Istanbul- EurasiaNet.org has published a new article by me on Turkey’s new strategy for combatting Kurdish rebels.
Emboldened by a June election victory, Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) – at odds with the secular military establishment since coming to power in 2002 – is empowering special police teams under civilian control. The plan is to use unmanned aerial drones to spot PKK militants moving inside Turkey and then send police in to attack, say analysts familiar with the shift in tactics.
Read Turkey: Iran Casts Shadow Over New Kurdish Strategy here
The new strategy has been heavily criticized, as the piece discusses. Yet Turkey has already launched a new offensive against the PKK in Northern Iraq and Southeast Turkey. July and August have seen an escalation in PKK attacks and while the Turkish government at first said a new offensive would wait until after Ramadan, it appears to have already begun.
The government is presenting the battle as one that will at last uproot the Kurdish rebels. Yet the 27-year-old conflict has been at this point before. Violence without addressing the roots of the conflict have never been successful in the past. Still, many Turks say they are ready for an escalation of conflict and are willing to suffer losses in order to strike back at the PKK.
The conflict has also taken on a new dimension with the unrest in neighboring Syria. Turkey wants to influence what is expected to be the end of Assad regime, both in order to control the situation and influence its outcome. Its hardening stance towards Syria has angered Iran, which knows its influence over segments of the PKK can be used against Turkey. The country will have to proceed carefully. Yet what once looked like a government that aimed to increase Turkey’s democratization is looking like one that is being caught up in conflict and a drive to extend its regional influence. Efforts to rewrite the constitution, negotiate, and make Turkish society more inclusive seem to have taken a backseat.