Regional Repercussions of the Turkish-Kurdish Peace Process

Article Summary
The Turkish-Kurdish peace process could have severe effects on the region as a whole, with Iran in particular fearful of repercussions among its own Kurdish communities, writes Ardan Zenturk.

The peace process that provided for the departure of the PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party] terror organization from Turkish territory, political reforms that will follow and disarmament have rattled the Middle East. The country that is suffering most from a panic attack in light of these developments is Iran. Also interesting is how Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad are now on the same line with Tehran.

According to statements of various sources at Kandil [the PKK’s military command in northern Iraq], Iran has been in direct contact with the PKK and has been promising “all kinds of military assistance” if the PKK keeps its military forces in Turkey. It is natural for Iranian officials to deny such reports, but the balance of power in the region indicates that the Iranian government is deeply worried.

Iran thinks that, first, the PKK forces leaving Turkey with their guns might join the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) that is struggling for Iranian Kurdistan. Second, these PKK militants might join the Syrian Kurds and fight against Assad alongside the Free Syrian Army. Both these developments have deadly implications for Tehran's goals in the region.

For the Kurds to achieve a structure that recognizes them and boosts their cultural identity within the framework of a new constitution for the Turkish Republic will be an example to 7 million Kurds in Iran. Such a scenario will be a nightmare for Tehran, which has been executing unarmed Sunni activists and has been oppressing the people in the Kurdistan region, above all the Sunni Kurds.

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Also, the likelihood of the Syrian Kurds with their own identity of turning toward Turkey in time, just as the autonomous Kurdish administration in northern Iraq did, will leave Iran alone to face its own Kurdish problem.

It is inevitable that the steps Ankara took by recognizing Abdullah Ocalan as an interlocutor are going to cause a political tsunami beyond our borders. The recent chain of events, including the martyrdom of one of our policemen at the Akcakale border crossing, is a sign of the extraordinarily tense times we are experiencing:

1. The massacre in the Sunni-majority city of Hawija by the Iraqi federal army attached to the prime minister, which was carried out under the pretext of searching for weapons, has led to the armament of Sunni Arab tribes in the Anbar region. Clearly, the Sunni Arab-Kurdish alliance is preparing for a final showdown and Iraq is heading to a “Syrian-style” civil war centered on Kirkuk.

2. The massacres by the Syrian army attached to the Baathist regime in Damascus and shabiha militias in the village of Al-Baida is an important sign that the Middle East is heading toward an inevitable Sunni-Shiite conflict. Claims that the Baath regime is using chemical weapons make the Syrian situation graver.

Sadly, the Middle East is feeling hot winds from the Sunni-Shiite war on the Iraq-Syria-Lebanon line. Such settling of scores carries heavy risks for Kurdish, Turkmen, Syrian and Christian minorities living in that region.

What is important is to survive these scenarios.

To use Erdogan and Davutoglu’s Syria policies for domestic political opposition means ignoring the big picture in the Middle East. This is a major war that will most likely result in a redrawing of borders in the region.

It is obvious that the Turkey is trying to develop rational countermeasures against these developments, and feels the urgency of putting its own house in order in light of the turmoil beyond its borders.

Now more than ever, the Turkish flag must be a symbol of unity instead of division. That flag, as a symbol of a powerful state, will provide safety to the people of Anatolia and their kin in the Middle East. As much as the Turks, the Kurds must also understand this. If not, what we are facing is a great tragedy that we won’t be able to justify to our grandchildren.

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Found in: recep tayyip erdogan, davutoglu
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