Barzani in the role of Hamas
When it comes to Kurdish terror, the solutions become blurred and the similarity between Turkey and Israel grows stronger.
ANKARA - The 10 people killed in the large Kurdish city of Diyarbakir are the latest victims of a wave of terrorism sweeping Turkey attributed to the Kurdish separatist underground, the PKK. Turkey enjoyed five years of relative quiet after the PKK declared a cease-fire, and it seems that this terror is now Turkey's main concern, shunting aside the Iranian nuke or Al-Qaida's threats.
In Turkish government offices, one can already hear the remorse over how not enough was done to develop the impoverished Kurdish region in the past decade. Private and government investments came in at a trickle, and tens of thousands of Kurdish families do not have even a single source of income. And Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is again beseeching his business friends to transfer at least some enterprises to the southeast of the country, the Kurdish region.
Here, rightly so, they do not speak about imported terror, Al-Qaida's responsibility or the Iranian export of terrorism, as is customary in a number of Middle Eastern countries. "Our terrorism is homegrown," says a senior Turkish official - and so is the way it is handled. As in Israel, strategic threats seem smaller when confronting local terror. Thus, for example, Turkey believes there is no need to impose sanctions on Iran.
More precisely, Turkey is quite afraid of sanctions, which are liable to dampen the enormous amounts of trade between the two countries - some $4.5 billion. And what about the nuclear threat? "We are protected. After all, we're members of NATO, which has nuclear weapons. Anyone wishing to attack Turkey knows he is facing an arsenal capable of annihilating him," explains a government strategist.
But when it comes to Kurdish terror, the solutions become blurred and the similarity between Turkey and Israel grows stronger. "This is an organization that aspires to establish an independent Kurdish state and to divide Turkey," says one senior Turk. In his view, this includes not only the PKK but also the person suspected of aiding the PKK, Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish region in Iraq. According to the Turkish government, Barzani provides a convenient refuge to PKK personnel in the Kandil mountains on Turkey's border, and supplies them with food and perhaps even weapons. One theory even claims Barzani is seeking to exploit PKK terror attacks as leverage for forcing Turkey to recognize him and to achieve political gains.
And why not conduct negotiations with Barzani? The responses of the Turkish officials sound as if they were formulated in Jerusalem. "We do not conduct negotiations with someone who gives refuge to terrorists," they say in Ankara, even though it appears only negotiation is liable to facilitate security cooperation. This is because Turkey is still finding it difficult to decide which danger is greater - Kurdish terrorism or a Kurdish state on its southern border, on the Iraqi side. Recognizing Barzani as president of the Kurdish region and engaging in political negotiations with him would likely be interpreted as readiness to recognize the formation of a Kurdish state in Iraq and would be seen as a gift for someone perceived as a PKK supporter. But ignoring Barzani makes it easier for the terrorists to cross from northern Iraq into Turkey.
"It is impossible to solve the problem of terror through military means exclusively," the Turkish publicist Mehmet Ali Birand wrote courageously this week. "Sending soldiers into Iraq or imposing a military regime on southeast Turkey will not help on its own." He proposes that all Turkish governmental institutions - that is, the army, which has argued all these years that it has the solution, and the government, which has accepted the army's view - join to forge a long-term policy that also addresses the political question of the Kurds. Birand stopped here and did not go on to formulate a desirable political solution in order to avoid being charged with harming homeland unity or, even worse, with supporting terror. But his intention is entirely obvious.
Meanwhile, Turkey is addressing the problem from the most convenient, yet ineffective, place: It will try to mobilize Washington to pressure Barzani to prevent terrorists from crossing the border, or it will try to get Iraq's helpless government to guard its northern border. Anything except talking politics directly with Hamas - sorry, I mean the Kurdish leadership.