By Moon Of Alabama
July 25, 2015 “Information Clearing House” – Since 2013 a ceasefire between the state of Turkey and Kurdish PKK rebels in south-east Turkey held up well. The government pledged some support for Kurdish cultural autonomy and in return the ruling AK Party gained votes from parts of the Kurdish constituency. The AKP government also has good relations with the Kurds in north Iraq. It buys oil from the Kurdish regional government and supports the kleptocracy of the ruling Barzani clan in that autonomous Iraqi region.
The PKK is a militant Kurdish organization in Turkey. The equivalent in Syria is known as YPG. In Iran the group is called PJAK and in Iraq HPG. The HDP party in Turkey is the political arm of the PKK. The PYD is the political arm of the Syrian YPG. All these are essentially the same egalitarian, secular marxist/anarchist organization striving for Kurdish autonomy or independence.
Turkey has now reopened its war on the PKK Kurds in Turkey, Iraq and in Syria. Turkish police rounded up hundreds of Kurdish activists in Turkey and tonight dozens of Turkish fighter planes attacked PKK positions in Syria and Iraq. This war is likely to escalate and will be long and bloody. It will be mostly fought on Turkish ground. How did it come to this?
The war on Syria and support by Turkey for even the most radical islamists fighting the Syrian government changed the relations with the Kurds. It is undeniable that Turkey not only supports the Free Syrian Army but also the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Turkey is the transit country for international suicide bomber candidates joining these organizations. Weapons, ammunition and other goods are smuggled into Syria with the help of the Turkish secret services and the Islamic State exports oil to Turkey. The Islamic State is recruiting in Turkey and is believed to have many sleeper cells throughout the country.
When the Islamic State attacked Kurdish positions in Kobane in north Syria the U.S. intervened on the side of the Kurds. Turkey was miffed and at first blocked all support. The Kurds in Kobane are, like the Kurdish rebels in Turkey, organized in the PKK/YPG. They want an continuous autonomous region in north Syria connecting all Kurdish enclaves along the Turkish Syrian border.
Ankara fears that such a region could be joined by the Kurdish areas in south-east Turkey. This would be a threat to the Turkish state. Turkey wants to gain land in the war on Syria not lose any. Idleb and Aleppo in Syria and Mosul in Iraq are regions that Erdogan would like to add to his realm.
As the Kurds in Syria as well as Iraq had some success in fighting against the Islamic State and increased their territories the Turkish AKP government saw its plans in shambles. Additionally the AKP lost in the recent elections in Turkey while the Kurdish HDP party, for the first time in its history, joined the Turkish parliament. Without a solid parliamentary majority Erdogan’s plan of becoming the almighty president over a larger, Ottoman Turkey is finished.
To change the situation Erdogan decided to reopen the war against the Kurds under the disguise of joining the U.S. war against the Islamic State.
On July 20 a bomb exploded during a meeting of young socialist Kurds in the southern border town of Suruç. Some thirty people were killed and over a hundred wounded. Turkey immediately attributed the attack to the Islamic State but IS never claimed the attack. The Kurdish PKK immediately blamed the Turkish state and accused it of collusion with the Islamic State. The next day the PKK killed two Turkish police officers in revenge for the bombing.
Last year secret audio tapes leaked of conversations between the Turkish prime minister and the head if the Turkish secret service. They planned a false flag attack against Turkish targets as a pretext to invade Syria. The PKK assumption that Turkey colluded with the Islamic State to attack Kurds in Turkey is thereby quite plausible. The claimed “intelligence failure” that allowed the attack seems to be a mere smoke screen. The attack gives Turkey a public relationtalking point that it is fighting the Islamic State while in reality Turkey is attacking those Kurds who are fighting the Islamic State.
On Wednesday Turkish police raided hundreds of homes all over the country. The mass arrests was sold as an action against Islamic State fighters. But beside a few well known IS functionaries hundreds of Kurdish activists and leftists politicians were taken into custody. Demonstrations and riots by Kurds in Istanbul and other cities increased. Today Turkish courts banned Kurdish news agencies and media. Turkish media and the Internet in Turkey are again partially censored.
Why would Erdogan now launch a war against the Kurds? What are his aims? These come to mind:
- Prevent the unification of Kurdish cantons in north Syria which the Islamic State lost after the Kurdish offensive.
- Maintain secure supply routes to AlQaeda, the Islamic State and other anti-Syrian groups with the long term aim of incorporating north Syria into Turkey.
- Rally nationalist for a new round of elections to Erdogan’s side. Shut out the Kurdish HDP from the next election to again win an outright AKP majority.
- Gain support from the Turkish army which is a political opponent of Erdogan but sees the bigger danger in a possible Kurdish autonomy.
Yesterday the Turkish government announced that it would open the Incirlik air base for U.S. attack flights against the Islamic State. It also claimed that the U.S. had agreed to set up a no-fly zone over Syria. The U.S. officially denied the later. Turkey fighter jets flew a few attacks against alleged Islamic State targets in north Syria. The Kurds say the Turks only bombed some empty houses. The official announced plan seems to differ from what the Turks are actually doing:
Turkey and the United States have agreed on a military action plan with the objective of clearing the Turkish-Syrian border of jihadist terrorists in what the two countries have called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)-free zone.
The plan crafted by Ankara and Washington foresees the deployment of FSA units to this area if ISIL is completely cleared from that particular zone, which would both prevent the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) from further expanding its influence towards the West and create a safe environment for either sheltering Syrians fleeing violence or those who want to return to their homelands.
Last night the Turkish air-force went on an all out attack against Kurds in Iraq not against Islamic State fighters or positions. Several dozens Turkish jets attacked PKK postions in north Iraq. These jets allegedly flew through Syrian air space. This is an attack against the group that was, with international support, most successful in fighting against the Islamic State. One wonders how much of this part of the plans was agreed upon with the United States.
Does the U.S. collude with Ankara in the now open war against the Kurdish PKK? How then can it then continue to use the PKK/YPG as an ally against the Islamic State?
The U.S. position is confused:
Obama administration officials acknowledged the PKK and YPG have links and coordinate with each other in the fight against Islamic State, but they said the U.S. continues to formally shun the PKK while dealing directly with YPG. The groups operate under separate command structures and have different objectives, the officials said.
Just two years ago, President Barack Obama told Turkey the U.S. would continue to aid its battle against PKK “terrorists.” The U.S. continues to share intelligence about the PKK with Turkey, and military officials from the two countries sit together in an Intelligence Fusion Cell in Ankara established by the George W. Bush administration to help Turkey fight the group.But now, “the U.S. has become the YPG’s air force and the YPG has become the U.S.’s ground force in Syria,” said Henri Barkey, a former State Department analyst on Turkey now at Lehigh University.
Again, the PKK and the YPG are not really distinct organizations. They are essentially the same. It seems that the U.S. is now helping the Turkish government, which supports the Islamic State, to target Kurdish positions while at the same time giving air support to the same Kurds against the Islamic State.
Who in Washington came up with such a lunatic policy position and what is the real aim behind it?