As long as Turkey is at war with the PKK, that war will not realize to Turkey’s borders. It is a situation that threatens the stability and security of US partners and allies in Syria and Iraq.
This week, United States national security advisor John Bolton said American military personnel would not leave Syria until an agreement was reached in Turkey to protect the Syrian Kurds. At a time where US policy in that region changes day by day, the veracity of his statement is uncertain – but Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken it as a declaration of war, refusing to meet with Bolton and threatening that Turkish forces could move into Syria “as soon as the meeting is over.”
That a simple offer of protection for the forces who have formed the United States’ most effective allies against ISIS would spur such a response shows how far the two countries have diverged, even as Turkish officials take the promised withdrawal as a positive step. It also highlights an inconvenient reality: Erdogan is only intervening in Syria to attack Kurdish self-government and consolidate domestic support.
Erdogan maintains that his fight in Syria is not with the Kurdish people, but with “terrorism” – a claim Kurds in Turkey know all too well. The AKP government’s war on terror has always been a war on democratic Kurdish political participation, leaving dozens of elected officials jailed, thousands of voters disenfranchised, and millions of men, women, and children afraid to speak their first language in public for fear of violence. In the meantime, that same government has turned a blind eye to terror groups that threaten Turkey, Syria, and the world.
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