Saturday, November 7, 2015

Turkish president Erdogan threatens military action against Syrian Kurds if they take more land from the Islamic State

After Kurdish YPG forces in Syria came under fire recently in the northern border town of Tel Abyad, Turkish President Recep Erdogan warned that more attacks would be coming if the Kurds attempted to make further gains against the Islamic State.
Unlike the U.S. who considers the Kurds prime allies against the Islamic State in northern Syria and in Iraq as well, Turkey is concerned about the de facto growth of a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria on its border. Turkey's policies are anti-Kurdish and of late have become even more so, as Erdogan attempts to whip up anti-Kurd nationalist sentiments in Turkey in the hope of winning a majority in the elections on Sunday.
While Turkey recently joined the US-led coalition in air strikes against the islamic State, it also at the same time launched strikes against the Kurdish PKK in northern Iraq. The PKK has long fought against the ruling Turkish government. Although Erdogan had earlier agreed to a ceasefire with the PKK, that agreement has been terminated by Turkey's recent bombing activity against Kurds in northern Iraq.
Erdogan's threats against the Kurds for seizing more territory from the Islamic State, threatens relations with both the U.S. and Russia. Erdogan sees airstrikes by both the Russians and the US-led coalition as benefiting the Kurds. As mentioned earlier, Erdogan fears an autonomous Syrian Kurdistan on its borders. He feels this development would feed into secessionist sentiment among Kurds in Turkey. No doubt that sentiment is already growing in any case due to Erdogan's attacks on the Kurdish minority within Turkey.
When units of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) advanced west of the Euphrates recently into Islamic State held territory, they were twice attacked by Turkish jets. The Kurds had been warned by Turkey that they should not advance west of the Euphrates. Erdogan said: "This was a warning. 'Pull yourself together. If you try to do this elsewhere - Turkey doesn't need permission from anyone - we will do what is necessary.'" The local leadership council recently declared that the town was part of a system of self-governing cantons set up and run by the Kurds. Erdogan accused the US of supporting terrorism through its aid to the Kurds: "The PYD is committing ethnic cleansing here (of) Arabs and Turkmen. If the Kurds withdraw and don't form a canton, there's no problem. But if the mindset continues, then what is necessary will be done or we face serious problems. We are determined to (combat) anything that threatens us along the Syrian border, inside or out."
The Kurdish enclave in Syria is called Rojava or Western Kurdistan and is divided into several cantons. The PYD or Democratic Union Party has links to the Kurdistan Worker's Party(PKK) that many countries, including the U.S., consider a terrorist organization but many other countries do not classify it as such including Egypt, China, and Russia. The U.S. and many other countries do not consider the PYD a terrorist group. Erdogan lashed out at the US saying: "They don't even accept the PYD as a terrorist organization. What kind of nonsense is this?The West still has the mentality of 'My terrorist is good, yours is bad.'"That mentality seems common to almost every country. Turkey is after all complaining that the Kurds are seizing territory from the Islamic State. If any group deserve to be called terrorists it is surely them. Erdogan claims that 1,400 PKK militants are fighting in Syria alongside the YPG.
Erdogan seems bound and determined to exacerbate relations with the Kurds in the hope that this will gain him a majority in the upcoming elections on Sunday. He is also clamping down on other opposition forces in Turkey including media outlets critical of him and his regime. If Erdogan gains a majority, he is sure to increase his powers and clamp down even more on opponents a move certain to create even more conflict with the Kurds both within and outside of Turkey.


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