With the US and allied nations, including Arab countries, carrying out air strikes in Syria, the Turkish government is trying to convince the West it does not support the Islamic State (IS) forces the US is targetting.
Newly elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (the former prime minster) linked the adjective “terrorist” with “IS” for the very first time on September 23 during a US TV interview while attending the United Nations climate summit.
“Turkey will do whatever needs to be done to stop this terrorist organisation, militarily, and politically,” he said.
But the truth is that IS has received vital support from the Turkish government. It is known that IS has received crucial support from Turkey, which includes:
* Turkey positioning itself as an easy bridge for IS foreign militants to reach Syria, and Iraq;
* Trapped IS militants in Syria and Iraq escaping to Turkey to regroup and train;
* IS casualties being treated in Turkish hospitals and even having an hospital exclusively for their use;
* Turkey providing basic needs to IS under the guise of “humanitarian aid”;
* The Turkish government providing weapons and ammunitions directly to IS and provided safe passage for arms deliveries from elsewhere; and
*Turkey opening and closing its borders to suit IS.
The main reason the Turkish regime has supported IS, besides its interest in the toppling the Syrian regime, is the growing Kurdish resistance in Syria and the creation of a revolutionary “liberated zone” in the Kurdish territory of Rojava.
The “Rojava Revolution” is the first revolutionary project in the Middle East not supported by any major political power since the 2011 Arab Spring. This is a real people’s revolution, led by the Kurdish liberation movement, that is generating hope in the Middle East. It suggests that revolution may be possible without the backing of the super powers.
The Turkish government had a secret policy of maintaining a “buffer zone” on its border with Syria to stifle the Rojava revolution.
So what has changed? The US has declared its intention to “destroy IS” and the Turkish government believes this may revive its failed attempts to demolish the Rojava uprising.
Turkey has been the most enthusiastic government in the world about the demise of the Assad regime. At the start of the Syrian uprising the then-Turkish foreign minister, now Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu, boldly predicted that “Assad’s days were numbered.”
The Turkish government believed it. But it was the prediction that collapsed, not the Assad regime. These recent US air strikes have renewed hopes that Assad may go.
The Turkish government also seems to have calculated that it cannot rely on the IS to crush Kurdish resistance. Its best bet is actually the US.
If a ground operation follows air strikes in Syria, Turkey will be more than happy to occupy Syria from north ― providing an excellent opportunity to deal with the Kurds.
The US attacks on IS in Iraq and Syria send a clear message to all that the US is not finished in the region, yet. The US pushed hard for Sunni Arab countries and Turkey to come on board with the air strikes.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and Turkey had no choice but to support the US-led anti-IS “coalition”.
Turkey won’t change its policy to kill the Rojava revolution but will try to kill it from within this coalition.
The Turkish government will pay a hefty price, domestically, for its support of the US led coalition against IS. Its religious base will ask questions. But it is a lower price than it would pay if it went against US interests.
The Turkish left is well aware of US plans in Iraq and Syria. The People’s Democracy Party (HDP), which gained significant support at the recent presidential elections, is leading a huge campaign in solidarity with defence of the Rojava city of Kobane against IS attack.
Thousands of Turkish-Kurdish youth trying to enter Syria to join the war against IS have clashed with Turkish police at the border ― but many have managed to join the fight. HDP MPs have visited the Syrian border to show their solidarity with Kobane resistance and now many other groups are visiting in solidarity.
[I. Zekeriya Ayman is a Kurdish–Turkish leftist living in Melbourne.]