Ankara- The Turkish Government continues its crackdown on Kurdish politicians, government officials, and, journalists. The Turkish Army is shelling Kurdish units of the People’s Protection Unit, known as YPG, in Afrin, Manbij, and al-Bab. At the same time, Ankara receives leader of Iraqi Kurds on a red carpet at both Cankaya, and White Palace.
In Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım received Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Prime Minister Nechrivan Barzani. In the receiving hall, there were both Iraqi and KRG flag behind where Barzani did the shake hand with Yildirim. Turkey arrests Kurdish leaders and by one hand, praise other Kurds in another. Although, they are both Kurds, but they are different. Therefore, arresting Selahatin Demirtaş, leader of the largest pro-Kurdish political party, HDP, does not seem to hesitate Barzani or harm the relations with Ankara.
Some Western observers cannot comprehend Ankara’s double standard policy with Kurds at home, and abroad. However, those who closely follow Kurdish politics in Iraq and Turkey realize that Ankara’s fight with Kurds at home as well as in Syria follows a strategy that Turkish regimes have followed for decades; The Turks are always trying to exploit intra-Kurdish rivalries to their benefit.
In Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) based in Iraqi Kurdistan and headed by Masoud Barzani, is not at peace with main Kurdish political parties in Turkey and Syria; the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and its affiliate in Syria, Democratic Union Party (PYD). There are ideological differences between the KDP and the PKK on many issues. However, Turkey fanned the fire by getting closer to the KDP leaders and push them against the PKK. The KDP gathers intelligence information on the PKK bases, its supply chain, its activities, and relations with other Iraqi Kurdish parties and shares them with Ankara. In the past, KDP fought the PKK and sacrificed over three thousand Peshmerga on behalf of Turkey. However, the current cooperation between KDP and Ankara is based on intelligence sharing. Also, KDP facilitated to the Turkish Army to open more military bases in Duhok and Erbil provinces. Thus, the Turkish Army can monitor PKK movements inside Turkey and Iraq by partnering with KDP.
Turkey spends millions of US dollars on its intelligence mission against PKK in Turkey and Iraq. Ankara has approached other Kurdish parties to collect information on PKK members, and their meetings in the non-KDP areas such as Sulaymaniyah and Kirkuk. No other Kurdish party does this for Turkey, except the KDP.
Although KDP’s cooperation with Turkey against PKK is critical for Turkey, the Ankara-KDP ties extend beyond cooperation against PKK. The economic relations makes Ankara get even closer to Barzani. Turkey is the main winner of the KDP dominated oil sale. It gets access to KRG’s oil at a much lower global market price, and it plays a mediator role for the KRG to be able to sell its oil via Turkey. In the future, Turkey will benefit from KRG controlled natural gas production as well. Unlike Russia or Iran, KRG cannot use its energy leverage against Turkey as it has no other route to market its product.
Turkish companies, as well as Turkish products dominated Kurdistan Region’s market as KRG’s friendly ties with Turkey, give the Turkish companies an upper hand in the local market. To promote the relations, Turkey will allow KRG’s diplomatic bureau to operate in Ankara to “strengthen” bilateral relations.