Massoud Barzani’s Kurdish Policies Raise Questions in Turkey

By: Fikret Bila, Turkish Milliyet, Translated by Al Monitor – 17.11.2012 –  For some time now, Turkey has been maintaining good relations with the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Northern Iraq, Massoud Barzani. The Turkish Foreign Ministry and its National Intelligence Organization (MIT) are trying to work with Barzani in order to prevent infiltration of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) elements from northern Iraq into Turkey, to disrupt the PKK’s logistics and even encourage them to disarm.

Contact with Barzani on such matters continues. Turkey’s most relevant figures go to Northern Iraq and, when needed, Barzani himself comes to Turkey.

Turkey developed its relations with Barzani especially after he was recognized by the United States administration; because of his influence on the Iraqi government and his views about the need for the PKK to give up its arms and renounce violence. But there is another aspect that clearly shows why the problem of terrorism cannot be solved through Barzani alone. The interview our writer Hasan Cemal had with Barzani also suggests that this conclusion is not too far off the mark.

When Cemal reminded Barzani of a statement he made in 1993 on Greater Kurdistan, Barzani said, “You must remember I had emphasized our aspiration for an independent state.” About his aspiration for independence, Barzani said: ‘”Before anything else, this is our natural right. The biggest problem here is the dispersion of the Kurds to four countries. This is the situation that makes it difficult. If it hadn’t been as such and Kurds were shared by two countries or if all of them had been under one state, it would have been easier to set up a Kurdish state. We are for all the Kurds to achieve their rights. This is their most natural right.”

Support for PYD

It is well known that Barzani is not perturbed by the domination of Northern Syria by the PYD (Democratic Union Party), set up by the PKK. Actually, Barzani intervened to prevent different Kurdish groups in that region from clashing with each other. It is also known that PYD militants are trained by Barzani forces in Northern Iraq.

Look what he said to Hasan Cemal about the effectiveness of the PYD in Syria: “I find it especially hard to understand how intelligence and security facilities in Syrian Kurdistan were handed over to the PYD and how they coexist with Syrian authorities. Is there an alliance between the regime and PYD or is it a sign of the weakness of the Bashar al-Assad regime? We are thinking hard about this. What is important for us is to make sure that the Kurds of Syrian Kurdistan don’t fight each other.”

In another part of his comments to Cemal, Barzani said: “The PYD cannot be denied. It exists in Syrian Kurdistan. But it is being exaggerated outside Syria. The Kurds there are Syrian Kurds. The Kurds there could sympathize with the PKK, the PYD or any other group.’’

Kurds should not clash.

Barzani is extremely sensitive to the issue of intra-Kurd clashes, both in Iraq and in Syria. That is why, despite his close relations with Turkey, he never used force against the PKK. Despite his influence in the region, Barzani doesn’t have the power to persuade the PKK to give up arms.  But we can’t say that he has tried enough. When you consider the support he is giving to the PYD, it is not difficult to see that Barzani’s moves are designed more to create an environment conducive to his projects rather than to assist Turkey’s project to undermine the PKK.

Barzani has to enlighten us as to whether a part of the independent Kurdish state he talked about is our southeast.