11 June 2012

Interesting Development on the Kurdish Question

In my effort to bolster my image of international man of mystery I have been traveling quite a bit this year.

As luck would have it, I found myself in Turkey just around the time an important news story was breaking. It was lucky because Western media outlets did not cover it at all and if I wasn't there I would not have known about it.

After months of belligerent rhetoric and aggressive military action against the PKK, the Turkish government suddenly stopped, made a U-turn and announced a major initiative to solve the Kurdish problem. Actually, the initiative came from the main opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP).
The social democrat party introduced its 10-point package that foresees the establishment of two commissions, inside and outside Parliament, to shape the way to solve the Kurdish issue and end violence that has claimed the lives of nearly 40,000 people since the early 1980s.
It was a surprise for most observers as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been giving the impression that it was ready to render CHP completely ineffectual by forming an alliance with the ultra-nationalistic National Action Party (MHP) in drafting the country's new constitution.

While the initiative came from the CHP, under normal circumstances PM Erdogan simply ignores such efforts as he has a very comfortable majority in Parliament. In fact, the two only met once since 2010 when Kilicdaroglu became the leader of the CHP and this was the second time.

In that sense, it was surprising that he would agree to such a meeting and conclude that meeting with the announcement that he was determined to go ahead with this initiative even if other parties such as the MHP would refuse to join this historic undertaking.

The other interesting question is that the why CHP came up with such an initiative since it opposed the original Kurdish initiative launched by Erdogan in 2009.

The answer to both questions is obvious to my tiny readership as we were expecting a Kurdish initiative for months. Kilicdaroglu provided much needed cover to Erdogan by starting the process.

If my initial hypothesis was correct, the PKK might have overplayed its hand in Syria and might find itself sidelined in the process that might lead to the creation of a Kurdish homeland.

My guess is that the government and the CHP will take steps to reduce the importance of the PKK: They have just announced an oil pipeline between Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq and Turkey. Apparently, Turkey asked the KRG to take measures to remove the PKK from its territory.
“To me it’s clear. Ankara is in a trade off with the KRG. In exchange for cutting the life lines of the PKK in northern Iraq, Turkey will buy the energy sources of the KRG - at the expense of antagonizing Baghdad,” the energy expert told me.
Incidentally, antagonizing Baghdad seems like a feature not a bug. Which is also significant in terms of regional power plays, especially with Maliki's major ally to the East.

In any case, the Kurdish initiative in Turkey and the oil pipeline between Turkey and KRG happened about the same time.

Given the importance I attach to the creation of a Kurdish state and the importance of Kurds in settling the Syrian conflict, I believe they are the harbinger of important changes in the region.

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