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Turkey’s Outside View

(London Post – News Analysis) – The Turkish authorities seem to have got more than what they bargained for. In an effort to ensure the country’s leading position in the Turkic world, Ankara achieved a destabilization of their country and the growing threat of another “colour revolution”. However, the nature of the struggle this time is inter-ethnic.

Turkey is the only one to deny that it became the main route for the flow of material assistance to the Islamic State militants. Surprisingly, such actions are covered under the auspices of US aid to fight against the IS and the troops of Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

Ankara (with full support from Washington) actively supports the Syrian opposition: the headquarters of Syrian opposition groups – the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change – is based in Turkey. However, the ranks of the opposition include many militants of the Islamic state. They often “hide” in Turkey, which they long used for operational “recuperation”. Turkey provided training camps for the “Syrian opposition”. A large number of Turkish citizens are fighting on the side of Assad’s opponents. And it is used as the main route for the flow of new IS recruits from around the world.

Establishment of such a powerful transport and logistics centre would not be possible without the authorization and support from the outside and without the assistance of the authorities in Turkey. Here too the interests of the White House come first in their fight against Assad. However, it is also used for strengthening Ankara’s position in the region.

If the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan limited its role to a transit zone – it would be understandable. Ankara has long been trying to win the US and Europe’s attention (after all, it is the only NATO member in the region). However, under the auspices of the turbulence in Syria, Erdogan is trying to solve the domestic issues by physically eliminating the Kurdish separatists’ hope for a unified Kurdistan. It was actually one of the reasons for the active support of the Islamic state by Ankara (the Kurds are fighting on the side of IS opponents).

The Kurds’ dream of creating a country, including at the expense of autonomy in Turkey, is Ankara’s main problem. It has exacerbated since the start of the Iraq conflict, when the United States actively used the Kurdish forces to overthrow Hussein. Now, Iraqi and Syrian Kurds are legally obtaining weapons and supplies from the US and the EU to fight against IS. This does not sit easy with Turkey, which fears the strengthening of Kurdish forces on its own territory.

Erdogan suffered a crushing electoral defeat in the south-east of the country, and as a result his ruling Justice and Development Party took only 256 seats out of 550 in recent parliamentary elections. On the other hand, the Kurdish Democracy Party won seats for the first time in the history of parliament, gaining 12.8 percent of the votes. Observers noted that over the last few years the opposition parties begun to squeeze out the IS friendly Erdogan. However, the biggest threat comes from Diyarbakir (the Kurdish centre) where voter turnout was around 80 percent. The region has all the prerequisites for establishment of Kurdistan.

Co-Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party Selahadtin Demirtas made a statement excluding the possibility for a coalition with the JDP. He stated – “Discussions about the executive president and the dictatorship came to an end with these elections”. And it could only mean one thing – Kurds will pursue their own political ambitions, possibly, the creation of their own state.

Ankara’s military phase in the Syrian conflict eventually turns to the destruction of Kurdish forces from the air in all the surrounding areas to Turkey. This will, in Ankara’s opinion, exclude the possibility of support for Kurdish forces from outside. First of all, this means the alliance of Rozhava Syrian Kurds autonomy and the Syrian Free Army (SSA) in Iraq. Consequently, the first thing Turkey’s first target upon entering the war became the positions of Kurds in northern Iraq.

Following the attacks, the Government of Iraqi Kurdistan called for the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants to withdraw their troops from the settlements to avoid civilian deaths from further Turkish air attacks, and at the same time, accused the Turkish authorities for targeting civilian targets in Iraq and Syria.

However, most interestingly, under the auspices of their fight against the IS, Ankara began to deploy its forces on Turkish Kurd inhabited territories. This was done apparently in response to a terrorist attack on the Turkish city of Suruç located near the Syrian border. Despite Erdogan’s attempts to accuse IS for the attack, the representatives of the Islamic State did not confirm their involvement.

Meanwhile, at the NATO emergency meeting Erdogan voiced the idea to create a “buffer zone” along the Turkish-Syrian and the Turkish-Iraqi border. Although the official reason behind the call was the activity of Islamic state militants on the Turkish borders, the basic idea was to eliminate the Kurdish threat to the integrity of the country and keep under control all the territories inhabited by Kurds. The Syrian Kurdistan “Democratic Union” Party (affiliated with the PKK, and fighting against the “Islamic state” in Syria) have taken control of 400 kilometres of the Syrian-Turkish border.

However, the idea for such a zone has not found support from all NATO colleagues. Germany remains a categorical opponent – it is home to many Kurds, who are unlikely to support such decision. In fact, today, Turkey is faced not only with the external threat from the already out-of-control Islamic state, but also from the inside – strengthening Kurdish forces. After a series of terrorist attacks in the country Turkish authorities have already begun large-scale raids with the detention of thousands of people. Among them are not only the IS militants, but also representatives of the PKK. Increasing participation of Peoples’ Democratic Party in the Turkish political process and rising anti-government sentiment on the part of Kurdistan representatives threatens a serious destabilization of the country. It is a complete failure of Erdogan’s long-term policy of flirting with radical Islamists in an attempt to retain power.

It is possible that internal unrest will fundamentally change Ankara’s long-standing policy. It is no secret that in the last couple of decades Turkey was (unofficially, of course) the main source of moral and material support for radical movements throughout the Turkic world. Fore mostly in the territory of Central Asia and Afghanistan. In fact, Ankara is trying to dictate policy and opinions on all the states in the region, to increase its own international standing in the world. Now, apparently, Ankara will have to dig itself out of a long and painful internal political mess in which Erdogan’s policy finally drove it.


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