Set amid an increasingly violent environment of confrontation between Syrian Kurds and the Turkish government, Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan has been upping the rhetoric against his Kurdish enemies in Syria, much to the delight of his political base at home.
Speaking at a rally over the weekend, Erdogan said “We will take important steps to implement the new campaigns in the near future,” and “We would rather pay the price for foiling plans targeting our future and liberty in Syria and Iraq, than on our own soil,” according to Voice of America.
Erdogan is reportedly massing Turkish forces on the border with Syria and hyping up bringing the fight to the YPG, who Turkey accuses of being linked to the PKK terrorist group operating inside Turkey. Pro-government voices inside Turkey laud Erdogan’s tough stance on terrorism, and say Turkish interests in security have been stymied by Russia and the United States and their support for their respective representatives in the Syrian Civil War.
Both the United States and Russia have used their own soldiers as physical buffers between Turkish forces and their allies on the ground in the past. Elements of the Free Syrian Army supported by Turkey have reportedly been increasing their attacks on the YPG in the Afrin area, in northwestern Syria.
The YPG has been preparing for a conflict with Turkey for at least the last month, with both parties saying they are ready for a fight if necessary. In an interview with Reuters, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister said “This is not a declaration of war. We are making preparations against potential threats,” and “Their (YPG) primary goal is a threat to Turkey, and if Turkey sees a YPG movement in northern Syria that is a threat to it, it will retaliate in kind.”
The YPG is currently spearheading the assault on Raqqa, the Islamic State’s supposed capital city in Syria. There are thousands of ISIS fighters still in Raqqa, where the fighting is reportedly occurring block by block. State Department Special Envoy Brett McGurk said in an interview with Fox News that 45% of the city has been cleared of ISIS fighters.
The United States remains almost singularly focused on the elimination of the Islamic State in Syria, and has said a long-term political solution to the Syrian Civil War will have to be worked out in the future. The U.S. has relied heavily on the YPG to do the bulk of the fighting in campaigns like Raqqa, but has been relatively quiet on what that support will look like post-ISIS. By all indications, Erdogan and Turkey are not about to stop their operations against a perceived adversary on their doorstep.
Image courtesy of Kurdishstruggle via Flikr.