Turkey: Kurds Voting For Christmas?

Despite having read mountains (appropriately) of reporting on the Turkish-Kurdish-Iraqi crisis, I haven’t read anyone who has tried to answer the big question – why do the PKK seem to be doing everything possible to provoke the Turks into invading Iraq after them?

You’d think this was a pretty vital issue; who wants to be blitzed, after all? Fortunately, Handelsblatt does journalism; Gerd Hoehler reviews the history of the Kurdish movement and concludes that the PKK does indeed want Turkey to hit me as hard as you can. Why? It would set Turkey’s relations with essentially everyone in a state of chaos, it would probably upend the Turkish economy, and it would outrage the Turkish Kurds, to say nothing of all the others.

But it probably wouldn’t achieve strategic-level damage to the PKK; however, Turkey’s slow progress towards the EU and its (much faster) economic development have threatened to do so. The AK got an absolute majority of votes in most of Kurdistan at the last elections. So, the PKK needs an explosion; something that would reverse EU integration, wreck the economy, and whip everyone into a frenzy of rage.

Fortunately, as when this happened in 2003 and 2005, the Turkish government has been very good at moving towards war very slowly indeed and with immense ceremony; thus allowing the pressure to build for a resolution without an actual war. Hoehler, however, reports on a worrying degree of war fever – there’s been a surge of volunteers for the Turkish army, 4,200 in a week, and people are stopping cars on the highway with guns to make the drivers join in singing war songs. That has a nasty sound of August, 1914 about it; this would not be a good moment for losing control.

The Lure of Membership in action

If the EU didn’t exist, would we have to create it? Arguably, one of the best reasons for doing so would be the power it has demonstrated to spread democracy, constitutionalism, peace, and other good stuff through the accession process. Today, we had an excellent example of this. On the 7th of July, the European Commission updated the list of airlines that aren’t allowed to land in the EU. In the wake of the ban, the Moldovan government decided to solve the problem by shutting down a succession of really dodgy operations, revoking the Air Operator’s Certificate that is required by international law and grounding the planes.

The reason for such dramatic action is simple enough – it’s not just flight safety that was at stake. The list of dodgy airlines includes one that was involved in a regrettable incident in which 99 tonnes of assorted firearms were purchased from Bosnian war surplus by the US Government, and flown in a couple of Ilyushin 76s to Iraq for the use of the Iraqi government. However, the guns never arrived, and their fate remains a mystery – perhaps the least disturbing theory being that they were never actually shipped, and the Americans were defrauded. More disturbing options include the suggestion that the weapons were offloaded somewhere else, switched with another cargo, and sold God knows where, or that they were delivered all right, but to the former Iraqi army. The airline which was meant to move the guns, Aerocom, was itself later shut down after a plane was seized in Belize with a load of cocaine – but it actually subcontracted the job to one of the current crop, Jet Line International.