Turkey’s invasion of northern Iraq could lead to a Kurdish civil war
After 2012, far from welcoming the emergence of Kurdish autonomy in neighboring northern Syria, the PDK shared Turkey’s horror at the region’s adoption of the philosophy of the founder of the Kurdish Workers’ Party, Abdullah Öcalan, and imposed an embargo on the region.
Then, in 2014, when ISIS swept Iraq, the PKK came out of the mountains and helped push it back from the gates of Erbil – and the leader of the KDP, Masoud Barzani, came personally to thank them. But that is quickly erased from memory.
If Turkey persuades the PKK to take action against the PKK, it will put the PKK in a doubly difficult position. The group then not only has one more enemy, but every move it makes against the KDP-Peshmerga armed forces is used as propaganda by Turkey.
The PKK does not want to be seen fighting other Kurds either, but its troops can be used to cut off the PKK’s supply lines in order to facilitate the killing of the Turkish military and its mercenaries.
The current invasion is both a continuation of previous battles and something more dangerous. This is not only due to Turkish drones, which make it difficult for guerrilla forces to move undetected. The political situation is also different.
Turkish President Erdoğan is a man of great personal ambition, and the main obstacle to his ambition is the Kurds. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) is the only consistent political opposition in Turkey. The neighboring countries that Erdoğan desires have a large Kurdish population that has increasingly gained autonomy. Erdoğan tried to gain support by promoting peace with the Kurds, but the votes instead went to the HDP, stripping it of its entire majority.
In 2015, he turned his back on the peace negotiations and instead tried to build support through an increasingly authoritarian nationalist agenda. When his popularity with the economy collapsed in 2015, he tried to counter it through ethno-religious populism, crackdown on any opposition within Turkey, and an increasingly aggressive foreign policy. Erdoğan’s foreign wars are an immediate distraction from the problems at home and fuel his neo-Ottoman dreams.
The situation may seem stubborn, but there is a simple solution. If the same energy could be invested in reviving the peace negotiations between Turkey and the PKK as in the fight against ISIS, the future could be very different: much more in line with what international leaders claim to believe, if not so bright for the defense industry. The PKK has long been ready for such negotiations. Peace delegations need to be welcomed, not closed.