Sunday, September 04, 2016

Abandoning the Kurds

"Russia wants Turkey's cooperation on limiting NATO's building up in the Black Sea, on energy projects like TurkStream, and also wants to avoid Turkish interference in the Nagorno Karabakh dispute. Turkey patched things up with Russia so that it could pursue its objectives in Syria."
Turkey needs to prevent the consolidation of a Kurdish mini-state in Syria, and so needs to maintain a blocking position that prevents Kurdish YPG forces from linking up with Kurdish forces in Afrin canton. By intervening, Turkey prevented this."
"At the end of the day, the United States will prioritize Turkey's concerns. .. This is why we see the U.S. supporting the Turkish operation while trying to force YPG forces back east of the Euphrates."
"The United States also needs to keep close to Turkey as a strategic counterbalance to Russia."
Reva Goujon, vice-president, Global Analysis, Stratfor
Syrian civilians, with Turkish army tanks in the background, walk through the Turkish border as they are pictured from a village in Kilis province, Turkey on Saturday. Ismail Coskun/Ihlas News Agency/Reuters

"It would not be possible to do this if there was no rapprochement with Russia. Turkish jets were not even allowed in Syria after the downing of the Russian jet in 2015."
"Turkey's targets are ISIS and PYD, not regime forces. Assad is not Turkey's priority any longer as a result of direct security threats from ISIS and PYD."
"ISIS is a purely security threat while the PD is an existential threat to Turkey, especially considering the PKK terrorism."
Demir Murat Seurek, senior policy adviser, European Foundation for Democracy

Turkey blinked for forgiveness and understanding, to explain away Erdogan's volatile tantrum in response to Moscow's intervention in support of Syria whom Erdogan detests and wanted removed as a Shiite (Alawite Baathist) regime oppressing and slaughtering the Sunnis in Syria, including Turkomen Syrians, and Vladimir Putin was content to accept Erdogan's grovelling apology. They do certainly share personality traits, each viewing themselves as heroic national figures, Erdogan patterning his permanent reign in Turkey after Putin's for Russia.

Where they deviate is where Mr. Putin is working to restore the reputation of the Soviet past, seeking to replicate it under his rule with plans to expand a greater Russia; where in comparison, Mr. Erdogan is repudiating the secular Ataturkian past for Turkey, re-introducing Islamism and reducing the country's Western embrace. Where they come together again is the manipulative use of nationalistic fervor, the arrest of political opponents and journalists and their shared belief that their exceptionality as rulers merits each a palatial official residence.

Erdogan set aside his umbrage with Putin's Syrian adventure to shift his own priorities since re-ingratiating himself with Putin, to begin his own adventure cloaked as a NATO member in good standing using his enormous standing army to threaten Islamic State's expansion plans which the YPG has rather upset as an ally and proxy of the Americans, allowing Ankara to shift its attention to the Kurdish plan to control the Syrian border, installing their own rule there, incorporating it into their plans for a greater Kurdistan.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan finds a lot of things intolerable; the popularity and support given by some sectors of the Turkish public to his nemesis, Fethullah Gulen finding him just as detestably intolerable as the Kurdish ambition for their own heritage homeland. With so many enemies Erdogan needed to swallow his bile and reinterpret his relationship with Israel and reinstate the traditional Russia-Turkey collaboration, restoring trade and tourism and joint energy ventures while the country's attention remains fixed on Kurdish militancy and political ambitions to deprive Turkey of a portion of its contested territory.

For his part, Mr. Putin's entitlements to issues such as a Syrian-Russian airbase and a Russian Black Sea fleet was accomplished by the support of a blood-thirsty tyrant inviting Russia to intervene in the regime's favour, as opposed to the invasion of a neighbour which wanted to distance itself from Russian influence and in the process saw its territory annexed so that Russia could feel comfortable in its Crimean fleet finding its permanent home.

As for the United States, the Obama administration appears to have been checked and check-mated at every turn in the Middle East and eastern Europe by a chessmaster whose foxiness Obama's naivety is no match for. And since the U.S. finds itself cornered and persuaded and channelled by a master at political manoeuvring, it has succumbed to the realpolitik that leaves, once again, an ideological partnership in the lurch.

The Kurds alone proved themselves master of the battlefield against Islamic State. It was to their advantage to curry favour with the United States, still ostensibly the most powerful nation on Earth, but abrogating that status during this administration. The Kurds have been faithful to the arrangements made with NATO and the U.S. and have received too-slight acknowledgement of their sacrifices. In the current situation where the U.S. finds itself, blind-sided by Ankara and prodded by Moscow in the direction it wants, the Kurds have been left out in the cold to fend for themselves.

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