Turkey is posturing to launch an attack against its domestic insurgent group, the PKK , in retribution for the group’s attack that killed 15 Turkish police and guards (Terrorist Incident and Terrorist Incident). The group’s stronghold is in the southeast, along the border with Iraq and Iran . A state of emergency proclamation is not anticipated, as this developments is likely to be posturing on the international arena.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan proclaimed that the government has tried to employ “a democratic approach” with the group to no avail and that their persistent targeting of the military cannot continue if peace is to be achieved . Spokesman Cemil Cicek offered: “The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is a terrorist organization and every country has the authority and the right to fight against terrorism” (source).
Wanting the support of the US and of Iraq, Erdogan and his Cabinet Council aim to resolve the PKK violence by abolishing the group. Foreign Minister Ali Tuygan pushed the two nations specifically since much of the violence stems from cross-border planning and safehavens in Iraq. This is not a new development nor is Turkey’s threat to enter northern Iraq. Cicek noted that “We expect Iraq to take the necessary precautions to prevent possible attacks against Turkey, and the US to help Iraq in this sense” (source). The US, in particular, prefers multilateral cooperation to resolve the PKK issue and is likely to achieve that. But, should the US and Iraq chose not to aid Turkey, officials vowed to send the Turkish army into northern Iraq. The aggressive tone is intended to both settle the population’s outcry for action and spurn allies’ support. Such a move is unlikely until at least August, when a hardline officer is installed as chief of staff. However, if Turkey enters Iraq, for which plans are allegedly being drawn up (source), the army may face US forces, a move that could be ugly diplomatically, and may risk destabilizing one of the few secure areas in the country. The European Union would also view the move unkindly. To date, no one has reported “unusual military activity” along the border.
Erdogan has long used the PKK situation adeptly to push the international community to thwart terrorism, thus opening the door to eradicate his own insurgency via international means.
The European Union was reticent to include Turkey in membership precisely because of the PKK issue. Human rights abuses, cultural and linguistic exclusion, and xenophobia had to be resolved before membership would be considered . Erdogan indicated that his administration has invested in infrastructure in PKK strongholds. But, he rebukes the PKK call for a national identity, claiming that the 30+ ethnic groups in Turkey would splinter the nation.
Countering violence with violence is not the ultimate solution, and it is unlikely to occur. While the PKK has attacked the tourist infrastructure to get its plight before international media, in this case, Erdogan seems to be saber rattling to regain international attention to his plight. Business interests in Turkey are unlikely to be affected by this development, as any maneuvering would largely be contained to a region with few multinational interests. The main cities of Turkey are unlikely to be affected. The Habur border gate to Iraq is likely to close, at least temporarily.