Showdown for Ataturk's republic
By Slater Bakhtavar
"A nation which makes the final sacrifice for life and freedom does not get beaten. " Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey.
In early October, members of the separatist Kurdish Workers' Party ("PKK") stationed in northern Iraq, instigated a clandestine military attack, which led to twelve casualties. This attack is a minuscule part of a spate of intensified attacks by the Kurdish Workers' Party. The Kurdish' Workers' Party, whose agenda includes the autonomy of Turkey's southeast region and an end to Turkish assimilation, have infiltrated segments of northern Iraq and Turkey. Keen to ferocious tactical which include, but are not relegated to kidnappings, beheadings, tactical bombing, and pillaging. This month alone, the Kurds have racked up a body count of 42 Turks and kidnapped eight others. In just twenty years, the organization, which is designated a "terrorist organization" by the United States and Europe, has murdered over 30,000 people.
Feeding on rampant sectarian violence in Iraq, the PKK have intensified their militaristic approach. Contrary to their glorified public relations campaign, the PKK is not a heroic counter-interventionist movement. PKK's Marxist ideology and treacherous brutality is an aberration in a society recognized for its tolerance. Turkey's ethnic Kurds, the majority of who recently voted for the Justice and Development Party, oppose PKK's agenda. The Kurdish people recognize that the guerrilla fastidious escapades have promoted regional and international political upheaval. Once, isolated and prone to factionalism, the guerrilla movement is on the rise due to the dire situation in northern Iraq.
The Turkish government, which believes Turkish citizens should have no loyalty outside of the state, has responded. On October 17th, the Turkish parliament voted 507-19 to authorize cross-border raids into northern Iraq to root out the PKK. Turkish General Yasar Buyukanit angrily touted, "We are determined to make those who cause this sadness grieve with an intensity that they cannot imagine," Prime Minister Erdogen, leader of the moderate Islamic Development Party said "Turkey shall intimidated." Turkey recently amassed over 100,000 troops on the border with Iraq backed up by tanks, artillery warplanes and helicopters. Turkish jet fighters and helicopters pounded suspected rebel hideouts in Turkey and northern Iraq, strategic maneuver condemned by U.S. and Iraqi governments. The U.S. and Iraqi government fear that Turkish intervention could destabilize a moderately tranquil segment of the volatile region.
The two nations believe Turkish military intervention may deepen tension between diverse ethnic groups in the region, deteriorate loose coalitions and trigger a sharp increase in global oil prices. Neighboring Iran and Syria, which are both home to substantial Kurdish minorities, may be pressured to intervene. Even minimal ethnic friction in Iran, a predominately ethnic Persian nation, may escalate the fragile region. But the United States must balance its desire for regional stability with steadfast support for and cooperation with the Turkish government.
Turkey chastised the US-led invasion in Iraq, but it subsequently provided vital strategic airbases for U.S. flights into Iraq and Afghanistan. Turkey, a secular Republic with fragments of institutionalized democracy and constitutionally protected rights is a natural ally of the United States. But the once-friendly relationship between the U.S. and Turkey has waned due recent U.S. political maneuver seen as threatening to Turkey's national sovereignty. Turkey, once a proud US ally with a populace generally supportive of the United States, is now one of the least America friendly nations in the world, this according to a recent Pew Research Center poll.
The Turkish public, largely opposed the US governments unilateral decision making in the Middle East, including the Kurdish quandary. A recent counterproductive resolution by the US congressional committee condemning the Ottoman Empire for genocide against the Armenians over ninety years ago farther agitated the Turkish public sentiment. Detrimental and untimely decisions, such as these, undermine our long-term interests in the middle-east.
Besides an array of rhetorical assurances, the U.S. government, has done little to pressure provincial, regional and national Kurdish political heavy weights. Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, must be confronted by the U.S. and the central Iraqi government. To its credit, the Iraqi government recently announced it will set up checkpoints to restrict the PKK's movement and cut their supply lines to their mountainous hideouts. Military reports that the U.S. is supplying the Turkish government with PKK hideouts locations is a constructive political maneuver. But the United States must do more to provide channels of cooperation and mutual understanding between the Turks and Americans. Enthusiastically supporting the Turkish government's justified campaign against the Marxist-terrorist organization may help mend bridges as well as ensure victory for a progressive democratic Middle East.
Slater Bakhtavar is president and founder of Republican Youth of America, a frequent commentator and respected analyst on foreign policy issues, and an attorney with a post-doctoral degree in International law.