Turkey’s Double War on ISIS and PKK

*Giving the current operation conducted by Turkey against the PKK and the statement made by some of the PKK’s cadres, is Kurdish peace process over?

Well, I’ve been calling it a “cease-fire,” not a peace process. A true peace process requires a genuine intention from both sides for a long-term disarm194118ament. It was never seriously considered by either Erdogan’s AKP or the PKK. A public theater was played until most critical elections in Turkey and Erdogan lost. Now, before another round of negotiations, Erdogan would like to get a leverage. That’s why he now targets HDP politicians and crushing their urban activists by police raids. “They need to pay the price” he explicitly said. It’s such a public message not only threatens all dissidents of the regime but also consolidates AKP-base around his authoritative leadership, which has been challenged after the elections.

*There have been and are serious allegations regarding the alleged support given by then-Erdogan’s government to the ISIS (a number of trucks sent by Turkish government were captured while carrying military equipment to radical groups in Syria). What is your take on that?

Now, it’s no secret that Erdogan and Davutoglu chose to support Al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda affiliate, and some other Islamists against the Assad regime. Some of these radicals joined ISIS when the group has become a leading faction in Syria. What strikes me, however, is that Turkish government’s inexplicable failure to detain ISIS militants in Istanbul, Ankara, Konya, and border cities. ISIS recruitment in Turkey is a serious issue and almost 50 per cent of those joining ISIS from Turkey are Kurds. So, from the same neighborhood in a Kurdish town, you have two group of people going to Syria: one is joining ISIS, and the other for PKK/PYD/YGP. Simply, Turkish citizens killing one another in Syria. What will happen to these fighters when they come back to their hometowns? By enabling ISIS to flourish, Turkish government paves the way for Pakistanization of Turkey. Pakistani officials did not foresee how Taliban could be a source of instability in domestic sphere.

*Turkish government has been talking to PKK since a while for the resolution of Kurdish Question. Why is that Turkish government decided to break the ceasefire and leave the Kurdish Question to the mercy of military?

Again, this is a tactical shift by Erdogan in order to get a leverage before another round of peace talks. I expect that there will be another term of cease-fire but never a serious peace process. It is quite difficult, for not only PKK but also moderate Kurds, to trust Erdogan again. As long as Erdogan rules Turkey, we may expect to see a circle of cease-fires followed by short-periods of violence. So, what we observe here is a “controlled violence.” That may explain both the logic of violence by both the Turkish government and the PKK.

*Why is Turkish government conducting a twin-track against ISIS and the PKK in the same time?

The primary target in recent operations are PKK affiliates. Yet, as Turkey prepares to establish a security zone in Syria, the AKP government would like to convince the United States that ISIS cells in Turkey are targeted more forcefully. At the end, this is a deal between US and Turkey, and the focus of the talks is ISIS.

*What might be the impact of current operations on Turkey’s domestic politics in general and on the upcoming early election in particular?

This deal enables Erdogan a come-back as charismatic/unquestionable leader of the new Turkey. It is widely perceived as Erdogan’s winning Washington’s support. This is a big deal in domestic politics of countries like Turkey. We know that Prime Minister Davutoglu is eager to make a coalition with the CHP, the main opposition party. Erdogan perceives such a coalition “too risky” for his authority, and therefore, calls for an early election in November. So, the current escalation of violence, in fact, perpetuates Erdogan’s narrative that he is the man of stability, and thus, Turkey cannot prevail chaos without a strong President. Of course, such obsessive intrusion to domestic politics irritates Davutoglu and his team. In the case of an early election, Davutoglu may even lose his leadership position because there is an upcoming AKP party Congress in August. There are rumors in Ankara circles that Erdogan would like to lobby for Binali Yildirim or a similar malleable figure for the AKP leadership.

Source: Rethink Institute