‘Erdoğan wants to prolong his power with dreams of a new Ottoman Empire’

If Turkey manages to resolve the “Kurdish issue” with a new military operation

Turkey recently began Tiger Claw military operation in the north of Iraq to “get rid of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and other terrorist elements jeopardising the security of the Turkish people and borders”. The transborder military actions designed by Ankara raised concerns in the international community. In a column written for Realnoe Vremya, Director General of International Institute for the Development of Scientific Cooperation Arif Asalıoğlu claims that with this military operation Erdoğan is performing his personal political tasks on the threshold of the presidential elections in the country. The Turkish political expert thinks that the “Kurdish issue” will just exacerbate.

Views of AKP and MHP executives lead Turkey to big crisis

Turkey’s Ministry of Defence continues the operation Tiger Claw against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is banned in the country, on the territory of the Iraqi region Haftanin. Turkish troops have already entered the Haftanin region to carry out the operation to “get rid of the PKK and other terrorist elements jeopardising the security of the Turkish people and borders”.

Kurdish leaders commented on the operation of Turkey’s armed forces clearly: “Such attempts [of Turkish armed forces] have been made repeatedly, but none of them has provided a visible result. They won’t be able to achieve their goals this time either. The alliance of AKP and MHP (Justice and Development Party and Nationalist Movement Party) worsens the situation from social, political, economic, psychological and moral perspectives. They are just trying to extend their existence”.

Hegemonic views of executives of the AKP and MHP ruling coalition are bringing Turkey to a big crisis. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants to prolong his power with dreams of a new Ottoman Empire. But such ideas just threaten Turkey with various troubles.

Century-old “Kurdish deadlock”

The stance of Turkey, especially on Iraqi and Syrian Kurds, resembles a political style named in diplomacy as a zero-sum game. There is the Justice and Development Party (AKP) that, on the one hand, establishes “personal relationships” with the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Iraq Masoud Barzani. At the same time, AKP biases Jalal Talabani’s party Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) against Turkey. On the other hand, the ruling coalition of Turkey doesn’t consider criticism of Gorran Kurdish political movement that comes from Barzani who requires significant changes in the current situation. Moreover, if the Justice and Development Party has any policy on Iraqi Kurds except for the relations with the Barzani family and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, it is manifested too superficially and only in the form of official relationships with Kurdish groups.

At the same time, Turkey’s standpoint on the Kurdistan Regional Government, unfortunately, is very reaction-based bereft of middle-term and long-term prospects, consisting of one-day, even instantaneous reactions. I have to admit that AKP’s this tangled position on Iraqi Kurds is acquiring harsher outlines when Syrian Kurds are the case. Despite the existence of the Kurdistan Regional Government, political and military guarantees of America and tough relations of Ankara with Erbil, Turkey is from the beginning against any Kurdish region that will be created in the north of Syria. Turkish ruling circles think that such a region in the north of Syria won’t obey Ankara as it happened to the Kurdistan Regional Government. And this, in turn, is considered as a threat to national security.

In such countries as Turkey where democracy comes down to “head counting”, the relationships between Turkish tribes and Turkish political parties had long been boiling down to “voice storage”. However, the solution to the Kurdish issue offered by the programme of Turkey’s Workers’ Party, which was created in 1961, was just the beginning. There appeared a lot of people among Kurds in the 1970s who took a liking for left unions. Armed guerrilla opposition became the dominating idea from 1980. Despite this, in the 1990s some representatives of the Kurds became members of the Social Democratic People’s Party, which had seats in the parliament. Later, parties with the majority of Kurds began to appear whose political line coincided with the position of the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (Editor’s Note: PKK is considered a terrorist organisation in Turkey).

Pragmatic aspect of AKP

Since official Ankara didn’t make concessions in the “Kurdish issue”, the armed fight of the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan didn’t leave any hope for a solution. For this reason, it was considered that there had always been some connection between the deep state and the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan. PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan’s some statements (for instance, his speech in the court in 1999) confirmed this assumption, frankly speaking. So the practice of world terrorist groups showed that these formations could be linked with intelligence and other special services regardless of their desire.

So PKK recently wanted to step onto the political stage again after not very successful elections for PKK on 7 June 2015 and actively helped increase votes of supporters of the White Palace (Editor’s Note: the official residence of Turkey’s president) and Erdoğan’s retinue up to 50%. As the number of terrorist attacks increased after the elections that failed for the Justice and Development Party, the society that was concerned about the possible beginning of a civil war backed PKK again for the sake of the country’s survival. And this happened every time, even since the creation, the Worker’s Party of Kurdistan appeared as soon as the deep state needed it, and after the deep state achieved its goals, it stopped the activity of its groups.

Kurds noted such not accidental coincidence in PKK began to support other political parties such as Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). However, some Kurds who weren’t a minority kept thinking PKK fought in their interests. While the state provided evidence that it wasn’t true by all means. As “the price for support for PKK” went up, and villages and people expelled from their places were the price, the Kurds’ liking for PKK didn’t reduce but increased.

As a result, PKK representing the strongest protection in Turkey for Kurds scattered in four countries “managed to protect” a part of the Kurds from the country thanks to a merger with the Marxist guerrilla movement with kindred and ethnic nationalist policy. It just had to integrate the Kurds into the “system” whose identity and culture was officially recognised. So “the-solution-searching-process” that began on Erdoğan and Öcalan’s initiative was accepted by society.

However, a new conflict broke. This time the cities where largely Kurds lived were razed to the ground. Erdoğan’s cooperation with nationalists in the army became a reason for Eagle commanders to go ahead, who are the most successful in the “Kurdish issue”. And here Erdoğan is the best — he gives his interim partners a chance to implement their plans until they have a business with him. After the business is over, they just have to shift the blame on them and go. The examples are to hand: suffice it to mention the case of Freedom Flotilla on Mavi Marmara ship (the conflict near Gaza shores in 2010), the dismissal of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and others.

Independence of the Democratic Union (Editor’s Note: PYD is a left party of Syrian Kurds) in the region will strengthen PKK in Turkey, and if not today, tomorrow such autonomy/independence can become more convenient. Erdoğan and his military advisers’ logic when it comes to the destruction of the Near East resembles a tale “about a captive of talks”. If the Democratic Union refuses its requirements for Syria, it will probably become possible even to “come to the table” with PKK.

Turkey’s insistence regarding PYD opens space for “jihadists” in Syria. The People's Protection Units (Editor’s Note: YPG are armed units of Syrian Kurds) are almost the only military force that directly fights against ISIS and Al-Qaeda (Editor’s Note: both organisations are banned in Russia) in the north of Syria. The threat for YPG on the border with Turkey directly strengthens positions of local “jihadists”. So neither the USA nor Russia like Turkey’s this kind of attitude. As much as sources close to Erdoğan tried to accuse “the tangled policy of the West”, the bid for YPG, which Ankara made up with the USA, and that is often considered as acting dumb bring to a rise in uncertainty in Northern Syria.

How military operations help Erdoğan

With military operations, President Erdoğan tries to perform a lot of tasks. He uses transborder military operations to obtain control over his armed forces and reinforce support for the authorities inside the country, thus eliminating the possibility of an armed coup.

Analyst Ahmed Aboudouh indicates in The Independent that the failed military coup in 2016 increased the government’s fear that militaries would get the power. The article notes that Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party opposed militaries during two big trials where a lot of high-ranking military functionaries, including former and retired executives of the army, were accused of being in cahoots to topple the government and were sentenced to imprisonment. After the coup, AKP just intensified purges in the army and public administration, the author adds.

Despite the turbulence in the army, Turkey began several military operations in Syria, Libya and Northern Iraq. Their deployment promises a lot of benefits for Erdoğan. Firstly, this allows him to keep the armed forces in the iron hand. Such an “argument” will make the militaries thinks twice before going against their president. The military operations also help Erdoğan to strengthen his positions inside the country, especially before the presidential elections in 2023.

In the last weeks, both Europe and the USA have reached a higher level in their official statements and comments in the mass media on criticism of Erdoğan.

There was published information on the website of First News based on the UN report that there were found serious human rights violations in the southeast of Turkey in the operations carried out by the security forces in a region “densely populated by Kurds”. It is also said that in the last 15 months, there have been killed 2,000 people, 800 of which are security service employees. The other 1,200 people (it hasn’t been possible to register the accurate number) have participated in peaceful or military operations against the country. This publication also stressed that over 500,000 people, primarily Kurds, had to leave their homes.

The European mass media announced the beginning of a real investigation by Europe’s special services on Erdoğan’s circle. The press note that together with Germany he created a network of spies in 35 countries. In this respect, the phrase used by Foreign Policy specialised in foreign affairs is considered ambiguously “an army of Muslim clerics...”.

All these events show the following: fate has its own road, and all ends of not the cleanest actions step by step bring to Erdoğan. For how long can he stay given such a reputation? Let’s wait and see...

Actually, Turkey isn’t doing anything new. It insistently keeps doing what it has been doing. In other words, the Turkish authorities, in fact, want to restrict the Kurds’ rights and freedoms, destroy the political will of the people. They want to destroy opposition Kurdish forces both in Turkey, Syria and in the whole region. This is why they continue their attacks. This conflict that began in 1978 grew into an armed fight in 1984 and hasn’t given any results yet. The same is happening now. And there won’t be any real results from the operations carried out.

However, the Kurdish problem that will cost Turkish society higher will get worse. The economic, political, social stake will rise. And in these conditions, the alliance of AKP and MHP is trying to prolong its existence. But this is impossible now. However, the bills Turkish society is paying are going up in price.

Ankara cant ignore Moscow

However, all these events don’t show a negative influence on the relations between Ankara and Moscow. There are very important moments both countries take into account. Russia is one of the key players on the world’s political stage. Thanks to its huge territory on the Eurasian continent, it possesses considerable power. Due to its geopolitical weight, Moscow can establish special relations with such superpowers as the USA, China and the European Union. The rich natural resources, first of all, oil and natural gas also help the Kremlin play a key role in the world energy policy.

At the same time, Russia is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council occupying a privileged position in world politics compared to other countries. On the other hand, Russia is one of the few countries that can demonstrate power on a global scale, as it is one of the two leading nuclear powers together with the USA... Ankara in this situation can’t ignore this power and Moscow’s stance and has to consider the opinion of its major political partner.

By Arif Asalıoğlu for Realnoe Vremya