The real frontline confronting ISIS is not US or French bombers (the latter currently targeting Raqqa, a city with 140,000 civilians, who are virtual prisoners of ISIS) but the Kurds of Iraq and northern Syria. Just over a week ago the combined Kurd forces, under the command of the Yezidis, liberated Sinjar from ISIS. For the Kurds, their war is not just about defeating ISIS, but about creating their own autonomous region – a region that would link all the Kurd cantons. This will not be easy, especially as the Iraq-based Kurds (Peshmerga) are allied with Iran and benefit from US support (nor are the Iraqi Kurds in any hurry to secede from Iraq). But the largest hurdle to an autonomous Kurdistan is Turkey, which not only has rekindled its war with the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party), but has done everything it can over the last 12 months or so to ensure Kurd victories against ISIS were minimised. So where is the evidence for this? It comes from a a range of sources, including the Institute for the Study of Human Rights (Columbia University) and leading commentators/analysts Nafeez Ahmed and David Graeber. See below…
The Kurds of northern Syria, together with the Kurds of Turkey and Iraq, have been at war with ISIS since the latter rose up and declared their so-called caliphate. It was the Syrian Kurds and their Kurdish comrades in Turkey who helped rescue the Yezidis, after they had fled the ISIS onslaught to take refuge in the Sinjar mountains. It was the Syrian Kurds and their comrades in Turkey who liberated the city of Kobani from ISIS.
But the Kurds of northern Syria have not just been waging war. They have also been waging peace: creating new, democratic structures, declaring autonmous cantons; setting up schools, universities, hospitals. They have taken their inspiration from the Zapatistas of Mexico, who in their thousands retreated into the jungles of Chiapas and together with the Mayans created a new society, free from the oppression of the Mexican authorities.
In short, the northern Syrian Kurds have created and are living a social revolution. It is no wonder, therefore, that the authoritarian and neo-Islamist Erdogan Government of Turkey is doing everything it can to break the Kurds, including providing covert support to the Kurds’ main enemy, to ISIS.
In a recent article in the Guardian, Professor David Graeber of the London School of Economics stated how “Back in August, the YPG, fresh from their victories in Kobani and Gire Spi, were poised to seize Jarablus, the last Isis-held town on the Turkish border that the terror organisation had been using to resupply its capital in Raqqa with weapons, materials, and recruits – Isis supply lines pass directly through Turkey.” Graeber added: “Commentators predicted that with Jarablus gone, Raqqa would soon follow. Erdoğan reacted by declaring Jarablus a “red line”: if the Kurds attacked, his forces would intervene militarily – against the YPG. So Jarablus remains in terrorist hands to this day, under de facto Turkish military protection.”
B. Turkey’s support for ISIS
For well over a year the Turkish Government has been secretly supporting ISIS, but the US and NATO turn a blind eye to this because of Turkey’s geopolitical position. ISIS as an armed force – though not ISIS terrorists outside the Mid East region – would most likely have been defeated long ago had it not been for Turkey’s support.
According to journalist, Nafeez Ahmed: “Earlier this year, the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman reported that “more than 100,000 fake Turkish passports” had been given to ISIS. Erdogan’s government, the newspaper added, “has been accused of supporting the terrorist organization by turning a blind eye to its militants crossing the border and even buying its oil… Based on a 2014 report, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said that ISIS terrorists fighting in Syria claimed to have been treated in hospitals in Turkey.”
Dr Ahmed adds: “In January, authenticated official documents of the Turkish military were leaked online, showing that Turkey’s intelligence services (MIT) had been caught in Adana by military officers transporting missiles, mortars and anti-aircraft ammunition via truck “to the al-Qaeda terror organisation” in Syria. According to other ISIS suspects facing trial in Turkey, the Turkish national military intelligence organization (MIT) had begun smuggling arms, including NATO weapons to jihadist groups in Syria as early as 2011.” Also: “Turkey has also played a key role in facilitating the life-blood of ISIS’ expansion: black market oil sales. Senior political and intelligence sources in Turkey and Iraq confirm that Turkish authorities have actively facilitated ISIS oil sales through the country. Last summer, an opposition politician estimated the quantity of ISIS oil sales in Turkey at about $800 million — that was over a year ago.”
Finally, Dr. Ahmed shows how consistent transfers of CIA-Gulf-Turkish arms supplies to ISIS have been fully documented through analysis of weapons serial numbers by the UK-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR), whose database on the illicit weapons trade is funded by the EU and Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
Latest – see link in tweet below – is an article that reports on a group “involved in making arms deals on behalf of the Islamic State leaders in Syria, including buying FN-6 portable air defence systems and other weaponry, which were shipped to ISIL in Syria through Turkey… transferring money to Turkish bank accounts…
Other allegations re Turkey’s support for ISIS:
[Note: the following is compiled from a Report by Columbia University’s Program on Peace-building and Rights, which assigned a team of researchers in the United States, Europe, and Turkey to examine Turkish and international media, assessing the credibility of allegations made against Turkey. This report draws on Turkish sources (CNN Turk, Hurriyet Daily News, Taraf, Cumhuriyet, and Radikal among others) as well as a variety of mainstream media – The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, BBC, Sky News, etc.]
1. Turkey Provides Military Equipment to ISIS
• An ISIS commander told The Washington Post on August 12, 2014: “Most of the fighters who joined us in the beginning of the war came via Turkey, and so did our equipment and supplies.”
• Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), produced a statement from the Adana Office of the Prosecutor on October 14, 2014 maintaining that Turkey supplied weapons to terror groups. He also produced interview transcripts from truck drivers who delivered weapons to the groups. According to Kiliçdaroglu, the Turkish government claims the trucks were for humanitarian aid to the Turkmen, but the Turkmen said no humanitarian aid was delivered.
• According to CHP Vice President Bulent Tezcan, three trucks were stopped in Adana for inspection on January 19, 2014. The trucks were loaded with weapons in Esenboga Airport in Ankara. The drivers drove the trucks to the border, where a MIT agent was supposed to take over and drive the trucks to Syria to deliver materials to ISIS and groups in Syria. This happened many times. When the trucks were stopped, MIT agents tried to keep the inspectors from looking inside the crates. The inspectors found rockets, arms, and ammunition.
• Cumhuriyet reports that Fuat Avni, a preeminent Twitter user who reported on the December 17th corruption probe, that audio tapes confirm that Turkey provided financial and military aid to terrorist groups associated with Al Qaeda on October 12, 2014. On the tapes, Erdogan pressured the Turkish Armed Forces to go to war with Syria. Erdogan demanded that Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MIT), come up with a justification for attacking Syria.
• Hakan Fidan told Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Yasar Guler, a senior defense official, and Feridun Sinirlioglu, a senior foreign affairs official: “If need be, I’ll send 4 men into Syria. I’ll formulate a reason to go to war by shooting 8 rockets into Turkey; I’ll have them attack the Tomb of Suleiman Shah.”
• Documents surfaced on September 19th, 2014 showing that the Saudi Emir Bender Bin Sultan financed the transportation of arms to ISIS through Turkey. A flight leaving Germany dropped off arms in the Etimesgut airport in Turkey, which was then split into three containers, two of which were given to ISIS and one to Gaza.
2. Turkey Provided Transport and Logistical Assistance to ISIS Fighters
• According to Radikal on June 13, 2014, Interior Minister Muammar Guler signed a directive: “According to our regional gains, we will help al-Nusra militants against the branch of PKK terrorist organization, the PYD, within our borders… Hatay is a strategic location for the mujahideen crossing from within our borders to Syria. Logistical support for Islamist groups will be increased, and their training, hospital care, and safe passage will mostly take place in Hatay… MIT and the Religious Affairs Directorate will coordinate the placement of fighters in public accommodations.”
• The Daily Mail reported on August 25, 2014 that many foreign militants joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq after traveling through Turkey, but Turkey did not try to stop them. This article describes how foreign militants, especially from the UK, go to Syria and Iraq through the Turkish border. They call the border the “Gateway to Jihad.” Turkish army soldiers either turn a blind eye and let them pass, or the jihadists pay the border guards as little as $10 to facilitate their crossing.
• Britain’s Sky News obtained documents showing that the Turkish government has stamped passports of foreign militants seeking to cross the Turkey border into Syria to join ISIS.
• The BBC interviewed villagers, who claim that buses travel at night, carrying jihadists to fight Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq, not the Syrian Armed Forces.
• A senior Egyptian official indicated on October 9, 2014 that Turkish intelligence is passing satellite imagery and other data to ISIS.
3. Turkey Provided Training to ISIS Fighters
• CNN Turk reported on July 29, 2014 that in the heart of Istanbul, places like Duzce and Adapazari, have become gathering spots for terrorists. There are religious orders where ISIS militants are trained. Some of these training videos are posted on the Turkish ISIS propaganda website takvahaber.net. According to CNN Turk, Turkish security forces could have stopped these developments if they had wanted to.
• Turks who joined an affiliate of ISIS were recorded at a public gathering in Istanbul, which took place on July 28, 2014.
• A video shows an ISIS affiliate holding a prayer/gathering in Omerli, a district of Istanbul. In response to the video, CHP Vice President, MP Tanrikulu submitted parliamentary questions to the Minister of the Interior, Efkan Ala, asking questions such as, “Is it true that a camp or camps have been allocated to an affiliate of ISIS in Istanbul? What is this affiliate? Who is it made up of? Is the rumor true that the same area allocated for the camp is also used for military exercises?”
• Kemal Kiliçdaroglu warned the AKP government not to provide money and training to terror groups on October 14, 2014. He said, “It isn’t right for armed groups to be trained on Turkish soil. You bring foreign fighters to Turkey, put money in their pockets, guns in their hands, and you ask them to kill Muslims in Syria. We told them to stop helping ISIS. Ahmet Davutoglu asked us to show proof. Everyone knows that they’re helping ISIS.” (See HERE and HERE.)
• According to Jordanian intelligence, Turkey trained ISIS militants for special operations.
4. Turkey Offers Medical Care to ISIS Fighters
• An ISIS commander told the Washington Post on August 12, 2014, “We used to have some fighters — even high-level members of the Islamic State — getting treated in Turkish hospitals.”
• Taraf reported on October 12, 2014 that Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat, a founder of the AKP, said that Turkey supported terrorist groups and still supports them and treats them in hospitals. “In order to weaken the developments in Rojova (Syrian Kurdistan), the government gave concessions and arms to extreme religious groups… the government was helping the wounded. The Minister of Health said something such as, it’s a human obligation to care for the ISIS wounded.”
• According to Taraf, Ahmet El H, one of the top commanders at ISIS and Al Baghdadi’s right hand man, was treated at a hospital in Sanliurfa, Turkey, along with other ISIS militants. The Turkish state paid for their treatment. According to Taraf’s sources, ISIS militants are being treated in hospitals all across southeastern Turkey. More and more militants have been coming in to be treated since the start of airstrikes in August. To be more specific, eight ISIS militants were transported through the Sanliurfa border crossing; these are their names: “Mustafa A., Yusuf El R., Mustafa H., Halil El M., Muhammet El H., Ahmet El S., Hasan H., [and] Salim El D.”
5. Turkey Supports ISIS Financially Through Purchase of Oil
• On September 13, 2014, The New York Times reported on the Obama administration’s efforts to pressure Turkey to crack down on ISIS extensive sales network for oil. James Phillips, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, argues that Turkey has not fully cracked down on ISIS’s sales network because it benefits from a lower price for oil, and that there might even be Turks and government officials who benefit from the trade.
• Fehim Taştekin wrote in Radikal on September 13, 2014 about illegal pipelines transporting oil from Syria to nearby border towns in Turkey. The oil is sold for as little as 1.25 liras per liter. Taştekin indicated that many of these illegal pipelines were dismantled after operating for 3 years, once his article was published.
• On October 14, 2014, a German Parliamentarian from the Green Party accused Turkey of allowing the transportation of arms to ISIS over its territory, as well as the sale of oil.
6. Turkey Assists ISIS Recruitment
• Kerim Kiliçdaroğlu claimed on October 14, 2014 that ISIS offices in Istanbul and Gaziantep are used to recruit fighters. On October 10, 2014, the mufti of Konya said that 100 people from Konya joined ISIS 4 days ago. (See HERE and HERE.)
• OdaTV reports that Takva Haber serves as a propaganda outlet for ISIS to recruit Turkish-speaking individuals in Turkey and Germany. The address where this propaganda website is registered corresponds to the address of a school called Irfan Koleji, which was established by Ilim Yayma Vakfi, a foundation that was created by Erdogan and Davutoglu, among others. It is thus claimed that the propaganda site is operated from the school of the foundation started by AKP members.
• Minister of Sports, Suat Kilic, an AKP member, visited Salafi jihadists who are ISIS supporters in Germany. The group is known for reaching out to supporters via free Quran distributions and raising funds to sponsor suicide attacks in Syria and Iraq by raising money.
• OdaTV released a video allegedly showing ISIS militants riding a bus in Istanbul.
7. Turkish Forces Are Fighting Alongside ISIS
• On October 7, 2014, IBDA-C, a militant Islamic organization in Turkey, pledged support to ISIS. A Turkish friend who is a commander in ISIS suggests that Turkey is “involved in all of this” and that “10,000 ISIS members will come to Turkey.” A Huda-Par member at the meeting claims that officials criticize ISIS but in fact sympathize with the group (Huda-Par, the “Free Cause Party”, is a Kurdish Sunni fundamentalist political party). BBP member claims that National Action Party (MHP) officials are close to embracing ISIS. In the meeting, it is asserted that ISIS militants come to Turkey frequently to rest, as though they are taking a break from military service. They claim that Turkey will experience an Islamic revolution, and Turks should be ready for jihad. (See HERE and HERE.)
• Seymour Hersh maintains in the London Review of Books that ISIS conducted sarin attacks in Syria, and that Turkey was informed. “For months there had been acute concern among senior military leaders and the intelligence community about the role in the war of Syria’s neighbors, especially Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Erdogan was known to be supporting the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist faction among the rebel opposition, as well as other Islamist rebel groups. ‘We knew there were some in the Turkish government,’ a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, ‘who believed they could get Assad’s nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria – and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.”
• On September 20, 2014, Demir Celik, a Member of Parliament with the people’s democratic party (HDP) claimed that Turkish Special Forces fight with ISIS.
8. Turkey Helped ISIS in Battle for Kobani
• Anwar Moslem, Mayor of Kobani, said on September 19, 2014: “Based on the intelligence we got two days before the breakout of the current war, trains full of forces and ammunition, which were passing by north of Kobane, had an-hour-and-ten-to-twenty-minute-long stops in these villages: Salib Qaran, Gire Sor, Moshrefat Ezzo. There are evidences, witnesses, and videos about this. Why is ISIS strong only in Kobane’s east? Why is it not strong either in its south or west? Since these trains stopped in villages located in the east of Kobane, we guess they had brought ammunition and additional force for the ISIS.” In the second article on September 30, 2014, a CHP delegation visited Kobani, where locals claimed that everything from the clothes ISIS militants wear to their guns comes from Turkey. (See HERE and HERE.)
• Released by Nuhaber, a video shows Turkish military convoys carrying tanks and ammunition moving freely under ISIS flags in the Cerablus region and Karkamis border crossing (September 25, 2014). There are writings in Turkish on the trucks.
• Salih Muslim, PYD head, claims that 120 militants crossed into Syria from Turkey between October 20th and 24th, 2014.
• According to an op-ed written by a YPG commander in The New York Times on October 29, 2014, Turkey allows ISIS militants and their equipment to pass freely over the border.
• Diken reported, “ISIS fighters crossed the border from Turkey into Syria, over the Turkish train tracks that delineate the border, in full view of Turkish soldiers. They were met there by PYD fighters and stopped.”
• A Kurdish commander in Kobani claims that ISIS militants have Turkish entry stamps on their passports.
• Kurds trying to join the battle in Kobani are turned away by Turkish police at the Turkey-Syrian border.
• OdaTV released a photograph of a Turkish soldier befriending ISIS militants.
9. Turkey and ISIS Share a Worldview
• RT reports on Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks detailing Turkish support to ISIS.
• According to the Hurriyet Daily News on September 26, 2014, “The feelings of the AKP’s heavyweights are not limited to Ankara. I was shocked to hear words of admiration for ISIL from some high-level civil servants even in Şanliurfa. ‘They are like us, fighting against seven great powers in the War of Independence,’ one said.” “Rather than the [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK on the other side, I would rather have ISIL as a neighbor,” said another.”
• Cengiz Candar, a well-respected Turkish journalist, maintained that MIT helped “midwife” the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria, as well as other Jihadi groups.
• An AKP council member posted on his Facebook page: “Thankfully ISIS exists… May you never run out of ammunition…”
• A Turkish Social Security Institution supervisor uses the ISIS logo in internal correspondences.
• Bilal Erdogan and Turkish officials meet alleged ISIS fighters.
(The above report is by David L. Phillips, Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights.)
See also: article in The Intercept Turkey’s president ignores ISIS, stokes civil war with Kurds
At least one civilian has been killed and four others have been injured in new clashes between Turkish security forces and members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey’s southeastern province of Mardin.
Police sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the clashes broke out in the city of Nusaybin, situated 792 kilometers (492 miles) east of the capital, Anakara, on Sunday.
A 44-year-old woman was killed during the exchange of gunfire. Her daughter and son along with two men were also wounded.
On Sunday, 10 PKK members surrendered to security forces elsewhere in southeast Turkey.
The Turkish military announced that the Kurdish militants turned themselves in to police in the town of Silopi, in the province of Sirnak.
Turkey has been engaged in a large-scale military campaign against the PKK in its southern border region in the recent past. The Turkish military has also been conducting offensives against the positions of the PKK in northern Iraq.
The operations began in the wake of a deadly July 20 bombing in the southern Turkish town of Suruc, an ethnically Kurdish town located close to border with Syria. Over 30 people died in the Suruc attack, which the Turkish government blamed on Takfiri Daesh terrorists.
After the bombing in Suruc, the PKK militants, who accuse the government in Ankara of supporting Daesh, engaged in a series of supposedly reprisal attacks against Turkish police and security forces, in turn prompting the Turkish military operations.
Turkey’s most comprehensive cold case of the historic PKK-state conflict ended with the acquittal of all eight suspects accused of leading a branch of the clandestine gendarmerie group JITEM that reportedly tortured and killed tens of thousands of Kurds in the 1990s.
The case began when mass graves were found in wells of a southeastern town and included 48 hearings on the murder of 55 unidentified victims in Cizre. Beyond conducting extrajudicial killings, JITEM is suspected to have disappeared some 17,000 Kurdish guerrillas, intellectuals and activists.
The families of victims came to the final hearing and participated in a sit-in to protest the verdict, mirroring the weekly sit-ins of the Saturday Mothers, who have still not recovered the bodies of their sons.
Protesters held the picture of Cemal Temizoz, the suspected leader of JITEM, with the word “killer,” but the Eskişehir 2nd High Criminal Court found that “no evidence was viable for a certain, credible and conscientious ruling,” reported the Hurriyet Daily.
The trial was originally in Şırnak, a province still healing from the conflict, but was then moved to Eskişehir, a majority pro-government city where many of the 3 million Kurds forcibly displaced by the conflict migrated.
A deputy of the opposition party CHP told Hurriyet that the lawyers representing the victims’ families were threatened and that evidence was tampered with.
One of the lawyers, Tahir Elçi, was arrested in late October ahead of the Turkish elections for saying publicly that the rebel Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) is not a terrorist group. Secret witnesses that aided Temizoz’s arrest in 2009 retracted their testimonies.
One of the suspects, all of whom were facing life sentences, confessed to extrajudicial killings and reportedly used the ears of his victims from a hearing in 2011 to make prayer beads.
Though the military does not recognize JITEM, it was compromised by officers that used state resources to conduct their operations. This year, four others were tried and exonerated.
Investigations of another 200 murders between 1994 and 1995 reportedly expired, according to official statistics. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu told journalists during his meeting with former Uruguayan President Jose Mujica that all questions to the ruling AK Party on the unsolved murders were declined.
“Our quest for justice will never end, the state’s justice system backed up the killers,” said the wife of Omer Candoruk, who was forcibly disappeared. “We condemn and curse the mentality that acquitted Cemal Temizoz and his team.”
Ankara is worried about possible Kurdish-American collaboration after the backing the Kurds got from Moscow, says Dr. Jamal Wakim, Professor of History and International Relations at Lebanese University.
Turkey says it will carry out a military operation against ISIS in the near future, without specifying when.
RT: Turkey’s already carrying out air strikes. What kind of military operation does it have in mind now?
Dr. Jamal Wakim: Well, I believe that Turkey’s declaration that it intends to launch a military operation against ISIL is a mere cover up for its real intention to wage a war against the Kurds. It is on the Kurds and against the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] militants. Especially that Turkey is worried now; mainly Erdogan is worried about the prospects of Kurdish-American collaboration after the backing that the Kurds got from Moscow.
In this case the Kurds of Turkey, who are spread over 40 percent of Eastern Anatolia, will be in a better position to pressure for getting their own rights within Turkey on the one hand, and maybe they can push for autonomy or even independence as they claimed in the past four decades. So that is why I believe that the real intention is to wage a war against the Kurds and marginalize them at the time when the Kurds are getting support from both the US and Russia at the same time.
RT: Turkey has been using its air strikes to take out Kurdish targets. Is fighting ISIL just a pretext?
Dr. JW: In the past two years the main support that ISIL got was from Turkey. Mainly there were media reports in the West about logistical support, about using Turkish airports – ISIL militants would go to Turkish airports and then go by land to Northern Syria and Iraq. When Turkey declared that it was launching attacks on ISIL, actually its main attacks were on the Kurds of Northern Syria.
There were even media reports that said that ISIL served the purpose of Turkey to clear out the Kurds from Northern Syria, especially in the case of Kobani at one point, and to target the Christian population that is considered as hostile to Turkish influence in Northern Syria. That is why I don’t believe that the intention of Turkey is really to fight ISIL.
Syrian Kurds have expressed their willingness to cooperate with Russia. This would be a setback for the Turkish President Erdogan, who is seeking to destroy the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), DWN wrote.
In an interview with al-Monitor, the leader of the Syrian Kurds Salih Muslim announced his willingness to cooperate with Russia and Syrian President Bashar-al-Assad, the newspaper reported.
He said the Syrian Kurds are interested in cooperating with anyone who fights against ISIL. Moreover, Russia had promised the government in Damascus that it would respond to any Turkish intervention in Syria, which many Kurds are afraid of.
The US, in turn, has also been increasingly supportive of cooperation with the Russians. Many US officials believe that Russia could be helpful in their fight against ISIL, which turned out to be more difficult than expected.
However, Turkey fears that Russia’s potential support for the Kurds may lead to a situation in which a new Kurdish region would form along its southern borders and destabilize Turkey. This could result in a further downturn in the relations between Turkey and Russia, which have already deteriorated after an aviation incident at the Turkish border.
On October 3, a Russian Su-30 fighter jet had briefly crossed Turkish airspace due to poor weather conditions. Russian authorities officially apologized for the incident, saying it was a “misunderstanding,” and promised to avoid such incidents in the future.
Photo © Sputnik/ Alexei Druzhinin
WHEN you’re in a hole, keep bombing. That’s the message from the Nato forces – meeting in Brussels tomorrow to give the green light to Turkey – who seem to know no other way out of the serial military debacles and catastrophes they have launched in the past decade and a half than to continue with them.
In the past few days the prospect of even greater war in the Middle East has come closer, as Turkey escalates its attacks on the Kurdish community, under the pretext of the war against ISIS.
The deal between the US and Turkey allows US use of an airbase close to its ISIS bombing targets in Syria while giving a green light to Turkey to bomb not just ISIS but the Kurds in the PKK.
To many observers, this is in fact the key point of Turkey’s mobilisation. It is determined to crush the Kurds and seems much more concerned with the PKK than with ISIS.
The bombings have ended the ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish state and threaten much greater conflict. Turkey is calling a meeting of its Nato allies to get endorsement for its military action and to try to create a buffer zone inside Syria, whose aim will be to further attack the Kurds.
In truth the Turkish state has aided the rise of ISIS and has repeatedly attacked the Kurds, even though they have been involved in fighting against ISIS.
Any Nato support for Turkey will further deepen the war in Syria, and will not deal with ISIS. The bombing which has already gone on for a year has not been effective in dealing with it, but has simply led to greater bloodshed and dislocation in Syria.
Bombing is not just on the Turkish government’s mind, however. Here in Britain, David Cameron has already tacitly agreed to British pilots bombing Syria under US command – in express contravention of the Commons vote two years ago. There is no military reason for British intervention, it is political, designed to show that Britain can be an effective junior partner to the US.
Now Cameron is campaigning for a further Commons vote to allow the bombing of ISIS in Syria. This is likely to be scheduled for mid September shortly after the results of the Labour leadership election.
The success so far of Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership campaign makes a strong anti war voice a much greater possibility, and makes more likely the defeat of Cameron, given the widespread support for Jeremy and the substantial bloc of SNP MPs, alongside dissent within Tory ranks.
The anti war movement must do everything it can to defeat this move. Stop the War is asking all our groups and members to organise protests, petition and lobby MPs throughout the summer to make sure they are aware of the issues and ready to vote against war in September.
Bombing and intervention have only exacerbated the problems in the Middle East. They have arguably led to the increase in terrorism we are seeing today. ISIS grew as a result of the wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria, aided by countries who now urge further war – especially Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
One of the main sources of ISIS support seems to be the destroyed state of Libya, locked in division and civil war, with rival factions claiming to be the government. Even Cameron isn’t stupid enough to call for more bombing there – after the damage he and his allies did in 2011, when more than 30,000 died. Instead he is intending to put in military ‘advisers’ there.
Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe, the US and Britain are carrying out military manouevres in Ukraine this week, in a test of strength with Russia.
Next week is the 25th anniversary of the start of the first Gulf War. War has been pretty continuous since then, in the Middle East, in the former Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan and Africa.
And every time they try to solve the problems which they created with their last interventions, they create more.
Istanbul – At a press conference attended by nearly a hundred Turkish and foreign reporters, Murat Karayilan, acting leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), announced his group’s plan for reconciliation with the Turkish government.
Karayilan said the PKK fighters inside Turkey, who number about 2,000, would begin withdrawing on May 9. Karayilan then called on the government of PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan to fulfill its part in finding a political solution to the Kurdish question.
Karayilan warned his group would pull out from the peace deal if PKK fighters were harassed or attacked by the Turkish army and police during their withdrawal, which is expected to take place gradually over two months.
Two main conditions for reconciliation with Turkey, Karayilan said, were the release of all the group’s prisoners, including PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, and constitutional amendments to officially recognize the Kurdish identity.
Sources quoted PKK leaders as saying that the group, in agreement with the Turkish authorities, established special committees to coordinate the withdrawal agreement with the Turkish side. The Turkish government, for its part, has instructed its military and police not to engage any PKK militants and to cease all military operations in the country’s southeast and along the border with northern Iraq.
Meanwhile, there were reports in the press that large numbers of Kurdish youths have been making their way to PKK camps in northern Iraq’s Kandil mountains to train for the next phase of political work inside Turkey.
These developments were enough to stir up Turkish public opinion as the government came under sharp attacks from the opposition parties, particularly the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
MHP leaders accused Erdogan and his government of betraying Turkey. They claimed that the Turkish PM was conspiring with Washington against what they termed the unity of the nation, the Turkish state, and the secular system.
They also claimed that the PKK was seeking self-rule in southeast Turkey, a first step toward establishing an autonomous entity on par with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.
In the meantime, the opposition leaders argued, the Kurds in Syria will never accept a return to its pre-crisis conditions, regardless of the conflict’s outcome. If the Syrian regime falls, then the new government will have to accept a Washington-imposed federal system.
This helps explain the election of Ghassan Hitto, an ethnic Kurd, as head of the Syrian interim government, and before him, Abdul-Basset Sida as head of the opposition Syrian National Council.
If the regime survives, it would have to strike a deal with the Kurds, who would demand self-rule in northeast Syria. Syrian Kurds represent 40 percent of the northeast’s population, whereas in northern Iraq, they represent around 95 percent.
In southeast Turkey, the demographics are not much different than Syria, with Kurds accounting for about 60 percent of the population.
These demographic calculations have prompted capitals that have a stake in the Kurdish question to speak of a scenario that Öcalan proposed years ago, before he was kidnapped by US intelligence in Nairobi and handed over to Ankara in February 1998.
Öcalan’s idea centered on a democratic confederation among four autonomous Kurdish regions in Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq, given that an independent Kurdish state was unlikely to see the light for many seasons, as Öcalan said at the time. Proceeding from this vision, the PKK has been active among the Kurdish populations of Syria and Iran.
The White House, along with the European Union, has officially blessed Turkish reconciliation with the PKK. To many observers, this is reminiscent of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which designated Western spheres of influence in the Middle East after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
These observers purport that the West, after settling scores in Syria, will be seeking to redraw the regional map.
Istanbul – In what may be described as a very odd move by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish authorities, tens of thousands of Kurds in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir were allowed to participate in the funeral of three Kurdish activists – including a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – who were assassinated in Paris on 9 January 2013.
To be sure, Turkish warplanes had carried out airstrikes against PKK positions and encampments in northern Iraq prior to the funeral. Perhaps this was a government message to the Turkish population that the war on Kurdish “terror” would continue, even if the government allowed the slain leaders of the Kurdish “terrorist” group to be buried in a massive funeral procession in Turkey.
Kurdish leaders in Turkey appealed to the participants in the ceremony not to raise PKK flags or portraits of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who has been imprisoned by the Turkish authorities since 1999. These directives are possibly a first for a Kurdish demonstration.
And indeed, tens of thousands gathered yesterday at a square in Diyarbakir, the largest Kurdish city in Turkey, many wearing white scarves, a symbol of peace. The mourners refrained from chanting any “radical” slogans that may have provoked Turkish nationalist factions.
In the meantime, a delegation from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) met with Öcalan to inquire about his conditions in prison. According to the Turkish media, secret talks between the government and the PKK leader continue, with a view to reach a secret deal that serves both sides’ interests. To many, this is seen as a starting point for the final settlement to the Kurdish question in Turkey.
One key demand by Öcalan is to be released under a comprehensive general amnesty issued by the government for all leaders, members, and followers of the PKK. Only then would he instruct the party’s armed fighters to cease their attacks against Turkey once and for all.
After that, political demands such as recognizing the Kurdish national identity in the constitution would be discussed between the PKK and the Turkish government.
Through its media, the Turkish government has been able to persuade a majority of the Turkish people that a political solution to the Kurdish question is both necessary and urgent, and that reaching one would serve the national interests of the state. Yet independent opinion polls show that most Turks would not readily accept Öcalan’s release or amnesty for PKK followers.
For one thing, this would mean that in the future, Öcalan could become an important figure in Kurdish, and even Turkish, political life, especially if the Turkish government were to give autonomy to the Kurds in southeast Turkey.
In this vein, press reports have often alluded to a Turkish plan for a quick resolution to the Kurdish question, which seeks to counter any undesirable scenarios in Syria, which also has a sizable Kurdish population. Particularly so when the Syria-based Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is allied with the Turkish chapter of the PKK, controls the Kurdish regions in Syria adjacent to the Kurdish regions in Turkey and northern Iraq.
This may help explain the strategic alliance between Ankara and Iraqi Kurdish leaders Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani. The alliance seeks to influence Kurdish public opinion in Syria, and to convince Syrian Kurds of the need for cooperation and rapprochement with Turkey.
Turkey has provided all kinds of support for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq as it makes profits to the tune of billions of dollars in trade and oil deals.
This has allowed Ankara to become a key player in internal Iraqi affairs, owing to its alliance with Barzani and Talabani, as well as Iraq’s Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Tariq al-Hashemi.
On a related note, it has become an open secret that Erdogan’s moves concerned with the Kurdish question have a lot to do with its most important ally: Washington DC. Next month, Erdogan will travel to the US to hold talks over future scenarios.
Meanwhile, there are reports that the situation may soon heat up in Iran’s Kurdish regions with the approach of Iran’s presidential election. This may prompt Ankara to move faster towards containing Kurdish populations in the region under an umbrella of pan-Islamic sentiment.
Just like the Turkish political and ideological model was endorsed by the Muslim Brotherhood in the countries of the Arab Spring, this Turkish umbrella may take a form that is acceptable for Arab and the Muslim nations. Most probably, it will involve a model of moderate and democratic Islam, that is to say, one that is consistent with US interests.
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Turkish forces have launched fresh attacks on Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, bombing their hideouts overnight.
Turkish military sources say at least 12 F16 fighter jets took off from the Diyarbakir base in the country’s southeast, targeting at least four camps in the Qandil Mountains and surrounding areas, where Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) members are thought to be hiding.
On Saturday, Turkish warplanes pounded suspected PKK positions in northern Iraq. Officials say the attacks caused no casualties, but resulted in damage to farmlands of Sidkan region, north of Arbil.
The latest development comes days after Iraq announced that it intended to end Turkey’s military presence in the country.
On October 5, Turkish security forces killed six PKK members during separate operations in the eastern provinces of Elazig and Siirt.
Ankara lists the group as a terrorist organization.
The PKK has been fighting for an autonomous Kurdish region inside Turkey since the 1980s. The Ankara-PKK conflict has left over 45,000 people dead.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warns that Ankara could strike the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) terrorists inside Syria.
“In the north, it (the Syrian government) has allotted five provinces to the Kurds, to the terrorist organization,” Erdogan told the Turkish television on Wednesday.
He also stated that the strike is “not even a matter of discussion, it is a given,” in response to a question whether Ankara would strike fleeing rebels after an attack on Turkish soil.
“That is the objective. That is what must be done.”
Erdogan made the remarks on the same day when a security meeting of senior Turkish officials, chaired by the prime minister, was held in Ankara.
“The activities of the separatist terrorist organization (PKK) in our country and in neighboring countries have been discussed,” read a statement issued after the meeting, which was held following reports that the Democratic Union of Kurdistan (PYD), the PKK’s offshoot in Syria, had taken over three villages in the north of the country.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Chief of General Staff General Necdet Ozel, Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay and several other high-ranking officials also attended the meeting on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Turkish military said on Wednesday that its forces killed at least 15 PKK members in a clash near the border with Iraq.
Also on Wednesday, a Turkish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Ankara would close Turkey’s border crossings with Syria until further notice.
The PKK launched an armed campaign against Turkey in 1984 in a quest to gain independence for Kurds living in the southeast of the country.