SUSPICIONS AND SPECULATIONS
"What experience and history teach is this -- that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles." ~ George Wilhelm Hegel.
In my 14 December post, I discussed my suspicions that the US and Turkey were repairing their relationship after the visits of the CIA and FBI chiefs, as well as a coincidental visit to Turkey by Brent Scowcroft, currently the chairman of the board of directors for the American-Turkish Council, but formerly a US military general and two-time presidential national security advisor. Today, in a commentary piece on TDN, the same suspicions are voiced by Yuksel Soylemez:
Surely there was intelligence cooperation between the related agencies of Turkey and the United States, until relations soured with the infamous Mar. 1, 2003 motion of Parliament refusing, unwisely, the United States entry into northern Iraq through Turkey. Personal contacts in Ankara at these highest levels, professionally and politically, clearly indicate that the United States is now proposing a welcome restart of Turkey-U.S. intelligence cooperation, with urgency.
This may be the beginning of a new era of intelligence sharing between Turkey and the United States. This is absolutely well and fine, better late than never, back to the statuco ante. Highly important intelligence sharing is a priority for both Turkey and the United States against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), international terrorism in general and against al-Qaeda in particular.
[. . . ]
After the departure of the two high-ranking officials from Ankara, with little photo opportunity to the disappointment of the media, brand new U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Ross L. Wilson, a career diplomat with Baku experience to his credit, said by way of an embassy press conference: My mission is to reconstruct U.S.-Turkey relations and enlarge the scope of bilateral relations and cooperation. We intend to see the results of our efforts in 2006. Our first priority is Iraq. An important event was the Iraqi elections that are now already behind us. Turkey's help in Iraq is important, as it was important before. To maintain the unity of Iraq and to continue to fight against such groups like the terrorist Zarqawi gang, Turkey's cooperation has great importance, to paraphrase the context.
The second priority of the United States is terrorism. In our common fight against terrorism, more specifically PKK terrorism against Turkey, we must be result-oriented in this regard and we are conscious of this. We intend not only to cooperate against the PKK and al-Qaeda, but against all other terrorist groups. There will be an increased cooperation between the United States and Turkey, again, to paraphrase the words of Ambassador Wilson.
As usual, no mention is made of Turkish state terror perpetrated against Kurds, particularly the recent bombing in Şemzîn, although there is a reference to "shocking media reports of shady landings in Turkey of so-called CIA planes used for purported interrogations fo al-Qaeda suspects. . . " I don't understand how the media reports could be characterized as "shocking," or the landings of CIA planes as "shady," by someone who supports Turkey's coooperation with the US, to include the sharing of intelligence "against al-Qaeda in particular."
There is speculation here that the visits of the CIA and FBI heads included a discussion of the offer of an amnesty to PKK members. A reference is also made to Masûd Barzanî's comments that a total amnesty to PKK is the only way to solve the issue. Talabanî had recently called for amnesty as well. In late 2003, Turkey offered a partial amnesty to PKK, but since the conditions of the amnesty excluded political leaders and military commanders, it was unacceptable and was virtually ignored by PKK. The remarks of Abdullah Gul at the time, to the effect that the partial amnesty had PKK in a "panic," look ridiculous in hindsight, especially since the 5-year unilateral ceasefire initiated by PKK came to an end in 2004.
Another question raised by Soylemez's speculations is that of the reception of the idea of TSK deployment to Iraq after the US leaves:
Who should fill in the U.S. military gap in the near future as a peace-builder in order to help avoid a full scale Iraqi civil war? The Iraqi Kurds two years ago were adamantly against a Turkish military presence in northern Iraq. In view of the approaching military vacuum, will the Iraqi Kurds think twice about a plausible U.S. idea to the contrary, to prevent the bleak specter of a full scale civil war, when the TSK could play a counterbalancing but difficult role? Such a scenario suggested by some media strategists may look like pure fiction to some. It may sound too hypothetical or too far-fetched for others. But is it?
In 2003, there was an overwhelmingly negative response to the possible deployment of TSK in South Kurdistan/Iraq, from Southern Kurds as well as Kurds in diaspora, but the question of the receptivity of the Southern Kurds and diaspora Kurds to a new proposal of this scenario is something to watch for. Turkey may certainly be willing to appear to commit TSK to southern deployment under the pretext of supporting the greater war on terrorism, but Turkey may well be far more interested in the black gold of Mûsil and Kerkuk, as well as hunting down PKK gerîlas in the Qandîl area, than in assisting the US in its greater regional interests. There is still a TSK presence in South Kurdistan, a rotten leftover from the days when Turkey was a cooperative partner with Saddam Hussein. Given the Ankara regime's overwhelming interest in Mûsil and Kerkuk, and TSKs continuing presence in the South, it may well become impossible to remove them if they are successfully recruited to fill the vacuum.
Nothing is too far-fetched or hypothetical for the Middle East because, in that part of the world, truth is always stranger than fiction.
GREAT NEWS: Nadire Mater's excellent book, in which she provided a platform for Turkish soldiers to speak in their own words on their experiences of the TSK's war in Kurdistan, is now available in an English translation from both Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. Professor Michael Gunter wrote a review of the Turkish language version of the book. Mehmed's Book: Soldiers Who Have Fought in the Southeast Speak Out, was banned in Turkey when it first appeared and Ms. Mater was charged with "humiliating the military and the state." She and her editor were later acquited of the charge. She is now the project advisor for Bianet.com, a site dedicated to media freedom in Turkey. The English title of the book is Voices from the Front: Turkish Soldiers on the War with the Kurdish Guerrillas and I highly recommend it.