What Turkey’s intervention means for Syria, the Kurds, and Ankara.
The failure of Iraq, breakdown of Syria, and changes in Turkey have created opportunities for Kurds in all three countries. They are not quite the regional kingmakers that some Kurds have boasted they might become, but Kurdish political and military power is now a growing factor in Middle East geopolitics. This has produced not only unique challenges, but also new possibilities for U.S. policy in the region. As President-Elect Donald J. Trump shapes his administration and officials look at the Middle East beyond the battles against the so-called Islamic State in Mosul and Raqqa, they will have to come to terms with the Kurds, some of whom are intent on using their new clout and political developments around them to push for a sovereign Kurdistan.
It is unlikely that Syria’s Democratic Union Party (PYD) or its fighting force, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), or Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) will realize their objectives of statehood, but Iraq’s Kurds may be in a far more advantageous position to press for independence. Significant obstacles remain for Iraqi Kurds, but the combination of regional instability, the coming liberation of Mosul, and the state of Iraqi politics may help advance the historic goals of Kurdish leaders.
Last week, Kurdish forces fighting for the Syria-based Democratic Union Party (PYD) wrested control of the border town of Tel Abyad from the Islamic State. The seizure of the town cut off a key supply line to the Islamic State’s de-facto capital in Raqqa and allowed for the unification of two Kurdish controlled cantons, Kobane and Jazira, between which sits Tel Abyad.
The victory came after the Islamic State nearly defeated PYD forces in Kobane last October, before the dramatic increase in coalition air strikes helped turn the tide of the battle. During the Islamic State’s siege of Kobane, the United States set up a conduit for the PYD to provide targeting data to a military planning office in Erbil, which is then relayed to coalition aircraft. The PYD has since relied heavily on U.S. airpower to aid in their advance and eventual capture of IS-held territory. » More
ISTANBUL – Conflict in the Middle East threatens not only the security of many of its states, but also their continued existence. Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and others, now gripped by sectarian fighting, risk fragmenting into ethnic sub-states, transforming a region whose political geography was drawn nearly a century ago.
Surveying the regional scene, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has conceived of an audacious plan to enhance Turkey’s regional standing and extend his own political dominance at home. Facing the end of a self-imposed three-term limit as prime minister, he is intent on changing the Turkish constitution to introduce a presidential system – with himself on top as the first incumbent to wield much-enlarged power. » More
For more than 40 years Turkey has been involved in a prolonged struggle with various types of terrorism perpetrated by domestic and international terrorist organisations. Between 1970 and 2011, the country saw more than 2,800 terrorist incidents. In the last 30 years, the main focus of Turkish counter-terrorist efforts has been on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkey’s Conflict with the PKK. In 1984, the PKK began an armed insurgency aimed at the establishment of an independent, socialist state (Kurdistan) for the 25-30 million Kurds that inhabit mostly Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. The organisation developed a transnational apparatus in the region, operating under various names in different countries, with logistical and organisational support from members of the Kurdish diaspora in Europe. Throughout the years, the PKK has become almost synonymous with the cause of the Kurds. The PKK’s charismatic founder and leader, Abdullah Öcalan, was captured in 1999, but that did nothing to abate the organisation’s long-term zeal, and the insurgency regained impetus in 2011. » More