Kurds as pawns in Turko-Russian game?
Bashar Assad can only be taking perverse joy at Turkey's attempt to play an Arab-versus-Kurdish divide-and-rule card, seeking to isolate the Kurds from the Arab-led Syrian opposition. There was an advance for this stratagem today, as a Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander said it was wrong to send rebel forces to the ISIS-besieged Kurdish town of Kobani when Aleppo was besieged by Assad regime forces. Nizar al-Khatib told a group of journalists at a press conference in Istanbul: "I am criticizing this decision because we need these forces in the other fronts in Aleppo. The situation is very critical in Aleppo right now, regime forces have been surrounding the city for some time." (Hurriyet Daily News)
With the world's eyes on ISIS and Kobani, it is true that Assad's atrocities go on with comparatively little notice. Yesterday, a Syrian government helicopter dropped two barrel-bombs on a camp for people displaced by fighting in the country's north, reportedly killing dozens and charring some bodies beyond recognition. Activists told Al Jazeera that 40 were killed at the camp near al-Habeet in the northern governorate of Idlib.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also contributed to the stratagem, wittingly or not, when he responded to a reporter's question about the White House decision to bomb ISIS but not Assad's forces. "Yes, Assad derives some benefit," Hagel said. (WP)
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces are set to arrive in Kobani after being allowed to pass through Turkish territory. But this is likely President Tayyip Erdogan's strategy to dilute the PKK-aligned YPG, the Kurdish force that has been leading the defense of Kobani, with pro-Western Peshmerga.
And the Peshmerga have apparently been subject to humiliations in their passage through Turkish territory. The independent Kurdish news agency Rudaw spoke by phone wth a Peshmerga doctor, Izzettin Temo, in the Turkish city of Urfa en route to the Syrian border. He said: "There are no facilities in the place we are staying. We do not have a bar of soap nor a washbasin to wash our hands. We feel like prisoners. We have no connection with the outside world. However we can do nothing but wait for our guns to reach us. Our journey is being delayed because of this."
Temo said that Turkish authorities are not allowing the Peshmerga to travel in their military uniforms and with their weapons. He added: 'The Turkish soldiers are angry because the people came out onto the streets to greet the Peshmerga. They are mistreating and insulting us because of this." (Kurdish Question)
Alarmingly, while all this is going on, Turkish warplanes confronted Russian jets over the Black Sea today, as NATO aircraft also tracked Russian bombers over the Atlantic and sorties of fighters over the Baltic. In all, NATO jets intercepted four groups of Russian aircraft in about 24 hours starting Oct. 28. (Hurriyet Daily News)
Russia is of course backing the Assad dictatorship, while Turkey's Erdogan is openly calling for its overthrow—if for his own cynical reasons. But even as they risk war over the Black Sea, both Moscow and Ankara would betray the Kurds—the former to Assad, the latter to jihadists like ISIS or Arab nationalists within the FSA. Or even to a directly Turkish-occupied "buffer zone" in nothern Syria.