Monday, June 7, 2010

No Room for Mistakes

As if any fuel needed to be added to the fire of either Turkey-Israel relations or the Kurdish conflict, some Turkish politicians and opinion leaders have been speculating that Israel's raid of the Mavi Marmara and the PKK's attack on the naval base in Iskenderun are linked. Occurring just hours after Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara, the attack in Iskenderun has raised new questions about links between the PKK and Israel. The speculation is not new and received much ado in Turkish public discourse a few years ago amid Turkish concerns that the Iraq War would further destabilize the security situation in the southeast.

Last week, Deputy AKP Chairman Huseyin Celik said the government did not think the two attacks were a coincidence, implying that Israel was somehow using the PKK to intimidate Turkey. CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu also linked the two events: "Various circles have concerns over this issue. Seven soldiers were killed. This is something very important. As the Israeli marines continue operations, such an attack took place in Turkey. This is very intriguing." Interior Minister Besir Atalay echoed Celik, though more cautiously, warning that "these subjects require careful and hard work, and we need to avoid careless statements lacking tangibility." However, rumors and conspiracy theories filled Islamist and nationalist newspapers. An example of this conjecturing appeared in Today's Zaman under the headline, "Suspicion gorwing about possible link between PKK and Israel." Citing the "suspicion" as "deepening," the story re-hashes old accusations that PKK militant are receiving military training from Israel. Like other stories in the Turkish press, it also cites Sey Hersh's reportage on the United States' purported efforts to use Kurdish militant groups inside Iran to undermine the Iranian regime. These groups included PJAK, which has since the United States has since recognized as a terrorist organization (see Feb. 9, 2009 post).

While I am no expert on the PKK's networks, and certainly not knowledgeable enough to categorically rule possible connections between the two groups, conspiracy that the two incidents happened in tandem should certainly be taken with a grain of salt unless hard evidence is produced. On this point, see Hurriyet Daily News columnist Sedat Ergin:

A serious result of the situation is that it could misdirect decision-makers. And if you misevaluate a threat, you make deadly mistakes as you try to retaliate. For instance, while you look at the PKK but overlook the big support and the infrastructure they have and while you see the organization as the one being used by foreign power centers only, you make deadly mistakes in the fight on terror and in the solution of Kurdish question. Now that doesn’t mean that external powers do not, or will not, use the PKK. I am only saying that if that is your assessment over the PKK, you make a mistake.
There is little room for mistakes in producing solutions to either one of these situations.

UPDATE I (6/7) -- See also Yigal Schleifer's take on this linkage at Istanbul Calling. Included in Schleifer's post is a link to a story he wrote in 2003 exploring similar alleged connections between Israel and Kurds based on Massoud Barzani's "Jewish roots."

No comments: