Recent moves and statements from the Turkish military and political opposition appears to indicate a change in tact from Turkey’s historical response to Kurdish political and cultural grievances. Since the meeting of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish press is coming out with an increasing number of stories that articulate new policies and reviews of previous ones. The character of the proposals being presented have not addressed the fundamental issue of national and political recognition of the Kurdish nation in northern Iraq or Turkey. That being the case there remains a distance between the position of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Kurdish parties in the Turkish government and the position of the government and military of Turkey.
Criticism by the Turkish military of the meeting with President Bush focused on their expectation that the US increase its role in itelligence sharing. An article by Evren Deger in the NEW ANATOLLIAN did appear to indicate that the Turkish government has defined the scope of its planned military operations along the Turkish-Iraqi border. “The sources say a wide ranging military operation is impossible in the near future and say the military action will be limited to border operations and hit and run raids on PKK targets.” Specifics were presented on the criteria that the Turkish military would use in evaluating the Bush administration’s “sincerity”. These matters included: “The military listed the following points as tests for American sincerity:”- The hand over of about for to five PKK terrorist leaders who were on the wanted list given to the Americans in the past. - Severing the logistic links of the PKK. The military wants the Americans to provide a detailed explanation on how the U.S. arms used by PKK found their way to the terrorist organization. - Measures to be taken to prevent the PKK from running a narcotics smuggling ring. -The closure of all the political entities and so-called NGOs that have links with the PKK in northern Iraq.”
Clearly this appears to be a declared “hands-off” policy by the Turkish military regarding the Kurdistan Nation Guard and areas of the Kurdish Autonomous Region that do not contain PKK. One has reason to inquire as to what the consequences will be for Kurdish people if the US is found lacking in “sincerity”. One also would ask what “political entities” and NGOs are being referred to in the Turkish list. Would it include duly recognized political parties within the Kurdistan Regional Government? President Barzani has already closed the offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish Autonomous Region, and Sulaymaniyah. In addition, he was helpful in the activity that led to the release of eight Turkish soldiers captured in military operations by the PKK.
In the Turkish press, “retired Chief of General Staff Kenan Evren who also served as the president of the country after military took over the administration in 1980 admitted the mistakes were committed in the Kurdish problem in 1980s including the ban on Kurdish language.” While this is a recognition of a reality by someone who implemented it, it would represent a more significant critique if the political character of Kurdish national demands were included as well. Another retired general was quoted: “General Ilker Basbug admitted that Turkey was not successful in its fight against terrorism and its efforts to prevent people to join PKK ranks.”
A voice from a different source appeared in Turkish press almost side-by-side with the story about the retired generals. ” Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal who is known with his hardline positions on Iraq has offered a series of peaceful measures to befriend the Iraqi people including the Kurds ranging from educating Iraqi youths at Turkish universities to providing more water to the neighboring country.” These efforts deserve to be acknowledged by the KRG directly to the Turkish government by an appearance before the Turkish Assembly by President Barzani himself. Such actions will decrease the level of animosity that currently exists, as long as the sovereignty of the Kurdish Autonomous Region is respected. Any effort by the Turkish Parliament to circumvent the political authority of the KRG and the local political entities which govern would indicate the lack of authenticity in this offer and would represent an effort to undermine the legitimate government. Clearly these are matters that necessarily need to be dealt with on a government-to-government basis.Along with the carrot came a decisive declaration by the Turkish Prime Minister in the same issue of the paper. He stated unequivocally before the : “The enemy is an element that must be eliminated, and to do this we have to be united.” Unity with Turkey remains pre-conditioned with sanctioning its present military actions against Kurds. History repeats itself.