Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The problem is not the PKK, it is a Kurdish State

Yesterday Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan paid an unexpected visit to Saudi Arabia. This is one of the clear indications that the current problem Turkey faces in its Iraqi border is not the 25 year old PKK conflict but the prospect of an independent Kurdish State which would be "a bomb to explode Middle East from its foundations". These visits aim at bolstering Arab support for the Turkish cause and stop the Kurds from using the "Arab Card". The general visit to the region will likely include Jordan's King Abdallah and other Arab leaders.

Now some of the nationalists in Turkey will try to dismiss these efforts as "seeking Arab permission for Turkish matters". This is because 'diplomacy' has never been a respected method for the nationalist mindset in Turkey. For example the only diplomatic success story Modern Turkey ever had was the time when our negotiator in Lausanne talks, Ismet Inonu, switched off his hearing aid amidst the negotiations and forced a conclusion. At least that is the only diplomatic story I've been taught in my 12 years of Turkish education. This is a sign of our disbelief at diplomacy. For us, victory can only be earned in the field and then terms could be dictated at the table. Perhaps Turks perceive diplomacy in such a way because they have never gotten anything off the table before unless they had victory in hand. Our inability in diplomacy fuels our disbelief. Even though the underlying reasons for this disbelief are empirically justified in the Turkish mindset, they need to be reviewed. Especially if Turkey is to become a member of the Western club, she needs to learn its ways.

Therefore Babacan's visits should not be dismissed. An approach that ignores diplomacy and dialogue, the though that 'Turk's have no friends' will only leave us lonely, anti-social and aggressive. Although the "Independence Mythology" that our generations have been injected with preaches that we have, as a nation, been in the same situation before and emerged as victors, it is also important to realize that falling back into the same situation would be undoing our victory. If the Turks of today fall into a mood similar to the mood during that of the fall of the Empire, it will only mean that something somewhere has gone wrong and we haven’t come much distance. In fact we have to realize that today the situation is far better than what most people in Turkey are being pressured to feel. Even though those who cannot produce anything in politics are relying on the tried methods of scaring and depressing us into submission to an authoritarian rule they would like and even though the self-interest dominated media is pumping revenge, Turkey can still avoid this trap. Conscience and logic should not yield to this wave of hatred.

It is important to repeat that despite the general understanding of the Turkish public, the current situation is not about the PKK. The real deal here is the expanding influence of the Barzani Administration among Kurds and the prospect of an independent Kurdish state. The existence of America and England in the region also makes this an international conflict. In retrospect we can say that the biggest mistake Turkey has done in its Middle East strategy was to deny the American's support at the start of the war. This caused a separation among the allies and presented the Kurd's with an opportunity.

The new Kurdish strategy is to weaken and hopefully break the NATO alliance that Turkey is so surely anchored and moreover to put the question of an independent Kurdish state on the international agenda. Like in previous examples (Cyprus/Kosovo included not yet resolved), the presence of an international force in fire zone will initially bring de facto independence to the seeking group, which is ONLY to be followed by a full independence. This is precisely why there is a sly effort to pull Turkey into a wider conflict that involves international powers. The aim is to provoke the Turkish state strategy. The Kurds are well aware that the 'deep state' strategy of Turkey has always been to avoid their independence at all costs, so what they want to do is to go 'all in' when they have been distributed a good hand. They know that the government of Turkey and the Turkish state have different views and they know the state will stay when the government changes. So they are playing their hand to force the state to show its hand and act now when international powers are still in the area. They want martial law in Turkey, they want military to take things in hand. This will increase Barzani's influence within the Kurds of Turkey and forge a Kurdish coalition, a Kurdish front. The Peshmerga number almost 100,000 and they are well trained. They know they can hold of the Turkish Army long enough at bay to wait until the alliance collapses. Then, when the balances change and US weighs heavier on their side, they achieve their objective.

This sort of a strategy was employed before by Serbian leader Milosevic during the Kosovo crisis. In that example the process worked the other way around. Milosevic held on under NATO bombardment for 11 weeks until his whole infrastructure was destroyed only because he knew time would weaken the NATO coalition and he would have a stronger hand in the talks after the war. He got what he wanted and kept Kosovo as a part of Serbia despite loosing the war to NATO.

What the Kurds want is an independent state. In order to achieve that, they need international support and they have all the tools necessary to make the Turks look bad, victimize themselves and bolster international support for their cause. The recent government organized protests against Turkey in Northern Iraq is a clear indication of this strategy. It is very unlucky for Turkey that the SG of UN Ban Ki-moon has already commented on the issue. The change to an international platform is the first step of the Kurdish strategy. It could only be silly of Turkey to fall for such trap.

This is where Babacan's current visit becomes significant. When the American's need to choose sides they will have to consider a general strategy in the middle east bearing in mind Israel's safety as well. They are at cold war with the Shias and a hot one with Sunni Radicals. The only groups left are the moderate Sunni Arabs, Turks and Kurds. If America will need to choose between those, a 2-1 ratio will be important. Therefore in a Turkish-Kurdish confrontation, Arab support becomes critical. The Kurds, having realized and acted on this earlier, have already secured some deals with the Arabs of the region. The summary of their deal can be read in a letter published by the Kurdish Government website written by Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, manager of Al-Arabiya television based in Dubai. Therefore Turkey's late efforts are critical. Even if we don’t truly believe in diplomacy, when the west is involved, we have to learn to work with it.

By this time Turkey should’ve learnt how to win at the table. We should at least try our best…


At 2:34 AM, Anonymous Cybil said...

Well written article.


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