Turkish fighter jets struck Kurdish insurgent positions in southeastern Turkey on Monday, shaking the country’s fragile peace process with the Kurds and demonstrating the complexities surrounding the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, which Turkey is under heavy pressure to join.
The action is likely to reverberate far beyond Turkey’s borders, and raise further questions about Turkey’s willingness to take on what the United States and many experts say is a much greater enemy, one that should unite the Turks and the Kurds: the extremists of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, who have taken control of large parts of Iraq and Syria.
Even before the airstrikes, Turkey’s unwillingness to do more to relieve Kobani, despite pressure from the United States and other countries, had spilled over into the streets of Turkish cities, where more than 30 people were killed last week in violence surrounding protests.
The Kurds have not sought Turkish military action in Kobani, but have pressed for Kurdish fighters to be allowed to pass through Turkish territory to join the fight in Syria. After the street protests, Kurdish leaders appealed for calm and for the continuation of the peace process, and tensions have eased for now.