18:46 GMT +321 October 2017

    Kurdistan war: the lesser of two evils?

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    MOSCOW. (Yevgeny Satanovsky for RIA Novosti) - The latest local crisis in the Middle East mostly revolves around Turkish-Kurdish relations.

    Although Iraqi Kurdistan has not yet achieved independence, it is moving in this direction. Many experts predict that another regional war, the assassination of a political leader or the liquidation of an arch-terrorist could cause major problems. But the world would probably cease to exist if all these predictions came true.

    The Kurdistan Workers Party's ten-year war against Turkey has claimed over 30,000 lives and pitted several thousand separatists against one of the strongest armies in the region. Over 3,000 Kurdish insurgents operate from Iraqi Kurdistan, and 2,500 more are fighting in Turkey.

    This war has serious political implications. Turkey, which was nearly dismembered by the Entente Cordiale after World War I, is doing everything possible to preserve its territorial integrity. Ankara does not recognize any ethnic minorities and considers the Kurds to be Mountain Turks, rather than a separate nation.

    The Kurds probably had no choice but to revolt after being subjected to tough discrimination for many decades.

    Their compatriots faced similar problems in Iraq under Saddam Hussein and in Iran under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has not been tolerant towards the Kurds either.

    With no access to the sea and no state to represent them, the 25 to 35

    million Kurds, part of whom also live in Armenia, have maintained their language, traditions and clan-based social organization. The situation is deplorable because the League of Nations had promised to establish an independent Kurdish state in the 1920s.

    Ankara uncompromisingly retaliates against any terrorist attack, especially when Turkish soldiers are killed, and does not negotiate its territorial gains. This is why the international community continues to discuss the issue of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967, but does not ask Turkey about Iskenderun (Alexandretta), a seaport that had originally belonged to Syria. The reason is simply that Ankara does not discuss such issues.

    Consequently, the Turkish government, parliament and armed forces care nothing about what Baghdad or Washington think about military incursions into Iraq.

    A recent resolution by the Congressional Foreign Affairs Committee calling the massacre of Armenians in World War I by Ottoman Turks a genocide has caused outrage in Turkey and is said to have provoked the crisis. This is not so, because the resolution has merely increased Ankara's reluctance to consider the recommendations of its ally. The same happened in 2003, when the United States decided to invade Iraq and was denied permission to use Turkish air bases.

    The Congressional panel overlooked the fact that Turkish military operations could jeopardize regional stability, the future of the Kurdish nation and Iraqi territorial integrity. As far as Ankara is concerned, Washington has to choose between Turkey and a hypothetical Kurdistan state with insurgent units.

    Turkey will, most likely, conduct a military operation because Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Massoud Barzani, who de facto controls the situation in north Iraq, will not disarm Kurdish militants or restrain them in any way.

    Iraqi President Jalal Talabani wants the Kurdistan Workers Party to withdraw from northern Iraq; however, Barzani is bent on repelling a Turkish aggression because he cannot afford a civil war in Kurdistan if a Kurdish-Iraqi militia tries to disarm militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party.

    Problems in Turkish Kurdistan are not likely to cause any regional upheavals. A limited military operation conducted by Ankara would make things harder for U.S. forces in Iraq, aggravate the situation in the most stable Iraqi province and cause problems in Erbil and Suleimania, where part of U.S. units will be redeployed from central Iraq. But all this is Washington's problem.

    In fact, Iraq, which has a national flag, a government, a budget, and which maintains embassies in various countries, can no longer be called an integral state because it cannot protect its citizens. Moreover, the U.S.-British-Georgian occupation authorities are unable to accomplish this objective. Consequently, a Turkish military strike will hardly change anything.

    The Middle East faces a refugee crisis, including 6 million displaced persons from Iraq, and instability in Jordan and Syria. The situation in Sudan shows that the international community is absolutely helpless, and that the country will inevitably disintegrate within the next decade. The region is also suffering from a population explosion in Egypt, Yemen and Pakistan.

    Water and other resources are dwindling at a breath-taking pace. Regional economies are degrading, and many children do not even finish school. Therefore, one can say that the Turkish operation will not aggravate the overall situation.

    The Iranian nuclear problem increasingly resembles the Cuban missile crisis. The resignation of pragmatic leaders such as Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme Security Council, shows that Tehran considers ideology to be more important than war.

    In a bid to retain tough ideological control over the country, Iranian leaders are ready to face a possible U.S.-Israeli attack and the threat emanating from Pakistan whose nuclear arsenals are located near terrorist camps.

    Against this backdrop, the Turkish operation in north Iraq is a mere trifle. Right now, the Middle East has to choose between a very bad scenario and an absolute disaster. The news from the Turkish-Iraqi border heralds a transfer from a bad to a very bad situation.

    There is nothing the international community, including NATO and the European Union, can do. Brussels is dealing with Turkey, which knows that its allies and partners depend on it to an even greater extent.

    Paraphrasing Prince Alexander Gorchakov, one of the most influential and respected 19th century diplomats, the Turkish army and navy are Ankara's only friends.

    Ankara will never forget that the Entente Cordiale and the League of Nations wanted to divide Turkey in the past. It also realizes that the EU will never admit Turkey, which, at best, could become a privileged partner or could only cooperate with Mediterranean countries.

    Turkey will uphold its territorial integrity and security, without paying attention to the interests of other countries. Russia and China, which are now building up their economic and military strength, should also learn this lesson.

    Yevgeny Satanovsky is the president of the Institute of Middle East Studies.

    The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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