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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Turkey attacks the Islamic State but also Kurds in northern Iraq

Washington has long urged Turkey to intervene against the Islamic State in Syria. After a suicide bombing that killed 32 people in Turkey, Turkish planes have targeted IS locations in Syria for two consecutive days now.
If the Turks had simply bombed IS positions the US would no doubt have been quite pleased but Turkish planes also targeted shelters and storage sites belonging to the Kurdistan Worker's Party in seven different locations in northern Iraq. While the US has yet to make a statement on the Iraq attacks the PKK has said that conditions for peace talks with the Turkish government are no longer in place. Turkey had embarked on peace talks with the PKK in 2012, and the PKK had declared a cease fire in 2013. The Kurds in northern Iraq including the PKK units have been instrumental in defending the area against the Islamic State and even retaking some territory. In attacking the PKK, Turkey is attacking an ally in the fight against the Islamic State as far as the US is concerned. Turkey is very concerned about Kurdish gains both in Iraq and in Syria. It worries that an independent Kurdistan might be formed in northern Syria and that the Kurdish area of Iraq also becomes independent. There would be pressure within Turkey to join these other Kurdish areas.
In recent elections in Turkey the Kurds gained considerable ground politically. While there is conflict between the PKK and less radical Kurdish groups, an attack on the PKK may actually help promote a unified position against President Erdogan. Turkish actions may result in many more attacks by the Islamic State and perhaps also attacks by the PKK within Turkey. While bombing Islamic State positions helps in the battle against IS, bombing the PKK in iraq does exactly the opposite.
Washington may have agreed not to object to Turkish bombing of the PKK in return for Turkey joining the war against the Islamic State. However, Turkey made another important concession to the US. For months, the Obama administration has been negotiating an agreement to use bombers and drones to operate from air bases at Incirlik and Diyarbakir. An administration official said that the deal was sealed by a phone call between Turkish president Recep Erdogan and US president Obama. No official announcement has yet been made but, John Kirby, a State Department spokesperson, said simply that the US and Turkey had "decided to further deepen our cooperation in the fight against ISIL". Fadi Hakura, a Turkey analyst in London said: "The use of the Turkish air base is extremely important. Before, the U.S. had to traverse 1,000 miles to target IS in Syria. Now it will be much less, so naturally the air campaign will be far more intense and far more effective."
Turkey is in the process of clamping down on IS suspects and PKK militants. Erdogan will use increased attacks in Turkey to impose even more draconian anti-terror measures. He may very well tar any significant opposition to his rule as related to terror threats as has been done In Egypt and elsewhere. President Assad of Syria has made no statement about the Turkish bombings inside Syria.

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