Turkey, writes Sam Greenhill for the Daily Mail (first-person reporting, not one of the rewrites it’s prone to) is now “the springboard to a terrorist state.” He elaborates.
A Turkey whose army – with tanks parked idly on a nearby hill – stands accused of turning a blind eye to the atrocity on its doorstep.
Turkey’s failure to protect the Syrian Kurds in Kobane has triggered violent riots among the country’s own population of 15million Kurds. … Given the sickening stories being told by Kobane’s refugees, it is easy to understand why everyone fears the unrest in Turkey will escalate to unprecedented levels if the town is allowed to fall.
While fierce fighting between the Islamic State and the Kurds for possession of Kobani continues, complemented by U.S. airstrikes, Turkey has refused to intervene, even though Kobani is close to the Turkish border. Nor, apparently, has it attempted to prevent an influx of Islamic State fighters through that border.
In the New York Times, Kirk Semple and Tim Arango report:
P.K.K. [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] commanders say their halting, nine-year-old peace process with the Turkish government and, indeed, the future of the region, will turn on the battle for Kobani and on Turkey’s response. If Turkey does not help the embattled Kurdish forces in Kobani, the commanders say, they will break off peace talks and resume their guerrilla war within Turkey, plunging yet another country in the region into armed conflict.
Despite increased pressure from the United States and pleas from outgunned Kurdish fighters in Kobani, Turkey has refused to deploy its military against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, or to open the border to allow reinforcements, weapons and supplies to reach the town.
Why? After Iraq and Syria, isn’t Turkey the nation most threatened by the Islamic State. Semple and Arango again (emphasis added):
Turkey’s reluctance stems in part from its desire not to do anything that might strengthen the Kurdish populist movement in the region. The defense of Kobani is being led by the People’s Protection Units, or Y.P.G., an affiliate of the P.K.K., which is officially listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. In addition, Syrian Kurds have been trying to establish an autonomous region on the border, which Turkey wants to prevent.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has insisted that fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria should take precedence over fighting the Islamic State. And he holds the P.K.K. in such contempt that he recently equated the rebel group with the Islamic State.
“The P.K.K. and ISIS are the same for Turkey,” he told reporters. “It is wrong to view them differently. We need to deal with them jointly.”
Oka-a-a-y. Apparently — much as Pakistan turns a blind eye (and even enables) the Taliban as a hedge against Indian influence in Afghanistan, despite how great a threat it poses to Pakistan — Turkey hates Kurds more than the Islamic State. But it’s biting off its own nose to spite its face. However, according to Semple and Arango:
Turkey will allow American and coalition troops to use its bases, including a key installation within 100 miles of the Syrian border, for operations against the Islamic State, Defense Department officials said Sunday.
Maybe it’s not that Turkey isn’t concerned about the Islamic State, but that it’s relying on the United States to halt and roll back the Islamic State while it concentrates on the Kurds. Still … Semple and Arrango again:
Mr. Erdogan’s strategy also carries considerable risks both to his domestic political standing and his legacy.
He owes his rise to power in part to the support of Kurds, which he has cultivated by taking a more conciliatory approach to Kurdish nationalism, developing closer ties with Iraq’s Kurdistan regional government and helping to secure more rights for Kurds, including laws that allowed the use of the Kurdish language in schools and the media and the use of Kurdish names for certain towns.
Finally, to give you an idea of how dangerous the game that Turkey is playing is, we’ll return to Sam Greenhill of the Daily Mail:
A few miles along the dusty border from the hell unfolding in Kobane, there is a new and spine-chilling threat. Jihadi snatch squads are said to be lying in wait in Turkey to seize more Western hostages and spirit them into Syria to meet Jihadi John, the beheader of innocent victims such as Alan Henning. … If Islamic State terrorists were able to operate in Turkey – a Nato state hoping to join the EU – the brutality being waged on Europe’s doorstep will truly cross a line.