Erdogan exploits Istanbul terror —of course

ISIS is reported to have claimed responsibility for today's triple bomb and shooting attack at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport that left at least 36 dead and some 150 wounded. (BiaNet)  The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) explicitly disavowed the attack, and stated their belief that it was carried out by "Daesh terrorists," using the popular pejorative for ISIS in the Middle East. (Sputnik) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was constrained by these twin statements from explicitly blaming the Kurds in the attack, but still said: "I hope that the Ataturk Airport attack, especially in Western countries…will be a milestone for the joint fight against terrorist organizations, a turning point." (RT) This was a barely veiled criticism of US support for the PKK's sibling organization, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and its military arm the People's Protection Units (YPG), in the fight against ISIS in northern Syria.

Erdogan was more explicit at the most recent display of his unseemly Ottoman nostalgia fetish. At an official spectacle held in Istanbul marking the 563rd anniversary of the conquest of then-Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453, he said: "The Syrian regime, Daesh and PYD terror groups have become a trio which support each other in Syria; one cannot survive without the others. Unfortunately, the countries we call allies are turning a blind eye to the situation, and even supporting it." (Daily Sabah, May 29)

Of course this is an absurd exercise in illogic, as ISIS and the PYD are intransigently, militantly and diametrically opposed.

A PKK breakaway faction, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), claimed responsibility for the car bomb attack that targeted security forces in Istanbul earlier this month. (Al Jazeera, June 10) But the TAK, with its hardline Kurdish ethno-nationalism, is not aligned with the PKK, PYD or YPG, which have over the past years been moving in more democratic and pluralist direction. Of course none of these Kurdish organizations are in any sense aligned with ISIS. Ironically, Erdogan himself has been credibly accused of conniving with ISIS against the Kurds in Syria—even if the growing ISIS attacks in Turkey may indicate that this de facto alliance is coming to an end.

We can be sure that the new terror attack will be useful to Erdogan's consolidating dictatorship. Just days earlier, Turkey's parliament voted to grant immunity from prosecution to members of the armed forces conducting counter-insurgency operations against the PKK—essentially giving the military a license to commit war crimes. (Reuters, June 24)

As the Kurdish insurgency grows in eastern Turkey, Erdogan and his supposed enemy Bashar Assad have come to mirror each other more and more. It is hardly surprising that Erdogan is now said to be considering softening his stance against Assad based on their mutual opposition to Kurdish freedom and autonomy…

In another sign of Erdogan's rapprochement with his supposed enemies, the Turkish mandatary has now even issued an apology for his military's downing of a Russian warplane last November. (The Guardian, June 27) This comes alomg with Turkey's sudden normalization of diplomatic ties with Israel, on ice for six years over the Gaza flotilla incident. Erdogan dropped his demand for a lifting of the naval blockade of Gaza, and has agreed to deliver humanitarian aid through Israeli-controlled entry-ports. Israel's famous coziness with Russian President Vladimir Putin is some pretty obvious context here. (Reuters, The Telegraph, June 28) This unexpected lovefest may bring us back a little from the brink of World War 5. But in addition to being an obvious betrayal of the Palestinians, it bodes poorly for the survival of a Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Syria…