Turkey in new crackdown on ISIS —and PKK
News that Turkey has agreed to allow US warplanes to launch raids against ISIS forces in Syria from Incirlik Air Base comes one day after a border skirmish in which a Turkish solider was killed by presumed ISIS fire from the Syrian side and Turkish forces responded with tank shells. Turkey is also reported to have scrambled fighter jets to the border after the clash, which took place at the border town of Çobanbey, Kilis province. (Reuters, CBC, Daily Sabah, July 23) Since the border incident, Turkey has also launched mass sweeps, arresting more than 290—but targeting supporters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as well as ISIS. One death is also reported in the sweeps—a militant of the armed left faction Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), who apparently resisted arrest in a raid in Istanbul. Mainstream Turkish sources provided no breakdown as to how many of the detained were jihadists as opposed to radical leftists, but pro-PKK sources reported at least 60 of their followers among the detained. Some of the raids on PKK followers and sympathizers were in Suruç—the border town which was four days ago the scene of an ISIS suicide attack that left some 30 dead at a meeting called by leftist parties to organize solidarity for the anti-ISIS resistance in northern Syria. (Hurriyet Daily News, ANF, July 24)
The PKK has held the Turkish state complicit in the Suruç attack, and its armed wing, the People's Defense Forces (HPG), said it has killed two police officers in retaliation. An HPG statement said the two officers, killed in Ceylanpınar district of Urfa province, were "in cooperation with ISIS gangs." (ANF, July 22)
US strikes against ISIS have been heretofore launched from aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf rather than Turkish territory. We have long noted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's sinister game of conniving with ISIS while cynically equating the revolutionary Kurds and ISIS as both "terrorists." (Sic!) Perhaps with this latest border incident, Erdogan has finally decided to cut ISIS loose and wholeheartedly join the campaign against them. But will he be able to extract crushing the revolutionary Kurds as a quid pro quo for this? There have already been disturbing signals of this betrayal. As we've stated, the PKK and its Kurdish allies in Syria stand an almost inevitable chance of being betrayed—anarchists and Kurds are both groups that have historically been subject to serial betrayals.
Imperial illusions to the contrary notwithstanding, this betrayal would be a grave setback for the struggle against ISIS. As we've stated, 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. This is the moment for urgent pressure on the Turkish state. There must be no crackdown on the PKK and allied forces in the hideously ironic guise of a crackdown on their bitter enemy ISIS. And there must be no Turkish intervention in northern Syria to establish a "buffer zone" in the territory which is now the Kurdish autonomous zone.