Erdogan-ISIS pincer against Kurds

Reports from the PKK-aligned Kurdistan National Congress indicate an internal war by the Turkish state against the Kurds in the country's east, approaching levels of violence not seen in 20 years. Several villages in Diyarbakir province are said to be under heavy shelling by the Turkish army. Many of these villages are reported to be currently burning, with many injured, and an unknown number killed. After hours of shelling, Turkish soldiers reportedly entered the village of Kocakoy, Lice-Hani district, putting homes to the torch—sometimes with families still inside, resulting in further loss of life. Troops then proceeded to force an evacuation of the villages. It is not said where the survivors fled to. A similar attack is reported from Şapatan (Turkish: Altınsu) village in Şemdinli district, Hakkari province, where the blaze has spread to surrounding forest areas. (KNC, KNC, Aug. 18)

The Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the civil arm of the PKK, issued a statement saying there is no option for Kurds in Turkey other than declaring autonomy for themselves. The KCK executive committee asserted in the statement last week that following a "people's assembly," several villages had taken the decision to declare self-rule and "use their legitimate self-defense rights if their self-rule is attacked." (Today's Zaman, Aug. 12)

The Kurds are now caught in a pincer—under attack by the Turkish state north of the border and by ISIS on the Syrian side. On Aug. 19, an ISIS suicide bomber killed at least 16 people in an attack on Kurdish security forces in the north Syria town of Qamishli, capital of the autonomous Kurdish canton of Jazira. Those killed were 10 members of the local security patrol, called the Asayish, and six civilians. (AFP, Aug. 19)

Turkey's internal offensive is rapidly reversing recent political progress, which saw a peace deal with the PKK and electoral gains for the Kurdish-led leftist Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). Speaking to the Washington Post by telephone from Diyarbakir last week, HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of "supporting ISIS" and seeking early elections as part of a strategy of "attacking the Kurdish movement."

All this is, fortunately, causing political problems for Erdogan among his imperial sponsors. There are recent signs that pressure on the White House by friends of the Kurds is paying off, with the Obama administration now saying there was no deal for a Turkish-controlled "buffer zone" in northern Syria. Even wonks and pundits like Frida Ghitis in places like CNN are asking, "Did the US betray the Kurds in fight against ISIS?" 

But Turkey is mobilizing for the PR counter-attack. The Erdogan government has contracted the Gephardt Group lobbying team to sell Washington on his war against the Kurds. Gephardt's subcontractors include Dickstein Shapiro LLP, whose team includes ex-CIA director Porter Goss. (Huffington Post, Aug. 19)