What is the AKP playing at?
If the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) calculation, for the sake of domestic political gains, is to end the Kurdish peace process and declare wholesale war on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) under the cover of joining the U.S.-led war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), this could leave Turkey in a worse situation than it is in today.
The West is happy to see Turkey openly join the fight against ISIL, but it is evident that the same cannot be said of its attacks on the PKK in northern Iraq. Neither is the West pleased with calls to target the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, and to criminalize the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey, a party that garnered as much support in the June 7 election as the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Washington says it supports the fight against the PKK, which it has listed as a terrorist organization, given the group’s recent attacks against Turkish police officers and soldiers. However, the U.S. is also calling on the PKK to return to the political process. This is also a message to Ankara not to endanger the search for peace and dialogue with its Kurds.
On the other hand, the U.S. has not declared the PYD a terrorist organization. By saying that the PKK is a listed terrorist organization, Washington is also saying that it does not agree with Ankara that the PYD is a terrorist group. It is very unlikely to tow the Turkish line in this regard when it has declared the PYD to be an ally in the war against ISIL.
Should Turkey open a military front against the PYD and its military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), it will most likely end up consolidating Western support for the Syrian Kurds, because Turkey’s move would work to ISIL’s advantage. Turkey’s real intention in actively joining the U.S.-led coalition against ISIL would also be questioned, making the PYD a more reliable ally for the West.
If Ankara’s intention during tomorrow’s NATO emergency meeting, which it called for, is to drive its allies away from the PYD, it is not hard to see that it will fail in this. Ankara will also find its allies expressing doubts and concerns about Turkey reopening its fight against the PKK and putting pressure on the HDP.
To return to the domestic front, many argue that the AKP’s intention here, egged on by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is to use the recent attacks by the PKK to reopen Turkey’s wholesale war against the group and to isolate the HDP so that it will not repeat its success in the June 7 election in early elections. The AKP, it is said, wants to scare the public into voting for it in early elections, so that it can come to power on its own again, which is also what Erdoğan wants.
This calculation apparently has another aspect, and one which will not please the MHP: to attract votes from anti-Kurdish ultranationalists to the AKP in early elections, seeing as it would not be possible to regain the Kurdish vote, or attract votes from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). The question the AKP and Erdoğan’s advisors have to ask, however, is a very simple one:
What if this plan, if indeed this is what is being cooked, does not work? Where does the country stand then?
To start with, there is no guarantee that the AKP, and Erdoğan, will get the level of support they want from early elections, even if they happen to attract votes from the MHP. Their war against the PKK and anti-democratic pressures against Kurdish politicians will keep the Kurds and many liberals glued to the HDP. If the notion that the AKP is war-mongering for political gains, and to save Erdoğan politically, takes hold, this could also result in added votes for the CHP.
There are questions that the AKP has to urgently clarify if it does not want to lead Turkey down another blind alley and into domestic strife.