BY SETO BOYADJIAN, ESQ.
To Hovan Tashjian, who passed away early this week – a friend, a free spirit, and a rebel in the fight for the Armenian Cause
For over three years, Turkey has armed, trained and then allowed Islamist terrorists to cross the Turkish border into northern Syria. These terrorists, who now constitute the base of the so-called Islamist State (IS), plan to carve out an Islamic Caliphate within the territorial boundaries of Syria and Iraq.
The very same Turkey has now sealed its borders with Syria to all those who are pleading with their Turkish government to cross into northern Syria to assist the mainly Kurdish population in their fight against the attacks of IS hordes. The Turkish government is even denying them to supply their brethren with medication and other humanitarian assistance.
In the face of criticism and mounting pressures from around the world, Turkey decided to do some face-saving by resorting to its traditional double-game. On Monday it announced that Turkey will allow Kurdish peshmerga fighters to cross the border. According to foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey is not inclined to see Kobani fall to the IS. He said, “We are assisting peshmerga forces to cross into Kobani.”
On its face, Cavusoglu’s announcement may seem a major shift in Turkish policy toward northern Syrian Kurds. But it is not. The fact of the matter is that peshmergas are the Kurdish fighters of Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR). The Turkish government agreed to a request made by IKR President Massoud Barzani, who is also the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
The IKR peshmergas are located and operate in northern Iraq. Their deployment into northern Syria is a virtual impossibility. Whereas, Kurdish freedom-fighters inside Turkey are logistically better situated to assist their brethren. However, such an arrangement does not suit Turkey’s real objectives aiming at crushing Kurdish irredentism; because, unlike the peshmergas, Turkey’s Kurdish fighters are affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). While in northern Syria, Kurdish towns and villages are defended by the fighters of the Kurdish Democratic Unity Party (PYD) that – lo and behold – is PKK’s Syrian arm.
It is obvious as to why Turkey has assented to deployment of peshmergas into northern Syria, because they are undeployable.
It is also obvious as to why Turkey is not contemplating on permitting the entry of any PKK unit into northern Syria, because Turkey views any combination of PKK and PYD fighters in northern Syria as a toxic solution that will only erode Turkish plans to stem Kurdish aspirations for national identity and homeland.
Furthermore, as reported by the Economist last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to maintain that any Turkish help is conditioned on the abandonment by PYD and Syrian Kurds of their alliance with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. As Cavusoglu put it, Turkey would not give support to the PYD, because “like IS, the PYD wants to control a certain region of Syria” and therefore it poses a threat to Syria’s future. (Of course, he really meant “Turkey’s future”.)
The undeployability of the Iraqi peshmergas, the toxicity of the combination of PKK and PYD forces, and Erdogan’s condition for PYD to sever all links to the Syrian regime, simply unmasks Turkey’s double game and duplicity on the issues of help to northern Syrian Kurds and U.S. policy objectives to stop the IS.
On the front of providing real aid to Syrian Kurds fighting against IS militants, over the weekend the U.S. led coalition stepped up its campaign of aerial bombing of IS positions in northern Syria. Of course these bombings were being carried out from long-range logistical locations as Turkey still denies the U.S. planes the use of Turkish air space.
Coupled with these airstrikes, last Sunday U.S. planes airdropped bundles of weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to Kurdish fighters near Kobani. Calling Turkey a “close NATO ally and partner”, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf indicated the U.S. did not seek approval from Erdogan. She said, “It’s not about consent.”
On his part, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that it would be “irresponsible” and “morally very difficult” not to support the Kurds in their fight against IS. He said, “It would be irresponsible of us, as well as morally very difficult, to turn your back on a community fighting ISIL.”
In view of Cavusoglu’s consent to peshmerga deployment, one would have expected a welcoming relief from the Turkish government regarding the U.S. airdrops of supplies. Yet Turkey had an altogether different position on U.S. decision to provide airlift assistance to the Kurdish fighters.
On Wednesday, in a news conference in Ankara, President Erdogan declared that air drop of military supplies to Kurdish fighters was wrong, based on the reasoning that some weapons were seized by IS militants. He said, “What was done here on this subject turned out to be wrong. Why did it turn out wrong? Because some of the weapons they dropped from those C130s were seized by ISIL.”
Erdogan even went on to claim, “I have difficulty understanding why Kobani is so strategic for them (i.e. the U.S.) because there are no civilians there, just around 2,000 fighters.”
Obviously, Erdogan fell into his own trap. Just two days ago his foreign minister announced that Turkey had arranged the deployment of Kurdish peshmergas into the town of Kobani. Now Erdogan is undermining it as strategically unimportant.
Yet again, the mask is torn apart from the true face of Turkey.
Meanwhile, peshmergas are still waiting for their deployment order into northern Syria and Erdogan is advising the U.S. to forget Kobani, because it represents no strategic value.