Turkey preparing Syria invasion —against Kurds?

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called a meeting of his National Security Council (MGK) June 29—being widely portrayed in the Turkish media as preparation to establish a "buffer zone" in northern Syria in response to Kurdish territorial gains against ISIS. Over the weekend, Erdogan told reporters: "I am saying this to the whole world: We will never allow the establishment of a state on our southern border in the north of Syria. We will continue our fight in that respect whatever the cost may be." Turkish newspapers including the pro-government Yeni Safak are reporting that the military has received orders to seize a strip 110 kilometers long and 33 kilometers deep along the border. One anonymous official told Hurriyet Daily News there is a "need" to "prevent more clashes between the ISIL and the Kurdish forces led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), prevent the PYD from taking full control over the Turkish-Syrian border and create a safe zone against a new wave of refugees on Syrian territory, no longer in Turkey." The PYD is the Kurdish political party whose military wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), have been making gains against ISIS.

The PYD is in the orbit of Turkey's outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which responded to Erdogan's threat by warning that if Turkey attacks Rojava (the Kurdish zone in northern Syria), Turkey will become a "war zone." (Haaretz, Today's Zaman, The Telegraph, Daily Beast, Takvim, June 29)

  1. Erdogan hands off Rojava!

    This is another one to file under "No good deed goes unpunished." Erdogan is preparing to move against the Kurds precisely because of their recent success against ISIS. His quote is very telling: "We will never allow the establishment of a state on our southern border in the north of Syria." Oh really? When ISIS had established its "Islamic State" in northern Syria, it elicited no such reaction from Erdogan. But now that ISIS is being driven back by secular, progressive Kurdish-led forces, all of a sudden Turkey cannot tolerate "establishment of a state" on its southern border. Who writes your material, Erdogan? Clear evidence, as if any more were needed, of Erdogan's tilt to ISIS.

    And it should be noted that the PYD has explicitly stated that it does not seek an independent "state" in Rojava—but an autonomous zone within a pluri-national and democratic Syria. 

    This is the time for urgent international pressure to tell Erdogan: "Hands off Rojava!"

  2. Propaganda campaign against Rojava Kurds

    Freelance partisans continue to spread anti-Kurdish propaganda on Facebook and elsewhere, playing into the Arab-versus-Kurdish divide-and-rule stratagem being employed (ironically) by both Assad and Erdogan. They should be very careful, as this time such propaganda could be used to lubricate an actual Turkish military invasion of Syria—surely not a desirable outcome for those who profess Syrian nationalism. 

    Among the claims that such partisans have resurrected in recent days… Al Monitor reported Oct. 29, 2013 that PYD leader Salih Muslim called for a Syrian settlement that would include Bashar Assad, saying: "A solution without Assad means the death of 2 million Alawites." We hope that Muslim has since taken heart (as we have) in Alawite dissidents who have courageously broken from the regime. But it is a bit cynical to dig out this statement without noting that the PYD-YPG is now in an allliance with the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army (however strained), against both ISIS and Assad.

    We've already noted the June 27, 2013 incident at Amuda (or Amouda), in which YPG forces apparently fired on protesters, leaving three dead. This is indeed a very serious abuse that should by no means be overlooked—even if it is being raised now for cynical reasons. We hope those involved in the shooting incident have faced justice, and await further calrity from Rojava authorities. A report on the incident from the Syria Freedom Forever website (now being posted by partisans) identifies the group that held the protest as the Kurdish Youth Movement (TCK), of which we would also like to know more. Its Facebook page seems to indicate that  it is in the camp of Massoud Barzani.

    We have called out anarchists like David Graeber who are now coming to the defense of the (anarchist-influenced) Rojava Kurds, but have done little to support the more general Syrian revolution. We must now call out supporters of the Syrian revolution who are in danger of betraying the Rojava Kurds. An Arab-Kurdish civil war within the resistance forces would be an extremely tragic outcome. And given the PYD-Barzani split, it could even be exacerbated by an internecine Kurdish civil war. The potential for disaster is great, and we must be very careful in our propaganda not to do anything that contributes to this potential. Yes to Arab-Kurdish unity against both ISIS and Assad.

    1. YPG pledges to resist Turkish invasion

      PYD co-president Salih Muslim told the Turkish Hürriyet newspaper that the Turkish government should have reacted when the ISIS flag was raised in Tel Abyad, not now as the Kurdish forces are in control of the area. "This is our territory; and none of the Turkish government’s business," Muslim said. He expressed doubt that Turkey will actually invade Rojava. "But, if Turkey attacks Syrian Kurdistan, YPG fighters will fight back as they have fought against the Syrian regime and the jihadists," Muslim stressed.

      Responding to the ethnic cleansing charges, he also denied that "demographic change" is part of the YPG plan for the liberated areas.

  3. Juan Cole weighs in for Rojava Kurds

    Given all the hideous garbage that The Nation has run on Syria, it's refreshing to see Juan Cole enthusing there, "Are Leftist, Feminist Kurds About to Deliver the Coup de Grâce to ISIL in Syria?" It isn't exactly what we would have written—Cole is a bit too credulous about the ethnic cleansing claims against the YPG, and fails to note the current Turkish-led propaganda drive against them. (A big oversight.) But overall a good piece.

    We do perceive a dilemma here. On one hand, it is good to get out the word about the Kurdish revolution to a far wider audience than is reached by World War 4 Report or ROAR Magazine. On the other hand, we have concerns that anything worthwhile run in The Nation at this point only serves to legitimize the hideous garbage that it runs.

    Four years ago, we applauded Cole for deconstructing the pseudo-left jive on Libya. His enthusiasm for the Libyan revolution has doubtless since been cooled by the objective disaster now unfolding in the North African country. But that disaster is at least in small part the fruit of the complete lack of solidarity (or even interest) the secular, progressive revolutionary forces in Libya received from progressives in the West. Hopefully, the heroism of the Rojava Kurds will inspire some solidarity (however belated) for the secular, progressive revolutionary forces in Syria.