With respect to Martin Zehr the author of the articl1411e “US Foreign Policy on Kurdistan Alienates Kurds and Provokes Regional Conflagration” can I ask him what the Turkish people should expect their government’s response to be when there are PKK related bombs going off in western Turkey and attacks on Turkish military personnel in North Kurdistan?
MZ: Peter, thank you for raising the issue in the manner that you have. I hope my reply addresses both the spirit and substance of your questions. I also hope that I am accurate on both the flow of current events and the historical record in my response. To qualify my response I have to admit that I am an observer of events here and not a participant. I have NO connections with Presidents Talibani or Barzani and have not been to southern Kurdistan so I do not speak from first hand experience. Secondly, I am an advocate for non-violence, but I am also enough of a student of history to understand the character of change and how easily violence becomes the last resort for it, and sometimes the preferred one. I am a believer in the ability of the Kurdish nation to advance non-violently.This requires among other things the centralization of political and military authority for all of Kurdistan in one governing body. In the unity statement of Kurdish parties in northern Kurdistan, the PKK was advised to restrict the level of their current activities. This becomes difficult to administer and enforce when authority is dispersed as it appears to be now. So, the first issue is that I see a need for change in this that would address your concerns.
MZ: However, I do NOT see the activity in northern Kurdistan to be the root cause for the Turkish troop movements on the border. Turkey is much more concerned with the potential of the Kirkuk Referendum than it is about minor guerilla activity. Its military actions and provocations are directed towards preventing the referendum guaranteed under Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution. After all, the Turks had not qualms about resettlement and mass casualties of Kurdish villages for the last 20 years, why would they think it would end now by invading southern Kurdistan? Further, if the Kirkuk Referendum would restore Kirkuk after the actions of Saddam Hussein in Arabizing it why would Turkey have anything at all to say about this. Certainly the Kurds have never made their intentions a secret. “Notwithstanding the benefits of the 1991 Gulf war, the Kurds lost a big chunk of Southern Kurdistan to the former Iraqi regime. Some 40 percent of Southern Kurdistan was ethnically cleansed and Arabized by the former regime. The reversal of the consequences of ethnic cleansing and Arabization of the lost territories should become the paramount objective of the Kurdish leadership. ”
I am 100% for the creation of the Kurdish state but I understand that the Turks have a right to defend themselves, their people and the tourists that visit their country. By seeking asylum in South Kurdistan PKK has brought the battle into the heartland of the KRG. Of course Masoud Barzani “expresses” his unanimity with any Kurdish fighters, then he returns to counting his money. He would prefer it if they buggered off and left him to consolidate his kingdom but he dare not be seen to be against any Kurdish “freedom” movement.
MZ: The right to self-defense also exists for the Kurds of southern Kurdistan, who have NOT invaded anyone. They have justly sought to implement the current Iraqi Constitution. If President Barzani does not criticize a Kurdish movement at this time, this would indeed seem to be a major change from a not so distant past when conflict raged between KDP, PKK and PUK. Certainly, this fratricidal conflict is not preferable to the unity being extended at this point. Agreed?
MZ:The issue of corruption implied in the statement should be explained more in detail, as I am not familiar with President Barzani’s money counting habits. Supporting Kurdish independence is a very concrete exercise at this time. It can be demonstrated by supporting the existence of the Kurdish Autonomous Region and the implementation of the Kirkuk Referendum. Vote on the issue first, then debate its implications after the results are in. It is certainly worth our while to empower the Kurdish people to act on their own behalf and there is currently little international activity that is seeking to do that. The fact that Kirkuk’s integration would facilitate the ability of the Kurdish nation to be economic self-sufficient would be a victory for the cause of Kurdish independence. Certainly a demilitarized zone around the northern border would provide a buffer against Turkish provocations.Turkey should pay attention to its own state and not seek to invade, occupy or deny the rights of others.
And there is the rub, is the PKK a “freedom” movement? I see it as an organisation for the celebration and canonisation of Abdulah Ocelan, not for the benefit of the Kurdish people. I detest the “victim mentality” that certain peoples use to aid their political arguments and Kurds have avoided that so far despite suffering outrage after outrage.
MZ: You are entitled to view the PKK from a distance however you choose. Abdullah Ocalan has had some of his own critical comments as well. “True, “the PKK has made mistakes.” Ocalan acknowledged this. But “compared to what Turkey had done to the Kurds over the years, it should be obvious who is the real terrorist.” In the context of contemporary Turkish military actions against Kurds, condemned by the EU among others, it is difficult to justify the invasion of a nation of 5-6 million people. One has to wonder what one has to do with the other unless the Kirkuk Referendum is put on the table, then the Turkish motivations become evident.
To accuse Turkey of being unreasonable in going after PKK is absurd. If PKK attacks Turkish citizens or military personnel it is a viable target. I stand by Kurdistan but I will not stand by Ocelan’s dictatorship. You are asking a militarist nation to be hit and to not strike back. That is madness. How are you going to condemn anything they do when TAK bombs are killing western tourists and Turkish civilians?
MZ: More to the point, Peter, Abdullah Ocalan remains in prison but the Turkish military remains in control of Turkey. Further, there are plenty of signs that the other Kurdish forces are seeking to unite with the PKK even while they advise caution. “Those same Kurdish forces in Turkey that united on a Unity Declaration also wisely advised: “In this way, we are calling out to PKK, to be far away from actions and operations which are handicaps and obstacles for the Leadership of South Kurdistan Region.” It is difficult to promote restraint when President Barzani himself is being personally targeted by the head of the Turkish General Staff. Can more be done? Maybe. But if the intent by the Turkish military is to stop the Kirkuk Referendum, than the question is will such a cessation benefit the Kurds in southern Kurdistan or will it be detrimental in implementing Article 140 at the demand of the Turkish military.
Please let’s be reasonable here, a Turdish life is the same value as a Kurdish life is the same value as a British life etc. If PKK stop its attacks and reins in the idiots in TAK so there are no more bombs in the west, the Turks will not feel the need to make such public attacks. The military will also not have the justification for such attacks.
MZ: The Turkish military is already working with the United States as revealed by columnist Robert Novak to assassinate PKK leadership and violate Kurdish territory. The justification for its actions lies in its opposition to Kurdish independence and in the acquisition of a stable economic resource that would be acquired by integration of Kirkuk into the Kurdish Autonomous Region. There is no NEED for any Turkish invasion. The Turks had the right to prevent US troops from going through Turkey to invade Iraq. They certainly do NOT have the right to invade now. Not to assassinate President Barzani, not to seize Kirkuk, and certainly not to prevent the referendum. The 1998 CIA Factbook states that Turkey spends about $7 billion a year on the war with the PKK, which contributed to a 99% inflation rate for 1998 and a national debt equal to half the government’s revenue. The situation in northern Kurdistan has changed significantly since the cease-fire declared unilaterally by the PKK.
At precisely the moment when the corrupt and nepotistic regimes of Barzani and Talabani were actually creating (by chance, not design) a nation called Kurdistan, the PKK managed to reunite the USA and Turkey against Kurdish interests. Nice one Ocelan’s boys. What do you fools do for an encore? Set the Kurdish independence movement back another 500 years to further your own petty aims? Biji Ocelan? I don’t think so….
MZ: There are certainly plenty of criticisms to go around, but it is hardly news that Turkey and the US have been actively engaged together in attempting to crush the PKK and destroy any Kurdish political resistance that might lead to independence. There is right now a Kurdish Regional Government. There is right now a Kurdish Autonomous Region. There is right now a Kurdish Region Guard for self-defense. This is what Turkey wants to change. Its agenda is no less than to destroy and undermine ANY Kurdish national entity that it does not dominate or control. You might also want to recognize that between 1980 and 1999 the US exported $11.551 billion in arms, $4.627 billion in grant aid (none since 1992), and $1.982 billion in direct loans (none since 1997) Further, transfers of U.S. Weapons to Turkey Under the CFE (Conventional Forces in Europe) Treaty, 1991-1993 included: 264 M-60A1 main battle tanks,658 M-60A3 main battle tanks, 250 M-113 armor personnel carriers and 72 M-110 Artillery. Between 1994 and 2003 , Turkey took delivery of more than $6.8 billion in U.S. weaponry and services. Ending military aid for Turkey is certainly a preferable option to assassination of Kurdish leaders.
This e-mail is confidential and privileged. If you are not the intended recipient please accept my apologies; please do not disclose, copy or distribute information in this e-mail or take any action in reliance on its contents: to do so is strictly prohibited and may be unlawful. Please inform me that this message has gone astray before deleting it. Thank you for your co-operation.
DEBATE – PKK and American policy: A Response to Peter Stitt