United Press International ajansından Martin Walker'ın 22 Temmuz sonrası Türkiye'yi bekleyen sorunlara ilişkin analizi

6 Ağustos 2007

Walker's World: The Turkish crisis


UPI Editor Emeritus

PARIS, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- Three crises are coming to a head at once in Turkey. And despite its powerful mandate from last month's elections, the re-elected government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is ill-placed to tackle any one of them.

The first crisis is the appearance in Parliament of 18 elected new members of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, accused of links to the outlawed separatist guerilla movement of the PKK, the Kurdish Workers' Party. One of the new members, Sebahat Tuncel, was only released from nine months in jail for alleged PKK membership after she was elected in an Istanbul constituency, giving her automatic immunity from prosecution.

Tuncel has declared that her election as a representative for Istanbul, Turkey's biggest city and its gateway to Europe, shows that people nationwide, not just in the country's Kurdish-dominated southeastern region, want peace. "That is how it should be understood," she insisted after being sworn into office Saturday.

Nonetheless, it should be a fiery session in Parliament, as the 18 new Kurds face off against the 71 members of the of National Action Party, who are fiercely against more concessions to the Kurds and campaigned on a demand for the execution of the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Turkey's military, which has never been reluctant to intervene or to mount a coup when it fears the country's secular constitution or its national security are at risk, have been battling against PKK guerilla attacks in recent months after some years of uneasy truce. The fighting has been serious enough for airstrikes.

Already nervous at the election victories of Erdogan's moderate Islamist AK (Justice and Development) Party and fearing that Erdogan will renominate the devout Islamist Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to the presidency, the military sees the Kurds as a mortal threat to Turkey's integrity.

That is the second crisis. The last time Erdogan nominated Gul to the post, the military sounded a solemn warning that it did not approve. Gul's election as president was then blocked by parliamentary maneuver, which inspired Erdogan to call the election. With his new mandate, Erdogan is under pressure from his party loyalists to defy the military and nominate Gul once more.

But the chief of the general staff, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, has declared that the military stands by its opposition to an Islamist president “with conviction." Calling the army's bluff would be a very risky move, though a fourth military coup in 40 years would certainly put a nail in the coffin of Turkey's hopes of joining the European Union. But bowing to the army's demand would probably see a revolt by a third to half of Erdogan's own party.

The third crisis Turkey faces will be symbolized Tuesday by the expected arrival in Ankara, the country's capital, of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Top of the agenda for the Turks will be the PKK bases in northern Iraq, better known as the Kurdistan Regional Government, which Ankara refuses to recognize.

Turkey already has military outposts in this Kurdish-governed region and has reinforced its forces on the border in what could be a prelude to invasion. The Turkish military wants to go and clean out the PKK bases once and for all, though this may not be as easy as it sounds. The KRG may have little sympathy for the PKK, but any Turkish invasion would probably be met with a robust response by all Kurdish groups.

Turkey sees the KRG as the fast-growing embryo of an independent Kurdish state, which is likely to foment more trouble in Turkey's eastern regions and in the Kurd-dominated regions of Iran and Syria, as the Kurds pursue their long-frustrated dream of a nation of their own.

The United States, as a NATO ally of the Turks and as friend and protector of the KRG, is caught uncomfortably in the middle, trying with little success to persuade the KRG to move against the PKK before the Turks lose patience. The Washington rumor mill suggests that time is fast running out and that Erdogan may buy off his generals' opposition to an Islamist president by giving them a green light to invade northern Iraq.

It is in this context that Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, suggests that the Turks may have to accept the least of several possible evils, choosing the "best of the worst."

This would be a semi-autonomous Kurdish statelet in northern Iraq, an uncomfortable neighbor but probably less dangerous than the prospect of the Kurds declaring independence, which is likely to provoke immediate intervention from Turkey and Iran, plunging the entire region into war.

The Turkish media is presenting Maliki's visit as the last chance for the Iraqis to "do something" about the PKK bases. Maliki is bringing Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a prominent Kurd from the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the uncle of Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani. But Barzani seems ready to defy the Turks and is insisting on a referendum this year on the future of the city of Kirkuk, which Kurds see as their spiritual capital and also as their access to oil wealth. Turkey has warned that a Kurdish takeover of Kirkuk could be a cause for war.

There are no obvious solutions, and the main players -- Kurds, Iraqis and Turks -- are hamstrung by domestic politics. The bottom line is that Turkey is the regional superpower, with a booming economy growing at 7 percent a year and a gross domestic product now greater than that of Sweden -- and doubling in size every nine years. It is by far the biggest and most modern economy of any of the Muslim countries, and the richest in the Middle East.

Turkey also boasts the most powerful and best-equipped military and thus dominates the region -- at least until Iran becomes a nuclear-armed power, an event that is likely to trigger Turkey to follow suit. For the United States, whose presence in Iraq is unlikely to long outlive the lame-duck Bush administration, Turkey is the ally to count on for the long term. If that means abandoning the Kurds, a cold view of long-term U.S. interests might deem that a sad but acceptable price to pay.