Ankara’s attacks in Syria bad for Kurds and Assad, good for Islamists and Erdogan

BESA’s Inbar: It’s all domestic politics, with Turkish president rallying voters ‘around flag.’

August 12, 2015 05:24
2 minute read.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Ankara’s escalating military campaign against Kurds in Syria and in southeastern Turkey serves four purposes of the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

First, the attacks disrupt gains by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its progress of consolidating power in an autonomous region in northern Syria.

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Second, the attacks on the YPG fighters, who are battling Islamic State and other Islamist groups, will aid these radical rebel groups at the Kurds’ expense.

Erdogan’s Islamist ruling AK Party seeks to boost Islamist rebels and topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Third, any buffer zone controlled by Arab Islamists in northern Syria or attacks on Kurds in the country will aid Islamist rebels and weaken Assad’s regime.

And last, the intervention helps Erdogan domestically, as the attacks set the stage for snap elections that would seek to boost the AK Party and deliver a blow to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Turkish warplanes hit 17 Kurdish militant targets in Hakkari province, in the extreme southeastern corner on Turkey, on Monday and Tuesday, the military said, as it ratchets up an offensive against the insurgents.

On Tuesday, the outlawed Kurdistan People’s Party (PKK) claimed responsibility for Monday’s bombing of an Istanbul police station in which four people died, three of them attackers.

“Erdogan, whose party lost the majority in parliament in the recent elections [on June 7], wants to discredit the Kurdish party [the HDP] that crossed the 10 percent threshold and create a ‘rally around the flag’ effect in order to gain a majority when new probable elections are called,” Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, told The Jerusalem Post.

“It is all domestic politics,” he said.

Kamal Sido, a Syrian Kurd who works at the Middle East desk for the German human rights NGO Society for Threatened Peoples, told the Post that Turkey is trying to occupy the Kurdish area in northern Syria and smash the PKK in Turkey and the YPG in Syria.

Sido argues that Turkey’s intervention is meant to stop the progress of the YPG and its consolidation of Kurdish-held territory in Syria, connecting the Afrin region near Aleppo to Kobani in the east.

“The Kurds cannot accept Turkey’s policy,” he said.

Erdogan and his AKP government are seeking to export their domestic crisis, he said. The government has also begun arresting Turkish Kurds, he added.

Erdogan wants to use the violent escalation to call early elections and solidify his power, hoping the Kurdish party will fail to reach the 10 percent threshold.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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