- The Washington Times - Monday, May 1, 2006

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Turkey last week made one thing clear: Turks should stop expecting any U.S. military action against separatist Kurdish terrorists.

Miss Rice also made clear that the United States will not tolerate any incursion by the Turkish troops into Northern Iraq to pursue PKK terrorists. “[W]e want anything we do to contribute to the stability in Iraq and not threaten the stability or make a difficult situation worse,” she said. “And that is why a cooperative approach to this problem, cooperation between Iraq, Turkey and the coalition is very important.”

In the meantime, when Miss Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld paid a surprise visit to the Iraqi capital, the Iraqi Kurds in the Baghdad government told Ankara that Turkey has no right to cross the border to go after PKK terrorists. The Turkish military denied accusations that it had.

Interestingly, both the United States and Iraq seem to be uniting around a policy that justifies encouraging PKK attacks. Otherwise, there is no reason for the PKK to restart its attacks.

Turkey’s accession talks with the European Union clearly acknowledge its democratization process. Turkey has begun broadcasting in Kurdish, and Kurdish-language schools have been opened — though they were closed due to lack of interest. Kurdish parties can run in national elections, but even in the southeastern and eastern part of Turkey, they don’t win enough votes to be represented in the parliament. Less than 1 percent of Kurds outside the southeastern and eastern part of Turkey vote for Kurdish parties — those parties simply fail to present a national program to address the needs of everyone in the country.

Without an Iraqi regime change, the PKK threat would not have hit Turkey as it has. If Kurds support democratization, they should fight separatist Kurdish terrorism in Turkey that threatens stability and pushes the central government to take measures that could displease its European partners. Yet if Europe really accepts that the PKK is a terrorist organization, it should rally against the PKK’s threats. New attacks have created social unrest between the Kurds and other multi-ethnic background Turkish citizens. Many Turks fall short of understanding their problem.

Meanwhile, European sympathy for the PKK continues. Denmark, for example, allows ROJ TV, the PKK propaganda channel, to continue broadcasting. Those who do not support Turkey against PKK threats should understand that the PKK is not a democratization movement. Its goal is to divide land from Turkey, and as it is only the land they wish to have, people’s suffering does not matter to them.

The Christian Science Monitor reported last week that the Iraqi Kurds “[a]re working quietly to consolidate and extend autonomy they have enjoyed since 1991.” If foreigners refuse to acknowledge the deep desire for independence and are only concerned about the Kurds’ economic status in Turkey, why don’t they invest in those regions rather than intervening in politics?

Turkey’s admission to the EU isn’t an uphill battle just because of the Kurdish situation — it is about the whole system. There are plenty of farmers who earn low wages in other parts of Turkey. Why don’t they take up arms and kill people in the name of making a point to the government in Ankara and having a better life?

The Kurds are living the path of their own choosing. If the United States the Iraqi Kurdish-led Baghdad government are not willing to take military action against the PKK and will not help Turkey address the PKK threat in Northern Iraq, has Turkey been left without any alternative in defending its homeland from terrorist attacks? No.

U.S. intervention in Iraq has changed the dynamics among the countries in the region. Recently, Iranian land forces have expedited their fight against the PKK. This could be an opportunity to start an engagement between the Turkish military and the Iranians for the first time. The Turkish military should launch an operation in Iran, in conjunction with Iranian forces, against the PKK. What would happen if Syria joined this coalition against Kurdish separatists, as well? If those countries agreed and cooperated to fight a terrorist organization within their borders, what could the United States or anyone else do about it? Every day the Turkish military does not open this dialogue with Iran, it is allowing its security to be handled by those who refuse to pay attention to terrorist attacks in Turkey.

Even in the absence of a common military operation with Iran and Syria against the PKK, their efforts against PKK terrorism are winning sympathy in Turkey. However, any such future cooperation with Iran and Syria should not be read as Turkey’s secular regime falling into danger. Alas, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said several times that Turkey would not want a nuclear neighbor, but even if it does end up with one, he put his faith in NATO.

Iranian cooperation with Turkey, a NATO country, against a terrorist organization recognized by both the United States and the EU could open an unprecedented dialogue.

Tulin Daloglu is the Washington correspondent and columnist for Turkey’s Star TV and newspaper. A former BBC reporter, she writes occasionally for The Washington Times.

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