- The Washington Times - Monday, July 23, 2007

ISTANBUL — The governing party’s stunning re-election victory, which brought more than 100 deputies of Kurdish origin into parliament, has made the prospect of a large-scale Turkish military incursion into Iraq less likely, legislators said yesterday.

Results of Sunday’s election showed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 46.6 percent of the votes and was projected to take 340 of the 550 seats in parliament.

That amounts to a crushing defeat for secularist and nationalist opposition parties, which had made Kurdish separatism a central plank of their electoral campaigns, said Orhan Miroglu, a Kurdish politician who was among Sunday’s winners.

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Sunday”s results are a victory for common sense and civilian democracy over a politics of nationalism and foreign intervention, he said by telephone from the southern port city of Mersin.

With more than 100,000 troops on Iraq“s border, Turkey“s military for months has advocated a campaign against Kurdish guerrillas, who have attacked Turkish targets from bases in Northern Iraq. But it needs parliamentary permission to cross the border.

Mr. Miroglu, one of 24 deputies elected from Turkey“s Kurdish nationalist party, is adamant that he will oppose any invasion.

We”ve had enough war, he said. The time has come for a civilian solution.

Despite repeated assurances that it will do what is necessary to combat the separatist Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), the AKP drew increased support from Kurds living in southeastern Turkey — the heartland of Kurdish nationalism.

With unemployment in some Turkish Kurdish towns higher than 50 percent, legislators from the region face opposition from their constituents.

Much of Turkey“s $2.7 billion trade with Iraqi Kurdistan is in the hands of Turkish Kurds. The threat of a major Turkish offensive into northern Iraq already has caused some businessmen to return to Turkey.

Ihsan Bal, a security analyst at the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization, said small cross-border raids by highly trained Turkish anti-terrorist groups remained a possibility.

Anything bigger, Mr. Bal said, would be a sign of government weakness, and AKP has just been given an overwhelming public mandate.

Soft power is in the ascendant, he said.

How Turkish analysts interpret soft power depends on their political allegiances.

Umit Ozdag, the author of an unsuccessful bid last year to take over the leadership of the hard-line nationalist National Movement Party, which won 71 seats on Sunday, says Turkey should simply impose sanctions on Iraqi Kurds.

Faruk Logoglu, whose stint as Turkey“s ambassador to the United States ended last year, argues for an increase in diplomatic pressure on the United States.

The U.S. may not be able to spare troops to fight the PKK in northern Iraq, he said, but it can easily arrest one or two senior commanders. It also should pressure Iraqi Kurdish leaders to do more to curb PKK movements through their territory.

Mr. Logoglu said the most important step toward a solution needs to be taken by the Turkish government.

Under pressure from the secular establishment, AKP has until now avoided talking directly to Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd.

These are the first people we should be talking to about the PKK, he said. I hope the government, now that it has its massive new mandate, will have the courage to enter into dialogue with them.

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