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05/23/2021

“Countries of the region should support Palestine against Israel’s plan of ‘Kurdistan’”

“Countries of the region should support Palestine against Israel’s plan of ‘Kurdistan’”

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the diplomatic actions in the region, visits to the YPG branches by senior US officials, and Turkish counter-terrorism operations against the PKK… We have discussed the recent events in the region with the former Head of the Intelligence at the Chief of Staff of Turkish Armed Forces, ret. Lieutenant General Ismail Hakkı Pekin.

The eyes of the world are on Gaza now. The experts of the region say that the Islamic nations may also take an action outside of the the United Nations (UN) talks, and propose to deploy a joint peacekeeping force in Jerusalem. How would you evaluate this proposal? Which steps can the regional countries and the Islamic world take in this regard?

Let me first say that the importance of the Israeli military operations in Gaza is this: Israel seems to carry this operation on, until Hamas is either completely disintegrated or withdrawn. (Editor’s note: The interview with Pekin was concluded before the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas) There is a great insurgency in both East Jerusalem and in the West Bank, where Arabs and Jews live together. Israel is trying to suppress these revolts.

The United States, on the other hand, is using its veto power to stop any protest against these cruelties, and the UN cannot even issue a formal condemnation. Our President is now in talks with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the leaders of the regional countries. So, can the Islamic nations take such a decision and send a force? This is not too propable since Palestine is not an official member stateof the UN. Thus it is not clear where such a joint force would be deployed to, or whether even the UN would accept it.

I think that this plan cannot be put in practice, even if it can be discussed in theory. We need power and this power could either be a deterrent or a peacekeeping force, but there is no other Islamic country than Turkey that can do the job.

Meanwhile France, Egypt, and Jordan have prepared a resolution to the UN, under the name ‘humanitarian ceasefire’. France claims that they have reached a long way through this case. I do not know if the US would accept the resolution.

Netanyahu’s strategy concerning the topic is this: “We need to achieve an overwhelming victory against Hamas, so that they could never make such attempts again and the turmoil between the Arabs and the Jews on the Israeli lands can finally come to an end.”

I think this is quite hard to achieve, because there has been a resistance in all the occupied land simultaneously fo already a long time. The Palestinians are well-prepared. It is difficult for Israel to achieve such a great success. Israel would only accept a ceasefire when it realizes it will lose the upper hand. Maybe a temporary ceasefire for a few days might first come, then a permanent ceasefire might be agreed upon. The entire region is in ruins. And Gaza must be rebuilt. It would be really hard to suddenly declare a ceasefire and then deploy a joint force from the Islamic countries there.

Turkey’s restoration of diplomatic ties with Egypt and Syria would have great effect for Palestine

When we look at the countries in the region, we see that they have not taken much effective diplomatic steps yet. Turkey is still working on this goal, but our relations with countries like Egypt and Syria are currently not good. And we have still weak relations with Lebanon.

If we had good diplomatic ties with Egypt and Syria, we could have cooperated with the countries in the region in order to create a deterrent peacekeeping force. The reason why Turkey supports Hamas is to prevent the Israeli expansionism there. Their resistance over there is also our defense over here. And we must support Palestine to prevent the Israeli plans to establish a ‘Kurdish state’ in the region. Supporting Palestine means supporting the benefits of both Turkey and of the entire region.

The elimination of Sofi Nurettin is a very powerful message to the US

Sofi Nurettin was eliminated in a campaign in northern Iraq. He was the head of the PKK in Syria and is also claimed to be a leader preffered by the US. How do you think the elimination of Sofi Nurettin will impact the PKK and the American plans in the region? How do you assess this operation and this event?

Sofi Nurettin had entered the organization in the 1990s, and became the head of first the Hakkari region, then the Diyarbakır region, and then the head of the PKK in Syria in the 2000s. He was used on almost every terror activity. He is now the PKK responsible for Syria, and bradening his respısibility, he was most recently deployed to Northern Iraq.

First of all, locating Sofi Nurettin shows that the Turkish National Intelligence Service (MİT) is working very effectively in the region. First, the location is found, confirmed, and then the operation is carried out on May 17th, at the same time when senior American officials were visiting the YPG headquarters.

Thus, this elimination is a very important message to the United States. The message is, “Whatever you do, we will continue to fight against terrorism here with great determination.” Of course, the United States claims that “the PKK is not connected with the YPG.” Turkey however, has once again showed that these two organizations are directly connected. This operation in a way slammed this fact into the American’s face.

This man was one the top PKK leaders alongside Bahoz Erdal, Cemil Bayik, Sabri Ok, Murat Karayilan and Duran Kalkan. So, one of these high-ranking executives is now gone. I think it is very important since one of their most important leaders after Abdullah Ocalan and Semdin Sakik, was caught.

This operation clearly has had a great psychological impact on the PKK leaders, creating a fear of ‘who will be the next’. It has also created a similar fear among the lower ranks. So, this will also affect the recruitment of the PKK from abroad. The PKK’s response in Diyarbakır on the other hand, show that they are cornered out. They are trying to send a message of ‘still fighting’. This joint operation with the National Intelligence Organization and the Turkish Armed Forces shows that a very strong intelligence network has also been formed in the region.

Turkey seeks to increase the range of their ballistic missiles

Does Turkey need nuclear weapons? Do you think that Turkey should increase its nuclear efforts?

Turkey is against the weapons of mass destruction, but it should also obtain nuclear technology against efforts in the region to build nuclear weapons. For example, our engineers have travelled to Russia for training during the construction of the nuclear power plant established in coordination with Russia. Turkey should work on the nuclear technology.

But its main goal is to reduce the nuclear armament in the region. And as a deterrence, Turkey should take steps and carry out researches on nuclear technologies. Turkey does not need nuclear weapons for now, but it is always important to have the nuclear technology. Of course, with the nuclear technology, Turkey should also have the necessary ballistic missiles for a serious deterrence. Many countries in the region have long-range ballistic missiles. Turkey is also gradually increasing the range of its own ballistic missiles. It has certainly focused more on this issue recently.

Ismail Hakkı Pekin
Retired Lt. Gen. Ismail Hakkı Pekin is the former Head of Turkey’s General Staff Intelligence Agency between 2007-2011. He was born in 1951 in Iznik. He is married and is the father of two children.

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