Foreign Policy Blogs

Turkey, Palestine, the Kurds, and Many Questions

Is Turkey’s grandstanding vis-a-vis the Palestine issue hypocritical in light of its own continually deleterious approach to another stateless group – the Kurds? What conditions support the notion that there should or should not be a dichotomy between Turkey’s approach to the two groups – Kurds and Palestinians? With this, how does the apparent contrast in Turkey’s approaches to the two different peoples relate to the Arab world’s consistent saber rattling in support of Palestinians? Additionally, what is Turkey hoping to accomplish through its very public spat with Israel and now murmurs that it will take Israel’s naval blockade to the International Court of Justice (ICJ)?

A wise reader raised this topic in the comment section of my previous post. (Thank you, JSA!). And since I obviously angered the pro-Israel lobby despite my failure to compose a lucid argument in any of my posts – this is definitely possible – I thought it would be best to add to the list angering the Turks.

As JSA has highlighted, in short, Turkey’s apparent dichotomy in its treatment of the Kurdish question should not be neglected. While I may ruffle further feathers by asserting that the conflict between Turkey and the Kurds is not directly contrastable with that of Israel and the Palestinians, I do not excuse PM Erdogan and the AKP government from responsibility. I believe that Erdogan has ushered in a lot of progress concerning the status of the Kurds in Turkey. However, what appeared to be attempts to subvert Kurdish political representation through post-election disqualifications, as well continual intransigence concerning discussing Kurdish autonomy, do not forebode that lasting peace will develop between the Turks and Kurds any time soon. In further reference to addressing Kurdish autonomy discussions, I can see some eventual promise; for example, while  I am quite concerned about the shrinking influence of the Turkish military, the diminished role of the military could allow for later discussions of such a sensitive topic. (Yes, this is another one of my ideological contradictions because I view the Turkish military’s role in safeguarding secularism as reassuring).

I would further argue that there is a strong dichotomy between the two issues for various reasons, including the nature of the actual conflicts, geographical differences, responses taken against the opposing peoples, and the disparate effects the opposing forces – Turkey and Israel – have on the groups. As hinted at, though, I see Turkey’s romanticism with Palestine, and the ICJ issue, as being related to the Arab world’s historical practice of political deflection through the topic. While Turkey may be using the Palestinian question for deflection, though, I believe it is a bit more nuanced than that: it seems as if Turkey is using the Palestinian question to bolster its geo-political position. Turkey is leveraging its soft power in the case of the Palestinian question so that it can bolster its position as the new regional leader, simply put. Turkey may feel that its burgeoning dispute with Syria, as well as Iranian expansionism, warrants this approach. In relation to the latter, I could further argue that the US’ adherence to simplistic, sunni vs. shi’i politics weakens Turkey and has endangered democratic reforms in the region, thereby strengthening Iran, but that is another tangent.

I definitely did not respond to all the questions raised in this post, nor the plethora of surrounding ones. So, please have at with your friends, family, and coworkers. I believe that Turkey will only be seeking an expanded role in the region. Contrast that with the climate of political change, between the Arab Spring and Iranian aspirations, and it should prove for an interesting decade ahead in the region!

 

 

Author

Ali A. Riazi
Ali A. Riazi

Ali is an independent advisor on conflict and foreign affairs and an advocate for civilian protection. He has advised the Office of the Secretary of Defense, US military, NGOs, and intelligence oversight staff on topics, such as Afghanistan, civilian protection, irregular warfare, and civil-military affairs. His 13+ years of career experience have spanned humanitarian and national security circles and involved extensive experience throughout the Near East and Central Asia.

Ali earned a BA in Government & Politics (summa cum laude) and a Minor in International Development & Conflict Management from the University of Maryland, College Park. Additionally, he served as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant in International Political Economy. He is currently pursuing an MLitt in Terrorism Studies through the University of St. Andrews.

Ali's other blog interests can be followed at http://www.abeingforitself.com, and he can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/ali_riazi.

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