Mistakes Turkey made in the post-Saddam era should not be repeated in Syria

By Kamal Chomani –Kurdistan Tribune – 22.3.2013 – After a long period of enmity by Turkey towards the Kurdistan Region’s de facto state, today they are best friends in the region. President Masoud Barzani was once just a tribal leader from Turkey’s political perspective, but recently Barzani made a speech at the ruling AKP congress and he was well received by his Turkish fellows.

Since the Syrian people started their revolution against Assad’s dictatorship, Turkey has been ambivalent in dealing with the Kurdish rising there. Turkey first started so powerfully in dealing with Syria’s revolution but, because of her enmity to the Kurdish presence, she has become much weaker now. If Turkey continues like this – refusing Kurdish status and Kurds’ demands – it will not be long before Turkey comes to regret this. Let’s be realistic and put aside nationalistic rhetoric: Turkey needs Kurds in a post-Assad era, and Kurds need Turkey’s support too. Kurds in Syria are a double-edged sword – either against or for Turkey. Turkey can choose either to have a win-win game polity with Kurds in Syria, in which Turkey supports Kurdish autonomy there – in which case the sword will be for Turkey; or it can stand against a de facto Kurdish status, in which case the sword will be against Turkey.

Syria has been destroyed and it will be a hub for Turkish companies to start investing soon. The long borders between Syria and Turkey will have a crucial impact on mutual relations in the post-Assad era. Turkey should bear in mind that safe borders will be a decisive key to major Turkish investments.

If we go back to the last decade and look at Turkey-KRG relations, we can understand how much energy Turkey wasted in rejecting Kurdistan as a de facto state, and how great chances for Turkish companies were lost due to the bad relations. Meantime, if we look at the period in which Turkey-KRG relations have become better and stronger, we can realize how much these mutual relations have become more or less beneficial for Turkey.

If Turkey had not changed, then other companies would have come to the KRG. In that case, Turkey would by now have lost billions of dollars.

It is really surprising that, while Turkey has started peace talks with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) to solve the longstanding Kurdish issue in the country,  it has also made obstacles to the Kurdish emergence in Syria. Meantime, Kurds in Syria are more or less pro-Ocalan. Certainly, there will be cause for regret by Turkey once Assad falls.

If Turkey can successfully solve the Kurdish issues in the country, then Kurds will be the best allies of Turks in the region. Turkey has already built very good relations with Kurds in Iraq; Kurds will be a part of the system in Turkey; and so it is irrational to stand against Kurdish demands in Syria.

After the US’s 2003 Iraq invasion, Turkey was completely against Kurdish demands in Iraq. Turkey supported Turkmens so as to become their allies, but soon Turkey realized that the Turkemen’s political power was not strong enough to protect Turkey’s interests in Iraq. Then, Turkey approached the Sunnis, but again it was not very successful since the Sunnis already had Arab Sunni countries as allies. Eventually Turkey realized that Kurds are the force who can be their best allies in Iraq. It will be the same in Syria: Sunnis will certainly, as is already happening, become allies of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab countries. Alawities will have Iran as their ally. Then only Turkey will be friendless in the post-Assad era.

What I have said so far may seem strange to some since they may think that Turkey is already good friends with Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Arab world in general. However, if Turkey dreams of becoming the region’s superpower, so too does the Islamic Brotherhood, which has become the ruler of many Arab countries and will enjoy this popularity for at least this decade. Soon there will be tense competition between Turkey and the Islamic Brotherhood in the region, but the Brotherhood has not even started their mission since they have not finished their revolution so far.

All in all, Turkey’s peace talks should include Syria’s Kurdish question so as not to waste too much time and energy in the future. The mistakes Turkey made in the post-Saddam era, should not be repeated in the post-Assad era.