Turkey’s Syria Policies Falter on Intra-Kurdish Struggles

Article Summary
Turkey’s primary objective in Syria may be to prevent an autonomous Kurdish region there, Amberin Zaman reports.

Western diplomats are now openly saying that one of the main reasons behind Turkey’s support for the armed opposition in Syria is to prevent the formation of an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria. Western sources told me yesterday [Nov. 9] that Turkey’s intensive efforts — especially with Washington — to create a no-fly zone and a buffer zone, are, above all, aimed at the Kurds.

Sources said that Turkey’s persistent pressure for military intervention in Syria is annoying many, particularly in Washington. The sources said recent reports that Ankara and Washington have agreed to deploy Patriot missiles as a basis for a de facto no-fly zone are misleading. The real objective of such reports is to create an image of US-Turkey cooperation and joint preparations.

The prevailing feeling is that Turkey is trying to cover up its loss of prestige following Washington’s declaration of the Syrian National Council as null and void. There are also reactions against Turkey within NATO because of Turkey’s systematic blocking of NATO-Israel cooperation. NATO sources say Turkey should not bring its disagreement with Israel to NATO.

One of my sources said that given “Turkey’s struggle on its own soil with a separatist terrorist organization, Ankara is justified to be concerned with the relationship between the dominant Syrian Kurdish movement and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK].” 

But these calculations turned out to be wrong. It was the Kurds — especially the PKK’s Syrian extension, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) — who benefited most from the Syrian opposition’s expulsion of Assad forces from the border area.

In that case, what can Turkey do when there is no likelihood of military support from the West? Recent clashes in Aleppo’s Kurdish district of Ashrafiyeh, between the Kurds affiliated with the Free Syrian Army and those affiliated with the PYD, signal a new, dangerous development.

Last summer, Massoud Barzani brought the PYD and the Kurdish National Council to the table to make them sign an agreement for power sharing. However, that agreement remained only on paper. The PYD not only held on to power, it began setting up an army for itself.

Can a policy of setting the Kurds against each other succeed? All of the countries that have Kurdish populations have tried this approach for many years. Anyone can see the results of these efforts. If the PYD or the PKK launches a war against other Syrian Kurds, Barzani will be the loser, as anti-PKK Syrian Kurds are known to be closer to Barzani. This is why Barzani will be the first to pay the price of intra-Syrian-Kurdish strife.

His reputation within his own Kurdish constituency will suffer. If we ask, “Who then will benefit from such a clash?” The answer is obvious: The PKK, the Maliki government and Iraqi President Jalal Talibani. We will thus be undermining the only solid ally we have in the region.

Found in: us, turkish kurds, syrian, pkk

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