Wednesday,20 March, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1362, (28 September - 4 October 2017)
Wednesday,20 March, 2019
Issue 1362, (28 September - 4 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Kurdish earthquake hits Turkey

The Turkish media machine has been warning of imminent dangers facing the region as a result of this week’s referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, reports Sayed Abdel-Meguid in Ankara

Kurdish earthquake hits Turkey
Kurdish earthquake hits Turkey

اقرأ باللغة العربية

Commentators in Turkey this week were saying that the referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan from the rest of Iraq was an “earthquake” for the country whose aftershocks could trigger Arab-Kurdish wars and result in yet more suffering and destruction in the region.

The “mistake” of the referendum, as former Turkish president Abdullah Gul described it, would make matters worse in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk where Turkmen, Arabs and Kurds live, commentators said.

In short, “Turkey is facing the most destructive plot after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the construction of the republic on its ruins.”

Since the event was a “terrible disaster,” steps were needed to contain it, but so far these have not happened. But it should not be hard, if the very fabric of Anatolia is under threat, as some have claimed, for the Turkish government and main political parties to reach agreement on extending sending soldiers overseas.

The only exception to this has been the Turkish Kurdish Democratic People’s Party, which has demonstrated support for its ethnic group in pursuing the dream of an independent Kurdistan. With the separation of this core territory from the rest of Iraq, other Kurdish areas will “fall like dominoes,” the argument goes, and those in southeast Anatolia will return to the homeland.

It has also been easy for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and key players in his regime to find enthusiastic support among neighbours in the region on the question of Kurdish independence.

The danger of separatism will destroy other countries besides Turkey, because it would jeopardise their unity and the cohesion of their homeland. Iran, for example, is living through a honeymoon phase with Turkey, and relations are inching closer in cooperation that has been unprecedented for decades.

 Iraq has also announced its participation in military exercises on the border with Iran, which until recently it described as “an occupying power” due to the crisis over the Bashiqa military camp and the proximity of Iranian army units near Mosul.

“There is no option but to stand together in the face of a separatist enemy,” claims the Anatolian media machine, warning against the imminent danger threatening the region. Turkish media outlets are focusing on such threats, demanding immediate action against the “Kurdistan province” of Iraq starting with a siege, strangling it economically, shutting down the Kirkuk-Yumurtalic oil pipeline which rakes in $10 billion to $12 billion annually, and concluding in military action.

In this cacophony, the Turkish president has threatened military action similar to Operation Euphrates Shield when Turkish forces pushed into Syria and stayed there for seven months. He seems to have forgotten, however, that this operation did not achieve its goals and killed dozens of Turkish soldiers.

The ruling Turkish Justice and Development Party (JDP) has taken the lead in mobilising public condemnation of the Kurds, and it has even collaborated with the Turkish left and secularists in unveiling behind the referendum the hands of the “colluding West.”

As part of such public mobilisation, there have been condemnations of “the cursed Zionists” and “the great Satan” of the US that supports “the traitor” Masoud Barzani, the leader of Iraqi Kurdistan.

One key image circulating on social media has been the dozens of people gathering outside the residence of the Israeli ambassador in Ankara last week to protest against support for Barzani. Meanwhile, Erdogan was meeting with Jewish groups in New York for “very important discussions” behind closed doors and away from the media.

The Turkish opposition, which always accuses the government of double standards, “insulting Israel in public but making deals with it behind the scenes,” took advantage of the situation to renew its accusations and confirm that the ongoing fuss over Iraqi Kurdistan would not continue to escalate or end in military action.

Washington, and its agent Israel, would never allow this to happen, it said. As well as such red lines, there are also already differing views within the circles of power in Turkey, manifesting in contradictory statements about closing the borders, later denied, or a flight ban, also denied within hours.

Ankara, in shock over Washington’s position on the referendum, will have to be more realistic about its weaker position and its diminishing influence.

The alliance with Iran will also not be beneficial, since Tehran, verbally fuming, will not take action. Instead of assisting Baghdad in closing ranks and overcoming divisions, it has been promoting sectarian and doctrinal agendas that have fractured Iraq.

Barzani was not mistaken when he stated that the central Iraqi government had “forced” the Kurds to secede.

What Turkey had feared the most is thus becoming reality on the ground. Observers have revealed that a key portion of US arms now goes to the Kurds in Sinjar and their extension the Kurdish People’s Protection Units in northern Syria. The plan is to open a corridor to the Mediterranean Sea, but the question is whether this can happen without a green light from the Pentagon.

The genie of Kurdish secession has been released. Observers are not mistaken when they say it has been done under the auspices of the US and with the silence of Russia.

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