Which Kurds will win?

Which Kurds will win?

There is a detailed analysis in the Summer 2012 issue of Turkish Policy Quarterly with title “Turkey’s Dramatic Shift Toward Iraqi Kurdistan,” by Matthew Bryza, an American diplomat experienced in energy-security issues in Eurasia.

Bryza sets some landmarks for the shift he names. The first one is the humiliating detention of Turkish Special Forces by U.S. troops in Suleymaniyah, the Kurdish region of Iraq on, July 4, 2003, following Turkish Parliament’s rejection of a government motion on March 1 to let Turkish territory be used by American troops for the invasion of Iraq. The second, according to Bryza is, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “Kurdish problem is my problem” speech in Diyarbakır as a sign of a “change in political thinking” in Ankara. The third is then-President George W. Bush’s “The PKK (outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party) is an enemy of Turkey and therefore an enemy of the United States” speech right after his meeting with Erdoğan in the Oval Office on Nov. 5, 2007. The International Oil and Gas Conference in Erbil on May 20 and 21, 2012, which Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız attended, as the latest stop. Ankara had ignored the presence of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq when it was first announced on May 7, 2006 up until Davutoğlu’s visit to KRG Prseident Masoud Barzani in Erbil on Nov. 11, 2010.

Surprising words from the U.S. Ambassador to Ankara Francis Ricciardone, on Oct. 16, 2012 stated that his country had offered Turkey a “Bin Laden type” joint operation against the PKK military leaders based in the Kandil mountains, in the KRG region of Iraq, to the refusal of Turkey, could be added on top of the “Bryza shift.”

Yalçın Akdoğan, Erdoğan’s advisor on security matters, said on Oct. 20, 2012 that the government might have declined because it could not see any solid steps before the U.S. presidential elections, citing the example of the U.S.’s stance on Syria. It is also important that the U.S. seems closer to the Baghdad government now than Erbil, despite the interests of U.S.-based energy giants Exxon and Chevron. Together with Azeri oil and gas, the Kurdish resources could be an alternative to Russia and Iran for the needs of Europe.

Diplomacy and security analyst Deniz Ülke Arıboğan told Barçın Yinanç (today’s top story in HDN), that Turkey clearly had trust issues with the U.S. regarding the Kurdish problem. She also makes a distinction between the PKK in Turkish borders and outside of it; she thinks locals are more Western and solution-oriented and outsiders are more antagonistic and affected by the Eastern (Syria, Iran, Iraq).

The conditions of PKK founding leader Abdullah Öcalan’s detention, a matter of protests and hunger strikes nowadays, might be one of the last strings to hold them together.

If considered together with the rich oil and gas fields of the KRG region, it is also possible to speculate that shifts in Turkish and American policies on Kurds are also related with the future of Kurds. Which Kurds will win? PKK-lead antagonism and separation or KRG-led reconciliation and integration? A question worth a million barrel-loads of oil.