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    Proxy war and the PKK

    Nihat Ali Özcan, PhD09 August 2012 - Okunma Sayısı: 993


    Nowadays, everyone is asking the reasons for the increase in outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) attacks. However, if there are about 5,000 to 6,000 militants in your mountains, it should not be a surprise for you to receive news of attacks. Yet, the intensity of an increase/decrease in attacks can be still a subject of curiosity.

    The history of the PKK shows us that there is a direct relationship between the intensity of attacks and some variables, such as the season, the political situation in the country, internal crises in the organization and changes in the balance of regional politics. Based on changes in the balance of regional politics, this article aims to explain the reasons why the intensity of PKK attacks is rising.

    For many years, Turkey’s southern neighbors have been struggling with conflicts and problems that have become chronic. In recent years, Turkey has been more directly engaged in these events than ever. Specifically, three subjects are remarkable. Firstly, Turkey has allowed the deployment of NATO radars in the country against Iranian and Russian missiles. Secondly, despite the opposition of Iraq, Turkey has given a green light to the Kurdish regional government’s oil and natural gas pipeline. Lastly, Turkey has begun actively working with the U.S. as well as Qatar and Saudi Arabia for the collapse of the al-Assad regime.

    The common point of all these three initiatives is that it damages directly the interests of the Syrian, Iranian and Russian bloc. Due to Turkey’s Syria politics, Iran and Russia will lose their best ally. Of course, this will have some political and traumatic effects. On the other hand, Turkey’s close cooperation with Saudi Arabia and Qatar in their Syria politics is enough to inflame Shiite Iran and Russia, which is anxious about Salafis in the country. This attitude, taken with the permission for the deployment of radars, makes the conflict of politics sharper. Finally, Turkey’s oil contract with the Kurdistan Regional Government has not only sparked many Western companies’ attempts to enter into the region, it also weakened the Baghdad government, which is one of Iran’s best allies. In the long term, this means the Iranian and Russian share of the natural gas and oil markets in Turkey will be threatened.

    Despite these contradictions, Russia and Iran are good economic partners with Turkey. Yet, rather than being strategic, this relation is conjectural. In other words, pragmatism is hegemonic in these relationships. For instance, Russia is Turkey’s most important natural gas supplier. This relationship is asymmetrical, and it favors Russia. We can make similar interpretations for Iran.

    Considering all of these developments and relationships, we cannot reach the conclusion that Russia, Iran and Syria would not react to Turkey. The political culture, past experiences, zeitgeist and economic interest of Iran, Syria and Russia suggest that rather than facing Turkey directly, they should deal with the issues in an indirect way.

    At this point, it would not be a surprise if Syria, Russia and Iran use their hidden and ready sticks like they did in the 1990s, in other words, it would not be a surprise if they use the PKK. Consequently, it appears that in coming days Turkey will find herself in a proxy war. This time the conditions will be harsher.

    This commentary was published on 09.08.2012 in Hürriyet Daily News.