Since the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced in June that it will hold a referendum on declaring independence from Iraq, the Turkish government has maintained a coolheaded approach — until now. As the Sept. 25 referendum approaches, Ankara seems to be toughening its stance against Iraqi Kurdistan independence.
President Trump outlined Cold War-era bilateral relations between the United States and Turkey after a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House in May. Trump’s remarks are a striking reminder of how much has changed over the quarter-century since the fall of the Soviet Union. “Turkey was a pillar in the Cold War against communism. It was a bastion against Soviet expansion. And Turkish courage in war is legendary,” said Trump. However, today, the Cold War and the Soviet Union are becoming a distant memory, and U.S.–Turkish bilateral relations are no longer based on the struggle against a shared enemy.
In a bid to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees in Turkey to their homes, the Turkish government has been making considerable efforts to reconstruct and rehabilitate the destroyed Syrian areas that were liberated during Operation Euphrates Shield, a cross-border military operation launched by Turkey in partnership with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) on Aug. 24, 2016, against the Islamic State (IS) in northern Syria.
A Kurdish militant group claimed today that it has captured Turkish intelligence officers. Diyar Xerib, a Kurdish leader linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), said the PKK had “arrested” two Turkish nationals working for Turkey’s national spy agency MIT, but had refrained from publicizing the incident so as not to create problems for the local government.
The July 5 headline in Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, quoting Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus reads as follows: “Turkey Says It’s Not Declaring War On YPG [Yekîneyên Parastina Gel or People's Protection Units],” the main Syrian Kurdish militia just across the border. But, Kurtulmus added, “if Turkey sees a YPG movement in northern Syria that is a threat to it, it will retaliate in kind.”
Donald J. Trump declared: “We support Turkey in the first fight against terror and terror groups like ISIS and the PKK, and ensure they have no safe quarter, the terror groups” (16 May 2017). Equating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) shows a profound lack of nuance. While the United States lists both ISIS and the PKK as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), their ideology and tactics are dramatically different.
Soon after a meeting in Beijing with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a press conference that he would maintain Russia’s contact with the “Kurdish formations” in Syria that are fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), or DAESH, despite Turkey’s objections. By “Kurdish formations” he meant the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the militia of the Democratic Unity Party (PYD), the Syria extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has been waging an armed campaign against Turkey for more than three decades.
Amid the war against the Islamic State, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is bombing our villages and soldiers on an entirely false pretense.
Unable to change the course of events in Syria, where he is increasingly up against the U.S. and Russia, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has decided on a high-stake disruptive game aimed at trying to secure Turkey’s interests.
Turkey's airstrikes on Kurdish regions in Syria and Iraq recently raised many an eyebrow around the globe. They left world leaders wondering if there will be more strikes and, if so, how the escalation will unfold. This article is a sequel to Amberin Zaman’s piece on April 25 that reflected the viewpoints of the United States, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Baghdad. This will focus on the perspectives of Ankara and Moscow, Ankara's strategic calculations behind the attacks and Moscow’s position on the events.