With eyes on a new election, Erdogan takes a dangerous gamble by attacking PKK

After decades of a bloody war between the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and Ankara, lessons are not been learnt with the peace process effectively dead in the ground and all the signs pointing to a swift return to the dark days of the past.

Decades of assimilation policies failed and now after the death of thousands on both sides of the divide, billions of dollars wasted and wounds that become more difficult to repair by the day, the lessons are been ignored. A military solution simply cannot serve either side.

But with Syrian mess becoming messier with Turkey joining fray against the Islamic State (IS) but simultaneously attacking PKK bases in Iraq, the ramifications of the renewed Ankara-PKK bloodshed goes well beyond the Turkish borders.

Many point to Turkey joining the IS fight as a sideshow to the main priority of hitting the PKK and undermining the Syrian Kurds whose territory and autonomy has grown with a series of victories over IS.

If Turkey fully commits to the fight against IS in Syria then it is no doubt a game changer, especially with the US-led coalition gaining vital access to Incirlik air base.

But the agreement poses many questions. Which force will man the proposed buffer zone? There are increasingly calls for a Syrian Turkmen force to take the lead in filling the vacuum, in which case it reinforces Kurdish anxiety that the buffer scheme is merely designed to curtail their expansion west of Kobane.

Furthermore, there are open contradictions on the role of People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the coalition campaign. Some Turkish officials have made it clear that coalition jets from Turkish bases will not be assisting YPG forces, whilst White House officials have stated to the contrary.

US is in a difficult position over the YPG who have been vital in stopping IS across the north with US air support.

It becomes difficult to differentiate the YPG and PKK forces when the PKK fighters have played a big role in Syria. Such PKK fighters may well shift their focus back to Turkey as tit-for-tat retaliation gathers speed.

It becomes clear that the “package” agreed between Turkey and US would comprise of Turkish action against the PKK as much as Washington has denied.

There have been skirmishes before between the PKK and government forces that saw the peace process intact. The decision now to open a new front has wide political connotations.

The People’s Democratic Party (HDP) led by Selahattin Demirtaş was the main benefactor of the June 2015 national elections securing a historic 13% of the vote.

Erdogan has eyes firmly on a new election as early as November as coalition talks point to increasing failure. This gives the Justice and Development Party (AKP) party a second lifeline to readjust and take power again.

The renewed conflict opens up the nationalist debate, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking to muster nationalist voters he lost with a new hardline view on the PKK. By ending the peace process, Erdogan achieves what the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) promised, potentially luring MHP voters.

HDP stands to become the biggest losers in any new election. It successfully wooed liberal, non-Kurdish votes but is increasingly taking political center of the PKK fallout. Erdogan has tried to tie a political noose around Demirtaş and fierce rhetoric emanating from the HDP camp as they defend the Kurdish position implicates them further with the PKK.

Even an investigation was recently launched against Demirtaş for allegedly provoking protesters last October over Kobane.

If HDP drop below the 10% threshold then the AKP gains dramatically in parliament. But if HDP politicians have legal cases launched against them, if any imprisonment is imposed or if the HDP is suddenly sidelined, then the bloodshed will simply intensify.

Either way, the AKP is taking a very dangerous gamble.

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>