Post entitled, “Has the US finished the trap Assad has set for Turkey?” originally appeared on GEFIRA.
From the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Turkey and the US supported the insurgency against Assad. Turkey formed a safe haven and provided weapons to groups that later evolved into ISIS. The US started to organize “Friends of Syria” conferences to support the insurgency in Syria. At these conferences, not only Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lectured Putin on Middle East policy, but money was also collected for the Jihadists now known as ISIS.
Security analysts who are not blinded by US and European propaganda already noticed that the Kurds were a hurdle in the chosen strategy. The Kurds did not side with the FSA and the “Friends of Syria” show. They engaged in deadly clashes with the US-Turkey backed Jihadists. Kurdish leaders were already slaughtered by the FSA in 2012. The so called “Friends of Syria” conference in Cairo ended in a brawl between Kurds and Jihadists.
During this period, the relation between Turkey and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Northern Iraq, improved dramatically. Former BP CEO Tony Hayward visited Erbil and advised the KRG to build a direct oil pipeline to Turkey, bypassing Iraq’s pipes, enabling the Kurds to export Kurdish oil directly via Turkish port of Ceyhan. The good business relation between Barzani, the prime minister of the KRG and Erdoğan’s government limited the freedom for the PKK to operate from Northern Iraq.
Under Assad, the PKK had no opportunity to operate from Syria. In 1998, Turkey threatened to invade Syria as a result of the PKK’s staged attacks from Kurdish Syrian areas. Since then, Damascus reined in the Kurds and stopped the PKK operating from Syria, preventing further escalation between Ankara and Damascus.
Assad had (and still has) little power to retaliate against the US-Turkey support for the Jihadist insurgents against his regime. Assad understood that the Kurds in Syria could spoil the fragile Kurdish peace process in Turkey. In 2012 he granted the Kurds in Syria autonomy to retaliate against Turkey. Back then he could not foresee how great this move was, thanks to the rogue and unreliable US policy in the Middle East.
In 2013 and 2014 Assad’s policy seemed to have failed as ISIS succeeded in dispelling the Kurds from cities like Kobane. ISIS getting the upper-hand in the Syrian Kurdish region worried Western Nations, but not Turkey. The supply lines of ISIS started in Turkey and without support from Turkey, the Jihadists could not be as successful as they are now in Syria and Iraq. Not only do the Turkey’s Security services, MIT have contact with the ISIS’ leaders, ISIS itself has support in Turkey’s society and from some Syrians in Turkey, the organisation is more rooted in Turkey than many want to believe.
For Ankara, the FSA and later ISIS did the dirty work in the Syrian Kurdish territory. Even Barzani and Iraqi’s KRG feel no inclination to support their Kurdish brothers in Syria and saw the new Syrian Kurdish autonomy as a threat for its own stability. From Turkey’s perspective things were not as bad as they seemed for outsiders. The Syrian Kurds were eliminated while Ankara could blame ISIS while providing lip service to the plight of the Syrian Kurds..
However, America’s flip-flop policy turns the trap Assad set for Ankara into a disaster in the making for Turkey. In 2014 the US Syrian policy went from an air support for the Jihadists to bombing the Jihadists, formerly organised in the “Friends of Syria” conferences.
From the beginning it was clear that Turkey has no interest in supporting the Syrian Kurds in their fight against ISIS. The US understood Assad’s trap and started to support the Kurdish Syrian Fighters in Kobane. With active military support from the US the YPG (military wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party) managed to restore Kurdish dominance in a small strategic area bordering Turkey. A situation of which Ankara has said many times to be intolerable for Turkey.
The US and its Western allies force Ankara into action against ISIS. A very dangerous move that could cause the Syrian war to cross the border, into Turkey. We regard the Reyhanli bombing in 2013 (52 casualties) as a warning issued by ISIS for Erdoğan. As ISIS stages daily suicide bombings in Baghdad, there is no reason they will spare Turkey. Erdoğan has the choice to engage in battle its former ally, the Jihadists or accepting the US arming the Syrian Kurdish fighters, YPG and indirect the KKP finishing Assad’s trap for Ankara.
We recognize 4 major trends.
- US arming Syrian Kurds will agonize Ankara and Erbil, undermining the fragile Kurdish-Turkish peace process, many of the weapons will end up in the hands of the PKK.
- ISIS will not only engage the YPG in Syria but also the PKK in Turkey bringing the Syrian civil war into the borders of Turkey.
- ISIS will retaliate against Ankara now that Turkey is actively confronting the Jihadists.
- The AKP ruling elite do not want a coalition government, the AKP will use the current chaos to stay in power.
The US Syrian policy forces Ankara to walk a fine line between ISIS, Assad’s regime, the US and its own interest. We expect the options for Erdoğan to be limited. The inevitable increase in violence could increase the popular support for the AKP. We will not rule out that Erdoğan could declare a state of emergency and postpone the elections. As the Western pro democratic powers accept Sisi in Egypt and Morsi at death row, there is no moral argument for the AKP to follow the same path Egypt did. New elections without the AKP getting a Majority will result in more chaos and violence. Whatever the result of the power struggle in Ankara may be, Turkey’s military will not accept the YPG and PKK armed to the teeth by the US. The current acceptance of US air force operating from Turkey’s soil should be understood as the result of US blackmail and power play, a clear humiliation of Ankara, widening the gap between Ankara and Washington.
Turkey losing patience with Syria. Source BBC 4 October 1998
The Turkish President, Suleiman Demirel, has repeated his warning that time is running out for Syria to stop supporting the Kurdish rebel movement, the PKK
Tony Hayward Loads Trucks With Kurdish Oil Awaiting Pipe. Source Bloomberg 30 July 2012
Tony Hayward, the former chief executive officer at BP Plc, is now loading a fleet of as many as 500 trucks a day while he waits for a new pipeline to carry oil from his fields in northern Iraq.
Hayward has pushed the semi-autonomous Kurds to finish building a link to neighboring Turkey so he can find buyers outside the local market.
Ex-BP CEO Gets His Life Back as Kurdish Pipeline Opens. Source Bloomberg 22 May 2014
The conduit, built by the Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, runs about 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Khurmala, southwest of Erbil, to the Turkish border, where it connects with an existing link to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. Oil that sells for about $70 a barrel domestically could fetch $100 or so in world markets.Source New York Times 11 May 2013
Syrian opposition rifts give world excuse not to act. Source Al Arabiya News 4 July 2012
A brawl at a meeting of the Syrian opposition this week in Cairo put on display the divisions among those struggling to oust President Bashar al-Assad and provides an excuse for world powers who have been wary of intervention to sit on their hands.
Assad hands control of Syria’s Kurdish areas to PKK, sparking outrage in Turkey Source Mc Clatchy DC 26 July 2012
President Bashar Assad, facing a growing rebel presence in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and its commercial hub, has turned control of parts of northern Syria over to militant Kurds who Turkey has long branded as terrorists, prompting concern that Istanbul might see the development as a reason to send troops across its border with Syria.
Car Bombings Kill Dozens in Center of Turkish Town Near the Syrian Border Source May 11 2013 New York Times
In blaming Mr. Assad’s government, Turkish officials seemed anxious to stave off any possible backlash against thousands of Syrian refugees in Reyhanli or its allies in the Syrian opposition for the bombing. The town is in a region of southern Turkey where some Turks have bristled at their government’s willingness to make Turkey a party to the war, putting it at risk.After the bombings on Saturday, angry residents smashed the windows of cars from Syria, and a Turkish newspaper reported that protests against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan later erupted in Reyhanli’s streets.