Turkey plays FSA off against Kurds

In its ever more blatant attempt to play an Arab-versus-Kurdish divide-and-rule card, Turkey now says it wants the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to control the ISIS-besieged border town of Kobani if the jihadists are defeated—not the Kurdish forces of the People's Protection Units (YPG) that have actually been leading the defense of Kobani. In an interview with the BBC broadcast Oct. 28, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called for an "integrated strategy" with the United States to equip and train the FSA and oust Assad from power, as a condition of Turkey openinig its military bases and otherwise cooperating in the effort against ISIS. He said the US should commit to a plan for "a new pluralistic and democratic Syria." This stance has won Turkey recent support from the Syrian opposition, which justly fears being sold out to Assad by the US once ISIS is defeated. But Davutoglu made clear that Turkey would not accept the PKK-aligned YPG in power on its southern border: "If ISIS leaves the PKK terrorists should not come," he said. (AFP, Oct. 28) He did not make clear how the YPG is to be usurped from the territory by the FSA without exploding the nascent alliance between the two, or even fomenting war between them—which is pretty clearly the Turkish design.

Fortunately, this empty lip service to "pluralism and democracy" is demolished in a New York Times op-ed by the commander of the YPG forces at Kobani, Meysa Abdo (AKA Narin Afrin), entitled, with refreshing honesty, "A Town Shouldn't Fight the Islamic State Alone: Turkey's Obstruction of Kobani's Battle Against ISIS." She writes:

Turkey, a NATO member, should have been an ally in this conflict. It could easily have helped us by allowing access between different Syrian Kurdish areas, so as to let fighters and supplies move back and forth through Turkish territory.

Instead, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has several times publicly equated our fighters, who are defending a diverse and democratic society, with the murderous Islamic State, evidently because of the controversy surrounding Turkey's Kurdish minority.

Last week, following domestic and international criticism, Turkish leaders at last said they would open a corridor for a small group of Iraqi pesh merga fighters, and some Free Syrian Army brigades, to cross into Kobani. But they still will not allow other Syrian Kurds to cross Turkish territory to reach us. This has been decided without consulting us.

As a result, the Islamic State can bring in endless amounts of new supplies and ammunition, but we are still effectively blockaded on all sides — on three by the Islamic State’s forces, and on the fourth by Turkish tanks. There is evidence that Turkish forces have allowed the Islamic State’s men and equipment to move back and forth across the border. But Syrian Kurdish fighters cannot do the same.

The Turkish government is pursuing an anti-Kurdish policy against the Syrian Kurds, and their priority is to suppress the Kurdish freedom movement in Northern Syria. They want Kobani to fall.

The unseemly eagerness for Kobani to fall is also demonstrated in recent media reports that Rehana, the Kurdish fighter who became a "poster girl" for the Kobani resistance, was captured and beheaded by ISIS. Now the Daily Mail reports that Rehana's friends are saying the grisly photo of a decapitated Kurdish fighter being widely circulated was not actually Rehana, and that she is alive, resting at an secret location in Turkey after weeks at the front.

Meanwhile, the world seems to have completely forgotten the Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar (Shingal) in northern Iraq. Many escaped the mountain when combined Kurdish forces opened a corridor for them into Syrian territory in August. But Iraqi Peshmerga commanders now say that ISIS is again closing a ring around the mountain, where some 10,000 Yazidis remain trapped. "The IS overran three Syrian Kurdish villages last week which were functioning as the only exit routes from the Shingal Mountain into Syrian Kurdistan,” Gen. Ashti Kochar of the Peshmerga forces told Rudaw news agency in a phone interview from the besieged mountain. "The only way in and out of here is from the air." He said the Peshmerga have asked the Iraqi air force to drop humanitarian aid on the mountain. The Kurdistan Regional Government has prepared emergency aid, but lacks an air force to deliver it. Peshmerga, YPG and PKK forces are also said to be on the mountain, but not in sufficient strength to resist an ISIS advance. (Rudaw, Oct. 13)

  1. Erdogan gets an edifice complex

    From an Oct. 30 Washington Post story, "The White House would be a tiny wing of Turkey’s new presidential palace"…

    Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week unveiled his new palace in the outskirts of the country's capital, Ankara. The gaudy residence boasts 1,000 rooms and apparently cost some $350 million to construct. Its total area, according to the AFP, encompasses some 2,150,000 square feet. Unsurprisingly, such largesse has led to criticism.

    Ahead of the complex's official unveiling, which took place on Turkey's Republic Day on Oct. 29, opposition politicians declared that they would boycott the event — one deputy said it made Moscow's Kremlin compound look "like an outhouse." It has almost 50 times the floor space of the White House…

    Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (known by the acronym AKP) withstood a string of corruption scandals and triumphed in elections this year, which led to the then-Turkish prime minister taking up the role of the country's President. The opening of the new palace — dubbed the Ak Saray, or "white palace," but also a play on the ruling party's name — is rich with symbolism.

    As this guy grandstands against Assad, he is obviously aiming to consolidate his own little leader-glorifying one-party dictatorship in Turkey.

  2. Erdogan cracks down on opposition press

    Police in Turkey on Dec. 16 arrested Ekrem Dumanli, editor of Zaman, the country's biggest newspaper, and 26 others in raids on supporters of a US-based cleric who is a rival President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The operation was the most significant yet against supporters of Fethullah Gulen, an influential former ally of Erdogan who has accused the cleric of running a parallel state from abroad. Arrest warrants were issued for a total of 31 people, the official Anatolia news agency reported. Anatolia said detainees were accused of a number of offences including "using intimidation and threats" to "form a gang to try and seize state sovereignty." (AFP, Dec. 15)