TURKISH ARMED FORCES MOVE MISSILES UP TO IRAQI BORDER
Following limited cross-border attacks using artillery, helicopter gunships and Special Forces detachments, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) appear to be preparing for a new phase in their battle against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas based in northern Iraq. A variety of short- and mid-range missiles were moved up to border locations at Yuksekova and Semdinli on December 8. The high-security operation involved demining roads ahead of the shipment, while Turkish commandos controlled the mountains on either side of the route to prevent attacks by PKK fighters. Turkey’s missile arsenal includes U.S.-made cluster-warhead ATACMs with a range of 102 miles and Thunderbolt (Yıldırım) missiles with a range of 155 miles. The main PKK base in the Qandil mountain region is only 56 miles from the Turkish border. Peshmerga troops of the Kurdish Regional Government are reported to be withdrawing from the border region to safer positions following an agreement with the Turkish government (Hürriyet, December 9).
AL-ZARQAWI TURNED DOWN DEAL FROM SYRIAN INTELLIGENCE?
A well-known Palestinian Islamist militant has alleged that Syrian intelligence services attempted to recruit the late leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq before his death in 2006. Shehada Jawhar (aka Abu Omar) is a former member of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah, the Palestinian Ansar al-Asbat organization and is now a member of rival splinter group Jund al-Sham. The latter made a name for itself by battling Lebanese troops in June at the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp. Jawhar fought Coalition forces in Fallujah during a six-month stint in Iraq as an al-Qaeda trainer at Haditha in al-Anbar province.
In a wide-ranging December 7 interview on al-Arabiya TV, Jawhar revealed: “The [Syrian] secret services sent a mediator who met Zarqawi in 2006, outlining the possibility of obtaining any kind of help [needed], but Zarqawi rejected the offer because he didn’t want to fight the Americans for the political interests of Syria.” Jawhar explained the two parties were pursuing different agendas; Zarqawi desired “only Jihad,” while Syria wanted to use Zarqawi as an instrument to pressure the United States into abandoning any intention of invading Syria (AKI, December 7). Abu Omar admits he is wanted in Lebanon for what he acknowledges are “crimes that cannot be counted” (New York Times, June 19). With his case under current review prior to judgment by Lebanese authorities, Abu Omar has suddenly become talkative about his career and the operations of militant groups he has been involved with.