Mar 07 2018

Turkey alienating stateless Kurds to its detriment - FT

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is “throwing red meat to the wolves of Turkish nationalism”, meaning any rapprochement with stateless Kurds in Turkey, Syria, or Iraq appears positively fanciful, David Gardner wrote in the Financial Times.

Erdoğan, once known for his pragmatic approach to resolving Turkey’s Kurdish problem and for improving ties with Kurds in Iraq’s north, was once credited with marrying Islam with democracy to the Kurds benefit. Turks and the Kurds, known internationally for their courage in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS), would have made a powerful combination and they still would, Gardner, the FT's international affairs editor, wrote.

“Five years ago, a more pragmatic Mr. Erdoğan was engaged in detente with the Kurds, in Turkey and its borderlands in northern Iraq and Syria. At that time, he was a third-term prime minister on the cusp of a presidency that he is now remodelling in the image of his ally in the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin,” he said.

Erdoğan’s renewed battle with the Kurds means Iran-backed Syrian government forces are taking advantage of the Turkish incursion into Syria’s Afrin, which began on Jan. 20, to reclaim lost territory in northwest Syria, to the detriment of Turkey’s strategic interests, Gardner wrote.

“The return of the governments of Baghdad and Damascus to the areas occupied by the Islamic State (ISIS) also means the arrival of Iran,” he said.

Turkey’s position probably would have strengthened if it had continued with Kurdish détente, but Erdoğan seems to think there are attempts to topple him following a coup attempt in 2016 and mass protests against his government three years before, Gardner said.

Salih Muslim, the former co-leader of the Kurds in Syria, said recently that “had Turkey … worked with the Kurds, it would have become the most powerful country in the Middle East”.

After welcoming Muslim to Turkey between 2012 and 2015, he is now wanted by the Turkish government on terrorism charges and Turkey is demanding that Germany extradite him, after a similar request to the Czech Republic went unheeded.

A sign of the times.