WHAT THE U.S. SHOULD DO IN THE MID­DLE EAST

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - HAKKI ÖCAL

IF any U.S. gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial tries to look at Turkey’s terror is­sue as a Kur­dish is­sue they will get nowhere, and Iraq and Syria will con­tinue to be fer­tile grounds for all sorts of ter­ror­ism

If there is a prover­bial mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion, it must be this: What should the United States do in Syria? A Turk­ish jour­nal­ist tried her hand at an­swer­ing this ques­tion on the opin­ion pages of The Washington Post re­cently. Why should one dwell on that one par­tic­u­lar per­son’s opin­ion? Is it a well-writ­ten lit­er­ary trea­tise? Is it chock­full of cre­ative ideas that all those talk­ing heads of the me­dia could not think of? The an­swer is “all of the above and more.” It re­veals the best kept se­cret be­tween Washington D.C. and the PKK HQ in the Qandil moun­tains in Iraq. Since it is not pos­si­ble to just to sum­ma­rize it, let me quote a hefty para­graph:

“The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion needs to think big­ger — geo­graph­i­cally and po­lit­i­cally — in or­der to pre­vent a Turk­ishKur­dish fight in­side Syria. I am talk­ing about of­fer­ing Er­doğan a grand bar­gain for a com­pre­hen­sive peace with the Kurds. Amer­i­cans would need to do what they have been avoid­ing — that is, rolling out maps and en­gag­ing in geostrate­gic en­gi­neer­ing, to de­velop a com­pre­hen­sive peace plan be­tween Turks and Kurds across Turkey, Syria and Iraq. The is­sue can no longer be ad­dressed solely within the na­tion­state bound­aries of Turkey, and there is no so­lu­tion that would work solely for Syria. That’s why the start­ing point of any grand bar­gain would have to be con­ces­sions from Kurds in­side Turkey. Washington would have to some­how con­vince the PKK, the Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units’ (YPG) par­ent or­ga­ni­za­tion, to de­clare a cease-fire and with­draw its forces from Turkey — in re­turn for Kur­dish au­ton­omy in Syria. Such a grand bar­gain would ap­peal to Kurds and Turks if there were a se­ri­ous U.S. com­mit­ment.”

Let’s not dwell on the false premise that to think big­ger or smaller ei­ther geo­graph­i­cally and po­lit­i­cally re­quires in­stru­ments that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion seems to lack and what the au­thor means by “Turk­ish-Kur­dish fight in Syria” is or­di­nary se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions against ter­ror­ist in­sur­gen­cies Turkey has been un­der­tak­ing within Turkey or be­yond its borders in Iraq and Syria.

The crux of the ar­ti­cle is in the bar­gain ad­vised: The au­thor is sug­gest­ing that the U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion should have the PKK ter­ror­ists leave Turkey so that the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment ac­cepts Kur­dish au­ton­omy in Turkey.

The more you read it, the more in­for­ma­tive it be­comes; like those old Yoga mantras — each time you see a new pearl of wis­dom in it. As if she is talk­ing about a le­git­i­mate but yet not fully rec­og­nized group of peo­ple just eman­ci­pated from the bound­aries of colo­nial­ism, the au­thor rec­om­mends the U.S. has “to some­how con­vince the PKK to de­clare a cease-fire and with­draw its forces from Turkey.”

Since the au­thor is a dis­tinct per­son that U.S. vice pres­i­dents love to hug at cock­tail par­ties, she must have an in­sider opin­ion on how U.S. diplo­macy would con­vince the PKK ter­ror­ists in the Qandil moun­tains.

Now you may no­tice other points too when the au­thor writes about Turkey, the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment and Turk­ish peo­ple in a clearly con­temp­tu­ous man­ner that they would ne­go­ti­ate or al­low the Amer­i­cans to do it as their proxy if the PKK ter­ror­ists “with­draw its forces” from Turkey. That ar­ro­gant smart-aleck at­ti­tude not only por­trays an ugly pic­ture of Turkey’s fight with ter­ror­ism but also puts Kurds in a very ter­ri­ble po­si­tion: There is no sane Kurd in Turkey, Syria or Iraq that would ac­cept be­ing rep­re­sented by a bunch of old ter­ror­ists who have killed more Kurds than Turks or Arabs.

For the last 16 years Turkey has been im­ple­ment­ing a new pol­icy to re­place a 70-year-old de­nial and dis­avowal of eth­nic­ity of its Kur­dish peo­ple. The ar­ti­cle, rewrit­ing re­cent po­lit­i­cal his­tory, por­trays this new pol­icy as a peace process be­tween the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment and the PKK.

If any U.S. gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial tries to look at Turkey’s terror is­sue as a Kur­dish is­sue they will get nowhere, and Iraq and Syria will con­tinue as fer­tile grounds of all sorts of ter­ror­ism.

In short, the U.S. should not do what that Washington Post opin­ion piece sug­gests, but with­draw from Syria as Pres­i­dent Trump or­ders.

Hakkı Öcal

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