Turkey has anticipated Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s downfall ever since protests first broke out in Syria in 2011. It has been disappointed at every turn, though, and now it is not only Assad who is in trouble but Turkey as well. The way in which Ankara has responded to the violence across its border has upended its own political balance and re-empowered its military. It has also brought the peace process that Turkey started with the Kurdish movement to the brink of collapse.
On October 2, the Turkish parliament voted to allow Turkey to send troops across its southern borders into Syria to deal with “risks and threats against our national security along Turkey’s southern land borders.” The decision was widely interpreted as signaling that Turkey would be going to war with the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the terrorist group that has overrun much of Iraq and Syria. Yet the preamble of the troop authorization neglects to mention ISIS and, instead, refers to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the militant group that has fought against the Turkish state since 1984. On October 4, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defended the authorization by stating that “ISIS and PKK are the same” and rhetorically asking why the world is not as enraged about PKK activities as it is about ISIS. In one fell swoop then, he raised serious doubts about his government’s intentions of taking the necessary steps to accommodate the Kurds and the PKK as part of ongoing negotiations
Kurds in Turkey and Syria even believe that Ankara is still offering covert aid to ISIS in its efforts to cleanse the Kurdish population of Syria from areas adjacent to Turkey’s borders. Such accusations first arose in 2012, when Rojava -- the Kurdish region in Syria -- declared autonomy. In response,
- Full website and iPad access
- Magazine issues
- New! Books from the Foreign Affairs Anthology Series