When Turkey and the U.S. joined forces July 27 to drive the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria away from the Turkish border, hopes were high that the U.S. finally found a partner fight the world’s most dangerous terrorist group. Morphed from the murderous protoplasm of Jordanian-born al-Qaedai terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, ISIS rapidly became the most lethal terror group on the planet, grabbing some 30% of Iraq and Syria’s sovereign land during 2014. When Obama decided, with Baghdad’s backing, to end the Iraq War Dec. 15, 2011, U.S. combat forces were withdrawn from the region. ISIS filled the power vacuum after Obama ordered U.S. combat forces out of Iraq, giving Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s terror group free reign to massacre Sunni and Shiite groups, consolidate power and declare a new Islamic caliphate June 30, 2014. Since then, ISIS has continued to seize territory and consolidate power.
With limited options since pulling out of Iraq, the White House made every effort to back the Kurds in their effort to regain lost Iraqi and Syrian territory. Kurdish fighters helped save the ancient Zoroastrian Yazidis from an almost certain ISIS massacre near Sijar Mountain Aug. 6, 2014. Considered “devil worshipers” by ISIS because of their ancient faith, the Yazidis faced ISIS extermination were it not for the coordinated work of the U.S. but primarily the Kurds. Only hours after the U.S. announced a cooperation agreement with Ankara to go after ISIS strongholds near the Turkish border, the Turks began relentlessly bombing Kurdish Workers’ Party [PKK]. “We are used to this. Kurds have witnessed betrayal for centuries,” said Axin Bro, a Kurdish musician. “National powers use us for their own ends,” referring to recent Turkish attacks apparently backed by the White House.
Before the U.S. loses its minimal ground support in Iraq and Syria, the White House has to urgently put Turkey on notice that attacking the Kurds isn’t acceptable. Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga leader Masoud Barzain has been a reliable ally to the U.S. since the late Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurds with mustard and sarin nerve agents, March 16, 1988 at Halabja, killing nearly 5,000, injuring another 10,000. Unwelcome in Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria, the Kurds are a multiethnic and religious minority that have sought an independent Kurdistan state since the PKK was formed in 1978. Considered a bitter enemy to 61-year-old Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, U.S. officials know the Turkish leader would seek any chance to annihilate the Kurds, just like Saddam in 1988. Erdogan duped President Barack Obama into believing they were going after ISIS.
Pounding Kurdish positions across Turkey’s eastern border, Erdogan wasted no time to retaliate against his historic nemesis. Erdogan blamed the PKK for three Turkish soldiers killed in border skirmishes, not knowing whether or not ISIS was responsible. Syria’s Kurdish leader Selahattin Demitras insisted that Erdogan was trying to wipe out the Peoples’ Democratic Party of Kurdistan [HDK], only pretending to the U.S. go after ISIS. White House officials have relied heavily on Demitras’ HDK to get actionable intel on ISIS. However much the U.S. wants access to its Incirlik Airbase to launch sorties against ISIS in Syria, joining Turkey was a bad idea. Turkey’s longstanding war against the Kurds runs counter to U.S. interests in the region, but, more importantly, to long overdue plans to back an independent Kurdistan, something so vile to the Turks, it risks a break in diplomatic relations with the U.S.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey rounded up some 1,300 terrorists in the border town of Suruc, only 137 with possible affiliations with ISIS. ISIS suicide bomber killed 31 July 20 in Suruc, near the embattled border town of Kobani. Instead of targeting ISIS, Turkey preferred to round up PKK and HDK Kurds. “If the air, as stated by the government, was to clear the border of the IS [Islamic State] threat, the operation against IS in Syria appears to be weak and ineffective,” said Serkan Demitras, columnist for the Hurriet Daily News. “We see the real focus is against the PKK, raising pressing questions for the U.S. State Department, currently partnering with Turkey in joint counter-terror operations. Before the U.S. burns all bridges with the Kurds, Secretary of State John Kerry must take a serious look at U.S. policy. Erodgan and Davutoglu dragged the U.S. into old Turkish Politics.
Losing a majority in the parliament June 7, Erdogan and Davutoglu have until Aug. 24 to get back a majority for the Justice and Development Party, whipping up more anti-Kurdish sentiment. Diyarbakr Mayor Gultan Kisanak’s pro-HDP Kurdish party made significant gains in the June 7 election, threatening the Davutoglu’s government. “The plan appears to be to ensure conservative Kurdish votes return to the AKP in early elections,” wrote Lale Kemal, a columnist for Zaman newspaper. U.S. officials need to extricate themselves from Turkish politics, before destroying what’s left of relations with the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds. “Turkey appears to be engaged in a strategy of hitting two birds with one stone by giving the impression of fighting ISIL, while simultaneously starting operations against the PKK,” said Kemal. Knowing this, the White House needs an urgent policy tweak.