Tell me how this ends
On a bright summer day in the eastern town of Malazgirt, while driving into the marketplace in plainclothes and in the company of his wife and daughter, Maj. Arslan Kulaksız was shot and killed in a crossfire by unknown men. He was the commander of the post in the village. Admired by the villagers, he was a different kind of soldier for the Kurds of Turkey. He was famous for his easygoing manner, regular visits to the small hamlets, schools, weddings and funerals. He truly was “A True Lion” as his name would represent.
Turkey’s fragile peace process with the Kurds has entered its most crucial phase since 2009. While the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) still falls short of naming the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as the main enemy in Syria, it is enjoying the luxury of blanketing the mountains inside Turkey and northern Iraq with bombs. And none of its allies are questioning it.
The airstrikes, the bombs, the night vision videos of F-16s fighters may boost the testosterone in this government and may replenish the pride of the Turkish Armed Forces. But they fall short of answering the main question Gen. David Petraeus used to ask to his soldiers in brainstorming sessions: “Tell me how this ends.”
Luckily, we may actually have an answer for this already. In his article dated March 2015 published in the American Interest, Henry Barkey called the entire process “a false dawn.”
“My guess is that the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party], were it to agree, would want to turn over its arms to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), under American supervision,” wrote Barkey. “Still, the fate of the PKK fighters has yet to be determined. Where will the demobilized fighters go? Presumably, they will want to go back to their families in Turkey. Will Turkey accept them?”
This explains why the undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Feridun Sinirlioğlu, rushed to Arbil on the first week of violent PKK attacks. It is also a remarkable to see KRG Leader Masoud Barzani supporting Turkey one day, and advocating for a cease-fire the next morning.
The Turkish state establishment has chosen Barzani as a facilitator in the new round of Kurdish peace talks with the military wing of the PKK. All the appeals for PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan’s input and the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) political participation are a showcase. Turkey wants to have one type of Kurd and that is Mr. Barzani. Because of the ISIL threat in Iraq and great losses in oil revenues, Mr. Barzani has very few options outside of working with Turkey. The U.S. would be happy about this as well.
There is only one big sticky issue. The KRG has made it clear to the entire world that it will seek independence within two or three years. If Turkey is totally cool with an independent Kurdistan to the south of its border, then the PKK and the HDP should act accordingly.
One senior diplomat told me years ago how ASALA had disappeared all of a sudden after killing so many Turkish diplomats. “They got their own state, Armenia,” he said. “And it was finished.” About the IRA, he had a different point of view. “They got too involved in American politics and illegal things like drug trafficking” he said. “And that became the end of it. Sinn Fein had to separate its ways.”
Can the HDP do the same? Would they do it? For the sake of all soldiers killed including Maj. Arslan Kulaksız, the time has come for the HDP to decide.