Is it time for an anti-Turkey coalition?

By Michael Rubin:

Kurds and Kurdistan have never felt so much promise. Federalism in Iraq is secure. Iraqi Kurdistan attracts billions of dollars in investment, Masud Barzani no longer needs a borrowed Turkish passport to travel abroad, and the Kurdistan Regional Government has offices which act as virtual embassies in Washington, London, and other major capitals. It is ironic, therefore, that against this progress, Kurds wield so little influence over the issues about which Kurds inside and outside Iraqi Kurdistan most care.

After Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK] members attacked Turkish military outposts in the early morning hours of October 19, Nechirvan Barzani, a former prime minister who retains the power of that post, rushed to Ankara to try to defuse any retaliation. He failed. So too did regional president Masud Barzani, who placed an emergency phone call to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Turkish President Abdullah Gül vowed revenge and dispensed with the notion for proportionality that Turkey demands from others. “No one should forget that those who are inflicting this pain upon us will suffer in multitudes,” Gül declared. Thereafter, Turkish jets bombed targets in Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkish tanks reportedly crossed the border. While Turkish officials say they have killed several hundred PKK members, such declarations cannot be taken at face value. Turkish authorities label any Kurd killed in such bombardment as a terrorist, regardless of reality. Civilians often pay the price. Turkey has yet to apologize or pay compensation, for example, to the families of the seven Kurdish civilians killed in an August strike.  Nor has the Kurdish government forced Turkey to provide proof the any recent attacks inside Turkey had a cross-border component.

The failure of Kurdish leaders to fulfill their diplomatic agenda extends beyond the latest Turkish incursion. After all, even before the Hakari attacks, the Turkish Army stationed more than 1,000 troops stationed on mountains and around villages several kilometers across the Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish border. Indeed, as much as Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu frames his country’s foreign policy as seeking good relations with all its neighbors, the fact remains that Turkey is the only aspirant to the European Union that unabashedly occupies other countries. Turkish occupation in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as in Cyprus suggests the true meaning of neo-Ottomanism.

Turkey’s occupations, however, provide the Kurdistan Regional Government with an opportunity. On September 2, 2011, Egemen Bağış, Turkey’s Minister for European Union Affairs, threatened Cyprus with military action.  Should that European Union member not stop oil exploration in international waters off its coast, Bağış said, that Turkey might respond militarily. “That’s what a navy is for,” he quipped.

While Arab states focused on the simultaneous rupture in the Israel-Turkey partnership, Turkey’s bellicosity toward Cyprus was the subject of greater concern not only in Nicosia and Athens, but also in many other European capitals. Apart, neither Cyprus nor Kurdistan has much leverage. Turkey’s 37-year occupation of Cyprus is seldom front page news in Washington, London, or any other country. While former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer tries to broker an agreement, and occasionally UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon makes statements about the need to resolve the conflict, lack of international interest condemns Cyprus to continued division.

Of all Turkey’s neighbors, it is the Armenians who have the greatest influence in Washington. Corollary Armenian Diaspora groups are also influential in London, Paris, and across Europe. In the United States, at least, the Armenian lobby has failed repeatedly in its principle goal to win American recognition of Armenian genocide by Ottoman Turks in World War I.

Alas, the Armenians can join the Kurds, Cypriots, and perhaps Greeks as well in eschewing coalitions in a failed attempt to go it alone. If those victimized or threatened by Turkey, however, would pool their resources and demands, each group may find its influence amplified exponentially. Kurds who seek recognition of the Anfal as genocide might solicit the support of Armenian counterparts, but also must be willing to offer support as well. Kurdish officials should be outspoken in support of Greek Cyprus, and should leverage Cypriot and Greek influence to ensure that a Turkish withdrawal from Iraq and Kurdistan becomes a European Union platform.

In mature diplomacy, coalitions are essential. The Kurdish Caucus in Congress is more symbolic than effective. True diplomacy should extend beyond wining and dining congressmen whose concern about Kurdistan is fleeting and limited by the next election. With the Americans withdrawing from Iraq—a milestone that should evoke memories of 1975 in Kurdistan and 1991 in Iraq—it is essential that Kurdistan’s rulers understand their limitations. There are issues more important than oil deals and real estate. While it is natural that rulers inexperienced on the world stage fret more about the intricacies of protocol than broader issues, it is time the Kurdish representatives stationed abroad are able to talk fluently about broader issues. Kurdish communities should lend their support to Greek Cypriots, and demand that they, in exchange, make clear that Turkish policy has gone awry not only in the Eastern Mediterranean, but in other areas as well.

Kurds should be proud of their achievements, but they are not as solid as they once were. That the Kurds have no friends but the mountains will simply be an epitaph unless Kurdish leaders become far more apt at building alliances than they are now.

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10 Responses to Is it time for an anti-Turkey coalition?
  1. Amanj
    October 27, 2011 | 08:20

    I have to disagree with your analysis and the way you approach the issue of influence.
    Agree with the points you make about lobbying abroad but dismissing the importance of oil deal and connecting it with luxury villas does not have any credibility.

    I think the Kurds only way to gain influence is through exploiting their natural resources .

    I do agree with most of your analysis in your past writings, but this one seems to be a crowd pleaser rather than a serious policy alternative.

    Hope to see more constructive argument and less finger pointing. I have to take my hat off for your work uncovering the Barzani US assets but corruption and specific individual wealth accumulation should not be brought into every argument, though important.

  2. Aso
    October 27, 2011 | 09:42

    well said Mr. Robin. this is what we call here the lack of diplomatic skills and the will to obey foreigners. a new generation is required to come on stage who can balance those functions

  3. Aso Azadi
    October 27, 2011 | 17:24

    Nice one Michael!

  4. Dilshad Xoshnaw
    October 27, 2011 | 22:06

    Very interesting to hear such new tunes from Mr. Rubin. Compared to what we have been reading from him in the past these are really good news and I am pleased.

    Generally he is right and he names the right points which Kurds can utilize to create more leverage. Unfortunately kurdish diplomats, if one can really give them such a title, don’t care about these issues. They seem to be unable to see beyond their mountains and at most they can see Turkey which they feel they can’t overcome and all what they know in this regard is playing the servant.
    Being the servant has been the way it is going for the last 500 years and more, ever since the Persian Empire and the Ottomans were started their eternal and continuous fighting.

    Mr. Rubin must not forget that the Kurds are surrounded by such nice nations like the Arabs, Persians and the Turks and that will remain as such until the end of time.
    So we Kurds we have to deal with them alone. The Americans won’t be in Kurdistan forever to help, as if they have helped us since 2003 at all.

    Best regards,
    Dilshad Xoshnaw

    October 27, 2011 | 22:10

    This is a very good proposal. One thing is missing that Kurds and Turks are muslims. Greeks and Armenians are not.

  6. Sean Yilmaz
    October 28, 2011 | 06:57

    Michael Rubin can dream on and stop having unrealistic dreams. The PKK is NOT fighting for Kurdish rights, it is trying to create a seperate state in the Middle East and if you look up the PKK symbol, it has a communist sign on it. Go to this website called:
    ( 1) and this will expose the real facts of the evil intentions of the PKK. PKK wants to see the Kurds live poor and they want to brainwash Kurds with hate indoctrination. Turkey is not occupying Cyprus by the way, Turkey is supporting Turkish-Cypriot self determination. Infact so-called human rights activists like Nikolaos Taneris, who is a Greek supremacist, says many racist things about Turkish Cypriots. He made a quote stating “In Cyprus today , well over 160,000 stone-age Turkish barbarians from Anatolia are illegally squatting in our homes.” This is proof that Anti Turkey people are not human rights activists but racists and people who believe in a pure Greek Cyprus have the same ideaologies like the Nazis and even Hitler would have thought that comment was racist. ( SOURCE 2). This is the link to where I got my statement from. Fact is, Greece wants a purely ethnically Greek Cyprus and the PKK is terrorist. Now to the Armenian Genocide recognition movement. Erdogan proposed a historical commision with Sarkisian, where Turkey opens it’s archives, and Armenia opens it’s archives. But Sarkisian ran away. Hmmm, maybe Armenia is hiding something. Armenians hypocritically cry about Article 301 (which I think should be repealed) but at the same time they go around and crush free speech about the facts about the Turkish-Armenian civil war. The fact is, Armenia wanted to plot a massive land grab (and Armenia-firster lobbyists are still plotting to wipe Turkey off the map). They call people who support the civil war thesis “Denialists.” Lets see who are denialists: Turkish people and many Non-Turkish people accept the fact that Armenians got massacred, but Armenians need to acknowledge that they also massacred Turks, Kurds, Jews and other non-Armenians in East Anatolia in ww1. Here is a proof how a Turkish-American elderly woman knew what happened to ancestors when they did in the hands of Armenian rebels: ( SOURCE 3).
    I also have another proof to back up that the Armenian Genocide Recognition is indeed a plot to set up a land grab against Turkey and wipe Turkey completely off the map:
    There is another proof to back up how Armenian terrorists in the 1980s made up conspiracy theories about Turkish-related events to silence Turkish related events from occuring and other various vile behaviors concering the “Genocide Recoginition” movement:

    Real facts about the Armenian issue, which will include from many sources of Turkish and Non Turkish scholars alike:

    I guess you, as the author might be biased against everything Turkish. But the fact is I am backing my evidence with sources, unlike most pro-Turkey advocates who can be hysterical. The fact is, I go to Turkey and my 1/2 Kurdish cousins and many Kurds I met in Turkey feel like 1st class citizens and they despise the PKK so much, they even say PKK is the reason why Turks and Kurds hate each other and they even say the PKK is making the lives of Kurds harder. There are righteous Armenians like Edward Tashji, Artin Penik and Boghos Nubar Pasha who know the cold hard facts of Armenian fanaciticism and supremacism. If you want to know more and if you have any counter-arguments, I will counter your arguments with sources and facts by the way.

  7. Haval
    October 28, 2011 | 14:20

    Dear Sean why should be the crime to have you own idependent state,what is wrong with that .Turkish state want Bonsian to be Indepedent but not the Kurds .PKK is a simbole of kurdish struggle in Turkey you like it or not .They got a power to turn back the clock they prooved for the last 3 weeks that is the case .So ,why should be the sin for the Kurd to have own nationstate.?why why?

  8. Safo Dirik
    October 29, 2011 | 09:57

    Mr.Yılmaz have the copy-paste arguements as the propaganda sites referred by islamist nationalists of Turkey. I don’t blame him because Turkey owes these generations to 12 Marchs, 12 Septembers, these cunta regimes fully supported by America running parallel to Friedman program. For nearly 30 years cunta constitution created a nationalist islamist society ready for a modern slavery. Turkish people work fourteen hours with minumum wages without social security, go for copy- paste wars tracing terrorists but when it comes to express the reason for a living you only find “ hatred” in their tongue. The only friend of a Turk is a Turk they express.
    Hatred to PKK, Hatred for head scarve, Hatred for liquers. Hatred for women. Hatred for homosexuality. The phobias of all kinds mainly lead Turks to “ self hatred” ending in a superiority complex. The cunta leaders were reading Kuran on the screens and inviting the communist youth to find peace in İslam. Army achieved this. Recently they found the turning point in Kemalism and Islamism by throwing out some nasty generals. The consensus is made and resulted in AKP votes. This is not the victory of AKP but the coup d’etats.

    I utmost agree with Dilshad Xoshnaw.

    Ahmet Arsan plays the cards on Moslem and Orthodox Christianity. Of course he is missing Zarathustra’s as Erdogan calls us, Aleve’s, Hanafiyyah,, Shafi’ite and a lot of different schools. If religious fraternity is the bond where do you put these divisions?

    The most interesting aspect comes from Amanj who doesn’t want to pronounce oil deals, corruption, villas and economic background. Seems to be benefiting. He says:
    I do agree with most of your analysis in your past writings, but this one seems to be a crowd pleaser rather than a serious policy alternative.
    Crowd is the Kurds as I can understand.

    “Serious policy alternative?”.

    Mr. Rubin, I like reading you. You analyze and report and narrate well. I’ve rarely seen you suggesting a policy. Like a chess player you put the facts on the right squares and stay neutral. This time you look and see that what you supposed to see as squares are circles. The chess table is such a mass that you start to do some brain storming. I have no objection. That’s a good start. Sure you have and ideology of your own and soon find a serious policy alternative we admire.

    “Yesterday is yesterday, today is today.” said president Süleyman Demirel. Turkish policy never faces the past because the past is always manupulated. Suddenly they remember Ottamans or sometimes the slave Turks of Midasia, sometimes Atatürk and his heroism. History is a material of pragmatism. I always had a sense that maybe in the center of the world somewhere Turkey was chosen as a laboratory rat for some economic, social, human engineering. Maybe that’s the only reason America never gives up on Turkey. And maybe Mr.Rubin, you have to change your eye glasses. If Turkey is so unreliable sure America is unreliable because Turkey is America. They became so close that they have the same genetical codes. If you are astonished about Turkey nowadays maybe you lost the correct observation of America, for, all the states may seperate but beleive me America, the American idea of Imperial Capitalism never gives up in chore Turkey. The anti American movement is the reaction to how America lost its practical means.The economic failure, lost wars in Iraq and Afganistan. Where is the wild capitalist America of economic miracles? Turkish policy adored it for decades. It was not the Europe they aimed. America is always their hero. If your hero looses its tough image you try to replace it. Erdogan is playing to American Presidency. Looking to the Republican or Democrat canditates, if ever he spoke English he could have a lot of chance. Dr.Frankenstein’s creature is tried to put into its box again. You have a lot of work for serious policy alternatives.

    • S. Yilmaz
      January 13, 2012 | 04:21

      Safo, I am not an Islamist. Infact I am a supporter of the Secular people in Turkey, rather then the Islamists (AKP, Erbakan, etc). I actually support a democratic Turkish government where all citizens in the Republic of Turkey have a right to practice religion, pratice their own language, and have all civil and human rights. I also believe Kurds should have at the most autonomy, because that will the best bet for Kurds. Seperation is not good, but autonomy will fair. I support a democratic Turkey, but Turkey will not sacrifice an inch of soil and the people of Turkey will not give an inch of soil to you guys either. I was born and raised in the USA and I dont speak Turkish language, but I will defend my heritage nonetheless from ******** like yourselves.

  9. Halmet
    October 29, 2011 | 15:07

    Well stated Dr. Rubin
    Who are the key diplomats in Washington, London and elsewhere? Those who are running the show in Kurdistan, their sons and daughters are running the show in Washington and London. Have these offices been able to attract Kurdish intellectuals in diaspora? Of course, not! And I don’t think these offices have a single Kurdish employee with the college degree. Therefore, it will remain dysfunctional. The so called “lobby” those offices have established is via “wining and dining” or giving interest in oil deal in Kurdistan.

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