Ok, so this is something worth noting as it speaks to the absurdly convoluted nature of the conflict in Syria.
As those who follow the country’s six-year-old civil war are no doubt aware, there’s a bit of a “disagreement” between Washington and Ankara with regard to what counts as a “Kurdish terrorist.”
See Erdogan is no “fan-o-Kurds.” Specifically, he’s convinced that they’re out to get him and indeed, they are. You’ll recall from our preview of the Turkey referendum that Erdogan intentionally stirred up the PKK hornet’s nest following a stronger-than-expected showing at the polls for the pro-Kurdish HDP in June, 2015. Here’s a quick recap:
Remember what happened in June, 2105? No? Well let me briefly remind you.
See Erdogan’s AK Party came up short for the first time when it came to winning an outright majority in a parliamentary election. Worse (for Erdogan), the pro-Kurdish HDP topped the 10% threshold to enter parliament. Also a first.
Well fuck that.
Or at least that’s how Erdogan felt about it…
So do you know what he did? Well, first he reignited Ankara’s long-simmering war with the PKK. Then he deliberately undermined the coalition building process so he could (gun to his head) call for a redo. Then he cracked down on the media. And then he (maybe) staged a series of horrific bombings. Thanks to his efforts to antagonize the Kurds and thanks to the presence of ISIS (with whom Erdogan has variously been accused of commiserating) it was impossible for anyone to sort out who was behind the violence, which conveniently left Erdogan free to pin it on whoever he wanted and then say “see, this is why we need a strong leader.”
Ok. But this whole thing gets really messy when you consider the fact that the US leans heavily on the YPG (Syrian Kurds) and the Peshmerga (the notoriously fierce Kurdish fighters in Iraq) when it comes to fighting ISIS.
That pisses Erdogan off. And to add insult to injury for the Turkish autocrat, the US has used Incirlik as a base from which to fly combat sorties in support of allied fighters in Syria – allied fighters including the Kurds.
This has been a point of contention between Washington and Ankara for going on two years now and it reached peak stupidity in late 2015 when the US started paradropping pallets of ammo into the middle of the desert for the Kurds to pick up while simultaneously telling Erdogan that they were actually meant for “Syrian Arabs” (you can read that hilarious story here).
Well on Tuesday, Erdogan decided to conduct a bombing run or two against “Kurdish terrorists” in Syria and Iraq. Erdogan said he was aiming for the PKK, but invariably, the YPG was targeted and this time, so were Peshmerga fighters. Here’s The Telegraph:
Turkey has carried out a wave of airstrikes against Kurdish fighters in Iraq and northern Syria, further complicating Washington’s effort to rally Kurds and Turks in the fight against the Islamic State (Isil).
Turkey’s military said the strikes were aimed at the PKK Kurdish terrorist group, which regularly carries out attacks against Turkey. Two weeks ago the group took credit for a bombing at a police station which killed three people.
But the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria and the Peshmerga forces in Iraq both said their forces had been targeted in the Turkish strikes. Both the YPG and the Peshmerga are US allies fighting on the front lines against Isil.
The YPG’s political leader, Salih Muslim, immediately appealed to Washington to make Turkey stop the strikes. “Coalition forces must not remain silent against this,” he said.
The wave of airstrikes is Turkey’s most assertive move against the Kurds since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a disputed referendum earlier this month. Analysts had predicted Mr Erdogan might step up his country’s engagements in Iraq and Syria once the referendum was behind him.
The bombings are a bloody example of the diplomatic challenges facing Donald Trump as the US tries to rally its allies for a final assault against Raqqa, Isil’s de facto capital in northern Syria.
While Kurdish fighters are expected to do the brunt of the fighting, the US is wary of angering its Nato ally Turkey and will want its cooperation in the final effort to stamp out the jihadist group in Syria.
Turkey launched the aerial bombardment at around 2am local time and struck targets in northeast Syria and the Sinjar region in northern Iraq. The Turkish military said the aim of the strikes was to prevent the PKK from sending weapons and explosives for attacks inside Turkey.
So that would be the same Sinjar that was liberated from ISIS back in December of 2015 to much fanfare and international media attention, and the same Sinjar where the Yazidi religious minority was mercilessly persecuted.
Make no mistake: this is just as stupid as it sounds.
You’ve got Turkey bombing the very same fighters the US is arming in the battle against ISIS, and this comes just two weeks after the US accidentally killed 18 fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who inadvertently sealed their own fate by calling in the American airstrike that mistakenly killed them. And can you guess who the SDF is primarily composed of? That’s right, the Kurds.