Patrick Cockburn: Strike reveals a weakness in the region's growing powerhouse

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The Independent Online

Just as the world was beginning to notice how Turkey is becoming more powerful and active, Kurdish guerrillas remind everybody of its weaknesses.

The Turkish state has not been able to an end a rebellion which has been festering since 1984. Limited concessions might have conciliated the Kurds but the ruling AKP has always backed away from any action that would have left it open to accusations of letting down the military.

The ferocity of political combat over the Kurds also underlines the extent to which Turkey remains divided between the old establishment (bureaucrats, army officers and the secular middle class) and the Islamic supporters of the AKP, whose core support is the rural hinterland, urban poor and the pious businessmen of Anatolia.

Failure to end the Kurdish insurrection is an outcome of these divisions. Turkish ministers have been preaching compromise to the rest of the Middle East but it is advice which Turkey has failed to heed at home. And the failure to incorporate different communities within the state is bound to hobble it in its efforts to become a regional power. Crushing the Kurdish rebellion was for so long a justification for the Turkish army's political power that it is not surprising some commentators in Istanbul wonder if the military has done all it could to prevent the PKK's return to war. The conflict could divert Turkey from extending its influence among Iraq's Kurds, a prospect that recently seemed imminent.

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