Erbil, Kurdistan (SCF) – Legend has it that Kurds will never be united because they’d rather be bickering among themselves; Kurds taught me that, in Turkey, Iraq and Syria. The Americans have been manipulating Iraqi Kurds at will since 1991. Now the top instrumentalizer/demonizer of Kurdish hopes and dreams – across the Turkey/Syria front – is neo-Ottoman Sultan Erdogan.
Ankara used to conduct an ersatz «peace process» with Anatolian Kurds. Erdogan replaced it by all-out war, spilled over against Syrian Kurds. The war is not against all Kurds, of course, but mostly those of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK, whose leader, Abdullah Ocalan, is serving a life sentence at Imrali prison) and their allies, the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD).
Anything Ankara spins about its commitment to fight ISIS/ISIL/Daesh across «Syraq» is fake; the only true commitment from Erdogan and his hegemonic AKP machine is to smash the PYD and its weaponized arm, the YPG. There could not be a «worse» example for Anatolian Kurds than the advent of Kurdish self-rule through a canton system in neighboring Rojava (northern Syria).
So the whole drama developing across the Turkey-Syria border is subjected to a categorical imperative endlessly reiterated by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu; if the YPG advances west of the Euphrates to unite the three Kurdish cantons, it’s war.
Well, war it is, already, for quite a while, all that washed out by the proverbial tsunami of lies, as in Erdogan and Davutoglu trying to blame the latest bomb attack in Ankara on the YPG (the perpetrators were actually a splinter group formerly affiliated with the PKK). Add to the lying record false flag attempts (Erdogan’s wish, back in 2014, to justify a NATO invasion) and cowardly ambushing (the victim was the Russian Su-24 on the Turkish-Syrian border last November.)
As much as Erdogan’s Syrian Kurd «policy» may be a UFO, that boils down, essentially, to preventing the YPG by all means to advance west of the Euphrates and finally unite the three Kurdish cantons; and eventually to smash them for good (after all, Ankara branded the YPG «terrorists»). The stark fact that the government in Damascus is not at war with the YPG and is not exactly worried about the Syrian Kurdish cantons does not deter The Sultan from his war paranoia mood.
Autocratic Erdogan is apoplectic against what is, for all practical purposes, the Rojava’s democratic autonomy experiment, a process started in July 2012 and inspired by – you guessed it – Ocalan himself. Last year, in summer, Turkish Kurds saw the light and went all-out for democratic autonomy in many an Anatolian town. The – predictable – result was Ankara at war, again, against the PKK.
It’s all about Erdogan vs Ocalan
It’s fair to argue that Rojava – and not Russia – is Erdogan’s ultimate nightmare. Because the democratic autonomy perfected by Rojava sprung up from theoretical texts penned by Erdogan’s prime nemesis, Ocalan.
Kurds across the board have enthusiastically adopted the concept; the PYD, the Kurdistan Party of Free Life (PJAK) in Iran and the Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party (PCDK) in Iraqi Kurdistan. Nobody is talking about «splittism» – as Beijing would describe it (referring to Tibet). Rojava, for instance, may remain inside the Syrian state, but enjoying full self-determination.
So here’s to the name of the real game: Erdogan vs Ocalan. And not Erdogan vs Putin.
If only Erdogan and the hegemonic AKP machine would have a trans-ethnic inclusionary process to offer. Not only they don’t, but on top of it they support all manner of unsavory Salafi-jihadi outfits, and even ISIS/ISIL/Daesh itself, in their mad rage to topple Damascus and turn an Islamist Syria into a vassal state.
What remains, inevitably, is the Sultan’s monolithic war logic; stop the YPG on its tracks while allowing the Jihadi Highway to go on undisturbed, even after the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) cut off the Aleppo-Kilis corridor.
Team Obama’s «strategy» for its part – true to American tradition – remains to endlessly manipulate Kurds for Washington’s geopolitical ends. That translates into encouraging the YPG and the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga to invest in a very problematic offensive against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh simultaneously in Raqqa and Mosul.
The Kurds can’t do it by themselves, in both cases, and the possibility of holding the fort afterwards is also slim. Welcome to «leading from behind», that’s how it works. And Team Obama’s geopolitical cowardice explodes through the roof with the added component of Washington never, in practice, defending the Kurds against Erdogan’s madness (after all he’s a «NATO ally»), while proclaiming out loud that the YPG cannot conquer territory in the hands of the Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria «moderate rebels».
So Erdogan’s «strategy» – in gleaming tatters all across the Syrian theatre of war – now boils down to trying to keep away from the YPG as much of that 98 km stretch across the border as possible; essentially «transferring» that land from an enfeebled ISIS/ISIL/Daesh to US-supported Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham. Translation: The Sultan replaces his favors, taking from the fake «Caliphate» to give to al-Qaeda, as long as he can stick it to the Kurds.
It’s easy to visualize Syrian Kurd frustration under these circumstances. They may find a way out by ditching, for the moment, the dream of uniting the cantons, to instead coordinate an offensive linking up with the SAA in Aleppo. Erdogan is coward enough not to risk going head to head against a battle-hardened Syrian army fully supported by the Russian Air Force.
Additionally, the PYD/YPG may buy some time analyzing the real extent of Washington’s betrayal. Assuming that might eventually transform itself into increased US-facilitated weaponizing in the medium term, the YPG may even contemplate not totally destroying the al-Nusra nebulae for now – and go for it with a vengeance after helping to polish off Aleppo’s environs.
With an extra, irresistible bonus: new weapons boosting the Sultan’s recurrent nightmare to unbearable proportions, while keeping the dream of democratic autonomy very much alive.
This report prepared by PEPE ESCOBAR for Strategic Culture Foundation.