'Turkey's target in northern Syria is the Kurds, not Isis'

 member of the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) patrols the border town of Jarablus on August 31, 2016. The Turkish incursion into Jarablus is just another chapter in the messy and tragic saga in northern Syria

Jarablus: life after Isis

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Pro-Kurdish blogger Mark Campbell gives his view on the latest events in northern Syria.

The dramatic incursion of Turkish forces into Jarablus is just the latest dramatic turn in the hugely complicated war in Syria. But why has Turkey chosen now to make this calculated move?

Turkey says their aim is to target Isis and a Kurdish force known as the People's Protection Units, or YPG. Yet there is scant proof of any attacks on Isis.

Interestingly, the move comes just weeks after the liberation of the strategically important strategic city of Manbij, south of Jarablus, from Isis. Kurdish-led forces of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which also include Syrian Arab forces, fought intense battles with Isis for the town. Battles that saw the SDF lose over 400 fighters.

The liberation of Manbij was the last straw for Turkey, which sees the Kurdish forces liberating swathes of territory from Isis and establishing its own form of autonomy together with other Arab tribes and ethnic communities of northern Syria along Turkey’s border.

A quick look at the map below shows why Turkey are determined to stop this.

The Kurds are trying to join the two Kurdish populated areas marked in yellow. (Both Manbij and Jarablus are in the grey area near the Turkish border, between the two yellow Kurdish areas.) Turkey wants to stop this.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been accused of tacitly supporting Isis; indeed, this was the subject of a documentary by Russia Today earlier this year. There is no proof or official confirmation of any support for Isis from Ankara, tacit or otherwise, and indeed Turkey has vehemently denied the accusations. Yet the Kurds certainly believe Turkey has been supporting Isis for the last four years and joining the Rojava Cantons would halt Isis supplies and transit of its fighters from Turkey.

A map of the region (Wikiwant)


But why should Turkey care so much that the Kurds liberate their own land from Isis?

As already discussed, this would halt supplies to Isis. But also because, since the establishment of the Turkish state, Turkey has constantly been trying to forcibly assimilate the Kurds and pacify their long held dreams of self-rule.

An autonomous Kurdish region of Rojava, Turkey says, would motivate Kurds in south-eastern Turkey to push for autonomy as well. But Kurds in south-east Turkey are already pushing for autonomy; indeed Turkey has been criticised by Amnesty International for its conduct in the area. Turkey’s incursion into Jarablus will only destabilise the region further.

On the day after the incursion into Jarablus, Kurdish forces in a Kurdish town called Cizre, south-eastern Turkey blew up an army base killing dozens of soldiers. Military exchanges between the Turkish army and Kurdish fighters are at their highest levels since the mid 90’s and notorious ‘Dirty War’ against the Kurds.

So, Turkey’s incursion into Jarablus and Northern Syria to attack the Kurds there has serious and destablising consequences for Turkey itself.

There is no military solution to what has become known as ‘The Kurdish Question’. More war and suffering for the Kurds is not the answer, nor will it bring peace.

The only answer is to apply international pressure on Turkey to halt military operations against the Kurds and begin political negotiations with the Kurdish side for a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish Question, beginning with a ceasefire on both sides and a resumption of talks with the Kurdish leadership of Abdullah Ocalan and the PKK command in Qandil mountains.

However, if Turkey continues its invasion of Kurdish lands in northern Syria, the war is set to jump over the border onto Turkish soil – and the winner will be Isis, whose supply lines will remain open and whose militants will be free to travel through Turkey’s border to Europe.

The stakes could hardly be higher. 

Mark Campbell writes extensively about Kurdistan, Turkey and the Kurdish Question. You can find him on Twitter @hevallo.

This article is a personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of talkRADIO.