By Micha’el Tanchum (vol. 7, no. 19 of the Turkey Analyst)
On October 20, Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu announced that “Peshmerga” fighters from the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) are going to be allowed to transit Turkish territory to reinforce the beleaguered Kurdish forces of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) defending the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS.) The Turkish government had previously turned down requests for it to open a land corridor. Turkey’s policy u-turn means that it now has a unique opportunity to rehabilitate its failed Kurdish policy and arrive at a grand bargain to secure its national interests along its borders with Syria and Iraq. To create a more amenable constellation of Kurdish political allies, the Turkish government will need to offer a meaningful accommodation of Kurdish demands within Turkey.
Several columnists express concern over Turkey’s future after the violent clashes in the Kurdish parts of the country and the government’s reaction to them. Cengiz Çandar writes that the leadership of the country has not learnt the right lessons and that it is mistaken in thinking that police state methods are going to save the day. Yetvart Danzikyan warns that the methods of the AKP government are inflaming ethnic and sectarian tensions and that the situation could get out of hand. Abdülkadir Selvi writes that Turkey is not going to give in to the pressures of the United States regarding the use of its bases in the fight against ISIS and reminds that Turkey demands that the Sunnis in Syria and Iraq are empowered and that the Assad regime in Syria is removed from power.
The question whether or not and to what extent Turkey is going to participate in the fight against ISIS is at the center of the attention of the Turkish columnists after the release of the Turkish hostages held by ISIS. Abdülkadir Selvi in the leading pro-government daily Yeni Şafak writes that Turkey is never going to participate in operations “directed against the Islamic world.” Ali Bayramoğlu, also in Yeni Şafak, writes that Turkey is concerned that the fight against ISIS is going to bestow new legitimacy on Bashar al-Assad, and that the PKK is going to become empowered as a part of the coalition. Ergun Babahan on the t24 news site cites Kurdish news sources that claim that Turkey has been providing weapons and ammunition to ISIS forces that have laid siege on Kobane, and warns that the Kurds cannot be controlled by using the methods of the Cold War.
By John Daly (vol. 7, no. 16 of the Turkey Analyst)
As armed conflict ravages Syria and Iraq, Turkey risks adding to the social and political tensions to its south by cutting the water flow of the Euphrates, which originates in southeastern Turkey and is Western Asia’s longest river, to downstream states. Compounding Iraqi misery, the Islamic State (IS) has been using water as a weapon of war. As unrest continues to roil the Fertile Crescent, whether water is used as a tool of inconsiderate state policy or a weapon of war, the suffering of civilians and farmers has dire political consequences. What is certain is that Turkey’s ambitious GAP program is adding to the misery of the downstream populations.
By Jesper Åkesson (vol. 7, no. 15 of the Turkey Analyst)
The regions of Turkey that border Syria need external support, both from the Turkish government and from the international community, as these parts of the country have come to bear a disproportionally large burden of the refugees fleeing Syria. Public services need to be expanded and ways need to be found to stimulate the local economy. Ultimately, the Syrian civil war will continue to negatively affect Turkey until its resolution – but measures can and should be taken to alleviate the pressure on those hardest hit by this crisis, lest tensions grow further among locals and refugees in Turkey.
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.