ErdoIan’s Kurdish blind spot

A basic analysis of why the Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost almost 10 percent of its support in the June 7 election would confirm the obvious conclusion: The party was deserted by almost all of its Kurdish voters. This was to be expected in the wake of Kobane, when the AKP refused to take action against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and portrayed the Democratic Union Party (PYD) as a more dangerous enemy for Turkey. Such a stance effectively ended the Kurdish peace process.
Once the Kurdish vote was lost, the AKP decided to compensate by adopting a fiercely nationalist discourse. This put the AKP in competition with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). This strategy did not work either. The AKP lost the Kurdish vote and failed to win over disgruntled Turkish nationalists who switched to the MHP. This is why the Kurdish question is one of the main reasons why the AKP failed on June 7. One would think that an experienced politician like Recep Tayyip Erdogan would have learned a lesson and begin to adjust his position accordingly.
Strangely, Erdogan is making the same mistake in Tal Abyad now. Last Sunday Erdogan said he was troubled by the aance of Kurdish forces in the Tal Abyad region of northern Syria, saying the fighters could threaten Turkey in the future. For a long time Turkey firmly shut its borders to thousands of Syrians trying to flee the fighting between Kurdish forces and ISIL militants. Erdogan even alleged that ethnic Arabs and Turkmen were being targeted by the West.
In a discourse that empathized with ISIL while demonizing the Kurds, Erdogan said the places vacated by Arabs and Turkmen were being occupied by the PYD: andquotThis is not a good sign, it could lead to the creation of a structure that threatens our borders. Everyone needs to take into account our sensitivities on this issue.andquot
Not surprisingly, Erdoganand’s anti-Kurdish narrative is coupled with concerns about the Westand’s backing of Kurdish forces in Syria. Never mind that the Kurds have become the Westand’s only ally in terms of providing boots on the ground against ISIL. The loss of Tal Abyad hurts the jihadists by cutting the primary lifeline to Raqqa, which ISIL controls as its main stronghold in Syria.
The Kurdish conquest of Tal Abyad was naturally helped by heavy airstrikes by the US-led military coalition that is bombing ISIL. Given the recent ISIL victories in Iraq and Syria, the Kurdish victory came at an opportune time for the Obama administration, which is struggling to show that its strategy is working.
At the end of the day, Erdogan needs to decide whether he can continue to demonize the West and the Kurds while sparing ISIL from similar criticism. What we now know is that the electoral blow did not change his mind. He seems determined to lose the Kurdish vote for the foreseeable future. The implications of such a short-sighted strategy for the Kurdish peace process at home will be dire. It looks like Erdogan regrets having started talks with Kurdistan Workersand’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah andOcalan.
It is high time for the AKP and Erdogan to realize that they canand’t deal with Kurdish demands for autonomy by unleashing Turkish nationalism. This is a disastrous recipe for civil war. Why is it so hard to see that Kurds in Syria would make a much better neighbor for Turkey than ISIL? What happened to the AKPand’s neo-Ottoman strategy of cooperation with Kurds?
The only answer to these questions is that Erdogan has developed an ideological blind spot and lost all sense of pragmatic common sense. This is also why he is no longer considered a moderate Islamist in the eyes of the West. He has only himself to blame for this outcome.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman