Turkey is getting ready for a big war in the region. This is how we can qualify the situation developing in Syria and Iraq. Russian Defense Ministry’s reports about Turkey shelling borderline Syrian territories, sending troops to its border with Syria and to Iraqi Kurdistan (mostly the forces deployed near the Turkish-Armenian border), attempting to wreck the Syrian peace talks, about the leaders of the Iraqi and Syrian Turkmens calling on their Turkish brothers to save them from annihilation, about the Turks waging an active information war against Russia – this all is a sign that Turkey may well invade Iraq and Syria. And the more successful Russia, Syria and Iran are in liberating Latakia and the northern Syrian provinces from ISIL and al-Nusra Front, the higher this possibility is – for those forces were the Turks’ key ram for toppling Bashar al-Assad.
Turkey’ declared goals are in line with the international campaign against ISIL but their real goal is at least to wreck the Kurds’ plans to establish their own state and at most to create a buffer zone on their borders with Syria and Iraq and not to let Kurds close to their territory. Turkish political expert Amberin Zaman warns that, for the first time since its formation, the Republic of Turkey is facing the threat of partition. Availing themselves of the Islamists’ incompetence, Kurds are trying to build “Independent Kurdistan.” And the most unpleasant fact here is that even the leader of the Iraqi Kurds Masoud Barzani, who pledged allegiance to President Erdogan may now stand in the vanguard of the Kurds’ war for independence.
Logically, Turkey should coordinate its steps with its NATO partners. But even here it is facing two major factors that are keeping it from invading Syria.
The first factor is that if the Turks invade Syria and Iraq, their troops will come across the Syrian army and the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution and may face a war with Iran.
Here they may also see resistance from Russian air forces and at worst a war with Russia. We don’t think that NATO would like to start WWIII just to please Erdogan. But, on the other hand, lots of western mass media are now spreading rumors about the Russians’ plans to invade the Baltics.
The second factor is the Kurds. Paradoxical as this may seem but the key players in the region have a similar vision of the Kurds’ future.
The Kurds are the key stumbling stone between Turkey and the United States. Lots of US diplomats have so far supported the idea of Kurdish autonomy or even state. And even now some presidential hopefuls are mentioning this as one of the key goals of stability in the Middle East. Former US State Secretary Hillary Clinton and George Bush’s son Jeb Bush are even urging the Americans to arm the Kurds as one of the most efficient forces against ISIL. In his interview to CBS, Bush said that without the forces of Kurdistan, those fighting ISIL would not be able to beat it.
Clinton told ABC that the United States should not send troops to Iraq and Syria but should support Kurdish and Sunni forces against ISIL. She said that the Americans should actively arm Kurds as the most efficient anti-ISIL force.
Turkey has always been annoyed with the United States’ Kurdish policy. Turks know that Americans and Israelis have a project to create an independent Kurdistan. Israel was the first to make friends with the leaders of the Kurdish autonomy of Iraq and is actively arming and training the Kurdish Peshmerga. This support was one of the reasons why Turkey has bad relations with Israel. In 1960s-1970s, Golda Meir mentioned independent Kurdistan as a possible ally of Israel against certain regional threats.
The EU is much more radical here. Big Kurdish communities in France, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands, the presence of “embassies of the Kurdish Autonomy of Iraq” in many European capitals, the Europeans’ protests against anti-Kurdish repressions in Turkey and Turkey’s wish to join the EU – all this has had a big influence on Europe’s position on the Kurdish problem. As a result, during German-Turkish consultations in Berlin on Jan 22, Germans said that this problem must not be solved by means of arms, while Angela Merkel said that despite lots of common grounds between Germany and Turkey, Germans are firm in their belief that the Kurds must have the right to free and worthy life.
France is of the same opinion. Francois Hollande is also an advocate of worthy life for the Kurds. And both France and Germany keep hosting annual Kurdish conferences despite Turkey’s protests. No surprise that on Feb 3 2016 the European Parliament adopted a resolution recognizing genocides of Christians and Yazidis in Syria and Iraq and calling on the world community to jointly fight radical forces. Yazidis are a Kurdish ethnic group, who are fighting for their survival with ISIL and who are the key enemies of the Turkey-controlled Turkmens.
With all above kept in mind, we can say that the NATO-Israeli policy to solve the Kurdish problem by means of war is pushing the Republic of Turkey towards an X hour – when its actions will cause military, political and diplomatic counteraction from almost all the other players in the Middle East. Time will show if this will stop Erdogan and his suicidal policy.
Arman Abovyan, political analyst (Yerevan), specially for EADaily