Tag Archives: Kurds

Turkish Prime Minister Goes Nationalist

During the past several years, the Justice and Development Party(AKP)of Turkey has attempted to reform the government and work to bring the nation up to a level that would lead to entry into the European Union. However, amid charges of corruption and stagnating reform, Prime Minister Recep Erdogan is wrapping himself in the flag of nationalism and forming an alliance with the secular military which opposes his brand of Muslim government. A key point in Turkish reform was integrating its Kurdish minority, but the Erdogan government is taking an increasingly hostile approach to reconciliation efforts. Last week, the public prosecutor urged that six Kurdish youths between the ages of 13 to 16 be sentenced to 58 years in jail for throwing stones at police officers. The governor blamed their behavior on “terrorist parents” and cancelled their claims for pensions.

Erdogan had promised a new beginning in dealing with the Kurdish problem, but is now retreating into the military approach that only force will end dissent. In a recent speech to a Kurdish audience, Erodgan said:’One nation, one flag, one country” and anyone who doesn’t like it can leave it. Erdogan has even come down hard on journalists who attempt to present a balanced view about the Kurdish situation. If Erdogan continues on this path, he will discover he can take Turkey and keep it, but the European Union will not accept its membership.

Shifting Alliances In Iraq May Create New Conflicts

Most American attention has focused on relations between the United States and the Iraq government as they hammer out the last pieces of the security pact, but trouble may well be arising in other areas of Iraq that have nothing to do with the American presence. In recent weeks, Kurdish leaders in the north have clashed with Prime Minister Maliki over his plans to assist the Supporting Councils which are made up of pro-government tribal leaders. The Kurds believe Maliki is attempting to create an Arab presence in Kurdish regions in order to gain greater power, particularly over oil in the region. President Massoud Barzani warned Maliki “this is playing with fire.”

Maliki is furious that Kurdish leaders function as an autonomous government in northern regions of Iraq and even are negotiating with foreign oil companies. Last month, the Iraqi army came close to an armed clash with the Kurdish Peshmerga units which, in effect, are a separate army that protects Kurdish territory against Iraqis. The Washington Post recently reported three planeloads of arms from Bulgaria were flown into Kurdish areas. Maliki is also worried that Kurdish leaders will form an alliance with Sunnis to block his government from extending its power into certain areas of the country.

Of course, both Turkey and Iran have large Kurdish minorities and they will become upset if the Kurds extend their power within Iraq.

Turkey And EU Clash Over Kurd Rights

The inability of Turkish governments to resolve differences with its Kurdish minority have caused the European Union to cite this issue as a stumbling block to entry into the EU. The constant attacks on Kurdish opposition officials and other voices of opposition has raised concerns among European leaders. A Western diplomat noted: “this year, the EU has used more specific language with freedom of expression over the Kurdish issue, as we have witnessed permanent harassment of Kurdish mayors in the southeastern region, despite the fact that they have been expressing non-violent opinions.” Instead of working with Kurdish leaders who support non-violent changes, the Turkish government all too frequently has relied on force and oppression against opponents.

Turkish laws make illegal allow prosecution of Kurds who express public opinions that criticize Turkish government views on the Kurdish question. Turkey has to learn the value of the free market place of ideas.

Obstacles To US-Turkish Relations

Many Turkish officials believe that several issues remain unresolved between the United States and their nation despite the election of Barack Obama. Issues such as the situation on Cyprus, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Armenian genocide are regarded as sore points that remain obstacles to US-Turkish relations. Senator Biden has close ties with the Greek community and is believed to be sympathetic to Greek claims on Cyprus while Obama has frequently spoken about the genocide carried out by the Turkish government against Armenians early in the 20th century. The presence of Kurdish forces inside Iraq is an unresolved issue that continually creates tension in the region and Turkey would like to see the American-Iranian conflict resolved in a peaceful manner.

Prime Minister Erdogan is dubious about Obama statements that Afghanistan requires more US troops and would prefer dealing with issues through means of negotiations. His government also is worried that removal of American forces in Iraq will open new possibilities for Kurdish guerrillas to carry out attacks on Turkish forces. A sore point bound to become a thorn in efforts to establish peaceful relations between the US and Turkey is the well known commitment of Obama and Biden to Armenian claims there was a genocide.

It is about time that Turkey ask an international body of impartial historians to investigate the question of a genocide carried out against Armenians and submit a report. That will end the conflict once and for all.

Obama Promises Turkish-Iraq-Kurdish Summit

In 2001, most opinion polls revealed that over 70% of Turkish people had a favorable view towards the United States. Today the figure is about 9%. Barack Obama promised, if elected, to restore American relations with Turkey. As step one in achieving that goal, he is urging a Turkish-Iraq-Kurdish summit meeting which would deal with issues created by the outlawed Kurdish Worker’s Party(PKK) which conducts military action against Turkey from bases in Iraq. The Obama statement recognized the economic importance of Turkey and Iraq to one another and by ending the PKK threat it would facilitate economic development in the region.

Hopefully, a President Obama would reach out to Iran which also is concerned about PKK activities and urge its presence in such a summit meeting. This might be the first step in persuading Iran there are economic benefits in working cooperatively with a United States that desires stability in the region.

Obama has also promised to work with Cyprus and Turkey to deal with the problem of a divided island. A solution would improve Turkish-Greek relations.

Will Iraq Witness A New Surge Of Violence?

President Bush boasts of the success of a surge which witnessed introduction of thousands of additional American forces and the resulting decline in violence. Even as Bush was pleased with the surge results, another surge was occurring in northwest Iraq, and it was being led by forces who operate in the mountains of Kurdistan. The Turkish government is upset at recent events in which one of their outposts was attacked by forces of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party(PKK) which resulted in the death of seventeen of its soldiers. Turkish planes have been bombing areas of northern Iraq. but there are demands in the Turkish parliament for a massive invasion of Kurdistan to wipe out the rebels.

Turkish military leaders are concerned the attack on their soldiers involved Kurdish rebels who possessed heavy military equipment that previously had not been seen in combat. Turkish generals are not pleased at the lack of support from the Iraq government or from the semi-autonomous Kurdistan government. Invading Kurdistan is now a political hot potato and is being used by opponents of the Erdogan led government.

Will war become more widespread in northern Iraq even as it is reduced in other areas of the country?

Turkish Anger Escalates Over Kurdistan Attacks

The attack a few days ago by members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party(PKK) provides incentive for war advocates in Turkey to escalate demands that only military action is the solution in dealing with legitimate grievances of Kurds in their country. Last Friday’s attacks which resulted in the death of about a dozen Turkish soldiers came just as Parliament was discussing giving its nation’s military even more leverage in striking into Iraq in pursuit of rebel forces. It is now clear just about every political party in Turkey is ready to give the military almost unlimited power to attack where they so desire regardless if it means sending thousands of troops into Iraq.

Ironically, the European Union was urging Turkey to focus on domestic efforts to deal with needs of its Kurdish population, but since the PKK attacks, it will cease playing a role of restraint and join the movement toward military solutions of problems. The Turkish military was talking about domestic solutions, but it is now determined to use full force in crushing the PKK. As always, when terrorism is handled by military tactics, human rights suffer and wise diplomacy gets lost in the shuffle to invade and kill the enemy.

Turkey And Iran Jointly Attack Kurd Rebels

Kurdish rebels who operate out of northern Iraq bases have been attacked by troops from both Turkey and Iran. Turkish Genereal Ilker Basbug made clear his forces were cooperating with Iranian troops in anti-Kurd operations. “When they(Iran) start an attack, we do to. They carry out an operation from the Iranian side of the border, we from the Turkish side.” Kurd rebels claim the raids have no impact on them since they are well protected in the mountains.

In Washington D.C.,Secretary of State Rice made clear that from the perspective of the United States, “the PKK(Kurdistan Workers Party) is an enemy of Iraq; it’s an enemy of the United States; it’s an enemy of Turkey; and it’s an enemy of the region.” One can only assume by “the region” she means Iran.

Few discussions concerning return of American troops from Iraq deal with the impact on Iraq and the Kurdish rebels. Will the Iraq government be able to handle the PKK?

Turkey Fears Iraq Power Vacuum

American political leaders continue discussing whether to get our troops home from the fighting in Iraq, but to regional leaders, the situation of Iraq poses potentially great problems. Turkish General Yasar Buyukant, speaking at an international symposium, discussed several issues of importance such as continued emphasis on the part of other nations to define Turkey as a “moderate” or not moderate Muslim society. He told Vice President Dick Cheney the United States should cease trying to define his country and asked him if he should say, “the moderate Christian United States.”

However, the main gist of the head of Turkey’s armed forces was concern over the situation in the Middle East. He expressed doubts there would be any immediate resolution of regional issues, but worried about Iraq.”The dissolution of Iraq will surely cause new conflicts among the diffeerent ethnic and religious groups in the region. We should get this point.”

A new American president has to recognize troops can not immediately be withdrawn unless such a process occurs within the context of an overall plan of action. What about Kurds in northern Iraq? What about Kurdish groups on the border with Iran? There are numerous unresolved issues that must be handled before American troops can leave Iraq. Or, we may well witness attacks by Turish forces into northern Iraq.

Free Speech Issue In Turkey

The ongoing debate within Turkey regarding rights of free speech continued with the conviction in a Turkish court of a politician who was accused of inciting hatred and violence. Hilmi Aydogdu as found guilty of threatening public safety after hewarned Turkey against taking any action in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in Iraq. Aydogu, leader of the local branch of the pro-Kurdian Democratic Society Party(DTP) said if Turkey invaded Iraq and attempted to seize Kirkuk, which is heavily Kurdish, then action should be taken against such an assault. The court barred him from further service in political office. He was sentenced to jail for 15 months.

The issue of free speech invariably encounters the classic case of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. A threat to take action against a government “in case” it invaded a neutral nation is hardly in line with threatening public safety. Turkey has denied ever having such intention so the entire issue of posing a threat to public safety is a moot point.