- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2006

George Orwell once described”doublethink” as “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” Neither belief need to be wrong, but they certainly can’t both be right at the same time.

Seven years ago, separatist Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan testified that many countries were supporting the PKK, including the members of the European Union that branded the PKK a terrorist organization. Half of them were members of the United Nations, and countries that should be Turkey’s allies — yet they were playing both sides of the issue.

When President Bush and visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki decided last week to address the PKK threat “aggressively,” I recalled that even with a verdict in Ocalan’s trial, a death sentence then to be commuted to life in prison, it didn’t feel as though the bloody fight had ended. Undeniably, the Turkish state had some responsibilities, but the PKK’s foreign support complicated the matter enormously.

President Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari raised the PKK issue during the discussions last week. So I asked Mr. Zebari how they are going to address it. “Recently when I visited Ankara, I was given a very warm, friendly, respectful, cordial reception,” he said. “We discussed with the government — all these issues in great detail. I proposed to them to revive the tripartite committee — Turkey, the U.S. and Iraq, with a member of the (Kurdistan) regional government also.”

To begin, Mr. Zebari said, the PKK office in Baghdad, called Ocalan Strategic Studies, (only 500 meters away from the Turkish Embassy), will be shut down immediately. The offices of a number of political parties allied with the PKK in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah will be shut down, too. “First of all, they are non-Iraqis,” Mr. Zebari told me. “Second, this is not the place for them to operate or to lobby whatsoever. Third, there was a joint message delivered to them from [Masoud] Barzani, (the head of the Iraqi Kurdistan region), and [Iraqi President Jalal] Talabani, asking the PKK to stop fighting…[W]e believe that these measures will convince everybody that we are in business [to fight the PKK.]”

Mr. Zebari stressed that the recent escalation in the PKK attacks “[c]ame after the Hezbollah — Israel exchange.” And that they are still committed to take the measures as agreed with Ankara. Mr. Zebari made it clear, however, that “the only safe place in Iraq is Iraqi Kurdistan.” Yet he told me they are not seeking an independent Kurdistan. Amidst the daily death toll in Baghdad, Mr. Zebari said, “[a]ny [Turkish] incursion will not be acceptable to the Iraqi government or the U.S. government, because it will clearly undermine every prospect of a peaceful, democratic Iraq.”

Looking at Israel’s fight against Hezbollah, however, there is one thing clear. The Turkish government lost an opportunity early on to show its strength with an air strike against the PKK strongholds in Kandil Mountains in Northern Iraq because it feared the U.S. and EU reaction. If it had followed though, the White House would have gotten the message that Turkey, just like Israel, is not afraid to fight back when attacked. Yet the point is that while Turkey is strongly advised not to fight PKK “militarily,” the Western world is united behind Israel, even though they criticize the “proportionality” of Israel’s response.

But how do states determine what amount of force is fair and what is not? When it is attacked, should Turkey respond as Israel has to Hezbollah? Is the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq a “proportional” response to September 11? How do we justify one country’s right to defend itself and not others?

Turkey remains responsible even if it never retaliated against the PKK to such a degree. But Turkey has paid too high a price for its actions in the battle against PKK terror. The Kurds have received U.S. support even for their demand of general amnesty for PKK members in Northern Iraq. But Congress sees no such responsibility to give amnesty to members of the insurgency in Iraq who have killed U.S. troops.

Given the support Turkey’s allies have offered the PKK, the measures Mr. Zebari outlined — so far — fall short in addressing the issue. If Iraqi officials accept the PKK as a terrorist organization, they should close its affiliates’ offices and send a strong message to end the fighting, anyway. At his trial, Ocalan talked about how the PKK found safe heaven, arms and support from both Iraqi Kurdish parties. Now the Kurdish threat to Turkey is much more serious than it was a decade ago.

It’s critically important, though, to Turkey’s security and territorial integrity that today it not be goaded into responding if it is provoked into carrying out a cross-border operation into Northern Iraq, according to Mahir Kaynak, a former Turkish intelligence officer. Western media would report that Kurds were being massacred by the Turkish army, which could boost calls for U.N. intervention. That intervention would accelerate the process of creating an independent Kurdistan taking land from Turkey. And that seals the difference between Turkey and Israel — both named as “strategic” allies to the United States.

Tulin Daloglu is a freelance writer.

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