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 Withdraw Without Condition

 Opinion — Analysis
  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author


Withdraw Without Condition  24.10.2011   
By Bashdar Ismaeel

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As Turkey enters Iraq for "revenge", the wider context is overlooked once more

October 24, 2011

As Turkey enters Iraq for "revenge", the wider context is overlooked once more. A chilling and coordinated attack by PKK rebels that led to the death of at least 24 Turkish soldiers and many wounded sent shockwaves throughout Turkey.

Such was the determination for a harsh response that the Turkish army quickly launched a massive ground invasion of Kurdistan on yet another quest to defeat the rebels. "A large-scale land operation, backed by air strikes, has begun in five separate spots inside Turkey and across the border with 22 battalions," the military general staff said in a statement.                   

Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel, senior UK Editor.
Turkish president, Abdullah Gul had vowed "revenge" and a stern response under a watchful and enraged public eye. The harsh Turkish reprisal may benefit the PKK as it means a renewed straining of ties between Ankara and Erbil, places the Iraqi Kurds into a difficult corner and simultaneously diminishes the chances of a political resolution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey.

The President of the Kurdistan Region, Massoud Barzani, strongly condemned the latest attacks while labeling the event as a "crime". With Nechirvan Barzani already in Ankara, the common theme was to soothe Turkish tensions and reinforce brotherhood between Turkey and the Kurdistan Region. However, ultimately Ankara would not be swayed from its intent to show the PKK and possibly even Erbil just who calls the shots in the region.

Clashes between troops and rebels have intensified in the aftermath of the recent national elections in Turkey, resulting in significant aerial bombardment and shelling by Turkish forces in the border regions in recent months. However, the manner of the recent attacks, which coincided with the establishment of a committee to oversee the rewriting of the Turkish constitution, sent alarm bells ringing in Ankara and under a cloud of public anger forced the Turkish government to respond with strong measures.

The attacks by rebels resulted in the biggest military death toll since 1993 and were met with international wide condemnation.

As many political powers renewed their support for the Turkish quest to eradicate the rebels, there is a great danger that once again Turkey and its allies are overlooking the wider context of events.

Such was the nature of the attack that none would expect Turkey remain idle but it is easy for foreign powers to look at this as an individual incident rather than with the framework that the issue deserves.

This is a deep-rooted, emotively-charged and bloody 27-year war that has cost in excess of 40,000 lives, billions of dollars, destruction of villages and caused immense mental scarring. This is the not the first attack and certainly not the last. History has clearly proved the limits of military power even for the second largest army in NATO.

As long as the Kurdish political actors in Turkey remain weak and the Kurds are deprived of real political representation, the PKK will continue to act as the default flag-bearer of the Kurds, even if it does not necessarily represent the greater will of the Kurdish population. The growing focus on PKK as the source of the Kurdish problem and the ongoing energy consumed by the government to defeat the rebels as a way to overcome the Kurdish issue places the Kurds into a difficult predicament.

The greater Kurdish population yearns for peace and not violence and is tired and frustrated from decades of political, social and economic handicaps that the ongoing conflict has caused.

Turkey has acted against the PKK and this is a natural retaliation for any government, however, it needs to urgently employ a dual approach whereby it also reassures the greater Kurdish population of the Turkish will for fraternity, to solve their age old Kurdish dilemma, that the democratic opening remains a priority and that the government does not intend to punish all Kurds for the actions of a few.
The era of violence in the pursuit of political goals has certainly diminished but Turkey must also prove that it has turned the page not just in words but also in practical steps.

The Turkish state belongs to both the Kurds and Turks and this is a fact that nothing can mask. Only true reconciliation and brotherhood can propel Turkey to the heights it intends to achieve and mentalities and policies of the past can never exclusively disadvantage the Kurdish populated south eastern part of Turkey.

The Kurds can be factor that fuels a new strategic strength of Turkey in Europe and Asia or it can be factor that will indefinitely blight and drag the whole of Turkey as a "sick power".

As emotions run dangerously high in Turkey, it is of paramount importance that the US, European and regional powers act as a blanket of comfort to both Turks and Kurds. Obliterating the Iraqi Kurdistan regional areas with a show of firepower will never achieve Turkish goals. If a military solution was such a viable reality all these years, why would Turkey wait until 2011 and thousands of lives later to resolve this issue?

US President Barrack Obama, whilst harshly condemning the attacks in Turkey, emphasizes that "...the Turkish people, like people everywhere, deserve to live in peace, security and dignity." While Obama's statement is valid, there should not be hesitation by world powers to utter the word "Kurds" in the same breath.

There should be a distinct emphasis on the equal rights of the Kurdish population to live in peace, security and within the framework of international charters. While Turkey has made a number of strides in this regard, it is by no means at the level expected for a global power that is actively seeking to expand its sphere of influence.

Turkey continues to live under fear of its significant Kurdish minority rather than embracing them as a true and integral component of the state. At the same time, the Kurds look towards Turkey with distrust and lack of conviction.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphasised the necessity for both Iraq and Turkey to work together to end what he deemed as "unacceptable" cross-border attacks by Kurdish PKK rebels. Ban's insistence that the sovereignty of both Turkey and Iraq must be respected was a welcome step. This matter is not simply about appeasing angry or nationalistic sentiments in Ankara, the matter has far greater ramifications across the region.

Within Turkey itself, the much maligned BDP found itself engrossed in the cross fire yet again. It has been subject to heavy criticism by the Turkish government which has culminated in an all time low for relations between both parties as a result of the Kurdish boycott of parliament and the subsequent unilateral declaration of democratic autonomy in the Kurdish areas.

BDP co-chairpersons Gülten Kışanak and Selahattin Demirtaş called for peace as the only solution in a written statement, "We say 'enough' to this war and these deaths. The painful picture today once again shows that Turkey urgently needs peace..."

In spite of calls for unity and reconciliation by the BDP, the AKP government quickly poured water on any air of sincerity or warmth generated by such overtures by once again branding the BDP and the PKK with the same brush.

The AKP, which still received a large portion of Kurdish votes, should not renege on its promise to implement its democratic opening or to focus on developing the south eastern region. The idea that there is no longer a Kurdish problem but a terrorism problem is wrong. The so-called terrorist issue comes from the Kurdish problem the Kurdish problem does not come from the terrorism issue.

One of the main reasons for the stalling of the democratic opening was the increasing nationalist resistance in Turkey. The rising hawkish voices ensure that the hands of the government become restrained and progress reverses rather than making any significant strides forward.
As Turkey answers Kurdish rebels with a strong fist, it must also show the Kurds that it will not forsake their rights, demands and voices for the sake of the appeasing only the Turkish sentiments.

More importantly, Turkey should do all it can to respect the sovereignty of the KRG and withdraw without condition.

First Published On: Kurdish Globe
Other Primary Sources of Republication:, Various Misc.

Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel is a London-based freelance writer and analyst,
a regular contributing writer for website. Ismaeel 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. Most recently he has produced work for the Washington Examiner, Asian Times, The Epoch Times, Asia News, The Daily Star (Lebanon), Kurdish Globe, Hewler Post, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), KurdishMedia, PUK Online and OnlineOpinion. He has achieved seminar recommended readings for Le High University (Pennsylvania) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His work has been republished extensively elsewhere on the Internet. You may reach the author via email at: [email protected] , Bashdar's website  

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  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author


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