Thursday, October 10, 2019

Attacking the Kurds is a War of Choice for Turkey

What is rather interesting, and amazingly sad, is that the current Turkish attack on Kurds in Syria is 100% a war of choice by Turkey's President, Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan. In multiple ways.

Starting with the worst

Turkey does NOT have to fight the Kurds. In fact, Turkey in the very very recent past has allowed Kurds to participate in democracy, and the fighting stopped. In June 2015 there was an election for the national government. The Kurds combined with other minority groups and liberals to field a new Party, The People's Democratic Party. There were many fears that they would fall below the 10% threshold to have seats in parliament, but instead, they won about 13 - 14% of the vote.

Between the PDP and other parties, President Erdogan's party did not win enough votes to rule without a coalition. That was not a result Erdogan would allow.

Instead, the President hamstrung and fought efforts to build a coalition, and so the hung electorate went back to the poles in November 2015. In between June and November, President Erdogan attacked the Turkish Kurds, first politically, then militarily, until he got a militant reaction. Then he banned the Kurds from participating in the election because they were terrorists.*  After banning them from participating, Erodgan's camp won a majority in the November election.

What makes this heart-breaking is that the President would rather create a new civil war, rather than govern in any coalition. Yes, he stayed in power, but thousands have been killed or injured since.

Now the Syrian campaign

The Kurds in Syria have done nothing in Turkey. They haven't sponsored terrorism. They haven't done any raids over the border. They haven't even helped their Turkish Kurd relations. Even if they wanted to, they could not has Turkey has stationed men between the areas.

The lands they have governed (after defeating the Taliban) have been essentially well-run and peaceful. It is one of the few places in the Muslim middle east where woman have a large say in power.  There have been zero incursions into Turkey, or anywhere else. Like the Kurds in Iraq, they have been going about their business peacefully.

But Edrogan cannot have a functioning Kurdish territory next to his territory. It belies the argument that Kurds are blood thirsty, inhuman beasts (although some, no doubt, are good people). Attacking the richest areas of this place allows him to drive the Kurds into the poorest areas and for him to take over the rich farming areas on the border (within 20 miles).

And the World Stands By, why?

And so one might seriously ask, why? Why does the world ignore this (and images of dead Kurds we will soon see in pictures)?
  1. The United States has no good reason for allowing this. Having 100 to 200 people in Kurdish Syria costs us almost nothing. And we stopped the fights between the Kurds, the Syrians and the Turks - leaving a peaceful territory where life begins to get back to normal. We left because the President doesn't like us being in the Middle East. And I fully agree with that sentiment, I hate being in the middle east. But the United States' leaving will cause (has caused) a lot of death, more fighting and probably freedom for thousands of ISIS fighters that the Kurds are holding in jail. The way we left means we will probably be back to fight ISIS again, this time without Kurdish allies.
  2. Europe is afraid to cross Turkey. Turkey's leverage here is that there are millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey. If Europe objets too loudly, Turkey lets them immigrate to Europe - and that caused a ton of political problems. UPDATE... Well that didn't take long.
  1. 3.The political fig leaf here is that Turkey will use this rich buffer area to resettle hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of Syria Arabs back into this buffer zone. Will that work? Probably not. History has shown that forced resettlement will probably infuriate the Syrian Arabs, who aren't from the area, and the Kurds, who will now be overwhelmed with refugees from a different ethnic and religious group. 

Our country has done the equivalent of releasing the parking brake on a car parked on a step hill. Will the car crash? Yes. How many people will die? Too early to say.

*Interestingly, Ed and I visited Istanbul between June and November of 2015, before the 2nd election was called. The young people we met, including our guide, were very excited about the prospect of a diverse government sharing power with Erodgan. Obviously, that did not happen.

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