Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK leader languishing in a Turkish jail, declared war on Erdogan (open link to the last post on the subject: http://different-traditions.com/?p=1978), after the latter’s refusal to intervene on the Syrian Kurdish side against ISIS in Kobani (apart from welcoming all refugees and supplying truckloads of bottled water and milk cartons to those trapped in the town, that is).
The result was PKK activity within Turkey and a decisive aerial bombing campaign against them by the Turks on Monday the 13th October (open link: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/10/turkish-jets-bomb-pkk-targets-southeast-2014101492853176434.html). So Erdogan didn’t bomb ISIS, but he bombed the PKK. So what is Erdogan actually doing?
Western media is full of heart-rending stories about ISIS’s atrocities, but the US has supported the beheading, hand-cutting, women-hating, church and synagogue-banning regressive Saudi regime for decades, totally contrary to any possible policy of support for human rights and democracy. The Saudi regime we all know was behind the Afghan jihadis, 9/11, funding the Taliban, threatening Tony Blair with a terrorist attack in London over the Serious Fraud Office investigation of the Yamama arms deal (on this open link: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/feb/15/bae.armstrade), and most recently the funding of daily terrorist attacks against the Shia in Iraq, as well as funding of the Syria rebels.
If the US is now trying to consolidate a distinctly odd alliance against what is essentially a group of heavily-armed madmen in Toyota pick-up trucks, if they are so armed, this is also thanks to Saudi Arabia, therefore ultimately to US nods and winks of acceptance. But ISIS has got out of control, and this is to a large extent due to the machinations of Assad and Iran, who have given this extremist group room to manoeuvre for their own ends. So effectively the US is doing a mopping-up operation of its own mess and that of Saudi Arabia’s, with its new coalition of the unwilling.
Or rather, it is trying to make Turkey do the mopping up operation – i.e. to do its dirty work – because pulling in the odd aeroplane from the UAE, and Qatar, and the odd couple of aeroplanes from the UK, is meaningless, just as bombing people in the desert in Toyota pick-up trucks, who are able to vanish into thin air as quickly as they appear, means nothing and is pointless. The whole thing was in fact supposed to embarrass Turkey into putting troops on the ground, and merely a show of smoke and mirrors.
Why should Turkey help at all?
(1) Turkey supported the democratically elected government of Egypt which the US helped to overthrow, putting in its place a bloodthirsty regime, which only yesterday killed students demonstrating at Alexandria University – the killing of students now becoming a daily event in the morass that Egypt has become (on this open link: https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/10/16/egypts-u-s-backed-military-regime-brutalizing-student-protestors/).
(2) The US is stonewalling against Palestinian President Abbas’ demand at the UN, backed by Turkey, that a resolution be passed at the UNSC in regarding to Israel withdrawing to 1967 borders as per UNSC resolution 242. Furthermore, Turkey was not elected in the recent round of elections for non-permanent members of the UNSC, as a result of US pressure. This was to ensure that Turkey couldn’t filibuster on other matters at the UNSC if the Palestinians didn’t get their way (no matter that Abbas expects a US veto, and is planning to follow the veto with a signing of the ICC Rome charter
On this open link : http://different-traditions.com/?p=1941
Also see latest news on the Palestinian approach to the UNSC on: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/14716-abbas-we-reject-kerrys-requested-delay-for-un-security-council-plan)
(3) The Syrian Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) in Kobani and elsewhere is clearly a resource, as well as a source of fighters, for the PKK. Furthermore, the PKK is also still, according to NATO, a terrorist organisation, and bombing their formations in South-East Turkey must be in line with NATO official policy. Öcalan’s declaration of war against Turkey must be based on an idea that Turkey must be under pressure from its NATO allies, given the apparent media uproar over ISIS and the grand announcements surrounding the coalition of the essentially unwilling. Don’t forget on this matter that the PKK’s demand is for Turkey to actually cede land to a new Kurdish state, despite the fact that Erdogan since coming to power has recognised the Turkish Kurds as a separate community within Turkey, with equal rights and the right to use their own language within their community. Honestly, how realistic do you think the PKK demand is? Turkey will never give up land.
(4) Öcalan, however, is not only unrealistic, he is also behind the times, for NATO needs Turkey right now more than Turkey needs NATO. In Obama’s long 40 minute UN “crossroads between war and peace” speech, Russia took up some 15% of the total time of the speech.
Obama here considers that “Russian aggression aggression in Europe recalled the days when large nations trampled small nations in pursuit of territorial ambition”, and while the threat of actual military action is downplayed, the fact is that the US now considers that it is in confrontation with Russia on all other levels, up to the quasi-military level. Troops and missile batteries are newly being stationed in the Baltic States and Poland. If advances such as these are being made on Russia’s eastern flank, then Turkey’s position on the south-eastern flank, with the largest army in NATO other than that of the US, is surely crucial.
Turkey is furthermore a vital trading post between Europe and Asia, and the US is seriously concerned about its close relations with China, as can be seen by the current flap over Turkey’s potential contract with China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp. (CPMIEC) to construct the country’s first long-range air and anti-missile defense system.
So it is clear that Erdogan feels he is on solid ground and that he intends to negotiate a high price for anything that Turkey may concede to its NATO allies. Look at what the Turks did when the US objected to the potential CPMIEC contract: they simply asked the Western competitors bidding against it (US Raytheon and the Eurosam Consortium) to improve their offers if they wanted the deal (on this open link: http://www.airforce-technology.com/news/newsturkey-again-extends-bidding-deadline-for-loramids-tender-4354754).
Finally, we have the regional political picture to consider. Above all, the Turks know that Baghdad doesn’t care about the loss of Anbar province to ISIS. The Shia government there honestly doesn’t want the trouble of incorporating what are the poorest provinces of Iraq into an Iraqi state, since 90% of the oil reserves of the country lie in Basra (100bb). Whatever you think of such a policy – and in fact Abadi, the new PM, is no different on this matter than Maliki was – they are only playing to the gallery when they chant that they want a ‘united Iraq’. The Iraqi army isn’t that bad, that it couldn’t, if it really tried, retake Mosul (Iraq’s second largest city). But all they really want is to hang on to Baghdad, and the Shia militias that have long terrorised the Sunnis in Baghdad (created under the aegis of the US during its occupation) are capable of doing that even without the Iraqi army.
So if the Iraqi army doesn’t really want to fight ISIS, why should the Turks take the brunt? In fact, it is counter-productive for them to do so, because the Sunnis in Anbar support ISIS – which is why they rule there – both from personal interest when it comes to Baathist leaders, or from fear when it comes to the general population. However, bear in mind that the general population Sunnis fear the Baghdad government of Abadi actually more than they do ISIS, given what has happened in the past seven years of its rule.
So If the Turks bombed ISIS, then they would be bombing the Sunnis, who, in the long-term will become a separate statelet in one form or another within Iraq and Syria, whether under ISIS or not, and ultimately therefore clients of the Turkish state and its fast-growing economy.
Iraq is a broken humpty-dumpty – broken in 2003 when the largest military machine in the world attacked it with overwhelming force, killed anywhere between 400,000 and 1 million Iraqis (open link for the third and final Lancet report: http://web.mit.edu/CIS/pdf/Human_Cost_of_War.pdf). In fact, we can say that the entire Iraqi population has post-traumatic stress, and psychologically can no longer trust “grand ideas” of an “inclusive” Iraqi state. The situation is now “every man for himself”.
If Turkey and Iran will benefit by having new client statelets gravitating towards their areas of influence, breaking away from from Syria and Iraq, we can say that those two latter countries are finished as cohesive wholes. Meanwhile Turkey and Iran gain power. Whilst Erdogan is asking the impossible (no fly zone, and a policy of removing the Assad regime in Syria etc..) for Turkey’s co-operation with its NATO allies in the fight against ISIS, it seems he is asking this in the knowledge that he won’t get his way. Israel now prefers Assad in Damascus to any other potential Islamic government, which anyway is unlikely to be democratic (not that that matters to Israel), and the US is thus now balking at Erdogan’s new demands irrespective of its previous forceful declarations on the removal of Assad, because of Israel’s attitude.
This suits Erdogan, who now prefers to do nothing. If he were to go for Assad’s jugular, he will have to contend with Iran’s current commitment to Assad. Iran and Assad can support the YPG and the PKK and easily foment trouble in Turkey, just as Turkey is on good terms with the Iraqi Kurds and can foment trouble through them in Iran, within Iranian Kurdish communities. So the two main powers in the region are simply playing a waiting game, which Iran is clearly expert at doing, if their negotiations over the nuclear problem are anything to go by. While the US/UK/France dominant foreign power in the region continue to try to shape Iraq and Syria’s future, there is no clear plan, and both Turkey and Iran knowing that advantage can simply fall into their respective laps if they just do as little as possible.