Ankara’s aftermath

While Turkey is insisting that the alleged perpetrator of yesterday’s car bombing on a Turkish military convoy in Ankara was a Syrian Kurd affiliated with YPG, Syrian Kurds are denying that they were involved in the attack or that Salih Necar, the alleged bomber, had any ties to their organizations:

The head of the PYD denied allegations that it or the YPG was involved. “We have never heard of this person Salih Necer,” Salih Muslim told Agence France-Presse. “These accusations are clearly related to Turkish attempts to intervene in Syria.”

Six Turkish soldiers were killed today in another attack on a military convoy, this time in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakır, and a Turkish police officer and soldier were shot and killed in the southeastern district of İdil. It’s likely that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was responsible for these attacks.

Scene in the aftermath of yesterday’s car bombing in Ankara (via Pakistan Today)

Turkey has been trying to get the US to designate PYD and/or YPG as terrorist organizations, as it does with the PKK, but Washington has been resistant to this, if for no other reason than the fact that PYD/YPG are among the few genuinely anti-ISIS ground forces America has been able to cultivate in Syria. The Obama administration has been trying to work the middle, to keep its NATO ally Turkey appeased while still supporting the Kurdish war effort against ISIS, and therefore it’s managed to accomplish neither of those aims–Ankara has been furious at Washington for months, and Syria’s Kurds have never gotten the full American enticement they would need to continue pressing ISIS beyond the traditional limits of Rojava/Syrian Kurdistan.

The Turkish government therefore has some incentive to present to Washington the strongest possible case that YPG really was responsible for yesterday’s attack. That’s not to suggest that they would manipulate evidence or anything like that, but the possibility of bias in the investigation is worth noting. ISIS, which would also have a strong incentive to “frame” YPG for a major terrorist attack in Turkey, should not be ruled out as a suspect, and of course there’s the PKK, which has a history, including a very recent history, of attacking Turkish security forces, and which the Turkish government says worked with YPG to carry out yesterday’s bombing. If YPG was behind the attack, or if Ankara can present a solid case that it was, then America’s efforts in Syria are going to get more challenging. It’s one thing to try to straddle the line between Turkey and Syria’s Kurds under normal circumstances, but if Syria’s Kurds are now engaging in terrorist attacks inside Turkey, America is going face a stark choice between standing with its NATO ally or standing with a terrorist group that just attacked that ally.

Something else to consider here is that the situation in Syria may be at a point where the return on US support for PYD and YPG has diminished so much that the alliance no longer makes sense for Washington. Syria’s Kurds aren’t exactly allied with Bashar al-Assad, but they a) are fighting some of the same insurgent groups that Assad is fighting, and b) have some (probably less than the Turkish government alleges but probably more than the US has been willing to admit) affinity with Russia, Assad’s biggest military booster. So Assad is simultaneously the enemy of some of their enemies and a friend of a friend. And lately the Kurdish effort to extend their zone of control across all of northern Syria has shifted focus from the northeast, where they were fighting ISIS, to the northwest, where they’re fighting rebel groups around Aleppo (frequently under the cover, intentional or not, of Russian air power), some of whom might be the kind of rebels with whom Washington would like to develop a relationship.

Any gains that the Kurds make around Aleppo will, de facto, be gains for Assad, since at least in that theater they are fighting mostly the same Arab and Turkmen rebel enemies. Meanwhile, it’s looking less likely that PYD/YPG fighters in the northeast are going to be willing to sacrifice blood and treasure in an offensive against Raqqa, which is an Arab city outside Rojava and therefore not of particular importance to the Kurds. If Washington still would prefer to limit Assad’s military successes in order to force him to negotiate an end to the war, then working with Syria’s Kurds may no longer be in America’s best interests.

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