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The Duplicity of Erdogan Aims at Striking the Kurds

Translated Tuesday 28 July 2015, by Henry Crapo

Subjected to many criticisms and pressures already for several months for its attitude, ambiguous, to say the least, with respect to the so-called "Islamic State" (Daech) and its refusal to participate in the coalition [1] directed by the United States, Turkey has now changed its strategy.

(Followed by a translation of the continuation of this article by the same journalist, on pages 4-5: "Behind the ’Islamic State’, the Kurds, the true targets of Erdogan")

Under the pretext of an attack on the city of Suruç, where 32 militants of the Left, who came to help in the reconstruction of Kobanî (in Syrian Kurdistan), were killed, Ankara decided to launch air raids on the jihadist positions. At the same time there was announced the signature of an agreement between Turkey and the United States, both members of NATO practically since its creation, permitting US warplanes to use Turkish bases. This agreement permits the president Erdogan, weakened by his relative setback in elections, to take things in hand: the attacks in Syria against the "Islamic State" are accompanied by military operations against the forces of defense of the people, the branch of the army of the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK), not only in their areas in south-east Turkey, but also in the north of Iraq. In doing so, Erdogan hopes to kill two birds with one stone: to weaken the PKK, and prevent the Syrian Kurds from unifying their territory, the Rojava. In reality, since the fall of Tal Abyad, a frontier city through which recruits and supplies for the "Islamic State" could pass, the islamists are in rapid retreat. The Turkish intervention, paradoxical as it may seem, may permit the jihadists to catch their breath.

Behind the "Islamic State", the Kurds, the true targets of Erdogan

For years, Turkey has supported the jihadists of the "Islamic State" transiting its territory. The war declared by Ankara is not so much to eradicate the "Daech", but to offset the victories obtained in the field by the Kurds. Hence the attacks on the PKK’s Abdullah Öcalan.

Impeccable timing. One could describe in this way what happened in Turkey in less than a week. Four days after the deadly suicide attack attributed to "Islamic State", which targeted Turkish activists of the Federation of Associations of Young Socialists (Marxist) who had come to the border town of Suruç, and who counted on going to Kobanî, F-16 fighters of the Turkish Air Force bombed targets of the jihadist organization in Syria. Immediately afterwards, the Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, took on a martial air. "The operation against the ’Islamic State’ has served its purpose and will not stop," he said to reporters. "What happened in recent days shows that the situation is no longer under control", the president and strongman of the country Recep Tayyip Erdogan went further to say, "it is not a one-night operation, and it will continue with determination". An interesting vocabulary when you think about it. "The situation is not under control". That is so. However, the situation continued to materialize as follows: thousands of recruits passed the frontier to fill the ranks of the "Islamic State" in Syria, while all support for Kobanî was blocked; a quasi-official transit of weapons, ammunition and heavy equipment, even using trains, and finally a pact of the Turkish army with Daech [2] elements. Control "made in Erdogan", somehow.

The calculations of President Erdogan after his setback in the elections

Knowing the power and pervasiveness of the dreaded Turkish intelligence service MIT - whose label, like that of the gray wolf, appeared in the assassination of Kurdish activists in Paris at the beginning of 2013 - we wonder why the information of a possible attack could not have filtered out. It mattered little for the Turkish power. Erdogan, who counted on surfing a tidal wave in the parliamentary elections of June and on strengthening his personal power, saw his star fade nationally and internationally. Subjected to harsh US pressure for the use of military bases that shorten flights by coalition aircraft on missions, and pressed to change his attitude vis-a-vis the "Islamic State", Ankara finally yielded to political necessity, but not without a scholarly calculation.

Bombing the positions of the "Islamic State" - without anyone really knowing what’s hit, nor the volume of destruction obtained - but above all military operations against the bases of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and for good measure, a series of raids in major Turkish cities, aimed primarily at leftists (a young woman has been killed during an inquiry), pro-Kurdish persons, and, peripherally, managers of "Islamic State" who have set up shop. Among them, Halis Bayancuk, also known as Ebu Hanzala. He is a Salafist considered to be one of the spiritual leaders of Daech in Turkey. Bayancuk had already been the subject of an interpellation, last year, as part of a series of operations against al-Qaeda, with which he was suspected of having had links in the past. But, strangely, the authorities were not able to gather enough evidence to prosecute him and he was released!

Peace talks with the PKK are compromised

In fact, Erdogan ia making a moves on several fronts. Under pressure, he now gives tokens to his American ally, without formally participating in the coalition they set up. According to the Turkish press, the agreement with Washington concerns not only the use of bases but also the establishment of a "zone liberated from the ’Islamic State’ " that would extend over 98 km in length and 40km wide. Under this pretext, the zone is actually intended to prevent Kurdish forces in Syria, led politically by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), to move towards the west and connect Ayn al-Arab, which they liberated earlier this year, with Afrin, always under the threat of attack from the Al-Nusra Front [3]. For Turkey - Erdogan has never hidden this intent - it should help the Free Syrian Army (FSA). This strategy was approved in Washington. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, said that the United States regarded the PKK as a "terrorist organization" and found that Turkey had "the right to take action against terrorist targets."

The Turkish government knows that by doing so it may completely destroy the cease-fire declared by the PKK, observed since 2013, and the resumption of peace talks is becoming increasingly difficult. In a uniquely uncustomary manner, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, who nevertheless has excellent relations with Turkey, issued a protest after the Turkish bombing in the Iraqi Kurdish territory, arguing: "Years of negotiations are always worth more than an hour of war." This does not seem to be the opinion of Recep Erdogan, who prefers to consider the murderers of the "Islamic State" to be on the same level as PKK fighters who rescued the Yezidi, surrounded by jihadists, and aided refugees on Mount Sanjar.

"Halt the Terrorism of the Turkish State", "Erdogan Assassin". "AKP accomplice of Daech", ... placards in the demonstration that involved some 1000 persons, Saturday aftenoon in Paris, from the Gare de l’Est to the Place de la République, the placards didn’t miss their target: the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party, the AKP. "To top it off, Turkey bombs the PKK, which represents a rampart against Daech", proclaimed the banner at the head of the march. The red flags with the colors of the Association of Young Socialists (SGDF), the organisation in which worked the victims of the attack on Suruç, were also present in large number.

[1Translator’s remark: In no way less ambiguous.

[2Arabic acronym for the "Islamic State"

[3the branch of al-Qaeda in Syria

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