‘Whether it likes it or not, Turkey is heading into a full-on fight’

This one is from David Gardner’s column, FT:

”So, Turkey would appear to have overcome its reluctance to act against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. After an Isis suicide-bomber last week murdered 32 young socialist activists at a Kurdish cultural centre near the Syrian border, this narrative goes, Turkey’s neo-Islamist rulers have finally woken up to the menace in their midst. Ankara has sent the air force to strike Isis targets in northern Syria. It has bombarded Turkish Kurd insurgents in northern Iraq to deter them from taking advantage of the emergency following the murder by Kurdish militants of Turkish policemen. It has at last acceded to Washington’s request to open its Incirlik base for US warplanes to launch raids against Isis.

The problem with this linear account of Ankara’s volte-face on Isis is that hardly anyone outside government circles believes it. The policy of the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) has definitely changed. Turkey has gone on the offensive. But so too has President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After Turkish voters stripped the AKP of its majority at last month’s general election, he appears minded to re-run the poll in the autumn. He is fishing for nationalist votes, and trying to tar as terrorists the pro-Kurdish coalition whose electoral breakthrough thwarted his plans for a supermajority to invest the presidency with overarching powers.

Of one thing there is little doubt. Turkey’s Syria policy, and its strategy towards the Kurds, have unravelled.”
”Even after the reach and savagery of Isis was revealed by its surge into Iraq last summer, the AKP government seemed unfazed. When the jihadis laid siege to Kobani last autumn, President Erdogan said there was no difference between Isis and the Democratic Union party (PYD), the Syrian Kurdish fighters resisting them. Yet, as prime minister, Mr Erdogan had opened talks with the Kurdistan Workers party (or PKK) — the PYD’s Turkish sister organisation — to end a 30-year insurgency by granting Turkey’s Kurdish minority greater cultural and self-governing space.

Many Turkish Kurds came to feel that they had been played: to swell the AKP vote and fulfil President Erdogan’s ambition to rule Turkey unchecked. They threw their weight behind the Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP) — a pro-Kurdish coalition backed by liberals and leftists opposed to one-man rule — and the AKP lost its majority.”

‘Whether it likes it or not, Turkey is heading into a full-on fight.’

Simon Tisdall in his analysis for the Guardian is equally pessimistic about Erdoğan’s prospects:

Erdoğan used last week’s volte-face, when Turkey finally began targeting Isis after months of inaction, to initiate a simultaneous offensive against the PKK on the grounds that they are all terrorists. Turkey denies it is also targeting the Syrian Kurds’ Democratic Union party (PYD) and its armed wing, the YPG, despite a border shelling incident overnight in which YPG fighters were injured.

More than 800 alleged Isis sympathisers and Kurdish activists have been arrested inside Turkey. Kurdish politicians accuse Erdoğan of “setting the country on fire” as a prelude to calling a snap election, in a bid to reverse his party’s losses in last month’s polls.

This has led some analysts to suggest the US tacitly agreed to the new assault on the Kurds in return for Erdoğan’s cooperation on Isis, a claim that is impossible to prove. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s prime minister, said at the weekend that Turkey would not send ground troops into Syria. The deal with the US has “changed the regional game”, he added.

“Now the question is whether [Turkey’s] priority is to join the western alliance in its struggle against Isis or target the PKK in Iraq and Kurdish political circles including the Peace and Democracy party (HDP) inside the country. The other question is whether Turkey brokered a deal with the US to have a free hand against the PKK,” said Hurriyet newspaper columnist Nuray Mert. “What is clearer is that the Turkish government considered using this policy change as a chance to suppress Kurds by including them as part of its ‘war against terror’.”

The growing crisis along the Turkish border has raised international alarm bells. Nato will discuss the situation on Tuesday, at Turkey’s request. After ignoring alliance concerns about Isis for almost a year, Ankara now wants its full backing and support.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, told Çavuşoğlu that Turkey’s efforts to fight terrorism were welcome but the Kurdish peace process should be kept “alive and on track”. Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, delivered a similar message to Davutoğlu in a phone call on Sunday.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was also in touch with Erdoğan at the weekend. Moscow and Tehran are certain to resist any development that threatens their ally, Assad, and the regional power balance. From their perspective, it looks like the de facto territorial partition of Syria has begun.”

And, Robert Fisk, offers a harsh critique for what he sees as another betrayal for Kurds:

With its latest air campaign, the Turks are following Pakistan’s path to total corruption, when it became an arms and guerrilla conduit to Afghanistan – with American encouragement – in the 1980s. The Pakistanis variously supported the mujahedin, the Taliban and other Islamist groups.

As for the Kurds – have  they come across the words of Arthur Harris, the RAF squadron leader who helped crush the 1920 Iraqi uprising? “The Arab and Kurd now know,” he said, “what real bombing means in casualties and damage. Within 45 minutes a full-size village can be practically wiped out and a third of its inhabitants killed or injured.” The Turks clearly feel the same.


About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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