Some of the most successful fighters against the Islamic State are being isolated and attacked by America’s new favorite ally in the region.
Kurdish militias are achieving the stated goals of the Obama administration — to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS — as well or better than any other fighting force. From Kobane to the recent liberation of Tel Abyad, Kurdish militias have won hard-fought victories against ISIS fighters in Syria, while preventing the advance of ISIS into northern Iraq.
What’s more, the Kurds in northern Syria have established a political order like few others in this region of the world. Known as Rojava, the Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria are governed through participatory decision-making forums that include councils made up of women, Christians, Yazidis and Muslims. David Graeber, a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement, calls Rojava a “remarkable democratic experiment.”
But those gains are now in danger as Turkey, which has a long history of enmity towards ethnic Kurds and fears the potential for a Kurdish state to its immediate south, in northern Syria or Iraq, flexes its political muscle in Washington and applies its military might in the Middle East.
Behind the scenes, American lobbyists employed by Turkey started working to block U.S. military assistance to Kurdish fighters last year, lobbying disclosures show.
This past week, the Turkish government made two critical air bases available to U.S. forces, a long-sought concession that allows the U.S. military to launch anti-ISIS raids more quickly. And it began its own airstrikes against ISIS. But that move is increasingly being seen as something of a feint, with Turkey’s main focus being a new offensive against Kurdish militants.
Simultaneously with its announcement about U.S. access to the air bases, the Turkish government broke its truce with Kurdish militants. During the past week, the Turkish military began attacking Kurdish bases in Iraq and allegedly in Syria as well. The Turkish government says its campaign is simply a response to an attack by the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a separatist group, and has emphasized that it is also targeting ISIS.
Turkey intends to use the increased airstrikes to create a “safe zone” for Sunni Arab militias, which as the New York Times noted, would come at the expense of Kurdish fighters.
Rather than condemn the attacks on the Kurds, the Obama administration praised Turkey’s government for making its air base available.
Full article: Turkey’s Political Influence Felt as Washington Turns Its Back on Kurds Fighting ISIS (The Intercept)