Along its eastern borders, Turkey is forging closer ties with its neighbors—reinventing relationships that date back to when Ottoman Turkey was the colonial master of much of the Middle East. And small wonder, considering what is happening on Turkey’s western flank. In Brussels, Turkey has found its hopes of joining the European Union snubbed by Turko-skeptics like France’s Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany’s Angela Merkel, who have talked of a kind of second-rank “associate” membership instead.
At the same time, Ankara’s old NATO ally the United States has—in Turkish eyes—not only destabilized its neighborhood with a reckless war in Iraq, but also failed to clean up the mess it has made by refusing to crack down on Kurdish guerrillas in Qandil. And while dozens of Turkish soldiers have died in Kurdish rebel ambushes, the U.S. Congress has been spending its time considering a resolution that would label the massacres of Ottoman Armenians a “genocide,” one of the most controversial episodes in modern Turkish history. “Turkey will not move away from the West by its choice,” says Ahmet Davutoglu, chief foreign-policy adviser to Turkey’s prime minister. “But if Western countries continue to make the same mistakes, Turkey has other alternatives.” [complete article]
The Turkish government is coming under enormous domestic pressure to crush Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, but even as rebel positions are shelled and tens of thousands of troops moved to the border, leaders are reluctant to invade, fearing international isolation and a military quagmire.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan would prefer to avoid a full-scale invasion, according to people familiar with his thinking, and is pursuing diplomatic options. His government is also considering using economic leverage by rerouting valuable trade away from Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdistan region, where the Turkish Kurd rebels have found safe harbor. [complete article]
A low-slung concrete building off a steep mountain road marks the beginning of rebel territory in this remote corner of northern Iraq. The fighters based here, Kurdish militants fighting Turkey, fly their own flag, and despite urgent international calls to curb them, they operate freely, receiving supplies in beat-up pickup trucks less than 10 miles from a government checkpoint.
“Our condition is good,” said one fighter, putting a heaping spoonful of sugar into his steaming tea. “How about yours?” A giant face of the rebels’ leader — Abdullah Ocalan, now in a Turkish prison — has been painted on a nearby slope.
The rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., is at the center of a crisis between Turkey and Iraq that began when the group’s fighters killed 12 Turkish soldiers on Oct. 21, prompting Turkey, a NATO member, to threaten an invasion.
But the P.K.K. continues to operate casually here, in full view of Iraqi authorities. The P.K.K.’s impunity is rooted in the complex web of relationships and ambitions that began with the American-led invasion of Iraq more than four years ago, and has frustrated others with an interest in resolving the crisis — the Turks, Iraqis and the Bush administration. [complete article]
See also, Amid war drums, Turkey’s Kurds fear loss of rights (CSM) and A missed moment In Iraq (Henri J. Barkey).