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With its 9 May announcement that it has decided to directly arm the Kurdish-dominated People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, Washington has inserted itself even further into one of the region’s oldest and bloodiest conflicts: the 33-year-long fight between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is the mother organisation of the YPG and a group deemed a terrorist group by not only Turkey but by the US itself.

In fighting the Islamic State (IS), Washington has been supporting the YPG indirectly for several years and meeting with its commanders. But the decision to provide arms directly further elevates the PKK’s Syrian branch’s status.…  Seguir leyendo »

After a year of intense diplomatic negotiations, the Turkish government is now permitting the United States to use Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, which will allow American aircraft to fly missions in Syria and Iraq with greater operational effectiveness and economic efficiency.

The price of this agreement, however, may well be too high in the long run, both for the success of America’s anti-Islamic State campaign and for the stability of Turkey.

That’s because the Turkish government’s recent change of heart and its sudden willingness to allow American access to the Incirlik base was driven by domestic political considerations, rather than a fundamental rethinking of its Syria strategy.…  Seguir leyendo »

The new details emerging about the threat of ISIS, including the possible use of chemical weapons and the systematic rape of young girls, are dreadful.

But another disturbing development has surfaced: The United States appears to have undercut -- perhaps even betrayed -- Kurdish militias, the only truly effective fighting force so far in the war against ISIS.

The Kurds are now coming under attack not only from ISIS but also from Turkey, a U.S. ally.

Turkey's decision last month to join the fight, which seemed like a boost to the anti-ISIS coalition, looks like it may have been fueled less by the goal of defeating ISIS than by a drive by Turkey to push back against the Kurds' impressive territorial gains.…  Seguir leyendo »

After a year of playing a muted role within the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS, Turkey is now actively engaged in airstrikes against the terror group. But ISIS isn't Turkey's only target.

Turkey is genuinely concerned about the terror threat bubbling away on its border, but ISIS has also given President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a convenient cover to crack down on Ankara's long-time nemesis: Kurdish rebels from the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK).

Erdogan is now waging parallel campaigns -- one against ISIS, and one against PKK rebels in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq. The strikes on PKK targets have brought an end to a two-year ceasefire between Turkey and Kurdish rebels, prompting the latter to cry foul.…  Seguir leyendo »

When Turkey finally agreed to join U.S.-led efforts to fight Islamic State, Ankara was supposed to make the battle against the extremist group more effective. Yet within days, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, bombed not just Islamic State forces but also, with even greater fervor, the one group showing some success in keeping them at bay: the Kurds.

The United States miscalculated by bringing in Erdogan. Turkey’s embattled and volatile leader looks far less interested in combating Islamic State than in reclaiming his power at home. Erdogan’s personal agenda, however, cannot be allowed to alienate U.S. partners and prolong the conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »

First, the good news. After months of dithering, the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has given his approval for America to use the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey to mount air strikes against Islamic State (Isil) positions across the border in Syria.

Nearly a year after coalition planes began bombing Isil forces in Syria and Iraq, there is already much excitement being expressed in Washington that the Turkish decision could prove to be a game-changer in the campaign to defeat the Islamist menace. It will allow coalition forces to monitor more closely Turkey’s 500-mile border with Syria, which has been the main conduit through which Isil has smuggled arms and recruits, as well as enabling American warplanes to respond more quickly against likely Isil targets.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last Friday, Turkey joined the war against Islamic State, the terrorist-run entity that now controls eastern Syria and western Iraq. After four years of leaving the border open for supplies and recruits to reach Islamic State, the Turkish government sent planes to bomb three Islamic State targets in Syria.

At the same time, Ankara ended a four-year ban on its anti-Islamic State “coalition” allies using the huge Incirlik airbase near the Syrian border. There was rejoicing in Washington, since coalition aircraft (mostly American) will now be much closer to Islamic State targets in Syria, and Turkey will also presumably close its border with Syria at last.…  Seguir leyendo »

Turkish troops patrol the Syrian border as airstrikes begin. EPA/Deniz Toprak

Between 03.40 and 03.53 on July 24, three Turkish F-16 jets bombed three Islamic State targets in Syria. This was the first time the Turkish military has taken direct action against the terrorist group.

As the airstrikes began, Turkish police arrested a large number of suspected IS sympathisers across the state. The Turkish government has also opened the strategically important Incirlik airbase to Western allies engaged in the bombing campaign against IS. US officials have called this a “game-changer”. Turkey, a key Middle Eastern state and NATO ally, has formally joined the coalition against IS.

But the decision to get involved, after months of international pressure, has not been made entirely out of a sense of obligation.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kurdish refugees near Turkey's border with Syria on Oct. 26, as smoke rises over Kobani in the distance. Credit Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

Since Sept. 15, we, the people of the Syrian town of Kobani, have been fighting, outnumbered and outgunned, against an all-out assault by the army of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

Yet despite a campaign that has intensified in the past month, including the deployment of United States-made tanks and armored vehicles, the Islamic State has not been able to break the resistance of Kobani’s fighters.

We are defending a democratic, secular society of Kurds, Arabs, Muslims and Christians who all face an imminent massacre.

Kobani’s resistance has mobilized our entire society, and many of its leaders, including myself, are women.…  Seguir leyendo »

“Nations do behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives,” the Israeli diplomat Abba Eban once quipped. The Turkish government finally seems to be doing so in Kobani, the northern Syrian city besieged by the Islamic State — after trying everything else. Turkey is now helping Kobani’s defenders after standing, literally, on the sidelines for weeks as a battle raged just across the border.

As Kobani was encircled by Islamic State forces, despite air strikes by the United States and its allies, Turkey, a NATO ally, had tanks positioned only a few miles away. Why, many wondered, did Turkey do nothing to help the secular Kurdish fighters defend themselves against brutal religious fanatics?…  Seguir leyendo »

Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani, seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in Suruc, Turkey. Kurdish forces urged a U.S.-led coalition to escalate air strikes on Islamic State fighters who tightened their grip on the Syrian town. (Getty Images)

Turkish-American relations reached their nadir last week. Turkey's failure to take a definitive stance on Islamic State has unleashed a torrent of criticism in Western media of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government. Vice President Joe Biden set the tone for Washington's frustration with his off-the-cuff remarks at Harvard insinuating that Turkey had earlier lent support to Islamic State. Erdogan declared that Biden would be “history to me” unless he apologized. Despite Biden's apology, pundits have piled on to accuse Turkey of choosing Islamic State militants over the Kurds of Syria, and some even suggest ousting it from NATO.

The inaction of Ankara, Turkey's capital, on Islamic State holds a mirror to Washington's own inability to act definitively in the Middle East.…  Seguir leyendo »

Turkish soldiers helping Kurdish families fleeing the fighting in Syria. Credit Bulent Kilic/Associated Press

My generation of Turks grew up hating Kurdish separatists. Instead of questioning why Kurds weren’t allowed to speak their own language, live in their own villages or sing their own songs, we blamed the Kurdistan Workers Party, or P.K.K., which had been waging a guerrilla war against Turkey since 1984, for all of Turkey’s woes. Kurds were responsible for the death of our soldiers, we said. They were guilty of tearing up the country, draining our resources and siding with our enemies. In the mainstream press, they were simply “baby killers.”

Over the past few decades, that view started to soften as the history of human rights abuses committed in Turkey’s Kurdish regions was revealed.…  Seguir leyendo »