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 Davutoğlu 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…" Davutoğlu 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, Davutoğlu 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, DİHA, ANHA, Sendika 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.