The escalating Turkish-Kurdish conflict will put the region face to face with a much more serious reality than the war with the ISIL. Turkish President Recep Erdogan and his Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu are warning that they will continue their combat with the PKK until they restore security in all cities and villages - or better say until no single Kurd is left there – for even the mayor of Diyarbakir Selahattin Demirtas has relatives fighting for the PKK against Turkish law enforcers.
Recently, Turkey suspended its aggressive steps against Northern Syria. Instead, it has launched a massive attack on Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurdish sources are not yet reporting any response from the Iraqi authorities or the Kurdistan Regional Government. The Turks have attacked not only the Qandil Mountains – the traditional training ground of PKK fighters – but also Dohuk, Zakho, Az Zibar and Rawandiz. This is very close to Erbil, the center of the Kurdish autonomy, and the ISIL-occupied Mosul. But Dohuk and Zakho are also homes to small Armenian communities.
The Turks say that they have destroyed at least 40 Kurdish fighters and that this is their revenge for the 16 deaths caused by the terrorist acts in Hakkari. They have also attacked and burned over 120 offices of the pro-Kurdish HDP all over the country.
But the incident in Hakkari was not the first such terrorist act. In Aug there was an attack on the US Consulate in Istanbul. At that time the Turks were already warring with the Iraqi Kurds. The real cause of the war was the terrorist act in Igdir, a city near the borders of Armenia and Iran, where, according to Turkish reports, PKK fighters attacked a micro-bus and killed 10 Turkish policemen. The terrorist act in Hakkari took place on Sept 6, the one in Igdir occurred on Sept 8. In between Erdogan announced his new strategy against the PKK. Right before their invasion the Turks closed part of their border with Iraq Kurdistan. Erdogan did not say when his “trans-border operation” would end. Perhaps, his new strategy envisages a permanent war?
But the problem here is that there are ground for doubting that it was the PKK who organized the terrorist acts in Hakkari and Igdir. In Igdir Kurds are prevalent and have a Kurdish mayor. The point is that Erdogan signaled his new strategy long before the acts. Last week the Turkish parliament voted to prolong the military campaign against terrorist threats on the borders with Iraq and Syria. This means that the Turkish army may continue its campaigns against the ISIL and the PKK. This also means that foreign, particularly, US, forces may freely use Turkish military bases. The terrorist act in Diyarbakir was followed by a special operation. The Turks imposed a curfew in the city. The pro-Kurdish HDP voted contra. So, perhaps, this is why it is now called the PKK’s political wing and is facing attacks on its offices.
Whatever the case, the fact is that the Turkish invasion of Northern Iraq and its Armenian communities followed the terrorist act in Igdir rather than the attacks in Istanbul, Diyarbakir and Hakkari. This is the first puzzle and it coincided with inspections of the readiness of administrative facilities in Armenia and Russia and the talks of the Armenian and Russian presidents, Serzh Sargsyan and Vladimir Putin. The presidents discussed not only the continuing military provocations in Nagorno-Karabakh and on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border but also questions concerning the whole region, that is Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq.
The second puzzle is what Iran will do. Let’s see what Turkish sources say: the Turkish army and security forces are chasing Kurdish fighters retreating to Iraq. This is a standard scenario. The Turks would have long applied it to Armenia, were it not for the Russian 102nd base deployed in that country. But for Iraq and Syria it is OK. In the past each Turkish invasion of Iraq faced countermeasures from Iran. And exactly on Sept 8, when the Turks invaded Qandil and Dohuk, the Iranian Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution killed two fighters of PEJAK, an anti-Iranian Kurdish organization. As you may know, REJAK’s bases are located in Iraqi Kurdistan. And you should also know that Iran has never let the Turks come very close to Erbil and Mosul.
But now that Mosul is occupied by the ISIL, neither the Turks nor the Iranians will dare to confront the Iraqi Wahhabis directly. On the other hand, it is not clear if the Iranian Guardians of the Islamic Revolution will continue their campaign against the “anti-Iranian” Kurds. But, like it or not, by having invaded Iraq, the Turks have tested the vigilance of Armenia, Iran and Russia. In the meantime, the PKK has reported the shooting down of a Turkish spy drone over the border with Iraqi Kurdistan and has added that it was not the first shot-down Turkish drone. So, the war is well underway and its consequences are not yet clear.
Sergey Shakaryants, political scientist (Yerevan), specially for EADaily