On Sept. 28, when Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan jointly stated their support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq, they also made a point of stressing their countries' continued commitment to two joint mega energy projects: the Turkish Stream gas pipeline and the Akkuyu nuclear power plant. The success of these projects would diminish the importance of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) as a regional economic actor, pushing the significance of its oil and gas resources into the background. Given the KRG's apparent hope to leverage such resources as part of a continued drive for independence — a drive Erdogan has said would lead to "even more serious mistakes” by the KRG — Erdogan and Putin’s joint statements are worthy of increased scrutiny.
After Iraqi Kurds voted for independence Sept. 25, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to “starve” them into submission by cutting the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline and closing the border. He even threatened to send troops into Iraqi Kurdistan. But by the end of the week, all Turkey appeared to have done was to stop Turkish airliners from flying to northern Iraq.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) would be "responsible for the upcoming incidents in the region".
Turkey has asked the Ankara representative of Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Omer Merani, to not return to Turkey, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sept. 26.
Since the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced in June that it will hold a referendum on declaring independence from Iraq, the Turkish government has maintained a coolheaded approach — until now. As the Sept. 25 referendum approaches, Ankara seems to be toughening its stance against Iraqi Kurdistan independence.
President Trump outlined Cold War-era bilateral relations between the United States and Turkey after a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House in May. Trump’s remarks are a striking reminder of how much has changed over the quarter-century since the fall of the Soviet Union. “Turkey was a pillar in the Cold War against communism. It was a bastion against Soviet expansion. And Turkish courage in war is legendary,” said Trump. However, today, the Cold War and the Soviet Union are becoming a distant memory, and U.S.–Turkish bilateral relations are no longer based on the struggle against a shared enemy.
In a bid to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees in Turkey to their homes, the Turkish government has been making considerable efforts to reconstruct and rehabilitate the destroyed Syrian areas that were liberated during Operation Euphrates Shield, a cross-border military operation launched by Turkey in partnership with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) on Aug. 24, 2016, against the Islamic State (IS) in northern Syria.
A Kurdish militant group claimed today that it has captured Turkish intelligence officers. Diyar Xerib, a Kurdish leader linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), said the PKK had “arrested” two Turkish nationals working for Turkey’s national spy agency MIT, but had refrained from publicizing the incident so as not to create problems for the local government.
The July 5 headline in Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, quoting Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus reads as follows: “Turkey Says It’s Not Declaring War On YPG [Yekîneyên Parastina Gel or People's Protection Units],” the main Syrian Kurdish militia just across the border. But, Kurtulmus added, “if Turkey sees a YPG movement in northern Syria that is a threat to it, it will retaliate in kind.”
Donald J. Trump declared: “We support Turkey in the first fight against terror and terror groups like ISIS and the PKK, and ensure they have no safe quarter, the terror groups” (16 May 2017). Equating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) shows a profound lack of nuance. While the United States lists both ISIS and the PKK as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), their ideology and tactics are dramatically different.