RT reports that Turkish troops have killed sixty “terrorists” in Cizre in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, which is close to the Syrian border and, although the Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, states that his government is paying “incredible attention so that civilians are not harmed by operations,” it isn’t difficult to agree with the contention that:
“Turkey fears and loathes Kurdish independence anywhere in the world more than it fears and loathes anything else. Kurdish independence in Syria, from Ankara’s point of view, could at a minimum escalate a three-decades-long conflict and at worst threaten Turkey’s territorial integrity.”
Moreover, this contention would appear to be substantiated further by Turkish actions on the other side of the border where forces loyal to the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Ankara regards as the Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), are being targeted. Indeed, the evidence would appear to suggest that in a conflict where there are a number of parties and which is “defined by a chaotic web of shifting alliances”, Turkey’s greatest fear remains the Kurdish threat to not only to its raison d’ être as a homogeneous and unified nation-state, but also to its broader “dreams of empire.”
Certainly the PYD wanting to occupy a multiethnic area west of the Euphrates, which will lead to a contiguous Kurdish belt along the border, is a clear redline for Ankara. However, with the United States considering the PYD to be “a reliable partner” in the fight against ISIS, Kurdish ambitions, for the time being at least, are being pursued. Moreover, even if Washington were to heed Erdogan and back Turkey to the detriment of the PYD there is another major player in the region and while Damascus might be the main beneficiary from Russian area strikes it is not the only one as these strikes also facilitate the YPG making advances.
Furthermore, while Angela Merkel might genuinely be “not just appalled but horrified” by the suffering caused by Russian bombing in Syria but there is also a temptation to believe that this and other soundbites from western leaders are solely there to ingratiate themselves with an extremely unreliable ally who is needed if the influx of refugees into Europe is to be reduced. However, the only way to temper that flow is to impress upon Turkey that it needs to negotiate with the Syrian government and with the Kurds, not only in Syria, but also in Turkey itself.
Of course, this not going to happen and, while certainly not the only one, a defining issue in the Syrian conflict in the months, if not years to come, will be Erdogan’s “Großmanssucht”. with some observers already believing that Turkey is actively preparing for a military invasion of Syria.