Erdogan's boomerang: Turkey is now at total war

It was Erdogan who ended the peace talks with the Kurds, declared war on the PKK, and joined the coalition against ISIS. Now he finds himself in an all-out war across three fronts.

March 20, 2016 16:24
2 minute read.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Israeli diplomatic and intelligence channels are attempting to verify if the attack in Istanbul intentionally targeted Israeli tourists, although it is more likely that the Israelis were caught up as bystanders along with other tourists. Turkey receives 35 million tourists a year from many countries.

State tourism has not been affected, despite the recent terror wave which has hit the country, with a number of deadly attacks perpetrated by both Kurds and ISIS. This is in fact a war which has been going on for around six months, and has so far killed nearly 3,000 people.

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President Recep Erdogan began this war by choice, and he did it for political purposes.

A year ago, Erogan's AKP party failed to win over 50% in the national elections, as it had been accustomed in the recent past. In order to form a government, he required a coalition agreement with the Nationalist Party - an extreme right-wing party, who believed that Erdogan was not forceful enough in the struggle with the Kurds.

Until those elections, the Turkish government had been conducting peace talks with the Kurdish minority, including its militant wing - the PKK movement led by Abdullah Öcalan, who is sitting in prison, who was a key figure in the talks aimed at strengthening the ceasefire and discussing the expansion of Kurdish autonomy.

Erdogan ended the peace talks and actually declared war on the PKK. In practice, by doing so he declared war on most of the country's Kurdish minority. Six months ago it seemed that his gamble was paying off. He took votes from the Nationalist Party, whose power was reduced from 80 deputies to 40, and the AKP won an absolute majority. But the price is being paid in a rise in terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, whose impact is greater and more painful.

Effectively, Turkey is at total war across three borders: the war on the home front against the PKK, a war against the Kurdish minority in Syria, and a war against PKK training camps in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Turkish military is hitting targets from the air in Iraq, as well as sending special forces into the field.


In Syria, Turkey does not dare send its planes over the border, for fear of having them downed by Russian jets and air defense batteries. Erdogan is instead making do with an artillery bombardment in a desperate attempt to prevent the Kurds in Syria, who with the help of the US and Russian air power, have been able to capture territory from ISIS and establish an independent province along the Turkish border.

To facilitate the struggle against the Kurds, Erdogan changed his policy towards ISIS. Turning from clandestine support or turning a blind eye to their presence in Syria, which caused the US and the West to censure him, he decided to join the international coalition against ISIS, opening a front against them.

It is difficult to know what Erdogan was thinking when he decided to move against the Kurds at home and abroad, and join the war against ISIS. Perhaps he thought that they would not respond, or that it was a calculated move on his part. Either way, both the Kurds and ISIS have responded to Erdogan's gambles with deadly terrorist attacks.

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