The Kurdistan Workers Party is dreaming.
The Kurdistan Workers Party, best known by its initials PKK, dreams of an independent Kurdistan.
A "Turkish partition" has always been a Kurdish nationalist goal -- carving a Kurdistan out of southeastern Turkey's ethnic Kurd region. Now, an "Iraqi partition" has become the PKK's goal.
At the moment, the PKK is trying to goad Turkey into a full-scale invasion of Iraq. A firefight along the Turkey-Iraq border late last week reportedly involved as many as 200 PKK fighters. The typical PKK operation consists of (at most) two dozen infiltrators. When Turkey beefs up its military forces, the PKK usually melts away. Turkey now has up to 100,000 troops in the region. The PKK isn't melting, however. If the 200 fighters figure is accurate, then the PKK was conducting a major combat operation despite Turkey's reinforced military presence.
The PKK wants Turkey to attack.
Why? Because the PKK is desperate. Support for the PKK within Turkey has waned since 1998, when Turkey nabbed its cult leader, Abdullah "Apo" Ocalan. Nabbing Ocalan was a sophisticated operation that included threatening his host and protector, Syria, with invasion. Grievances the PKK once exploited are finally -- if belatedly -- being addressed. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pumped development money into Kurdish areas. Turkey's new dams are producing power, and once-neglected Kurdish villages have lights. Likewise, Iraq's Kurds have made extraordinary economic and political progress. The Iraqi government and Iraqi Kurds want good relations with Turkey, and PKK attacks on Turkey damage those relations.
Waning support in Turkey and new, economically rewarding Iraqi-Turk relations put the PKK in a bind. And in this desperation the PKK's dream scenario begins -- a dream with several tricky plot sequences and delusional twists.
Dream Step One: The Turkish invasion destroys Iraq, and Iraqi Kurdistan emerges as an independent state. Step Two: Kurdish arms or international opprobrium or U.N. sanctions or whatever forces Turkey to accept an independent Iraqi Kurdistan. Once Turkey accepts New Kurdistan, these same powers force Turkey to accept a ceasefire with PKK cadres inside Turkey. Negotiations result in an internationally mandated plebiscite where Turkish Kurds, of course, vote to join New Kurdistan.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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