Turkey’s recurring nightmare

Turkey’s recurring nightmare

Turkey is moving backwards again with regards to its Kurdish problem. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is twanging nationalist chords and saying it is not possible to go on with the Kurdish peace process. He is also stoking sentiments against the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which got 13 percent of the vote in the June 7 elections. If it was not politically incorrect, he would join calls to have the party banned. He can’t do this because the Justice and Development Party (AKP) faced such calls in the past. So he is asking for the authorities to go after the party’s leadership instead. 

Meanwhile, Turkish jets are bombing Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) positions in Northern Iraq and fueling suspicions in the West about Ankara’s true motives. It seems Tuesday’s meeting of NATO ambassadors, which was called by Ankara, produced little other than lip service to the notion that Turkey has the right to self-defense. Having said this, all of Turkey’s allies are asking Ankara to keep things in proportion and not endanger the peace process.

All of this is a recurring nightmare for Turkey. We have seen it all before and it has led to nothing but death, destruction and sorrow, with little gained in the end. What members of the war camp say is overly simplistic. “So we should let the PKK do as it will, is that what you are asking?” they say. This is not what anyone is saying. But reasonable people are asking for all the options in favor of peace to be taken to their limits before the “sledgehammer” is brought out. 

Erdoğan, however, does not want this. Daily papers are rife with opinions indicating that he is warmongering in an effort to make the AKP the only viable choice for stability in in the country if early elections are held. All indications show that Erdoğan does not want to see the AKP enter a coalition with the Republican People’s Party (CHP), or any other party for that matter. What lies in his heart are early elections.

As suggested previously in this column, there is no guarantee that early elections will make the AKP the preeminent political force in Turkey again.  All that is likely to happen is that valuable time will have been lost, the domestic security situation worsened, and Turkey’s image in the West as an oppressor of Kurds revived.

Ankara’s heavy handedness has driven the West into supporting the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq in the past. The same is likely to happen with regards to Syrian Kurds, who are now allied with the U.S. against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). There is no way the West will allow Turkey to hit the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which it sees as an extension of the PKK, but which has become the umbrella organization for Syrian Kurds. 

There are those, like retired brigadier general Naim Baburoglu who comments on military affairs, who argue that the AKP’s insistence on wrong policies with regards to the Kurdish problem will only force the West into supporting Syrian Kurds more, and expedite the establishment of the autonomous “Kurdish corridor” in northern Syria that Ankara fears so much. 

What makes matters worse for Turkey is that dangerous executive decisions are being taken by the AKP government, egged on by Erdoğan, even though it is a lame duck, having lost its parliamentary majority in the elections. If Erdoğan is relying on early elections to bolster the AKP’s, and consequently his own, position he may find in the end that what he incited has rebounded in this respect, leaving the AKP even weaker than it is today. There may be those who want a Turkish-Kurdish war, but the majority of people in this country, be they Turkish, Kurdish or otherwise, clearly do not.