Military tension in northern Syria is not abating. Turkey continued its attacks on Kurdish fighters on Thursday, November 24, aimed at defending the southern border. According to independent Syrian and Kurdish sources on the ground, the artillery hit Kurdish forces responsible for guarding the Al-Hol camp, which houses relatives of members of the Islamic State (IS) organization, and the prison where they are jihadist prisoners .
Turkey launched Operation “Sword Claw” on Sunday, November 20, bombing positions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD). stronghold in Kobané was the target. The Turkish government accuses these two movements of sponsoring the November 13 attack that killed 6 people and injured 81 in Istanbul.
In an interview given to mouth, Didier billiondeputy director of the Institute for International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) and a specialist in Turkey, believes that the approaching presidential elections are one of the reasons why Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to position himself as “the only one capable of fighting threats”.
Why is Ankara targeting Kurdish militants now?
In reality, barely a week goes by without low-intensity military operations involving Turkish forces opposing PKK groups. There is a clear link between the recent attacks and the Istanbul bombing, for which Turkish officials immediately targeted the PKK. Over the next twenty-four hours, there were a number of arrests, including that of a woman believed to have planted the bomb. Confessions were soon attributed to her in which she says she was recruited and trained by the PKK in northern Syria.
Since then, the PKK’s No. 2 has categorically denied any involvement. One of the YPG officials said the arrested woman had three brothers belonging to the Islamic State Organization who were killed. We can see it’s the war of press releases as usual. That’s always the problem with terrorism cases like this: because of the psychological warfare, the propaganda warfare, it’s hard to tell the true from the false.
Is this hardening of Erdogan against the Kurds related to the approaching presidential elections in 2023?
I’m not saying it’s the main determinant, but Erdogan has been constantly reminding us for months that he is the only one capable of fighting against the threats that are crystallizing around Turkey. Even though the election is only six months away, the polls are not good. The game is far from being won, mainly because the economic situation is disastrous. Erdogan is trying, among other things through his military operations, to bring back the most nationalistic part of the electorate. When it comes to hitting the Kurds, they always respond.
How do Washington and Moscow view the Turkish military operation in Syria?
Erdogan has neither the support of Russia nor the United States. He understands perfectly well that he is at the center of a diplomatic game, in which he is not doing too badly, and he has no desire to burn his ships by colliding head-on with the Kremlin. However, after the attack in Istanbul, it is very likely that we will see a ground operation in the coming days.
Until now, Erdogan had agreed to postpone his military operation because Vladimir Putin is keeping tabs on Syria. The Russian president continues to support Bashar Al-Assad unconditionally and wants to do everything he can to prevent fighting from resuming, but the situation in the country is infinitely unstable. It is very important for Putin to prove that he is loyal to his alliances, that he does not let people down along the way, “unlike Americans”, as he often repeats. More generally, the states of the region are not at all on the line of Westerners regarding the conflict in Ukraine. For example, no one applies the sanctions. Putin does not want to weaken his ties with these support points at all.
The Americans support the YPG because they believe that these militias have been decisive in the fight against IS in Syria.
Erdogan hits his Kurdish enemies in Syria as Tehran bombed Kurdish forces in northern Iraq accused of fomenting riots in Iran. Does the Turkish leader want to take advantage of a windfall?
I don’t think there is a chance phenomenon, because the goals are not the same. The Iranians targeted Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (PDKI) and Komala Party bases. There is a time conjunction of the bombings of Ankara and Tehran, but they do not target the same locations and do not have the same reasons.
The political dynamics vary between the Kurds of Syria, Iraq, Iran or Turkey. For example, the PKK is nationalist and Marxist, while in Iraq the Kurdistan Democratic Party (PDK) is more of a patriarchal, feudal regime. What his leader, Nechirvan Barzani, is looking for is stability in the north of the country, the autonomous region where he rules. For him, the PKK is an obstacle to go around in circles. So he prefers to welcome the Turkish military operations, even if he can’t say it out loud.
The Kurds of these four countries have experienced different methods of political mobilization and training as they are in different contexts. Of course there are similarities between these groups. But politically, there has never been a unity movement pursuing the same goal.