Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could not pass up an opportunity to bomb the Kurds on his way to attack ISIS strongholds in Syria. The United States has been waiting for months for Turkey to allow the use of Incirlik Air Base so that it can carry out air strikes against ISIS. Despite the pressure and strong criticism, this was not a pressing matter for President Erdgoan, especially if ISIS could reduce or eliminate Kurdish forces in Syria. That moment never came; in fact, the opposite—the Kurds made substantial gains.
On July 24, a suicide bomber attacked a peaceful rally of Kurdish volunteers and students in Suruç. They had gathered at the Turkish border city to travel to Syria to help rebuild the town of Kobane, which is about 6 miles from Suruç. The general assumption is that this vicious attack was carried out against the Kurds by ISIS in retaliation for their losses in Syria.
This event was the catalyst to bring Turkey openly into the fight. President Erdogan did now allow the United States to use Incirlik to attack ISIS from the air, not wanting to commit the Turkish military to fighting in that war. An agreement was reached between the U.S. and Turkey to establish a safe zone in Syria along the Turkish border. Would it not have been easier to stop the “ISIS volunteers” from using Turkey as a highway to ISIS territories in Syria and Iraq? It is well known that for more than two years, there has been a large concentration of ISIS cells in Urfa (Şanliurfa) and other places in Turkey. How could all those single Arab men come into the country and travel to the Syrian border in such numbers without the government being aware of their movements? Perhaps they were quite familiar with these travel plans. Isn’t that why they can now raid and arrest hundreds of ISIS supporters in Turkey so quickly? Pretty easy if you know where they are.
Moreover, a golden opportunity arose, one that Erdogan could not resist. With the real possibility that the Kurds in Syria will realize their declared independence and create a state at his door step, Erdogan made the claim that he could freely bomb the PKK and the PYD (a Kurdish political party in Syria)—the same Kurdish fighters who are in battle against ISIS in Syria.
Having put in motion a plan to diminish the Kurdish military capacity in Syria, Erdogan could now turn his attention to the Kurds in Turkey, beginning with invalidating the peaceful “settlement talks” between the PKK and the Government. On March 3, 2013, Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdish group PKK, called for a ceasefire and urged his fighters to lay down their arms. This declaration was hailed as “a new beginning,” the start of negotiations for a peaceful resolution of the problems between the Turkish government and the Kurdish population in Turkey. The talks were in progress until these past two weeks, when hostilities escalated and ended the settlement process.
Now in Turkey, hundreds of Kurds are arrested daily, accused of being PKK members. Finally, Erdogan has suggested removing immunity for Kurdish Members of Parliament deemed by his authority to be linked to the PKK. This includes HDP Party Chairman Selahattin Demirtaş, who if left without this protection could be arrested. It would appear that President Erdogan is not at all concerned about an eminent civil war in his country that may result as a consequence of his cleansing actions.
As for President Obama and the U.S. position, one can only imagine what he paid the Turkish government for their services!