Turkey Analysis: Did US Intelligence Lead to Deaths of 34 Civilians (and Better Relations with Ankara)?
A Wall Street Journal investigation points to the role of US intelligence in the Uludere airstrikes
In January, 34 civilians were killed in Uludere in bombing by Turkish jets, who were carrying out operations against members of the outlawed Kurdish separatist organisation PKK. The victims were smuggling cigarettes from Iraq to Turkey's Sirnak.
Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) said that the operation was carried out on the basis of intelligence, but they gave no information about the source. Nor did the government. After receiving information from Turkish Military Electronics Industry (Aselsan) and an explanation from the Minister of Interior in Parliament, all opposition parties stood clearly against the operation, saying that the video images left no doubt that the 34 were just civilians who were moving oil, food. and cigarettes.
The Government adopted a two-pronged strategy at this point: giving compensation of 150.000 TL (around $82,000) to each family and sending the Prime Minister's wife to the region to pledge that justice would be done as soon as possible. The approach collapsed, as families and relatives of the dead wanted names and punishment of those responsible and rejected compensation.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) continues to refuse identification of who gave the order to the jets to fire. The opposition Peace and Demicracy Party (BDP) claims that the chain of orders reach up to the Prime Minister, thus the Government's silence over the incident.
Then there is the claim of The Wall Street Journal that the intelligence came from Washington. If this is true, we do not need to ask further about the reason for the Government's keeping of a secret. Both for general US-Turkish and for specific issues, such as co-operation over the Syrian issue, further enquiries into the Uludere incident would be inconvenient.
So the unanswered questions....
If the Turkish and American sides exchanged views and agreed to keep silence after the incident occured, did Washington promise something more than its usual "strategic" support behind closed doors? At a time when Turkey is breaking its relations with the Assad regime, were Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Davutoglu promised more room for manoeuvre in the Iranian nuclear enrichment talks and the Kurdish problem as well as the Syrian case and in the Kurdish problem? Could the deaths of 34 civilians have led to better relations between Ankara and Washington?
After all, Turkey and the US are aligned in their policies towards Iraq's Maliki, Syria's Assad, Iran's Ahmadinejad, and Iraqi Kurdistan's Barzani --- so perhaps "collateral damage" in this case has been turned into "collateral benefit".