Turkey and the PKK have been at war in practical terms for over 30 years. It hasn’t been non-stop fighting, however, and the two-year ceasefire that has just collapsed wasn’t the only lull in violence. Still, there have been times when the two have engaged in nearly full-scale war, as in the 1990s.
Both sides are acting like they believe this is going to be one of those times, and are gearing up for a huge fight after a few rounds of airstrikes and some bombing attacks. For the parts of southeast Turkey dominated by ethnic Kurds and for northern Iraq, this is a scary prospect indeed.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is talking up escalation in the war against the PKK “terrorists” as well, vowing that his military will do “whatever necessary” to defeat the PKK. He dismissed the idea of a return to 90’s level insurgency, saying that was “impossible.”
While it’s not clear just how big the PKK is by itself, however, there are a lot of powerful Kurdish factions in the region fight now, and awash in international support because of the ISIS war. The Erdogan government has often been haphazard in distinguishing amongst those factions, and has been targeting the Syrian YPG at the same time. A few wrong moves could easily yield another major war here.