Another Barzani visit with shortcomings

Another Barzani visit with shortcomings

Another visit from Massoud Barzani, and we again see similar comments to those that appear after every visit of Iraqi Kurdish leaders. The headlines read like: “Barzani calls on PKK to lay down weapons,” or “Turkish PM and Barzani agree on PKK!”

Turkey has always needed the help of Barzani “to put down the PKK” and “to solve the Kurdish problem once for all,” even when Iraqi Kurdish leaders were snubbed as tribal chieftains. In fact, this was the most essential part of the so-called “visionary politician” Turgut Özal’s plan. Yet even in his time the plan proved to be unrealistic, not only because of the resistance of “the deep state” in Turkey and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. The plain fact is that the Kurdish problem is first and foremost a “domestic issue” and therefore can only be solved by negotiating with the representatives of the “Kurdish opposition movement” who seek Kurdish autonomy in Turkey. Turkish politicians of all stripes insisted on refusing this fact, and they still do. That is why they came to a point of investing all their hopes in Barzani’s helping hand once again, and this time Turkey seems even more desperate, because now the crisis in Syria has become a factor.

Nevertheless, it is impossible for Barzani to give Turkey the support it needs, namely managing “the disarmament of the PKK.” As Barzani puts it: “Another armed conflict would damage the Kurds’ cause.” If this is the case, another delusion would damage the Turks’ cause. It is time for Turkish politicians to understand that not only does Barzani not want to take such an initiative, but also that he could not manage the disarmament, even if he wanted to.

In fact, it is a positive sign that Prime Minister Erdoğan talked about ending military operations in return for the PKK “laying down its own weapons.” Nevertheless, this is (deliberately or not) an ambiguous statement, as it is not clear whether he means “disarmament” or “ceasefire.”

No armed conflict can be ended in such a short space of time. If Erdoğan is thinking only of disarmament without a ceasefire, the prospects are not going to be bright. Only a ceasefire is possible, and it may be a good start for a process of political negotiation. However, Kurds will be very cautious concerning a ceasefire this time, since this has failed on each previous occasion. In addition, the government’s policies after the election have not promised peace and democracy. The peaceful way could have been started more effectively, along with a peaceful political discourse and moderate policies towards the legal Kurdish opposition, namely the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). Now the situation is more difficult, but it should be tried by all means.

Finally, if Turkey insists on deluding itself that it will solve the problem by crushing the PKK and the whole Kurdish opposition movement, it will be difficult to be friends with Turkey. Since Turkey expects its friends to be helpful without questioning its politics, the regional circumstances will become more and more strained. Only if Turkey starts to ask for the cooperation of its friends on realistic grounds, their help may turn out to be “transformational” and essential.

In the case of Barzani, the government must have been asking him to mediate with the PKK, rather than asking him to dismantle it. Unfortunately, Turkey is very “self-centered,” and demands its allies to be “Turkey-centric.” Alas! This is not a wise way to deal with domestic and regional politics as such.