Meanwhile in an EU Candidate State

From Lebanon’s Daily Star:

Turkey on Monday appointed a general who is expected to adopt a tougher line toward EU negotiations to replace the head the country’s powerful military, who was widely considered a moderate. The change in leadership, which was widely anticipated, comes as Turkey is insisting that Washington do more to crack down on Turkish Kurdish rebels operating out of bases in northern Iraq…

Buyukanit raised eyebrows this year by praising a soldier subsequently jailed for a bombing believed to be aimed at stirring up unrest in the mainly Kurdish southeast. The bombing triggered riots in the region and a parliamentary inquiry.

Analysts say Buyukanit’s no-nonsense views have been shaped by the time he spent in the southeast during the 1990s, heyday of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which is now seen as weakened but far from defeated.

“Buyukanit is more pro-American, more security-minded than Ozkok. He is not against the Europeanization of Turkey but he is more influenced by nationalist tendencies,” said Hussein Bagci of Ankara’s Middle East Technical University.

“He will be much tougher in the fight against the PKK.”


Security-minded is what one would usually expect a general to be, but the key question will be how broadly he defines the interests of Turkish society. Has he kept up with changes, or will he try to turn the clock back?

I’m not at all sure that “no-nonsense” is the proper way to describe someone who advocates purely military solutions to Kurdish issues in Turkey. In fact, that view is full of nonsense, as much of the 1980s and 1990s demonstrate.

And just what a “tougher line toward the EU” means is another question. The EU line (and the NATO line, for that matter) is that civilian governments control the national military, full stop. The fact that the political views of a Turkish general are a matter of interest is itself a sign of the distance still to go for Turkey. Questions like this are a normal part of accession — Greece’s military junta ended its rule just seven years before that country joined the EC; there were worries early on about Poland’s military (a legacy of Col. Pilsudski in the inter-war era); Spain and Portugal probably had to address the issue as well, given Franco and Salazar.

Bears watching.

The Kurdish Factor

Evidence has been mounting for some time now of ‘ethnic cleansing’ type activities in Iraq’s Kurdish zone. The latest addition to the list is a piece by Washington Post reporters Steve Fainaru and Anthony Shadid. They claim to have gotten hold of a US State Department memo which states that “extra-judicial detentions” form part of a “concerted and widespread initiative” by Kurdish political parties “to exercise authority in Kirkuk in an increasingly provocative manner.

As Juan Cole argues:

Kirkuk is a powderkeg. AFter the fall of Saddam, the city of about 1 million was estimated to be about 1/3 each Turkmen, Arab and Kurdish. But many Arabs have been chased out, and many Kurds have come into the city (in many cases returning to a place from which Saddam had expelled them). Fainaru and Shadid now seem to suggest that the Kurds are about 48 percent of the population, with Turkmen and Arabs a quarter each.

The kidnapping tactics extend to Mosul and perhaps to Tel Afar.

Arab on Kurdish violence could provoke a civil war. Kurdish on Turkmen violence could bring Turkey into northern Iraq, since Ankara sees itself as a protector of Iraq’s 750,000 Turkmen.

I am finding it increasingly difficult to see how this story is going to come to an end without the disintegration of Iraq.

Sumer, Kurdistan and Turkish Membership of the EU.

The FT is carrying a story today which draws our attention (indirectly) to the fact that events in Iraq may well have more impact on Turkey’s future accession possibilities than the French referendum vote. According to the FT:

Iraqi Kurdistan’s newly elected regional parliament convened for the first time on Saturday in the northern city of Irbil, paving the way for the unification of a Kurdish self-rule area divided between two rival parties.”

Last week Juan Cole on Informed Comment reported on :

an ongoing dispute between the Kurds, who want an Iraqi federalism that gives “states’ rights” only to Kurdistan but not to other provinces, and the Shiites, who want a federalism that would apply geographically throughout the country. The Shiites want to create a southern super-province to serve as a counter weight to Kurdistan. Shiite leaders are planning a congress that can establish the instrumentalities for creating the region of “Sumer” in the south, which will consist of 3 consolidated provinces.

Given the instability in Iraq, it is hard to say where this will lead, but the Kurdish talk of realising their national aspirations is bound to make the government that sits just across their Northern frontier pretty nervous, especially since it is bound to see the creation of one unified Kurdish region in Iraq as a preliminary to subsequent incorporations. Definitely one to watch.

Oh What A Tangled Web!

Whilst noting that the EU Commission is trying to gently nudge Turkey on the criminalisation of adultery issue – European Commission spokesman Jean-Christophe Filori told a Brussels news conference that the proposed law “could trigger confusion and damage the perception in the European Union of Turkey’s reform efforts” – this post is not an attempt to re-open the useful and interesting exchange of views that took place around a previous post.

What I would like to do today is focus on another dimension of the same problem – the Turkish state’s relations with its own Kurdish minority – and how this relationship could become increasingly complicated depending on how the internal stability of Iraq evolves.
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