New era after the Turkey-US agreement - MERVE ŞEBNEM ORUÇ

New era after the Turkey-US agreement

Turkey has left behind a somber and quite strenuous week. The statements made by the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) politicians –which increased tensions- following the suicide attack in Suruç, where 32 people lost their lives, was followed by the PKK stepping up a gear in terms of implementing its own law. News of the soldier who was martyred in a clash with the PKK was followed by the news of police who were killed in their homes, and on the streets, construction equipment was burnt, and ambulances were abducted. The vehicle and identity search and controls conducted by the terrorist organization –which was implemented in the region as they thought they had the opportunity to do so- got out of hand. While allegations blatantly spread by those close to the PKK and HDP politicians that “Turkey supports ISIL” have skyrocketed, a soldier was martyred as a result of an attack by ISIL terrorists –conducted from Syria- in the border province of Kilis. The airstrikes carried out by F-16 jets –which took off from Diyarbakır- to ISIL holdings which are close to the border in Syria, were followed by operations against the PKK, DHKP-C and ISIL in Turkey. Subsequently, Turkey hit the PKK camps in Northern Iraq.

On the other hand, the statements made after the security summit and the cabinet meeting which took place in Ankara this week, signaled that precautions and actions directed towards domestic and foreign threats targeting Turkey's peace were just around the corner. Parallel to this, the fact that an agreement has been reached between the Obama administration and Ankara –which were ongoing since nine months- focusing on mutual fight against ISIL, were the promulgation of a new era and marked the end of a period which dated back to 2013.

In order to understand the local and cross-the-border operations which have started this week –and will continue to proceed-, one should first remember what happened in 2013. Prior to the resolution process which started in 2013, Turkey –in its struggle against the terrorist organization- had last hit the PKK camps located in Northern Iraq in November 2012. In the same period, the then-Prime Minister Erdoğan had even brought the issue of “hanging the PKK's imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan” to the agenda. Peace talks and the resolution process which followed it came at an unexpected period. In a way, Ankara had extended the peace baton to the other side of the table and had said, “You have no other chance.”

While all of these happened in Turkey, on the Syrian side, Assad forces in the region known as Rojava had withdrawn and left the region to the PYD, which is the Syrian wing of the outlawed PKK. Behind such policy of the Syrian regime –which did not even grant Kurds Syrian citizenship until that day- was Iran's suggestions. Against this agreement between the PYD and the Assad regime, Ankara had warned the organization which applies pressure to other Kurds in Afrin, Cizire and Kobani, and had attempted to direct them towards working with the opposition and other Kurdish elements in Syria, rather than Iran and the Assad regime. In the dialogues conducted between Syrian opposition groups and anti-regime Kurds in Rojava, they had even talked about many reforms, including the removal of “Arab” from the country's official name, which is the Syrian Arab Republic, in the case that they acted collaboratively and brought down the regime.

In the same period, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq, which claimed that it came to Syria to support their “jihadist brothers”, followed a policy which shied away from coming to prominence and knowingly allowed the lawless acts it committed to be attributed to the al-Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and would announce that it established the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). ISIL, which took hold of its first lands in the fight with the Syrian opposition, had started to fight with the PYD in Syria's North at the same time. Of course, during that period, those who announced all men with beards as FSA fighters –either because they did not discover ISIL back then or just because it did not suit their book- were influencing those who did not closely follow the civil war in Syria by saying, “The FSA attacks the Kurds. Here are the opposition forces supported by Turkey!”

Again in the same year, balances would change amidst the changing policies of the U.S. and other Western countries -which esteemed themselves as the friends of the Syrian opposition- against Syria and the countries under the influence of the Arab Spring, while Turkey did not give up its firm stance. The West, which withdrew its support from the revolutions in Egypt and other Arab countries, and even supported counterrevolution at some instances, started to hit Ankara –which did not change its firm stance- primarily through the personality of Erdoğan. The secular segments of the society in the Gezi uprising and the Gülen organization in the December 17-25 coup plans became the tool of this pressure. The DHKP-C and other groups, individuals and political parties close to this organization which emphasizes Alevi sectarianism, deployed themselves beside the policies of the West –which they strictly oppose- for the sake of the survival of the Assad regime. Abdullah Öcalan's lack of support for the Gezi uprising in 2013 and his referral to the December 17-25 process as a “coup” have infuriated the ones within the PKK who were already disturbed about laying down arms even more. However, this would also change in 2014.

ISIL, which strengthened with the decrease in the support for the opposition forces, changed its direction to Iraq again and became the top of the agenda when it invaded the Iraqi city of Mosul. The U.S., which chose to shape its regional policies by disregarding the causes behind the formation of ISIL, was disturbed about Turkey underlining the actual cause –by taking into consideration its own security- and its hesitance to actively support the anti-ISIL coalition without making these changes. ISIL, which was expected to go towards Baghdad after Mosul, unexpectedly turned towards Iraq's north and started to threaten Iraqi Kurdistan, which is under the administration of Barzani. During this process, the West which tried to bring Ankara in line through the anti-AK Party media outlets was giving the message that “We do not need the Turks; our new allies are the Kurds.” Barzani did not fall into this trap; however, it was shown that the PYD and the PKK –which directed all their arrows at Turkey-, were the sought-after pawns following ISIL's attack in Kobani.

An agreement has finally been reached with the U.S. which exploited the Kurds as a tool by sparking PKK and PYD's separation dreams during the negotiation process with Turkey. Had those who entered the game already knowing what was going on chosen not to be exploited in the home stretch, rather than shaping our own regional policies by going into a huddle, today the end of the ceasefire would not be a point in question, nor would threat risks like ISIL grow as they did. As a matter of fact, the PKK reaped what it sowed.

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