The struggle against the Islamic State just got far more complex as Turkey starts to bomb both sides
Last week, Turkey commenced air operations against forces loyal to the Islamic State. Additionally, strikes have been carried out in Northern Iraq against targets controlled by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Fortunately it has been made clear, at least in terms of rhetoric, that there is no desire, on the part of the Turkish military, to eliminate the Kurds as a people. With this being said, Turkish president Erdogan did state with respect to the Islamic State and the PKK that “it is not possible for us to continue the peace process with those who threaten our national unity and brotherhood.”
In Istanbul, protests erupted over both the operations in Syria-Iraq and opportunistic police raids, conducted on behalf of the Turkish government, against (mainly leftists) suspected of aiding terrorist groups.
The government apparatus has had quite the long history of double-sided dealings with minority cultural and ethnic groups. With this being said, it is important to understand that the PKK is not necessarily the most diplomacy-friendly collaboration of persons on the planet earth.
Peace efforts, unfortunately, resemble the negotiation situation in Gaza, having been preceded by approximately thirty years of bloody fighting between the two entities. Going forward, it will be necessary to augment efforts toward distinguishing, identifying, and correctly aiding forces which fundamentally seek a return to peace and stability in the region.
A militant, Kurdish position, with respect to maintaining a continued effort against the growth of the Islamic State, has been of much aid to NATO thus far. Where problems remain, however, is in the finer details.
The strikes, which should primarily be seen as a means to weaken geopolitical challengers to Turkish hegemony in the region, are technically being carried out in loose participation with NATO forces. Access to Turkish air bases has also been granted in an interesting series of events which indicate a split desire, on the part of the government, to both cooperate with NATO in its fight against the Islamic State and to silently move up a couple of steps on the global power ladder.
Last year, as most informed persons will recall, the battle for Kobani dealt a heavy blow to Kurdish forces, which were working in concert with NATO actors in Syria. Kurdish fighters, however, provided furious resistance to the encircling opposition with what amounted to no direct aid from Turkish forces which were close enough to the slaughter to watch activity with their binoculars while sitting on their tanks and eating sandwiches (although non-lethal supply drops did occur).
A fundamental problem with the Kurds, as a people, does “exist” at the level of ideology and competition, at least from the fogged perception of the Turkish hierarchy. In terms of geopolitics, Turkey has little to no desire to officially recognize a Kurdish state, as it views this entity as a possible, future competitor and an efficient arbiter of anonymous terrorist acts funded and otherwise supported by covert means.
The Kurds must eventually, in my opinion, be given a state by the international diplomatic and military communities, plain and simple. Turkish foot-dragging has done nothing but weaken Kurdish strength in relation to the Islamic State so as to require a “glorious”, if slightly delayed, entry into the fray.
In truth, this entry into the conflict for Turkey may simply be seen as a calculated photo-op with Erdogan, paradoxically enough, standing on a mountain of Kurdish skulls, beaming, while members of the Islamic State applaud before taking pot shots at his feet and setting the scene ablaze. Fundamentally, however, it must also come to represent a placed stepping stone toward a strengthened resistance to IS in Syria-Iraq.