US betrays Rojava Kurds (inevitably)

Well, the long-awaited "other shoe" is finally dropping. It is clear that Washington has given Turkey a green light to crush the revolutionary Kurds—in Turkey, Syria and Iraq alike—as the price of Ankara's cooperation against ISIS. And it's also pretty clear that crushing the Kurds is far more of a priority for Ankara than fighting ISIS. The New York Times writes: "Turkey's new airstrikes…against the Islamic State…came alongside an equally intense barrage on Kurdish militants in Iraq, whose Syrian affiliates are also fighting the Islamic State." Equally intense or far more intense? Media accounts have few specifics of ISIS targets hit by the Turkish strikes. But Haaretz reports: "Turkish fighter jets launched their heaviest assault on Kurdish militants in northern Iraq overnight since airstrikes began last week… The F-16 jets hit six targets in Iraq and were scrambled from an air base in Turkey's southeastern province of Diyarbakir… Turkey began bombing PKK camps in northern Iraq last Friday in what government officials have said was a response to a series of killings of police officers and soldiers blamed on the Kurdish militant group."

Supposed Kurdish "terrorism" is of course being used to justify all this. Hurriyet Daily News quotes Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davuto─člu claiming that a "total of 657 terrorist acts have taken place in Turkey since the general election on June 7… At least 52 people, including 11 security personnel, were killed and 204 people, including 94 security officials, were injured…" Davuto─člu stated: "Three terrorist organizations, Daesh, the PKK and the DHKP-C, have started simultaneous attacks on Turkey." This refers to ISIS (known in Arabic as Daesh), the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), a small armed left faction.

This is cynical bullshit a few different ways. First, Davuto─člu doesn't note that some of the recent terror attacks have been against forces aligned with the PKK—most notoriously the July 20 Suruc attack on a solidarity meeting of leftist youth. Secondly, many of the supposed PKK "terrorist" attacks have actually been on military targets and in retaliation for attacks by the Turkish armed forces. (Once again, the conveniently elastic nature of the word "terrorism.") Worst of all, this continues the sinister game of conniving with ISIS while cynically equating the revolutionary Kurds and ISIS as both "terrorists." (Sic!) Maybe as the price of US connivance in crushing the Kurds, Ankara has finally cut loose ISIS. But the propagandistic conflation of ISIS and the militantly anti-ISIS Kurdish forces clearly continues. 

Some elements of the US policy elite seem to be hoping that that the revolutionary Kurds of Rojava (northern Syria), led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), can be wooed away from the PKK. This may indicate a divergence in strategy with Ankara despite the US-Turkey deal to establish a "buffer zone" in Rojava. To return to the New York Times (links added):

Francis J. Ricciardone, a former ambassador to Turkey who is now vice president and director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council in Washington, told reporters on Tuesday that the deal was not entirely at the expense of the Syrian Kurds, who could benefit from what he called a shift in Turkish policy toward them.

He said that Turkey appeared to have adopted the West’s policy of differentiating between the P.K.K. and the Syrian Kurds.

The P.K.K., he said, "is operating against the Turkish state, and we consider it an international terrorist group," while the Syrian Kurds had "explicitly long ago taken on ISIS" and aligned with the Americans.

Turkey has protested the alliance-of-convenience between the US and the PYD against ISIS, pointing out that the PYD is in the orbit of the PKK—which continues to be listed by the US as a "terrorist organization." The White House, as we have noted, has been parsing this problem by proclaiming that the PYD and its People's Protection Units (YPG) militia are separate from the PKK. And indeed, PYD rhetoric has emphasized a common struggle with the West against terrorism. Tension between Turkish designs to crush the Rojava Kurds and US designs to co-opt them may yet afford them—at least—the possibility of living to fight another day… 

Meanwhile, Turkey, that great bastion of freedom and democracy, has blocked a number of Kurdish and left-wing news websites lest its citizens seek out unsanctioned perspectives on its offensive against the PKK and its allies. The blocked sites include Rudaw, BasNews, D─░HA, ANHASendika and RojNews. Users within Turkey are redirected to a a message from the Telecommunications Directorate stating that the sites are blocked due to "administrative measures." Some Twitter accounts have also (again) been blocked. (Hurriyet Daily News)

We noted months ago that the fact that elite think-tanks like the Atlantic Council were taking note of the Rojavan Kurds ultimately spelled trouble for them. Imperialism backing revolutionary forces was an inherent contradiction that could only end in betrayal. Now that betrayal has arrived. And again: the most maddening thing about it is that it is utterly counter-productive to the fight against ISIS. The fact that the revolutionary Kurds have been the most effective force against ISIS is related to the fact that they also have the best politics—that they stand for something better than an internecine sectarian bloodbath, or a "moderate" (sic) version of reactionary political Islam.

History seems to be proving yet again the old adage: Kurds have no friends but the mountains. But every betrayal is ultimately paid for, and the price of this one could be a gravely weakened international effort against ISIS.

  1. Obama to rein in Turkish attacks on Kurds?

    The Huffington Post asked Obama if he was concerned that Erdogan would use the campaign against the Islamic State as an excuse to target the PKK. Obama offered the following somewhat equivocal reply: "Well, we’ve discussed with the Turks our strong view that ISIL poses the largest threat to the region and we have to stay focused, [and our view] that to the extent the PKK engages in attacks against Turkish targets, it is legitimate for the Turks to try to defend themselves," he said. "But the agreement that we are working on is carefully bound around: How do we close off that border to foreign fighters entering into Syria? And everything we do will be based on that issue."

  2. Facebook censors Kurds

    The new FB Censors Kurds page on Facebook reads:

    If you have been blocked or banned from FB for posting Kurdish or anti-Turkish material, please screenshot the image that FB sent when notifying you and post it here (you can black out your name if you want).

    This group is solely for material dealing with how FB censors Kurds on behalf of Turkey and to show the world how unjust this policy is. Posts are also welcome that discuss FB censorship policy as it relates to Kurds, and discussions on how to get FB to change this unfair and discriminatory policy.

    Facebook is already bending over for the Chinese state. Turkey next? Why not?

    We'd just like to know if anti-Kurdish Internet partisans who have been avidly posting a recent newsclip accusing the Rojava Kurds of censoring TV broadcasts in their zone of control will have anything to say about this…

  3. Facebook censors Kurds: worse than we thought

    An utterly maddening report on Public Radio International today infiorms us that Facebook shut down an anti-ISIS group called the Liberty Lions because it posted a Jon Stewart clip that inlcuded a brief flash on the screen of PKK fighters. ("So they’re stepping up their fight against ISIS by taking out the people most effectively fighting ISIS," quips Stewart. "Brilliant strategy. Certainly no one will see that coming.") This apparently ran afoul of Facebook's prohibition on promotion of "terrorism"! 

    A Facebook spokesperson "declined to be interviewed" for the story. But in a written statement she told PRI, "there is no place for terrorists on Facebook. We work aggressively to ensure that we do not have terrorists or terror groups using the site, and we also remove any content that praises or supports terrorism."

    Another one to file under "Orwell would shit."