Syrian Kurds toward autonomous entity, border heating up
29 July, 13:46
(by Francesco Cerri).
(ANSAmed) – ANKARA – Over two years since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the situation developing in the warn-torn country is looking increasingly like a nightmare for Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who is behind Ankara’s regional ‘neo-Ottoman’ strategy.
Turkey’s ‘sultan’ ahas severed ties with former ally Bashar al-Assad and sided with Sunni rebels, banking on a quick defeat for the Syrian president and a new Islamic government in Damascus led by the Muslim Brotherhood.
But things didn’t go as planned. Assad did not fall and is instead gaining ground, the rebels are divided and have lost international credibility. In areas abandoned by the army, jihadist militants and different armed groups are ruling as the country seems to be dangerously divided – an unpleasant scenario for Ankara as an autonomous Kurdish entity is taking shape in the North along the border with Turkey and Iraq, with Al Qamishli as capital. This would be part of a ‘Great Kurdistan’ embracing parts of Iraq, Iran Syria and Turkey which since the proclamation of the republic in 1923 over he ruins of the Ottoman empire has been a top concern for the Turkish central administration first run by Kemalists and now by Islamists.
Ever since the end of the war in Iraq, a north-Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region has been in place under the government of Massud Barzani, in practice an independent ‘state’ from Baghdad. Militias with PYD, Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party, which is close to Turkey’s PKK have gained control of a good part of the country’s North where Assad’s forces were withdrawn to defend key interests of the ‘Alawite’ country between Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, and Lattakia on the Mediterranean coast.
The Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) have conquered in the past few days the strategic posting of Ras al-Ayn on the border with Turkey, chasing jihadists with al Qaeda’s al Nusra front. Clashes along the border have left three dead in the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar right next to Ras al-Ayn on the border: two young men were hit by stray bullets last week and a man died last night in a mortar attack, probably by al Nusra.
The jihadist group has deployed its men and tanks around Ras al-Ayn to try and re-gain control of the crossing with Turkey where, according to Kurdish sources, men and weapon supplies are crossing the border with Ankara’s consent.
With the likely creation of a Kurdish autonomous region in Syria ‘Turkey has a new neighbour in the south’, analyst Yalcin Dogan wrote on Hurriyet. The risk is a rise in irredentism in the country’s Kurdish south-east while peace talks are ongoing between Erdogan and PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. Davutoglu and Erdogan have warned in the past few days PYD leader Saleh Muslim not to embrace a separatist stance: ‘we will not accept a fait accompli’. Ankara also boosted its military presence on the border – a muscular rhetoric and show of military force also used in the past with Iraqi Kurds which did not prevent the creation of an autonomous region, Milliyet noted.
Erdogan’s and Davutoglu’s strategy proved itself once again wrong, Dogan noted. Erdogan’s strategy to create a ‘Sunni axis’ with Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Morsi to govern the Middle East has failed. The fall of Cairo’s ‘pharaoh’ leaves Ankara’s ‘sultan’ as lonely as he has ever been. Moreover, his image has been badly damaged by the brutal repression of demonstrations by Turkish youths demanding more democracy and freedom. (ANSAmed)
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