Two calm summers
Leaders who have to live with problems that are left hanging in the air are bound to deal with more complicated problems than those that are visible. That kind of problem is fatally related to every issue in the country in a way. One cannot deal separately with any issue as if there were no Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) problem. You have to keep it in your mind always.
In light of this, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will try to deal with complicated problems in the coming months, problems like domestic political struggles becoming more and more complicated on one hand, and problems in foreign policy getting to be as complicated on the other. In addition, those two problems interact with each other.
In domestic politics, the most important issue which interests Erdoğan personally is, needless to say, the presidential election. The most powerful candidate in the election will be Erdoğan himself. However, as the election nears, Erdoğan knows that he cannot ignore the PKK, because in this process the PKK is the most important risk factor that might challenge the prime minister. He must create an environment that will eliminate the PKK as a risk factor during the election in order to win it with an overwhelming majority and consolidate his power. In order to do this, he needs two quiet and calm summers.
Two quiet and calm summers will only be possible through the PKK’s inaction. A few actors may contribute to creating that advantageous environment for Erdoğan. The first is he himself, by following the correct strategies. The others are Barzani and the U.S., who could allow Turkey to enjoy two calm summers by keeping the PKK away from violence.
Erdoğan cannot radically resolve a problem like the PKK with one move or in such a short period of time as there is before the presidential election. But he may manage the process fruitfully to achieve the two seasonal calm periods he needs, by initiating new negotiations like those that were taking place before this year’s general elections. Of course actualizing this strategy depends on restarting negotiations with the PKK and restoring trust. So he must establish powerful guarantee mechanisms while pledging to compensate more than he did previously. The weakest link of such an approach is the leakage of negotiations to the public and exploitation of this information by his rivals of different character, as occurred with the previous MİT-PKK negotiations.
The other actors who could provide Erdoğan with the two calm summers he needs are Barzani and the U.S. Both can directly create the necessary conditions if they want to. They can limit the PKK’s movements by applying military, political and psychological pressure.
With this approach, everyone could get what they want at the end of the two quiet, calm summers. The U.S. could establish an environment for Erdoğan in which he can concentrate more on Bashar al-Assad and can accelerate the fall of his regime in Syria. Thus, Iran would become more isolated. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) may open the doors of a historical opportunity for the Kurds in Syria. The PKK may get what it wants after the election in return for its patience, while Erdoğan becomes president, and even if it doesn’t, it might get the chance to be more broadly influential, having won more legitimacy.
But what if the next two summers do not pass calmly and the fighting spreads like it is nowadays? Next week.