Tuesday, May 23, 2017

This past week President Tayyip Erdogan had a meeting with President Trump. As observed before when he met with President Obama, once again his goons took to beating up and violently attacking protestors.  But this is not important for the time being, what is pertains to the Trump administration plans for after the Mosul offensive and even ridding Syria of IS.  This is valid for my main botheration with Obama was his failure to plan for what was to occur after the implementation of any of his foreign policy escapades from Yemen to Syria to the South Sudan and especially in Libya.

Unlike the prior administration, I can note that Trump seems to be engaged with the issues but I am not so certain that he grasps the seriousness of a fallout between Erdogan and Turkey and/or the US and the Kurds.  Something must give and I am not at rest that President Trump, as Obama before him, is ready for this. And he is the one who opened this can of worms when his administration announced that the U.S. would back, arm and support the Kurds in their effort against the Islamic State and to show he was about that life, the Trump Defense Department immediately sent military vehicles with American flags to the YPG fighters engaged in combat activities on the Syrian side of the border.

As expected Erdogan was not happy and expressed such through one of his many mouth pieces this time being one of his top foreign policy advisers İlnur Çevik. Cevik expressed succinctly the differences between Washington and Ankara over the U.S. military’s partnership with Kurdish military organizations in Syria by hinting that American troops could be targeted alongside their Kurdish allies in the country since U.S. forces have teamed up with members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and since Turkish fighter’s patrol along the border region with Syria frequently bombing the YPG who they see more of an enemy than IS. Specifically, Cevik stated that if the U.S. troops would "go to far, our forces would not care if American armor is there, whether armored carriers are there" adding that “Suddenly, by accident, a few rockets can hit them.”

It was a simple choice for Trump based on all he has been talking about wiping the Islamic State off the face of the planet. Easy also because the YPG have shown themselves to be one of the most effective forces on the ground in the fight against IS next to the Syrian Defense Forces. Moreover, most Kurds are Sunni Muslims, however, they consider themselves Kurds first, and Muslims second, and don't want to be absorbed into a universal caliphate or equally any affiliation with Sharia law. Also of importance is that the Kurds are the most pro-American people in the entire Middle East and believe and acknowledge equal right for women.

The fact is northern Syria  has a large Kurdish population which for decades, Turkey has viewed a major political threat due to the mounting influence of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the region.  Erdogan was hoping the US-YPG alliance which President Barack Obama started would be discontinued under Trump. But it has not and he made this clear in an interview in which he stated that seeing US military vehicles operating close to the border with Syrian Kurdish fighters "seriously saddened" him.

The Kurdish and US soldiers who support them are during an offensive to take Raqqa, ISIS’s Syrian capital, and have recently made significant gains against the extremists in the region but recent attacks by Turkey against Kurdish areas in Syria are hampering the offensive against ISIS. Erdogan doesn’t want the YPG or the PYD to be the leading powers in Syria’s Kurdistan region and sees both as part of the PKK.

To understand this one must understand the Kurds in the region (Iraq, Syria and Turkey). Erdogan’s forces are fighting the Turkish Kurds (The PKK or Banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party led by Abdullah Ocalan who was jailed in 1999 with the help of U.S. CIA) and Erdogan is extremely hostile with the Syrian Kurds (the PYD or Democratic Unity Party) who are aligned with the PKK and have their own militia called the YPG. Last there are the Kurds in Iraq who have established a Kurdish Regional Government since the US invasion/occupation of Iraq and who have their own military forces called the Peshmerga. All three Kurdish areas are fighting IS, but all are considered problems to Erdogan. The Turks want to destroy the PKK and its affiliates, as well as the YPG.  They consider them to be the same or equal to ISIS – terrorist. This is what the U.S. and Russia equally must syphon through because Erdogan sees the possible defeat of IS in Raqqa by the Kurds and U.S. forces as major political leverage for the YPG.

When the Turkish State was founded in the aftermath of WWI, the Kurds were promised the creation of an independent state as part of the treaty of Sevres in 1920. Unfortunately for them, this part of the treaty was never ratified and Turkey has refused to recognize the existence of a separate Kurdish ethnic community within its borders.  Upon which several major Kurdish rebellions occurred in Kurdish strongholds in Turkey during the 1920s and 1930s. Since then the Turkish ruling class began viewing a separate Kurdish identity as a threat to the nation-state - Turkification.

Now, Turkey has become one of the world's largest and most powerful Muslim fundamentalist states. I say this because it is well known that Erdogan’s administration (maybe with the exceptions of the Saudi’s) is the main state sponsor of ISIS. Add to this that Erdogan is an Islamist that embraces Muslim fundamentalism to the level of even destroying the last bits of democracy in Turkey to eradicate all Kurdish people so that he can establish a new Ottoman Empire for Turks and only Turks.  Now, it is estimated that around fifteen million individuals of Kurdish origin live in Turkey who under the present leadership of the Republic, have been treated worse than a second-class citizenry.

Trump and Putin know that they NEED the YPG to continue with its fight against the Islamic State. Although the U.S. has maintained good relations for the past seven decades, the war on ISIS has led the Pentagon to decide that it is the best interest of the U.S. to work with Kurdish forces if the objective is to defeat ISIS. Thus, the conflict: the U.S. want to work with the Kurds on the ground in Syria effort to take Raqqa (the headquarters of ISIS) but Turkey doesn’t want this thinking that it with give them more clout with the current U.S. administration.

Like Obama (called Erdogan a trusted friend), Trump underestimates Erdogan's hatred of the Kurdish minority and the level of his support of ISIS.  Trump must decide if its relationship with the Kurds in Syria is a temporary relationship of opportuneness until IS is defeated or is the beginning of something new? Something new that could lead to an independent Kurdistan? Erdogan wouldn't be happy about it, but he'd accept this from the U.S. and I believe that is his main concern. After all, we saw what he did after the strong electoral might of the Kurdish party that prevented a parliamentary majority of Erdogan's AKP in June's election. 

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