By Gareth H. Jenkins
April 20, 2016
Although the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) are ideologically affiliated, they remain organizationally distinct. Even though it does not pose a direct security threat to Turkey, the PYD’s increasing consolidation of power in northern Syria arguably poses a challenge not only to Ankara but also to the PKK.
Etyen Mahçupyan in Karar writes that it is obvious that ISIS has an understanding of Islam that leads it to see Turkey as an enemy, and that it intends to incite such an Islamic understanding inside Turkey. But at the same time, it is also clear that ISIS does not want to wholly be at odds with Turkey. Ultimately, it wants to be accepted as a force to bargain with in Syria and Iraq. Thus, even though they don’t hinder uncontrolled acts and though they may even resort to using violence as part of a strategy of “warning,” they have to get along with Turkey, insofar as they want to be a permanent force to reckon with in the region. The PKK’s position is no different. It’s easy to declare cantons (in Syria) when a war is raging, but much more difficult to sustain these when peace arrives… It’s obvious that you cannot categorically trust the U.S., Russia or Germany. In other words, when we pass on to the next stage in Syria, Turkey’s view of an eventual Kurdish entity is going to be a crucial factor… And what is at least as critical as this factor is the fact that the PKK runs the risk of alienating its sociological base in Turkey if it escalates the violence. In short, the two terror groups that Turkey is facing are in fact in need of Turkey’s “acceptance…” We can predict that both organizations are going to want to resort to violence in order to bring Turkey to the point that they desire, but that they at the end of the day are going to want to keep Turkey by their sides. As a new table is being set in Syria, the number of groups that would like to have violence in Turkey is thus decreasing, not increasing.
Verda Özer in Hürriyet reports that Erdoğan offered Obama the services of the Turkish military in Syria against ISIS, in return for which he asked the U.S. to stop supporting the Kurdish PYD. According to what Turkish sources have told me, Ankara made the following suggestion to Washington during the visit of Erdoğan: “Come, give up PYD. In its place, we can – together with the Arab and Turcoman groups that we support – fight a land war against ISIS.” Turkey also asked for U.S. air cover to enable the Turkish army to intervene in Syria. To this, the U.S. replied “I will not give up on PYD.” Washington also expressed the reservation that if “the Turkish army were to intervene, Russia might hit it.” In fact, the U.S. is wary of Turkey becoming entrenched and powerful in Iraq and Syria. According to what my sources relate, Washington urged Ankara to “return to the solution process,” to which Erdoğan replied “I have not broken off the solution process, the process is in the refrigerator.” And he reminded that Turkey’s, and thus his own, focus right now is the fight against PKK. According to what the sources relate, the Turkish side made a connection between the solution process and the PYD. It emphasized that as long as the armed support of the U.S. for PYD continues, it will not be possible to restart the solution process.
By Halil Karaveli
April 5, 2016
The outsize personality of President Erdoğan obscures the systemic dynamics that sustain his exercise of power. Erdoğan’s push for an executive presidency corresponds to the “logic” of Turkish state power. Erdoğan’s personal ambitions and raison d’état coincide to reinforce authoritarianism. Ultimately, democracy in Turkey is crippled because no major political force, representing the Turkish majority, challenges the dominant mentality that holds that the survival of the state requires the checking of ethnic and cultural diversity.
Ergun Babahan on the news site Özgür Düşünce writes that AKP never intended to reach an agreement with PKK and solve the Kurdish problem on the basis of a Western model. It assumed that it was going to be able to dilute the Kurdish identity within a Sunni Muslim identity and that it would solve the problem with economic investments and individual rights. When the Kurds mobilized around HDP and the party crossed the ten percent threshold to parliament that not only jeopardized Erdoğan’s dreams of an executive presidency. It also jeopardized the founding paradigm which the 1980 coup had put in place specifically in order to ensure that the Kurds were kept out of the parliament and politics. Different schemes were enacted to block the path of HDP and to neutralize the Kurds politically (after the June 2015 general election.) This is the development that those who are accusing the PKK of having fallen into the trap of the state, or of AKP fail to fully read. The state openly chose to settle the accounts with the Kurds by the means of violence.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.