Turkey and the Kurds
The US has to decide what course to take regarding Turkey as the recent suicide attacks illustrate the growing instability of the country. The main issue facing Turkey is how to handle the Kurds, both the ethnic minority inside Turkey, and their Kurdish brethren in Syria, Iraq and Iran. Turkey has for years declared the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) a terrorist group, and the US and NATO have also listed it as a terrorist group. Currently, however, the Kurds in Iraq and Syria are America’s best allies in fighting ISIS. Can the US support the Kurds in those countries while acquiescing in Turkey’s opposition to them in Turkey, and probably across the border, too? The Turkish air force has been suspected of striking the Kurds while it was supposedly supporting US efforts against ISIS in Syria.
If it were not for Turkey, the US could support the creation of a greater Kurdistan consisting of the Kurdish parts of Syria and Iraq. We would probably be happy if the Kurds tried to annex part of Iran, if we could avoid getting involved. However, we are involved in Turkey, which is a NATO member. Turkey would not be happy giving up a significant amount of its territory to a greater Kurdistan.
Adding to the problem for the US is the decline of the Turkish government. It has become more religious, and President Erdogan has become more authoritarian, producing unhappiness among the Turkish people. His party no longer holds a political majority, and the country is facing new elections as he tries to get a majority. Thus, Turkey faces internal instability and destabilizing pressure from outside. The US cannot easily abandon Turkey, a longtime NATO ally, especially when we need Turkey’s support in the battle against ISIS just across the border.
The US could lean heavily on the Kurds in Syria and Iraq to reign in their brothers in Turkey. We could offer more and more military support, if they keep the Kurds in Turkey from making trouble. We could even wink and imply that if they behave today, we might look the other way if they try to form a greater Kurdistan later. Meanwhile, we should work with the Turkish government to calm the situation there, to tone down its campaign against the Turkish Kurds. But Erdogan probably sees the Kurds as the greatest threat to his power, and the recent suicide bombings, with whispers of Turkish government complicity, illustrate the problems with that course of action.