‘Plan Obama’ to Disarm PKK Imperiled

‘Plan Obama’ to Disarm PKK Imperiled

Two months ago, Turkey seemed on the verge of reaching a negotiated solution to its 30-year war with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) -- a nationalist, leftist militant group based in northern Iraq and fighting for Kurdish self-determination, which has been labeled a terrorist group by the U.S. and the EU. The settlement -- concocted in the corridors of power of Washington, Ankara, and Irbil -- lay at the heart of U.S.-Turkish policy for a stable Iraq following the planned U.S. withdrawal in 2010. The stage was set, with Turkish President Abdullah Gül promising that "very good things" were about to happen.

But the curtain never came up. The one factor that all the players involved had neglected to consider was the will of Turkey's Kurdish population.

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had banked on carrying the Kurdish-dominated southeast provinces in local elections this past March 29. (See Gareth Jenkins' WPR Briefing.) In advance of the voting, the AKP had made important cultural concessions to Turkey's Kurdish minority, such as allowing Kurdish-language programs to be broadcast on the national public TV and radio station, TRT. Ankara counted on using a strong showing among Kurdish voters as a public mandate to push through a negotiated solution to the "Kurdish Question" -- one not only to its liking, but also, according to media reports, coordinated with the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq (KRG) and the White House.

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