‘Turkey at war with Kurds, most effective fighters against ISIS’

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. © Azad Lashkari
Turkey sees itself at war with the Kurds internally and now externally in Syria. It is unfortunate because the Kurds are the most effective fighters against ISIS and are de facto allies of the US and Russia, explains Ronald G. Suny, Professor of Political History at the University of Michigan.

Pro-Kurdish supporters clashed Monday with Turkish police in Istanbul and the southeast city of Diyarbakir. The violence erupted during a nationwide action, commemorating the arrest of the founder of the Kurdistan Workers' Party Abdullah Ocalan 17 years ago.

The Turkish military has again attacked Kurdish fighters in Syria. Ankara claims it was firing in retaliation to an attack on a border security outpost. Turkish shells reportedly targeted Syrian army units over the weekend as well.

RT: Why is Turkey choosing to ignore the international community's call to stop bombing the Kurds?

Ronald G. Suny: Each side in this conflict unfortunately has their own separate national interests, which don’t coincide. Turkey is at the moment very worried about the rise in status in a way and the seriousness with which the Kurdish claims are being taken by the Russians and by the US. Turkey sees itself at war internally and now externally in Syria with the Kurds. This is truly unfortunate, because the Kurds are the most effective fighters against ISIS and are de facto allies of the US and the Russian Federation.

RT: In addition to the international community demanding Ankara stop bombing Kurdish territory, clashes of opponents of Erdogan's actions are now taking place within Turkey. How far can the split go? Is Erdogan going to respond?

RGS: Last year, President [Recep] Erdogan wanted to become ‘super president’ of Turkey, and when he didn’t quite win the majority in the election - because the Kurdish party got enough votes to stop him - he then began a war with the Kurds internally in the southeast part of Turkey and won the second election barely in November, and has in fact continued very vicious fighting against the Kurds in that country.

So there is a situation in Turkey which is really regrettable. You’re seeing the fragility of states in the Middle East; one can imagine that a civil war could even occur in Turkey as well. Hopefully, Erdogan and Ankara will wise up, and will realize that the first enemy in the region – one that has carried out bombing events in Turkey itself - is ISIS, and join with Russia and the US in a concerted effort against that primary enemy.     

Ankara nervous as extremists suffer setbacks in Syria

Sami Ramadani from Stop the War Coalition suggests the Turkish government is worried as the Kurdish forces and the Syrian army together with their Russian allies have been making major advances against armed terrorist groups backed by Turkey.

RT: The Syrian army has been making major advances recently. Do you think given Turkey's recent shelling into Syria is making Ankara nervous?

Sami Ramadani: Certainly, that is one clear interpretation, because most of its allies amongst the armed groups have been suffering setbacks recently, and Turkey is very nervous; also, of course, in relation to the Kurdish movements. Kurdish forces have made significant gains in the past few months. Also, Turkey is worried that Russia is also backing some of the Kurdish units against ISIS forces. There are many reliable reports indicating that Turkey did not mind cooperating with ISIS itself over many months, including at the time of the ISIS takeover of the Kurdish town of Kobani, if you remember. There were many, many reporters who saw their own eyes how Turkey was allowing ISIS to both cross into Turkey and sending fighters into Syria.

Turkey also has strong relations with Jabhat Al-Nusra, with other terrorist organizations inside Syria. So Turkey has been so heavily involved in Syria. Turkey as we know historically has ambitions over certain areas of northern Syria, adjacent to the Turkish border. So there are numerous indications as to why Turkey is acting this way. Also, Turkey shows no respect for the sovereignty of its neighbors. Only a few months ago they sent forces into Iraqi Kurdistan without the knowledge of the central government in Bagdad.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.