Turkey and Kurdistan on the Eve of the US-led War on Iraq
23-28 February 2003
As the US aggression against Iraq approaches, the role of Turkey in this equation draws more and more attention. Right from the start, Turkey has been an eager partner of US imperialists in their bid to redesign the map of the Middle East, especially during the post-11 September era. In fact, the whole recent history of Turkish ruling classes has prepared them just for such a role. A participant in the Korean war of 1950-53, a member of the NATO since 1952, a despicable tool of imperialist West during the Cold War era, a long standing ally of the US and Israel in the Middle East, an ally of US-supported Pahlavi monarchy in Iran until its overthrow in 1979, host to tens of US and NATO military bases, an agent of US influence in the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia after the fall of social-imperialist Soviet Union and an ardent assistant of US aggressors in Afghanistan, Turkey has always been touted as a model for the Muslim world by its bosses in Washington. Especially since the beginning of the 1980s, the latter have perceived and indeed tried to shape Turkey as a country with the ability to pull Muslims away from radical, that is –subjectively or objectively- anti-imperialist Islamic, or “anti-Western” movements and tried to cover their aggression against Islamic peoples with a veil of legitimacy with the presence of Muslim Turkey. (This was the case in Afghanistan and it shall be the case in Iraq and further.) That is why, they have systematically tried to peddle the reactionary militaristic Turkey as “a secular democracy”, which, allegedly has “successfully united the values of Islam with those of Western civilization”. The former US President Bill Clinton made the official line of the US establishment vis-a-vis the brutal dictatorial regime clear when he praised Turkish fascists in November 1999:
“What we do together will help to determine whether peace takes hold in the Middle East, whether tolerance takes root in the Balkans, whether young democracies succeed in the Caucasus. The way we do business together will help to determine whether our people have the jobs and reliable sources of energy necessary well into the new century. What we have stood for together, most recently in Kosovo, will help to decide whether the coming century is marked by democracy, rooted in our common humanity, or by tyranny feeding off hatred.”
Speaking in Washington D. C. on March 13, 2002, Paul Wolfowitz, US Deputy Secretary of “Defense” and one of the brains behind the present American policy, reiterated Clinton’s assessments. Dubbing Turkey “a truly indispensable nation” and praising her “indispensable partnership with the US, which has become even more important in the wake of the crisis that has gripped the world since September 11th”, he said:
“Today, Turkey’s strategic role in the world continues to challenge it with many contending forces. It is perhaps a misfortune to be strategically located, but it is our good fortune that Turkey occupies the strategic location that it does. Turkey is central to building peace from Southeastern Europe to the Middle East and eastward to the Caucasus and Central Asia. Turkey is key to fashioning a Europe that is undivided, democratic and at peace. And Turkey is crucial to bridging the dangerous gap between the West and the Muslim world.”
Turkish reactionaries had supported the US during the Gulf War of 1991. When the war had come, they had closed the border with Iraq, one of Turkey’s largest trading partners. They also had closed the Kirkuk-Jeyhan oil pipeline and deployed close to 150,000 troops on the Iraqi border. They had stopped short of invading Northern Iraq (Southern Kurdistan) and seizing part of it, due to various political and military risks it involved. However, after the war, they had allowed US and British warplanes based at the important Injirlik air base in Southern Turkey to monitor the “no-fly zone” in Northern Iraq and to bomb Iraqi military and civilian targets, which has been going on ever since.
From a political, financial and moral perspective, Turkish ruling classes paid a high price, as a result of the support they provided to the US during the Gulf War of 1991 and afterwards. However, they don’t appear to have learned anything from that experience. So, despite continuing vacillations and hesitations they exhibit, thanks to their multi-faceted dependence upon the US and the tremendous amount of pressure the latter has been exerting upon them, they usually have preferred to walk in the footsteps of the US, the UK and Israel.
The AKP (Justice and Development Party) and the Military
Turkey’s subjugation to US imperialism and Israeli Zionism was further strengthened in 1996, when several agreements were signed between Turkey and Israel and a Turkish-Israeli-Jordanian alliance had begun to emerge, with the encouragement of the most reactionary circles in Washington. (This happened during the reign of a coalition government, the senior partner of which was Nejmeddin Erbakan’s Welfare Party, the forerunner of the AKP. But the real motive force behind this alliance was the General Staff.) This is another reason why, Turkish reactionaries, whose hands are stained with the blood of millions of Armenian, Greek, Kurdish, Arabic and Turkish workers, peasants and intellectuals, are getting prepared to join the massacre of Iraqi people led by American neo-fascists, despite the political, economic and military risks involved. They will join the fray, if they can, despite the opposition of more than 90 percent of the population and the Islamic pretensions of the AKP, which formed the government in the wake of the elections held in last November.
Representing mainly the interests of emerging Islamic middle and big bourgeoisie, the AKP seems to have put itself into a corner as a result of its efforts to appease the Turkish military and US imperialists and to present itself as “patriotic” as the most reactionary sections of the ruling class. Gone and forgotten are the days, when Rejep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the AKP, underhandedly challenged the General Staff and recited a poem that included the verses, “Minarets are our bayonets, domes are our helmets, mosques are our barracks, believers are our soldiers.” So, in contrast with the views and feelings of those comprising its own power base and also those of the great majority of the masses of people, the AKP has gradually dropped its pre-election promises and positions; it does not speak of extending democratic freedoms and does not challenge the IMF and World Bank anymore, nor does it take issue with the uncompromising stance of the General Staff on the Kurdish question and the question of Northern Cyprus. The coming war on Iraq has overshadowed and taken precedence over all other issues and is inexorably bringing the generals once more to the forefront, who usually prefer to manipulate the affairs of the state from behind the scenes. It is an open secret that the reins of power are still in the hands of the Turkish military, allied with pro-US and pro-European big capital, notwithstanding the composition of the parliament or the government. And these forces, reliable allies and/or stooges of US imperialists and Israeli Zionists are more than ready for a war of aggression on Iraq and other Islamic countries and peoples, so long as their concerns are addressed, their fears are alleviated and the right price is paid for their despicable services. Of course, that will happen, if the anti-imperialist resistance of the masses is not strong enough to expose and restrain them.
The efforts of the AKP government to appease the US and the Turkish military, however, bodes ill for these bourgeois Islamists. Furthermore, such an orientation might prove nothing less than suicidal for this “moderate”, that is, pro-Western Islamist party. The position of the government, which is forced to handle a most unpopular war of aggression against a Muslim country, is made even more difficult due to the fact that, Turkey is still smarting from an economic crisis of December 2000. The economy is in shambles and in 2003 Turkey has to pay back around 73 billion US dollars in debts and services. The coming war and its financial burden shall make things much worse, especially for the already impoverished masses, who have carried the AKP to power; in doing so, they had hoped the AKP to bring improvements in their daily lives, to curb the power of the military and extend democratic freedoms, including those of Kurdish people. But, the first 100 and so days of the AKP government have left them frustrated and has dashed their hopes. This is so, simply because under the present circumstances characterized not only by sharp contradictions between the bourgeoise and the working class internally and imperialism headed by the US and the peoples of the world internationally, but also by a Gordian knot of secondary issues still more aggravated due to the atmosphere of imperialist war, no bourgeois party or force in Turkey can undertake even moderate reforms, let alone carry out radical improvements in the livelihood of the masses.
The Iraqi crisis has impelled the ruling classes in general and the AKP government in particular, to intensify their demagoguery for the purpose of deceiving the masses as well. An important part of the bourgeois mass media has also joined the fray and strived to switch public opinion in favor of war on Iraq. Though preferring to keep mum, Turkish General Staff has, in an underhanded manner, tried to counter the opposition to this unjust war and for this purpose has exhorted several retired generals and other officers to appear on TV programs and “illuminate” the public about the war aims of the US.
Though big capital and the General Staff are for going along with the Pentagon, despite some serious reservations, they cunningly try to shift the responsibility of deciding for participation in this very unpopular war away from themselves and put it on the shoulders of the AKP government and the AKP-dominated parliament. They will let the AKP make the necessary explanations and face the widespread wrath of the public. The generals, who are in the habit of making their views known on relatively unimportant subjects, are eerily quiet on the extremely topical and important question of war; they are keeping a very low profile and appear to be making preparations to deny any responsibility, if and when the going gets tough. And it will get tough, since Turkey is in a lose-lose situation. Notwithstanding the level of Turkish complicity in this criminal war, it is highly likely that the bloc of big capital and Turkish military shall also strive to utilize the results of this adventure to oust the AKP government, to still further weaken the bourgeois strata associated with it and discredit not only the AKP, but all shades of political Islam in Turkey as well.
The identification of Islam with “terrorism” in the aftermath of the events of 11 September, has coincided with and appears to be closely fitting the class needs of Turkish generals and big capital. Under the guise of defense of secularism and modernism, the military has been waging a long drawn-out and decades-long battle against the Islamic bourgeoisie and trying to silence and crush the discontent of the masses. The present crusade of US finance capital against Muslim peoples and their anti-imperialist or anti-American vanguards, has presented Turkish generals with an opportunity to portray their fight to contain political Islam, including the AKP, as part of the world-wide struggle against “Islamic terrorism.” But, the AKP is the last, the most “moderate” and pro-Western representative of the line of Islamic parties and has taken very great care not to antagonize the military and not to provoke its Kemalist and secularist prejudices. It definitely is on better terms with imperialism in general and US imperialism in particular and if the American adventure goes well, its leaders might expect a few crumbs thrown at them from the imperialist banquet table. Whatever the shape of things to come in the near future vis-a-vis the push towards war on Iraq and further, an even worse fate might be expecting the AKP upstarts than their predecessors –more traditional Islamic parties, such as Welfare Party and Virtue Party led by Nejmeddin Erbakan- and they deserve it in full.
For several weeks, Turkey and the US have been conducting a great amount of mostly behind the scenes and totally dishonest negotiations over the important details of a US-led aggression on Iraq. Cringing before the “awesome power” of the US, anxious to take part in the victors’ camp, even as a third-rate servant of Washington and very much concerned over the prospect of the formation of a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq, the main body of Turkish ruling classes are convinced of the rapid conclusion of an American aggression against Iraq. They are also afraid of possible American retaliation on several fronts (questions of Northern Cyprus and Northern Iraq, economic pressure through the IMF etc.) in case they do not cooperate with the world’s policeman. So, despite their own reservations and hesitations as to the potential “negative repercussions” of such an aggression, including those, which will emanate from a semi-permanent presence of US forces in the region and in Turkey itself, they are planning to exploit the present and future sufferings of the workers and toilers of the neighboring countries.
Meantime, they have been striving to extort the greatest amount of concessions from their American overlords by stalling or slowing down negotiations, reopening various matters, raising objections and referring to their domestic difficulties etc. Washington is said to be offering Ankara an economic aid package worth 26 billion US dollars -a 6 billion dollar part in grants and the remaining part in loans- to compensate for the losses that would be incurred in any war with Iraq. But Turkish reactionaries, who argue that the 1991 Gulf War cost their economy some 40 billion US dollars and they have not been compensated last time, are asking for more and more money. They are also demanding written guarantees from the US Congress that, unlike what happened 12 years ago, Washington will honor its promises. However, having attached themselves too closely to US imperialists and under the yoke of their reactionary prejudices and their fear of workers and toilers, including the Kurdish people, they do not have much room to maneuver and therefore very little leverage over the US.
In its bid to maximize its gains, the Ankara regime is trying to utilize the overwhelming, though, at the moment mostly not very active and not very vocal anti-imperialist sentiments of the people, growing reluctance of AKP deputies, who, themselves are under mounting pressure from their own constituencies and the general public and probably the objections of the officers from the middle echelons of the armed forces, who are concerned over the stationing of US troops in Turkey. Turkish fascists have also taken heart from the growing opposition of France, Germany and Russia and even from the massive anti-war demonstrations of 15-16 February and therefore have been demanding a higher price for their servility. These factors, along with the abovementioned concerns and reservations of the ruling classes are the real reasons behind their stalling tactics and vacillations. Meantime, Turkish generals and bureaucrats and their American counterparts seem to be on the eve of finalizing the various details of their military cooperation after long and secret discussions. And American military ships have begun to unload their deadly cargo and personnel, without even bothering to wait for the outcome of the discussions at the UN or a decision of the Turkish parliament, although Article 92 of Turkish constitution expressly forbids any move to allow foreign troops in Turkey in the absence of international legitimacy in the form of a UN resolution.
Though, they do not admit it frankly, American neo-fascists badly need Turkish facilities and very much prefer to open a second front to attack Iraq. Otherwise, their casualties will be greater and it will be much more difficult to reach Kirkuk oilfields, one of the main targets of the coming US invasion. In an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Anthony Cordesman, a former senior official at the US State and Defense departments and one of the top military analysts of the US, grudgingly conceded this state of affairs and said:
“We really have no access to the [Persian] Gulf except through Kuwait. It would put all of our advance on one line of advance; it would greatly complicate the logistic problems; it would complicate the supply problems and make our line of advance far more predictable. There would be the difficulty that Iraq would be able to predict the lines of advance and that it would be relatively secure in the north.” (1)
On February 6th, at one of its closed sessions, the AKP-dominated parliament passed a resolution, permitting the US to modernize and/ or utilize several military bases, airfields and harbors in Turkey, including Mersin and Iskenderun seaports, Injirlik and Batman bases, the Sabiha Gokjen, Chorlu and Afyon airfelds etc. for the deployment and transportation of equipment, personnel and arms.
On February 10th, Turkish fascists, very probably after they were exhorted by their American overlords, officially demanded NATO protection from a possible attack by Iraq and by doing so contributed to the sharpening of already emerging rift between the two sides of the Atlantic. In doing so, they also gave some credence to Bush clique’s ludicrous assertions about Iraq posing a threat to its neighbors. So, they proved themselves to be a fig leaf covering the nakedness of American aggression and exposed themselves as political prostitutes of the basest order and poured oil on the flames of war. The hypocrisy and duplicity of Turkish reactionaries, possessing one of the biggest armies of the world, know no limits whatsoever. Iraq’s economy and military capabilities have already been crippled through two wars (the 1980-88 war against Iran and the Gulf war of 1991), 12 year-long economic sanctions and UN Security Council restrictions and inspections. So, one can imagine the absurdity of the position of the Turkey, whose rulers were not ashamed of seeking NATO protection from an attack by Iraq; from a country, which is largely isolated and is about to be attacked by the US and Britain. This Orwellian approach betrays the extremely reactionary nature and gangster mentality of Turkish ruling classes and the military and their American masters.
After the 15-16 February worldwide peace protests, Rejep Tayyip Erdogan was forced to make a volte-face. Meantime, tension was building up in the country over the issue of US aggression against Iraq and the complicity of Turkish reactionaries. Last weeks and months have witnessed the growth of anti-war sentiment among the masses and dozens of initiatives, actions and demonstrations against both US aggression and Turkish complicity in this crime. In a speech on 18 February, Erdogan alleged that the permission given by the parliament for the renovation and modernization of several Turkish ports and bases did not mean an automatic endorsement of Turkish participation in war!
On February 18, Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer said that any large-scale US military buildup within Turkey’s borders is conditional on passage of a second UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. This could be interpreted as and was in fact a timid and hesitant opposition to the warmongers both in the military and the AKP government.
On February 24th, amid increasing concern and tension both in the ranks of the ruling classes, among the people and in the country as a whole, the AKP government prepared a bill authorizing the presence of 62,000 US troops, 65 helicopters and 255 warplanes in Turkey for six months.
On February 26th, Turkey recalled its ambassador to Iraq and closed the border between the two countries. Meantime, endless behind the scenes negotiations continue between two sides on several details of this dirty operation, during which the Americans did not budge from their positions and gave very little concessions and political assurances to their Turkish vassals. This, however, did not preclude US imperialists from landing undisclosed amount of weapons, vehicles and military personnel in Turkey although no official decision has yet been taken by the Turkish parliament with respect to the deployment of US troops. In fact, for quite a long time, units of US Special Forces and CIA agents have already been in Northern Iraq and operate there together with both Turkish troops and pro-US armed Kurdish groups (of Barzani and Talabani). What is more, recently, they have begun to be joined by thousands of Iraqi Kurds trained in Guam for the last couple of years.
* * * * *
If all goes well for the imperialist warmongers and their lackeys and the parliament approves the bill, this will be the first instance Turkey will be hosting so many troops on its soil since the defunct Ottoman Empire had hosted German troops during the First World War, without even bothering to discuss and decide the matter in a formal cabinet meeting. Last time, this adventure had accelerated the breakup of the decaying empire and led to a slaughter and genocide of millions of Christian and Muslim peoples of Anatolia and Mesopotamia. One other result of this war was the partition of the Asian possessions of the Ottoman Empire between Britain and France and the emergence of the rough outlines of the present-day map of the Middle East. It’s highly likely that the present Turkish state might meet a fate similar to that of its predecessor, though not in the immediate future, if it insists on allying itself with the axis of evil comprising the US, Britain and Israel.
While carrying on this bloody and dirty business, Turkish reactionaries, especially AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Abdullah Gul have been trying to hoodwink the public by swearing times and again over their allegedly peaceful intentions towards Iraq. If you listen to them, you might be tempted to believe that they are against a war on Iraq, are very much concerned about the welfare and security of Iraqi people, will deploy Turkish troops in Northern Iraq only to provide humanitarian assistance to Kurdish people! They may even hint about their alleged resistance against intense pressure and “unreasonable demands” of the US! In fact, all along they have been striving to fetch a relatively high price in return for their mercenary services to the Pentagon. They want to exact cash and other concessions for assisting Yankee imperialists to commit wholesale murder and massacre tens of thousands of Iraqi children, women, men and the elderly. According to press reports and official statements, two sides have been wrangling over various questions, such as the size of economic (and military) aid to Turkey, the number of Turkish troops to be deployed in Northern Iraq and the extent of territory they would control, coordination between American, Turkish and Kurdish troops (of Barzani and Talabani cliques), the status of Kurds and that of the Turkomans in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, so-called Turkish concerns about the security of Turkoman minority, Turkish claims on Iraqi oil dating back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire, nature of the state apparatus in Iraq after the war, number of US troops to be deployed in Turkey, number of Turkish bases and ports to be utilized by the US and even the presence of a Turkish representative in the post-Saddam Hussein transitional government etc.
The Kurdish Question and Turkish Ambitions
Nevertheless, grossly exaggerated Turkish concerns over “security”, that is the Kurdish question remains at the core of these negotiations. Turkish reactionaries have been and are loath to see the emergence of a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq. Turkey, one of the most militarized states in the world, had waged a 15 year-long dirty war against the Kurdish people led by the PKK (“Workers’ Party of Kurdistan”) in Turkish (or Northern) Kurdistan, between 1984 and 1999. After the capture of A. Ocalan, the PKK chief in February 1999, with the assistance of the CIA, Kurdish resistance came to an end. However, it is important to bear in mind that, the Turkish army, which had the full support the US and qualified support of Western Europe, had not been able to defeat and rout the 15,000-strong guerilla force militarily, despite its conduct of massacres, torture etc. on a massive scale. War craze of Yankee imperialists and their plans to redesigns the map of the Middle East have both raised the spirits of and alarmed Turkish ruling classes, who are very much afraid of the prospect of the revival of Kurdish national liberation war within Turkey and that of the united struggle of Kurdish people in Turkey and Iraq, as well as the that of Turkish workers and toilers. In October 2002, Gen. Hüseyin Kivrikoglu, the Turkish Chief of Staff was already warning the US:
“We cannot know what the US thinks about the current situation in Iraq. But we cannot accept the de facto establishment of a Kurdish state in any case.”
Now, in the course of an American led aggression against the peoples of Iraq and the region, the PKK (called KADEK as of January 2002) is being compelled to change its approach vis-a-vis the US and Turkey. Since 1999, the PKK/KADEK had been following an openly capitulationist line; it was striving either for a so-called democratic compromise with Turkish reactionaries in return for a few crumbs or was instead offering its services to the US in realizing its plans of invasion and domination of Iraq. In return, KADEK leadership expected and expects very little: to be in Washington’s good graces and to receive some minor concessions for Iraqi and Turkish Kurds. Not only Turkey, but the US as well, seems to have rejected the overtures of the KADEK, despite the fact that, it has stopped armed struggle since 1999, withdrawn its guerillas from Turkish soil and remained mainly in Northern Iraq. After that of the PKK, US imperialists did not hesitate to add the name of the KADEK to their so-called list of terrorist organizations. Due to different reasons, American neo-fascists have rejected the overtures of the KADEK and favored reactionary Kurdish groups (Democratic Party of Kurdistan led by Barzani and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan led by Talabani) in their dealings. They also seem to be prepared to to give the green light to Turkish reactionaries to go ahead in their campaign against KADEK.
Unable to find any more room to maneuver, the KADEK has, since January 2003, begun issuing warnings to the effect that it could restart a legitimate struggle against Turkey, which would include armed struggle. Such warnings, however, seem of dubious value; especially in view of the level of degeneration of the KADEK leadership and its noncommittal stand with respect to the American imperialist crusade against Iraq. On the other hand, from the experience of past four years, the Turkish military is aware of the fact that such threats are not worth the paper they are written on. They are almost accustomed to the declaration of such warnings, which in reality are issued only to calm the anger of Kurdish militants and fighters.
It is interesting, but not surprising to observe that the KADEK has never condemned US plans for aggression against the peoples of the Middle East in general and Iraqi people in particular and has concentrated its accusations on Turkey and to a certain extent on Iran and Syria. The KADEK and its legal extensions have also taken great care not to get involved in anti-war actions and demonstrations in Turkey and Northern Kurdistan as far as possible. For instance, neither in Turkey-Northern Kurdistan, nor in Western Europe did the KADEK and its legal organizations participate in the world-wide protest actions of 15 February against the US. This time round, however, the shape of things might not be the same; taking advantage of the circumstances of war against Iraq, Turkish authorities might try to finish off the potential threat from the armed formations of the KADEK. Recently, they admitted the presence of thousands of Turkish troops inside Iraq, which they plan to support by a further 120,000 massed on the Turkish-Iraqi border. It seems that, while the eyes of the world will be fixed on the American war against Iraq, Turkish army shall try to gain its prize: destruction of the KADEK guerilla force in Northern Iraq, which incidentally may not be an easy task.
It’s obvious that US imperialists have been deftly playing on the almost irrational fear of their Turkish vassals with respect to the Kurdish question and utilizing this fear to ensure Ankara’s participation in the war against Iraq. (2) Turkish reactionaries are very much afraid, not only over the prospect of the establishment of a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq, but also over the prospect of the revival of a Kurdish guerilla war in Turkey. In the aftermath of the Gulf War of 1991, the so-called power vacuum in Northern Iraq had helped the PKK to grow rapidly, acquire heavy weapons and begin to pose a real threat to Turkish fascists. The latter are still haunted by the recollections of the post-1991 era, when Kurdish national liberation struggle experienced an upsurge. What is more, under the explosive conditions prevailing in Turkey at present, such a revival might provide an aperture through which the accumulated discontent of workers and toilers in Turkey proper can be translated into mass action. That’s why, especially the Turkish military has been very much opposed to any moves towards the establishment of a Kurdish state and even any semblance of Kurdish autonomy in Northern Iraq; it also has been suspicious of arming of Kurdish fighters of Barzani and Talabani factions by the US and been insistent on their disarmament at the end of the war against the Baghdad regime, under Turkish supervision. As expected, this approach is furiously contested and rejected by the Kurdish people and factions.
Turkish preparations to deploy an even greater number of troops in Northern Iraq and stay there for an unspecified period of time, on the other hand, have infuriated the Kurdish factions, who will not accept to lose the virtual autonomy they have enjoyed over the last 12 years. Kurdish factions have declared themselves in favor of “a united federal democratic Iraq” and been raising their voices over Turkey’s expansionist plans. On February 22nd, Osman Ocalan, a member of the Presidential Council of the KADEK, criticized the other Kurdish factions for their hostile attitude towards the KADEK and called for “national unity” in the face of the aggressive plans of Turkey. On February 24th, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s deputy Prime Minister Sami Abdul Rahman stated that there were “disturbing” signs emerging from talks between the US and Turkey over the latter’s exact role in a US-led war, with Turkey pushing for a key role in Iraqi Kurdistan. Rahman added:
“We feel less threat from the regime of Baghdad than from the current threat of Turkish occupation. Saddam has killed many of our people. He can kill more Kurds … but this Turkish occupation, if it happens and I hope it will never happen, is aimed at strangling the hopes and aspirations of our people. Turkey is responsible for killing more than 100,000 Kurds in its bloody war with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). More than 5000 Kurdish villages have been destroyed by Turkey in North Kurdistan (Turkish Kurdistan).”
On February 25th, the Kurdish parliament in Northern Iraq held an extraordinary session after the Turkish cabinet approved a bill that would allow the stationing of foreign troops in Turkey and deployment of Turkish troops abroad; correctly interpreting this move as a justification of Turkish occupation of their land, the Kurdish parliament rejected the entry of foreign forces into Northern Iraq by an overwhelming vote. The same day Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani sent a joint letter to the US, requesting protection from Turkish forces in the region. Other, that is non-Kurdish groups taking part in the “Iraqi opposition” too, have vehemently objected to and condemned the presence of Turkish troops in the region.
The deep-seated and justified distrust of Kurdish people in the Ankara regime and especially the tilting of the balance of forces in the region in favor of US imperialists as a result of recent developments, have emboldened Barzani and Talabani factions in their opposition to Turkey. As expected, they seem to be planning to enjoy the fruits of their cooperation with the Americans. Nevertheless, in view of their unstable, inconsistent and constantly shifting positions and policies, Barzani and Talabani factions remain open to cooperation with Turkish reactionaries. Until very recently, there were reports to the effect that, these two parties were once again cooperating with Turkish troops in Northern Iraq in their efforts to fight against KADEK guerillas, as they have often done in the past. Of course, US imperialists would not be expected to oppose a Turkish-led campaign to wipe out KADEK guerillas, unless relations between Americans, Turkish fascists and Kurdish groups, including the KADEK underwent a radical change.
It should also be mentioned that the efforts of Turkish fascists to bolster the position of small Turkoman minority as a counterweight against Kurds, to insist on pressing the “Iraqi opposition” to accord the Turkomans the same political status and government share as Arabs and Kurds in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq and their long-term plans to change the population composition of Northern Iraq too, have contributed to the justified suspicions of Kurdish people and factions. Turkish ruling classes have times and again tried to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries on the pretext of protecting the rights of Turkish or Turkic minorities. (3)
As to US imperialists, after a long period of vacillations, they seem to have taken into account the objections of Turkey and Saudi Arabia and dropped their plans to reorganize Iraq as a loose federation, where Kurdish population would have a great degree of autonomy. Patrick Cockburn, a visiting fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington sent the following report from Northern Iraq on February 17th:
“The US is abandoning plans to introduce democracy in Iraq after a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein, according to Kurdish leaders who recently met American officials.
“The Kurds say the decision resulted from pressure from US allies in the Middle East who fear a war will lead to radical political change in the region.
“The Kurdish leaders are enraged by an American plan to occupy Iraq but largely retain the government in Baghdad. The only changes would be the replacement of President Saddam and his lieutenants with senior US military officers.”
By pressing for an independent Kurdistan under their “protection” US imperialists would risk not only alienating Turkish ruling classes, but also would provoke Turkey, Syria and Iran, all with Kurdish minorities inside their borders, to close their ranks. Such a move would also risk alienating the wider Arab world and public opinion to an even greater degree; dismemberment of Iraq would be adding insult to injury. At the moment, the US seems to be keen on averting interference by other regional powers, especially Turkey, Iran and Syria. A high level US official stated that they were concerned about the “ability of people like the Iranians and others to go in with money and create warlords” sympathetic to their own interests. Allegedly expressing the opposition of the US to allow Iraq to be divided into de facto spheres of interest, he added:
“We don’t want a weak federal government that plays into the hands of regional powers… We don’t want the Iranians to be paying the Shiites, the Turks the Turkmen, and the Saudis the Sunnis.” Nevertheless, at least in the short term, US imperialists will be holding “the Kurdish card” firmly in their hands, to blackmail, intimidate and orientate the policies, especially of Turkey and might reverse their policy of a “united Iraq” in the future and might push for an “independent Kurdistan” if their and their Zionist ally’s interests necessitate taking such a step.
* * * * *
It is true that, for decades the Kurdish people have suffered a great deal as a result of the repressive policies of fascist and reactionary regimes in Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria, as well as manipulations and plots of imperialists, who in general have supported, armed and protected such regimes. It is also absolutely true that, the Kurdish people is entitled to have the same rights as other peoples of the region, including the right to national self determination. The tragic historical experience of the workers and toilers of the Middle East, as well as those of the whole world, however, have times and again confirmed the hollowness and bankruptcy of all bourgeois and imperialist “solutions” to the national question. It has demonstrated the fact that, so long as workers and toilers follow their reactionary leaderships and trust in imperialist powers, they will always be left in the lurch, betrayed and suffer the consequences. Only through the solidarity and alliance of workers and toilers of various nationalities and the overthrow of imperialism and capitalism will the national oppression of small nations and nationalities be ended; only through a democratic and socialist revolution led by the party of the working class, will the brotherhood of workers and toilers of different nationalities be established. Stalin said:
“It scarcely needs proof that under the rule of capital, with private ownership of the means of production and the existence of classes, equal rights for nations cannot be guaranteed; that as long as the struggle for the possession of the means of production goes on, there can be no equal rights for nations, just as there can be no cooperation between the laboring masses of the different nations. History tells us that the only way to abolish national inequality, the only way to establish a regime of fraternal cooperation between laboring masses of the oppressed and non-oppressed nations, is to abolish capitalism and establish the Soviet system.” (“Report on the Immediate Tasks of the Party in the National Question”, Works 5, Moskova, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1953, p. 38)
And, that is a task that can be shouldered solely by the working classes and their revolutionary vanguard parties. In the final analysis, the road to genuine liberation of Kurdish people (as well as of Palestinian and other peoples) lies in the unity of workers in each country and the alliance of working classes and other toilers throughout the region and the world. Only then, will it be possible to mobilize the tremendous potential energy of the masses, to put an end to the divide and rule game of US imperialists and its allies and lackeys and to deal heavy blows at imperialism and capitalism and totally rout them.
The ideological servility of Turkish ruling classes to imperialism, their comprador mentality and political myopia prevents them from seeing the fact that, in endorsing US-led aggression against Iraq and possibly following them further on this road they are playing with fire. Through allowing themselves to be blackmailed and cornered by US imperialists, Turkish reactionaries have tied themselves not only to the war chariot of the Pentagon, but also to that of Zionist Israel. By acting in this manner, they have turned themselves into a simple pawn in the American chess game for the domination of the Middle East, the consequences of which they might regret in the future. Already, there is talk in Washington and Jerusalem about the need to take on Syria, Iran, the Sudan and Somalia right after the war on Iraq. (4) Embarking on such a course, shall still further expose and isolate Turkish reactionaries both in the world in general and the Islamic world in particular. By assenting to the invasion and probable dismemberment of Iraq (and maybe to that of Iran etc. in the future) Turkish reactionaries are setting a very dangerous precedent. They may even be opening the way for the invasion and dismemberment of their own land through another US intervention or “peaceful” penetration. If the Washington neo-fascists intend to conduct aggression against Iran, Syria or another country in the Middle East in the wake of the coming war on Iraq, Turkey may be obliged to follow suit and thereby confirm her infamous title as a base tool of the imperialist West. This is no idle speculation. The Pentagon had originally demanded the deployment of about 80,000 US troops in Turkey and the right to use 10 bases in different parts of the country, including a Black Sea port near the Caucasus. This demand betrayed the intention of US imperialists to use Turkey as a long-term staging area not only for ground attacks into Iraq, but also against other countries in the Middle East and potentially beyond, including the Caucasus.
If other countries could be destabilized and redesigned, why not Turkey? The unforgettable words of Pastor Martin Niemoller who himself ended up in a concentration camp, can mutatis mutandis be applied to the position of Turkey:
“In Germany first they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me-and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
The bill prepared by the AKP government allowing US troops to be stationed in Turkey and enter Iraq through Turkey was discussed at a closed session of the Turkish parliament on 1 March, that is, right after this article was written. The motion was rejected by a very narrow majority; of the 533 deputies attending the session 264 voted in favor of the deployment of US troops and 250 voted against, while 19 abstained. More than a quarter of AKP deputies voted together with the 174 deputies of the opposition CHP (Republican People’s Party). Since votes in favor of deployment of US troops were just three votes less than the required absolute majority (267), the motion was not passed. This has proved to be a significant blow to the war plans of US imperialists, whose cargo ships were eagerly waiting to unload their tanks and other equipment in Turkish waters in the eastern Mediterranean. The discussions in the parliament on the other hand, have coincided with one of the largest the anti-war demonstration; more than 50,000 people took part in the protest action in Ankara and chanted anti-war and anti-imperialist slogans.
However, there is absolutely no reason to relax and feel content with this minor victory. Employing both the carrot and the stick, US imperialists will force their way to get what they want and the General Staff and the AKP government are in no position to put a genuine and strong resistance to them. In the coming days, a new bill granting stationing and passage rights to American troops and military equipment shall probably be forwarded to the parliament.
Therefore, to repel the imperialist crusade of American neo-fascists and their allies and lackeys and to impose at least a tactical defeat on them, much more remains to be done, both in Turkey and throughout the world. Workers, other toilers, youth and intellectuals need to come forward in much greater numbers and join the fight against the implacable enemies of toiling humanity. Naturally, one cannot pretend that the danger of imperialist war and aggression can be ended through peace marches and other mass actions, though they may assist in averting a particular war of aggression. This requires the overthrow of capitalist-imperialist system itself. But such actions, by educating the workers and other toilers in the heat of the struggle, by demonstraing the hollowness of petty-bourgeois illusions and by reviving the forgotten lessons and experience of past class struggles, do prepare the masses for the coming revolutionary battles. The worlwide struggle to prevent a US aggression against Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, to expose and isolate US imperialists and their closest allies and stooges must and shall continue. Whatever happens in Iraq and the Middle East, victory shall belong to the workers and other toilers of the world and definitely not to the parasitic ruling classes and their decaying capitalist system.
2 March 2003
(1) US imperialists would like to open a northern front against Iraq to take the heat off a primary invasion from the Persian Gulf area. But there are other and more compelling reasons behind Washington’s insistence on sending troops into Iraq from the north. This mainly relates to Kirkuk oil fields. These oilfields, which are one of the major objectives of American aggression are closer to Turkish-Iraqi border, than the Persian Gulf area. To reach those fields from the north, with the active support of Kurdish fighters and that of the Turkish military, would be much easier.
(2) US imperialists are also playing on the obsession of Turkish reactionaries in keeping Northern Cyprus under their control, via the puppet Turkish Cypriot state, where they have 35,000 troops to “protect” 100,000 Turkish Cypriots. The Republic of Cyprus, populated by Greek Cypriots is posed to join the European Union soon and the decades-long negotiations, including the last one, initiated by the Secretary-General of the UN are stalled, mainly due to the behind the scenes manipulations of Turkish fascists. It is in their interests, since they view Northern Cyprus, as simply a pawn in their geostrategic calculations. In fact, Gen. Hilmi Özkök, the Turkish Chief of State reiterated the determination of the ruling class to keep Northern Cyprus under Turkish domination, when during a press conference on 8 January, he stated that the illegal Northern Cyprus was essential for the security of Turkey.
“A solution to the Cyprus solution, which shall threaten the security of Turkey and shall not meet this need, shall more or less complement the process of confinement of Turks in Anatolia.”
(3) A report published in a pro-Kurdish daily, Ozgur Politika on January 18th, stated that, Turkish reactionaries were encouraging the exodus of Kurds from Northern Iraq first to Turkey and then to Western Europe. This practice is very much in accord with the old tradition of Turkish reactionaries, who have applied the same “principle” on Armenians, Greeks and and again on Kurds throughout the 20th century. The report said:
“Making use of the intervention in Iraq, Turkey intensified its efforts to evacuate Southern Kurdistan (Northern Iraq). Part of the Southern asylum seekers are being brought into Turkey through Silopi (a Turkish town on the border with Iraq-my note) by REO type military vehicles, while others are being carried from Zaho (in Northern Iraq) to Amed (Diyarbakir) by military vehicles. On the other hand, Turkey is changing the identity cards of Kurds in return for money, to bolster the Turkoman population.”
(4) On February 21st, Balochistan Post reported:
“US Undersecretary of State John Bolton has assured Israeli officials on Monday that America will attack Iraq, and will also deal with Syria, Iran and North Korea after occupying Baghdad.
“According to a report published by Israel’s leading newspaper Haaretz, Bolton, who is undersecretary for arms control and international security, is in Israel for meetings about preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
“In a meeting with Bolton on Monday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that Israel is concerned about the security threat posed by Iran. It’s important to deal with Iran even while American attention is turned toward Iraq, Sharon said.”