BAGHDAD – Turkey announced Friday that its army units had withdrawn from northern Iraq after a week of shelling and ground battles with Kurdish rebels in Iraq’s Qandil Mountains.
The Kurdistan Workers Party – a separatist group that seeks an independent Kurdistan that would include part of southeast Turkey and that the United States considers a terrorist group – declared victory in the conflict. But the Iraqi central authorities had the most to gain. The government had appeared powerless to halt the Turks, especially as the United States – the central military support for the Baghdad regime – was providing intelligence and political support to Turkey.
Although pressure on the central government was relieved on one issue, the government remained in a tug of war with the United States over a second: the continued U.S. custody of former officials from the late dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime who’ve been sentenced to death for crimes against Kurds.
As Turkey withdrew its troops, the Iraqi Presidency Council announced that it had approved the execution of Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam’s better known as “Chemical Ali,” for ordering poison gas attacks that killed thousands of Kurds in the 1980s.
An Iraqi court sentenced al-Majid to death last June for his role in the Anfal campaign against Iraq’s Kurds, whom Saddam accused of being in league with Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. But the U.S. military refused to surrender al-Majid and two other men sentenced to death in connection with Anfal to Iraqi authorities until the presidency council signed off on their executions.
On Friday the U.S. said it had received no formal request for al-Majid’s handover.