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Turkey struggles against the changing times

By Bashdar Ismaeel - posted Monday, 29 October 2007

Fighting the branches of your problem is fruitless, without addressing its root.

Authorisation of Military Action

On 17th October 2007, the Turkish parliament passed a controversial motion that effectively allows the Turkish military a year’s pass to launch incursions into Northern Iraq as it sees fit under the pretext of preserving national security and eradicating the long-standing PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) threat emanating from the Qandil Mountains of the Kurdistan region.


In defiance of strong objections from Iraq, the US, NATO, EU and a plethora of major states, Turkey approved the bill. With a huge occupation force in the shape of the US Army still on the ground, this hardly provides a positive image of Iraqi sovereignty and may well set a benchmark for future invasions by neighbours.

Turkey’s battle with the PKK is not new. In fact Turkey has been waging war on the PKK for 28 years in the impoverished and largely neglected lands of South Eastern Turkey. This war reached a peak in the mid-1990’s culminating in a series of large cross-border campaigns by the Turkish military to oust rebel bases across the porous borders.

Clearly, these campaigns did no significant damage to the PKK, nor did they eradicate their threat, even as those campaigns were supported by some Iraqi Kurdish parties at the time. Five years of unilateral truce by the PKK following the arrest of their leader, Abdullah Ocalan, resulted in some peace and a motion to readdress its adverse international image.  But the PKK made very little political gains with a Turkish government persistent in its refusal to negotiate with their ‘terrorist’ arch-nemesis or to issue amnesty.

Feeling lost and weary after the trial of their revered leader, the influence and power of the PKK steadily dropped. However, the onset of the Iraqi liberation in 2003 and the new found prominence and political stature of the Iraqi Kurds has served to embolden the PKK and has reignited their passion for making another stand against the Turkish regime.

Clearly this time, the PKK has had more political coverage and broad media attention than ever before. The status of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is now enshrined in the Iraqi Constitution and widely recognised by major global powers. Arguably, the long standing rivalry with the PKK became second nature to a Turkish state that long denied its substantial Kurdish population’s cultural and linguistic rights Now, to its horror it is witnessing a strong Kurdish national renaissance a stone’s throw across the border.

Iraqi-Kurds – The Real Turkish Danger


It is likely that with the parliamentary approval of military incursions valid for one-year, this will give the Turkish state time to manoeuvre and watch the KRG closely with an upcoming decisive year that will determine the future of Iraq.  The ideal scenario for Turkey would be to maintain a long-term foothold and influence over Northern Iraq, rather than attack at will.

Under a period of self-rule, the Iraqi Kurds have grown from strength to strength.  They have witnessed an economic boom,  enhanced status as key strategic allies to the US administration, and are widely acknowledged as the only island of peace and prosperity in the mess that is Iraq. Whilst Kurdish confidence has reached alarming new heights for the Turkish state, which as of today still refuses to recognise the Kurdish administration, many of the red-lines set by the Turkish government have long passed with the Iraqi Kurds hungry and determined to bolster their status and political gains further.

In the year officially set for a referendum on the status of oil-rich Kirkuk, frequent Turkish calls for the abandonment of such a momentous milestone have gone unheard. Turkey has lobbied the Iraqi government extensively to dismiss the referendum out-of-hand or at least delay it indefinitely. This has only increased Kurdish determination, and with the knowledge that they are almost certain to be victors in any vote, they have pressed on without fear.

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About the Author

Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel is a London-based freelance writer and analyst, whose primary focus and expertise is on the Kurds, Iraq and Middle Eastern current affairs. The main focus of his writing is to promote peace, justice and increase awareness of the diversity, suffering and at times explosive mix in Iraq and the Middle East.

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