Turkey's Problems Lie in Its Actions
By Martin Zehr
An article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Turkey's Terror Problem Is Ours” by neo-conservative Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute mistakenly attempts to remove the context of the struggle of the PKK in Turkey from the resolution of the denial of the national and political rights of Kurdish people in the region. In so doing he is promoting an aggressive military campaign by the Turkish government and ignores longstanding Turkish historical claims to parts of northern Iraq. The issue of PKK attacks on civilians is not the focus or the basis for the Turkish military buildup on the border of the Kurdish Autonomous Region.
Mr. Rubin suggests: “U.S. officials should threaten isolation and a cessation of all financial assistance until Mr. Barzani ceases his safe haven.” Mr. Rubin might pay more attention to the U.S. military aid to Turkey, as a source of the problem. “As a member of NATO and Washington’s ally in the war on terrorism, Turkey is the third largest recipient of U.S. military aid, behind Israel and Egypt. Between 1994 and 2004, it received well over $1.3 billion in FMF and another $21.4 million in IMET. Congress granted another $33 million in FMF and $4 million in IMET in 2005. The President’s request for 2006 is more modest-- $25 million in FMF and $3 million in IMET.”
Suggesting as he does that there is an implicit alliance between President Barzani and the PKK in Iraq Mr. Rubin establishes a weak case. He states: “During its Oct. 21 attack on Turkish troops, PKK tactics mirrored those taught by U.S. Special Forces to Mr. Barzani's peshmerga fighters, suggesting its complicity in training terrorists.” Taken on its face, it presents little documentation in making in its case. But considering the ramifications of such statements, it presents Turkey with a virtual blank check in regards to attacks on the government of the KRG and the territory of the Kurdish Autonomous Region.
Mr. Rubin uses the history of the PKK’s attacks in Turkey, Iran and Syria in the 90s as a basis for his own proposal for US policy. Unfortunately, he considers the current status of the PKK to be sufficient in justifying or obscuring the motivations of the Turkish military. Mr. Rubin appears to disregard the sovereignty of the Kurdish Autonomous Region, even while Turkey internally moves to outlaw the Democratic Society Party, arrests its leader, and arrests a teenage internet user . This appears to be a disingenuous sleight of hand in addressing issues within Turkey that have been going on for decades. The issue IS what Turkey has done to deny Kurdish peoples their rights within Turkey and in neighboring states.
Mr. Rubin is adamant in proposing that President Barzani is an agent in alliance with the PKK. “So as Mr. Barzani denies complicity in terrorism, he nevertheless seeks to leverage it into diplomatic gain.” Ignored are President Barzani’s efforts to improve relations with Turkey. Explaining that economic ties are a key diplomatic tool, Mr Bakir said, “It is instructive that Turkey did not close its border with the Kurdistan Region during the recent crisis. This was a victory for Prime Minister Barzani’s policy of encouraging economic ties with Turkey. We need to deepen our economic relations with Turkey, to act as further buffer against bilateral tension in our relationship in the future.” After a recent meeting with US Vice-President Cheney the Deputy Prime Minister projected the position of the KRG in regards to attacks on Turkey from the Kurdish Autonomous Region: “Deputy Prime Minister Fattah outlined the KRG’s steps to tackle the PKK problem. “We are against the use of our Region for attacks against Turkey,” he said. “We intend to strengthen our relationship with Turkey and ensure that the Kurdistan Region remains Iraq’s most stable and prosperous area.”
There lie beneath Turkey’s domestic policies and military maneuvers issues that are rooted in its own efforts to deny fundamental reforms needed to address injustices that have kept it from membership in the European Union. Turkey’s history in its internal conflict with the PKK has seen emergency rule enforced in Kurdish areas of Turkey, forced relocations of Kurdish villages, arrests of elected Kurdish officials and journalists in Turkey, and the denial of civil rights and political rights of the Kurdish peoples. This stands alongside of efforts of Turkey to prevent the Kirkuk referendum, the recent bombings of civilians in the Kurdish Autonomous Region and the massive troop buildup on the border. Mr. Rubin appears to be centering his case on the person and the office of President Barzani and seeking action against him as a terrorist. He should be cognizant of the implications of this and recognize that Turkey’s actions stem from a continued aggressive policy against the Kurdish nation by the Turkish military. These actions whether within Turkey, Iran or the Kurdish Autonomous Region represent a sustained effort by the Turkish military that violate the sovereignty of other nations and the human rights of the Kurdish peoples.