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    Erdoğan’s order, laws and the Turkish Armed Forces
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 04 April 2013
    Although the negotiations between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) continue, there seems to be a problem of trust. That’s why the PKK representative, Murat Karayılan, and others demand legal guarantees. The militants demand a law that will enable withdrawal with no security risks. Moreover, the PKK says that this is necessary not only for itself, but also for the sake of the professional future of the prosecutors, police officers, gendarmes and military personnel in the region.Last week, the prime minister “personally” guaranteed that there would be no problems. Most recently, he changed his tune and said that “the terrorists should bury their weapons, wear civilian clothes and leave Turkey usi [More]
    The PKK’s military capacity and the withdrawal process
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 28 March 2013
    Öcalan declared the first step of the negotiations a ceasefire to be followed by the withdrawal of armed militants from Turkey. Karayılan announced that the organization will follow Öcalan’s instructions and the ceasefire took effect. The public debate regarding the withdrawal process continues.The withdrawal process is multifaceted. It has military, legal, diplomatic, political and public diplomacy dimensions. Here I will focus on the military dimension.According to open sources, the number of PKK militants in Turkey is around 2,700-3,200. The number seasonally changes – a rise in summer, a decline in winter – but it is both in line with the PKK’s current strategy and historically verifiable in light of past military experience. Considering the vast geography where the PKK is act [More]
    Erdoğan’s negotiations with the PKK and the Syrian Kurds
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 21 March 2013
    The Syrian opposition elected their first prime minister at an Istanbul meeting. The efforts to build an alternative government will continue. They hope that forming such a government will help organize the aid received, reinforce their military power and grant them international legitimacy. The plan is to put military and political pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and thereby acquire a more powerful position at the negotiation table.The disorganized state of the opposition is still a serious problem. Their plan can work only if they manage to stand united. Two groups are especially prominent: The Islamist Al-Nusra Front, designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization and the Kurds under the control of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has been ostracized b [More]
    The PKK and negotiations alla Turca
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 14 March 2013
    You can have both covert and overt negotiations in order to solve the problems with an organization pursuing a politico-military strategy. You can keep the negotiations covert until a certain stage and then open them to the public eye. In any case, both modalities have their advantages and disadvantages. However, regardless of the method chosen, the professionalism of those managing the process, the political system and culture all affect the outcome. [More]
    From counter-insurgency to stability
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 28 February 2013
    Thirty years have passed and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or the PKK, problem is now in a new phase. The conflict took so long that the world, the region and Turkey have all changed. Recent attacks have divided society and made ethnic and religious identities more visible. They have transformed political and psychological expectations. In the meantime, the government once again reluctantly sat down at the table with the PKK.The process poses serious risks for the AKP. Erdoğan knows these risks and is trying hard to minimize them. Still, his preferred method of “open negotiations” puts him in a difficult position.The most important factor making the management of the process immensely difficult is divided public opinion. Erdoğan not only faces the reaction of the opposi [More]
    The Kurdish problem and Erdoğan’s roadmap
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 14 February 2013
    Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan aims to get the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) out of the way so as to implement his career plan. Last week he made one of his most important statements in this regard. He announced that he could cooperate with the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) – in other words, the PKK – in the context of the Constitution-making process. This reminds me of the famous words of the great Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, “If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.” Erdoğan seems to follow this mantra. However, great difficulties lie ahead.Erdoğan is taking a serious risk with such statements. For the great strategy to work, he needs to be able to manage four separate areas: Maintaining relations with the PKK, [More]
    Waiting for new waves of terror
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 07 February 2013
    The suicide attack at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara put Turkey in the spotlight. The police quickly identified the perpetrator. It was immediately announced that the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) was responsible for the act of terrorism. Most Western analysts had a difficult time making sense of the DHKP/C. That the act was committed by a “Marxist” organization, not a jihadist one, was confusing.What made it difficult to understand the attack and explain the organization behind it was the classic Cold War classification of the “left-wing/right-wing terrorist organization.” This classification, based on Western perceptions and motivations, was not very useful in classifying the terrorist groups in Turkey. A focus on ideological labels leads to partial analyse [More]
    Can the Turkish government be an ally of the PKK in Syria?
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 31 January 2013
    Several reasons compel the Turkish government to renegotiate with convicted the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader, Abdullah Öcalan. These are escalating PKK attacks, domestic politics under time pressure, seasonal conditions and political problems in its neighbor. [More]
    Jihadists in Syria and western targets in Turkey
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 24 January 2013
    Many victims lost their lives in last week’s Jihadist attack in Algeria. Everyone, especially the citizens, governments and companies of Western countries situated in isolated regions with compromised security, should be alarmed by this terrorist attack.The history of radical armed movements in the Middle East does not start with the Arab Spring. However, the Arab Spring did provide fertile ground for these movements. Information at hand shows that it won’t be a surprise if terrorist attacks like the one in Algeria occur more frequently.France’s military operation against radical Islamists in Mali reflected an asymmetric struggle that is bound to continue into a new phase. Let’s not forget that the jihadists in Mali gained more power and capacity with the events in Libya, such as [More]
    The PKK’s European front organization: a weak link in the chain
    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD 17 January 2013
    Negotiations between the Undersecretary of the National Intelligence Organization on behalf of the Turkish government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan continues. Öcalan made an important gesture in the first stage of negotiations by ending the hunger strikes that could have significantly troubled the government. Although this gesture consolidated his power, other challenges lie ahead. Still, the process will continue according to a specific plan and mutually made promises.Time will test both the perseverance of the government and the integrity and discipline of the PKK. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will try to face his opponents in the political system as he keeps negotiating with the PKK. This he will have to do in the wake of th [More]