Turkey at war – with the Kurds

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Members of the american-led Anti-IS-Coalition and their media praise Turkey’s „change of minds“ actively participating in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) by bombarding some position of the „caliphate“ inside Syria and – more important -  to finally allow the Coalition to use Incirlik airbase, close to the Syrian border for its air campaign against IS in Syria.

But, the sources I read every day don’t see such a change of mind. At best Turkey has made a change of tactic perfectly in line with its overarching goal: containing the kurds. In the current situation joining the anti-IS coalition simply fits this goal best. Under the cover of the fight against IS, the turkish state has relaunched its war against the kurdish movements and this time Turkey extends the war beyond the turkish border.

Kurds_Distribution_in_Mid_East_lgWhat Turkey, or better the ruling AKP under President Recep Erdogan, fears most, is the creation of a kurdish state right beyond its southern border in northern Syria, which could further enhance the risk of the creation of a bigger kurdish state uniting all the kurdish people living in the territories both sides of the borders of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

The first two weeks of June this year (2015), must have been a nightmare for the turkish government:
1. The elections for the National Parlament on Juni 7 brought a historic victory of the Kurds in Turkey with the pro-kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) winning 12% of the votes (80 seats) and thus making President Erdogan’s ruling party AKP loose the majority.
2. Only one week later (June 14) the kurdish YPD conquered Tal Abyad the strategically most important Syrian town on the turkish border (not least thanks to heavy support by US-airforce bombardments). YPD is the military branche of PYG, the syrian-kurdish „Democratic Union Party“, which is an affiliate of the big turkish Kurdistan Workers‘ Party (PKK), still internationally labelled as a „terrorist organisation“.

20150801_wom919Turkish intelligence signaled its government, that the kurdish „Peshmergas“ where „turning west“ to conquer the remaining territory held by IS on the turkish border and thus bringing the last missing stretch of land on the turkish-syrian border under kurdish control.

Turkish President Erdogan was furios: „I am addressing the whole world:“ Erdogan vowed on June 26. „We will never allow a (kurdish) state to be formed in northern Syria, south of our border.“

Since then the world has witnessed a nervous turkish saber rattling: Plans of a turkish buffer zone inside Syria along the turkish border between Kobane and Afrin (100 km wide and 30 km deep) were „leaked“. Turkish troops have been amassed in the border region. Reportedly the turkish military opposed President Erdogan’s plan and until today, the plan was not implemented – but the warning to the kurds was clear: The aim of the buffer zone would not be to stop IS, but the Kurds.

Now, „joining the Anti-IS-Coalition“ seems to serve the same strategic goal – prohibit the Kurds to fill the gap.
Since the beginning of the Syrian war Turkey has pushed the US government to build a no-fly zone in Syria along the turkish border. With no success.
Now, the US seems to have abandoned its resistance and accepted the plan. Hürriyet, the turkish daily close to the government reported July 24:
„A recent joint action consensus between Turkey and the United States, which includes the use of the Ä°ncirlik Airbase in southern Turkey in fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists, also covers a partial no-fly zone over the Turkey-Syria border, according to Turkish sources.“

turkish-usa-anti-is-activity_0Maps of the planned No-Fly Zone are published by various sources. Stratfor is mapping the situation in the map beside.
But US State Department continues denying the creation of the no-fly zone. But the denial is thin: Mark Toner, spokesman of the State Department, said it was not “fair to describe what is happening as a no-fly zone,” and said he would not term it that. Instead the area should be dubbed an „Anti-IS Zone“.

Kurdish-friendly voices in the social media say, the contrary is true. The whole agreement is a fraud: CKt-jQnUcAAtXyW„Erdogan is saving ISIS not attacking them. He is attacking PKK who have been defeating ISIS!“

However, the US-turkish agreement about the use of Incirlik for the Coalition’s air-campaign against IS and the joining of the coalition by the Turks is not only a landmark agreement for the Coalition. It is a great victory of the turkish war-diplomacy because it most likely will not only finally bring the no-fly zone prohibiting the Kurds to take control of the region: It seems to include the green light of the US for Turkey to relaunch its war on the Kurds, at least the West seems to be ready to turn a blind eye on it.

In fact the turkish air forces have not only targeted IS positions in Syria in the last days, but, even more, PKK positions in Northern Iraq. And in a first operation inside turkey 297 people have been arrested „in nationwide raids against suspected members of IS, PKK and other militant groups“, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has told Hürriyet last Friday, July 24. And: „The operations we started today are not a single event but a process.“

In the meantime the PKK has declared „The conditions for maintaining the ceasefire… have been eliminated.“ The war between the Kurds and Turkey is escalating day by day inside and outside the turkish borders.

We may see more turkish activities against IS in the coming weeks, but the old truth, that „the enemy of my enemy is my friend“ will limit turkish operations against the caliphate to the face-saving minimum. IS is still the main enemy of the Kurds in northern Syria and northern Iraq and it is still the main enemy of the Assad regime in Damaskus Turkey wants to see eliminated.

Even the event, which the western media called the „game-changer“ for the „change of mind“ of the turks to join the anti-IS-Coalition, the massacre of Suruç on July 20 by a suicide bomber sent by IS, can be interpreted differently. Immediately after the bombing Meting Gurcan from Al-Monitor wrote:
 If you ask who the recipient of the message was intended to be, I believe that it was not Turkey but the US-supported, Kurdish nationalist Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). With this attack, IS was sending a message to the PYD and the PKK to watch their steps after their success at Tell Abyad, if they are now thinking of advancing toward Afrin in the west and Raqqa in the south with close US air support.

Faces of some victims of the IS attack in Suruç, July 2015

Faces of some victims of the IS attack in Suruç, July 2015

The suicide bomber of Suruç, a young turkish partisan of IS, targeted a press conference in Suruc by a group of 300 young people, pro-kurdish activists of the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations on their way to support the reconstruction of Kobani.  31 of them were killed and 104 were wounded.

Kurdish opposition figures and protesters in Istanbul blamed „Ankara officials as ‚accomplices‘ of IS after Suruç bombing“.
Many Kurds as well as members of the country’s left scene think, as Conflict News reports, „that the attack was either carried out, or at the very least allowed to occur, by the Turkish government. Proponents of this theory point out that many of those killed in the bombing were leaders of the Gezi Park demonstrations and are viewed as enemies of the current government.“

As an act of „retaliation“ PKK has killed 2 policemen two days after Suruc, thus giving reason to the turkish security forces to start extended operations against PKK in the turkish-kurdish heartland around Diyarbakir. In the mean time PKK is multiplying attacks specially against turkish police. Turkey

Bildschirmfoto 2015-07-26 um 22.00.04Interestingly the US seem to carefully back the turkish activities against PKK. Brett McGurk, Deputy Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, writes in his Twitter account: „We have strongly condemned the PKK’s terrorist attacks in Turkey and we fully respect our ally Turkey’s right to self-defense.“

The US and its Coalition partners against IS are in a difficult situation: They seem to have given green light to the Turks to go after the Kurds, but in the same time the Kurds are the Coalition’s most important ally in the fight against IS.

Turkey seems to be the winner of the new situation. But this victory risks to come at a high prize. Not only the once promising peace process with the Kurds is dead including a delicate new situation for internal politics – most important: Turkey is drawn into the Syrian war. The war is coming to Turkey.

Turkey is not only NATO. Turkey is Europe.

This entry was posted in Internationale Politik, Krieg, Naher Osten, Syrien, Türkei, USA. Bookmark the permalink.

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