The ongoing betrayal of the Syrian Kurds is no less maddening for being utterly predictable. The Wall Street Journal reports Aug. 3 that the US and Turkey have reached an agreement to keep Kurdish forces out of the "buffer zone" Ankara hopes to establish in Rojava, or northern Syria. In other words, the very forces that have been most effective in fighting ISIS are to be purged from the territory they have defended and liberated. The Kurds, who have been cynically accused of "ethnic cleansing" by Ankara's propagandists, are about to be ethnically cleansed. And, of course, this operation, ostensibly aimed at beating back ISIS, is actually aimed at crushing the revolutionary Kurds whose ground offensive has been driving ISIS back towards Raqqa, the "Islamic State" capital. Turkey's air campaign began last week with a few strikes on ISIS targets—which ISIS boasted hadn't hit anything. Since then, the overwhelming majority of the strikes (185 sorties against 400 targets, according to Al Monitor), have been hitting Kurdish positions across Kurdistan—within Turkey and Iraq as well as Syria. Even Reuters states: "Turkey's assaults on the PKK have so far been far heavier than its strikes against Islamic State, fuelling suspicions that its real agenda is keeping Kurdish political and territorial ambitions in check, something the government denies." Of over 1,000 arrested in sweeps within Turkey since the campaign began, only 140 are ISIS followers—compared to more than 870 followers of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the formation in the ideological leadership of the Kurdish revolution. (Workers Solidarity Movement)
President Masoud Barzani of Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has asked the PKK to withdraw from its territory as Turkish warplanes continue their air-strikes. Presidential advisor Kifah Mahmoud said Barzani's "request" came after reports of up to nine civilians killed in villages near PKK positions in the Qandil Mountains. "If the PKK's bases are eliminated in Kurdistan, Turkey won't bomb civilians," Mahmoud said. Ironically, Mahmoud invoked an Ankara-Baghdad agreement dating to the Saddam Hussein regime allowing Turkey to act against PKK bases in Iraq. Masrour Barzani, head of the KRG's Security Council, echoed his father's call for the PKK fighters to leave the territory. "This is Iraqi territory and they must leave," he said. (NRT, Aug. 1)
Recall that the PKK forces in Iraq were just recently fighting alongside Barzani's Peshmerga against ISIS, and were instrumental in the liberation of Mount Sinjar.
The KRG also accused the PKK of an attack on the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, which transports crude from Iraq's Kurdistan Region to Turkey. In a statement, the KRG cabinet condemned the attack on the pipeline at Sirnak in southeast Turkey, which was apparently claimed by the armed wing of the PKK, the People's Protection Forces (HPG). (Rudaw, July 31)
Note that this pipeline is now being used to export oil from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey for Ankara to use in air-strikes against Kurdish forces in Iraqi Kurdistan. And the KRG, rather than condemning the air-strikes, condemns the Kurds who are getting bombed.
The PKK has also, not surprisingly, escalated attacks within Turkey in response to the air campaign—although it is uncertain if it is really responsible for all the attacks attributed to it. Two Turkish soldiers were killed and 31 wounded in a suicide attack blamed on PKK militants in Dogubayezit, Agri province, near the border with Iran. But the PKK has made no statement on the blast, which targeted a military outpost with an explosives-laden tractor, and the group has carried out no confirmed suicide attacks since the 1990s. (BBC News, AUg. 2)
So Obama's green-lighting of Ankara's attack on the Kurds is bringing war to Turkey and opening a violent rift between actual and ostensible anti-ISIS forces.
As Brendan O'Neill writes in The Telegraph:
Stabs in the back don’t get much nastier than this. For the past year, Western leaders have feted the Kurds of Northern Iraq, praising them as one of the few forces gutsy enough to face down the death cult of Isil. Now, those leaders turn a blind eye, or even worse give an active nod, to attacks on Northern Iraqi Kurds by the Turkish air force. Heroes one minute; fair game for massacre the next. In the long list of Western betrayals of former allies overseas, this one feels especially grotesque.
Actually, it does get worse than that, as evidence continues to emerge that the Turkish state has been conniving with ISIS. A citizen-journalist on CNN iReport, the network's "user-generated news community," has posted a video purporting to show a Turkish train carrying war material including 49 tanks, which were delivered to ISIS in northern Syria. The weaponry was allegedly provided in exchange for the freedom of 49 Turkish nationals who were taken captive when ISIS took Mosul last year. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denied reports he made a financial deal with ISIS for their freedom, but admitted there was "a political, diplomatic bargain." CNN posted a statement along with the report saying it has not been confirmed. But it certainly isn't the first time such claims have been made.
Yet another one to file under Orwell would shit.