Oct 14, 2008

Cross-Border Tweaks And Twitters

Though certainly not frantically akin to the complexities inherent U.S. military cross-border excursions into Pakistan, the Turkish situation does perhaps remind us of the interplay such junkets can bring to bear on the complex matrix of perception shaping - for better or worse.

Turkey's AKP government has been engaged in hitherto secretive talks with Iraqi Kurdistan's autonomous regional government (KRG) as part of a new play to come to terms with the PKK's escalating attacks into Turkey from bases inside Iraq - and perhaps more importantly/ realistically as a means of capping Turkish domestic dissatisfaction with how the AKP government is seemingly failing to come to resolving terms with Kurd-related strife.

Simultaneous to the talks, Turkey is conducting cross-border aerial bombardment sorties against PKK bases inside Iraqi Kurdistan and has done so ever since October 3 when a PKK commando unit launched an attack from within Iraq against the border posting of Aktutun, smoking 17 Turkish soldiers.

Ankara seems somewhat set on reaching a cooperation agreement (i.e. a commitment by the KRG to deploy military assets against the PKK, though Kurds aren't exactly known for whacking other Kurds en masse - especially when such internecine action risks coming off as running errands for foreign meddlers) - or at the very least, and perhaps foremost so - Ankara appears adamant in shaping a perception among its domestic audience of evolving a new predisposition towards fielding a wider spectrum of approaches vis-à-vis the pesky Kurd.

By opening up an official dialogue with the Kurds - albeit with Iraqi Kurds - the AKP government hopes to sufficiently quell escalating domestic voices pressuring Ankara to take a more political and culturally accommodating approach to some of the not entirely unreasonable aspirations of their own Kurds - if only to erode the PKK's popular base. The KRG's prime minister Nechirvan Barzani is soon bound for Ankara so perhaps some modicum of sly win-win gambit is gaining traction.

From previously making due with boomeranging out blame across the fence at the Iraqi Kurds for tolerating and supporting the PKK, the AKP government's new maneuver to appease domestic audiences by publicly announcing that dialogue with the Kurds is no longer taboo seems not all that mute . Almost as to underscore quelling intentions, Turkish President Gül is pretty much already on his way to Emerald City to liaise with President Jalal Talabani and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari - both conveniently Kurds. If nothing deployably pointy comes out of the karsilamas then at least the top level posturing will perhaps work the AKP's way as a placating gesture to shore up the rustling domestic flank.

Iraqi Kurdistan's KRG has also been voicing a change in tone towards the PKK with the likes of a "Hey PKK, `nuff with those riling cross border excursions into Turkey or you'll have to move on elsewhere" or a "Yo Gül, we're always open for a constructive discussion on mutual problems". So far however, it's been all smoke and no neighbourly Ka-boom from the KRG.

Come end of day, one of our less skewed guesses would be that it will take a not so minor doctrinal revolution among the shadow-casters of the deep state establishment before any decisively empowered lurking Turk seriously considers deploying approaches beyond the capacity of what the Neo-Ottoman's old kinetic toolbox has to offer. Public sentiment inside Turkey still has a funny knack of often cascading a little short of what many might feel is far enough.

And now to an article in another day's Today's Zaman

A Turkish delegation headed by Turkey's special envoy to Iraq, Murat Özçelik, had talks with Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani in Baghdad on Tuesday, in a landmark meeting to discuss cooperation against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which launches attacks on Turkey from its northern Iraqi bases.

Speaking after the talks, Turkey's first official contact with the Kurdish leader in recent years, Özçelik declined to make specific comments on the content of the discussions but said he had outlined what could be done in the fight against terrorism, adding that Barzani responded "positively" to Turkey's demands.

The Iraqi Kurds, for their part, said they are ready to work with Turkey to find a solution. "The two sides agreed to turn a new page and continue talks," said Faisal Dabbagh, a spokesman for Barzani. He stated that the Kurdish leader said the terror problem should be resolved through politics and dialogue and that the Kurdish administration was ready to give support in every way.

"This was the first meeting in a long time. The meeting was positive. It was a good step to develop ties," senior Kurdish official Fouad Hussein told the private Cihan news agency.

Turkey notes that there has been a change in the Kurdish administration's rhetoric on Turkey's anti-PKK efforts recently, but complains no visible progress has been achieved in meeting a set of concrete expectations. Ankara expects the Iraqi Kurds to arrest and extradite PKK chieftains, to designate the group a terrorist organization and to close down PKK-linked organizations operating in northern Iraq.

Ankara had refused to talk to the Iraqi Kurds, accusing them of supporting the PKK. Özçelik and the chief foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, Ahmet Davuto?lu, met with Kurdish official Nechirvan Barzani in May, launching an era of dialogue with the Kurdish administration.

Yesterday's talks with Massoud Barzani are a test proving whether dialogue with the Iraqi Kurds could pave the way for cooperation against the PKK, according to Turkish officials.

The Turkish delegation also met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The meeting in Baghdad underscores the pressure facing the Turkish government to respond forcefully to attacks launched by the PKK from its mountain camps in Kurdish-run northern Iraq. Maliki expressed regret over an Oct. 3 attack that killed 17 Turkish soldiers and said the Iraqi people were "ashamed" that the PKK is using the Iraqi territory to launch attacks on Turkey. He also said this "trouble" should be removed.

The talks in Baghdad come as President Abdullah Gül prepares to visit Iraq. The presidency has denied recent reports in the Turkish media that he has been also invited to Arbil during his stay. Speaking yesterday before traveling to Germany to inaugurate an international book fair, Gül said he is planning to go to Baghdad but declined to comment on details, saying no date has yet been set. "I earlier announced my intention to travel to Baghdad, but work to set a date and a schedule for this visit has not yet started," Gül said.

The level and intensity of future talks are likely to be determined based on the results from yesterday's talks with Massoud Barzani. The government, cautious about the possible failure of talks with Barzani, had avoided top-level meetings with the Iraqi Kurdish leader, expecting him to take more steps to prove his commitment to supporting Turkey's anti-terror efforts. Nechirvan Barzani raised hopes about cooperation against the PKK, calling for dialogue with Ankara to discuss possible cooperation.


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M1 said...

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