, 2012, as Kurdish activists on the Syria-Turkey border started taking control of towns in the area without encountering much resistance from the forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (AFP Photo/Bulent Kilic)

Syrian Kurds are seen holding their rifles in the Kurdish town of Jinderes, near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, on July 22, 2012, as Kurdish activists on the Syria-Turkey border started taking control of towns in the area without encountering much resistance from the forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (AFP Photo/Bulent Kilic)

Washington and Ankara have agreed to create an “intelligence shield” to prevent militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party from freely entering and operating on the Turkish territory from Syria as they discussed "after Assad" future.

­The format of the Turkish-American anti-terrorist cooperation anticipates joint collection and sharing of intelligence data on militants’ activities on the Syrian territory and Turkish border districts, including possible rotation of chemical weapons on Syrian territory.

According to the Turkish NTV channel the “intelligence shield” is to be directed by CIA operatives that have been previously working in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The shield’s creation is the first known result of work by the Turkish-American “operations planning group”, the creation of which was initiated during the visit of the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Ankara on August 11.

"As you know, this meeting was called as a result of the conversation that the Secretary [of State] and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had on August 11. And they had agreed to have intensive conversations about operational planning. And so those conversations began today went into some detail," commented the meeting the US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland.

The group that first met on Thursday is led by Turkish Foreign Ministry Deputy Under-Secretary Halit Cevik and US Deputy Secretary of State Elisabeth Jones. The group’s body includes military and intelligence officials from both countries.

"They discussed the full range of issues and challenges with regard to Syria, the issues of supporting the opposition and hastening the day when Assad goes and a transition begins, and the refugee issues,” Nuland said

The most thorough attention the group pays to the “after Assad” stage, discussing the structure of the future Syrian state once the ruling Alawi regime is gone. Both sides insist that any possibility of a power vacuum should be precluded, while all terrorist elements should be excluded from the political life of Syria.

"There's also the necessity of planning for the day after. When that day comes, when the Assad regime falls and we move into transitional government, the international community will want to offer the Syrian people support for managing and disposing of some of the most dangerous weapons of the Assad regime," the US State Department spokesperson noted.

Turkey has been playing an active role in the Syrian conflict for quite some time. Syrian rebels have been using the porous Turkish-Syrian border for arms and money smuggling, whereas secret services that assist the Syrian rebels have been using Turkish territory to operate against the regime of the President Bashar Assad.

CIA operatives have been present in Turkey for months, gathering data on Syrian rebels leaders and distributing arms among militants. In early August, President Barack Obama officially authorized covert US support to Syrian rebels.

But finally the Syrian government found a way to get even with Ankara by reportedly giving carte blanche to Syrian Kurds in dealing with rebels in areas of Kurds’ compact settlement in exchange for the widest autonomy.

Official Ankara has every reason to be worried about Kurdish militants, who have been in military struggle with Turkey for over three decades. The number of victims of the conflict is getting close to 45,000 on both sides.

With 30 million Kurds living in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and in some North Caucasus republics, the Kurdish nation remains world’s largest without a country. But that may be subject to change.

With a de facto existing Kurdistan republic in neighboring Iraq, where Kurds are already not sharing oil revenues with Baghdad, it is expected that Kurds are going to “concentrate” on their fight with Turkey, where Kurds compose up to 25 per cent of the population.

Since the Kurdistan region gained considerable independence at the time when Iraq was occupied by the US troops, one might come to a conclusion that Washington actually does not mind the creation of an independent Kurdish state. For America’s ally Turkey, such an event could become a direct threat to country’s integrity.

Terror acts organized by militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) are occurring in Turkey with increased regularity. In this light the decisiveness of Ankara to topple the president of the neighboring country looks truly unintelligible.

As of now, the Syrian Kurds have a “gentlemen’s agreement” with President Bashar al-Assad and act within a certain framework. Once Assad is gone and a civil war engulfs Syria – the unrecognized Kurdistan in Iraq is most likely going to expand at the expense of Syrian territories populated with Kurds. 

What the millions of Turkish Kurds would do then remains an open question.

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