The developments in early 2013 generated expectations that the almost three decades old armed conflict between the Turkish state and PKK would eventually come to an end. This article adopts a skeptical position and identifies two principal factors that make a peaceful settlement a distant possibility. First, the current military situation is a stalemate that is not ripe for peace. The costs of the conflict remain highly tolerable for both sides. Next, huge differences separate what the Turkish government is willing to deliver and what the Kurdish insurgency is willing to accept for disarmament. In particular, the PKK has no incentive to accept disarmament and demobilization given current geopolitical dynamics conducive to Kurdish self-rule.
Robert Olson has been a pioneering and prolific scholar of Kurdish nationalism. In Blood, Beliefs and Ballots, he analyzes Kurdish political activism and the Turkish state’s attempts to manage this activism between the July 2007 parliamentary and 2009 local elections in Turkey. Olson extensively documents political developments during this period on the basis of interviews he personally conducted, news sources in Turkish, and secondary literature. The fact that Olson gives voice to a variety of actors ranging from the Turkish political elite to Kurdish nationalists to liberals substantially enriches the book. He convincingly demonstrates how increasing political pluralism and competition in Turkey makes the Turkish political elite and Kurdish nationalists develop new positions. Interestingly, these actors may adopt more moderate and radical stances depending on the nature of criticisms and political competition they are faced with.
Adib-Moghaddam’s engaging analysis of the Iranian politics is an effective antidote against the widespread characterizations of the Islamic Republic as the center of Shi‘i crescent and a regime ruled by messianic fanatics who are soon-to-be armed with nuclear weapons.
Iran’s elections have historically managed factional conflict without altering the institutional distribution of power. Against this political background, the June 2009 elections stand out as a unique event. Elections that once served to manage conflict have now become a destabilizing factor. While the regime appears to have forcefully silenced the widespread post-election protests, the 2009 uprising shows the new limits of elections in managing factional conflict, which spread out to include Iran’s people. The regime grossly miscalculated not just the effects of massive public participation in the 2009 elections, but also the buildup of widespread grievances among a substantial section of Iran’s citizens. The protests have aggravated the ruling elite’s fear of a “velvet revolution” instigated by the West. Consequently, post-election negotiations between Iran and the Western powers regarding Iran’s nuclear program are likely to meet significant obstacles, since recent events have further diminished confidence between Iran and its antagonists.