|Vol. 1 No. 9|| |
The border security agreement signed on August 13 by Iran and Turkey may have wide-ranging strategic implications in the region. According to the agreement, Turkish and Iranian military commanders will exchange intelligence information and coordinate anti-insurgent operations. "Possible terrorist actions will be neutralized by the armed forces of Turkey and Iran acting on their own territory simultaneously in a planned and coordinated fashion," said a report by Turkey's state-run Anatolian news agency. The two sides also exchanged intelligence information regarding the activities of Turkey's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) on Iranian soil and the activities of Iran's Mujahideen-e-Khalq in Turkey.
Despite the agreement, Turkey failed to get assurances from Iran that it would expel PKK rebels from its territory (nor did it give analogous assurances to Iran). Iranian support for the PKK has rapidly grown over the last few years. According to Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT), there are approximately 50 PKK bases in Iran. Iranian military officers are involved in training 1,200 guerrillas every year at these camps and at several camps in northern Iraq (Agay Muhammedi, an agent for Iran's Savama intelligence service, is responsible for coordinating these activities). Iran has also allowed the PKK to operate offices in six cities and maintain storage facilities in the Maku-Dambat region. PKK officials living in Iran are given official residence papers stamped "West Azerbaijani State Permanent Residency Affairs." Other services provided by Iran include the use of hospital facilities, printing of promotional material and transport of PKK guerrillas via military aircraft to the Turkish border. In return for Iranian support, the PKK has assassinated 11 leading members of the Iran Kurdistan Democrat Party.1
The major strategic implication of the accord is that Turkish-Iranian military coordination is likely to push the PKK across the border into northern Iraq. In this context, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's recent expression of support for the establishment of a Kurdish government backed by the United States and Europe should be taken seriously.
1 Turkish Daily News, 9 August 1999.