This is not the same as saying that Turkey bombed the United States directly, but the move wasn’t received kindly. As reported by several international media agencies today, “More than 30 U.S.-backed Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish fighters were killed in a series of airstrikes carried out by Turkish jets on Monday.” US Defense officials specified that “Kurdish Pershmerga” soldiers and members of the “Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)” were among the groups hardest hit by the attacks.
Shortly after the strike, the Pentagon came out with an official press release condemning the attack, stating that “We are very concerned, deeply concerned, that Turkey conducted airstrikes earlier today in northern Syria as well as northern Iraq without proper coordination either with the United States or the broader global coalition to defeat ISIS.” Speaking exclusively with Fox News, one US official sent warning to Turkey, reminding them to remember “the importance of respecting Iraq’s borders and sovereignty” when conducting military operation in the future.
According to reports by Al Jazzeera, Turkish officials seem to contradict US assessments, claiming at “at least 70 people” were killed in the attack. In response to US remarks advising the country to respect Iraq’s sovereignty, President Erdogan of Turkey told Reuters that he will continue to take steps in Iraq “until the last terrorist is eliminated.” But later added that he “regretted” the death of Peshmerga fighters in Syria, stating that this is “absolutely not an operation against the peshmerga.”
— Al-Sahawat Times (@alsahawat_times) April 26, 2017
The very fact that leaders of the US and Turkey are sending conflicting messages towards one another through the international media is what is most interesting about this story. For all of you whom may have been living under a rock, Turkey is a member state of the international NATO Alliance and interestingly enough, Turkey is the only “Arab” nation to belonging to NATO.
The Iraqi War is in its 14th year and the Syrian War is in its 7th year, you would think by now that military allies would all be on the same page at this point, but you would be mistaken. At least when it comes to “the Kurds,” the US and Turkey could not disagree more.
Why The Disagreement About “The Kurds?”
When talking about the Kurds, think of them more as a “culture” of people rather than a country or city. There is talk about “Kurdistan” and the Kurds in general, but the Kurdish people have no official country of their own. According to estimates, there are about 30-35 million Kurdish people geologically spread out across Iraq and Syria. More specifically, they bridge the gap between Iraq and Syria while lining the southern border of Turkey.
As it is obvious to see, the geography of their territory places the Kurdish people right in the cross-hairs of War and the size of their population makes them major players in the region at the same time.
The phrase “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist” could not be more applicable to the situation. US forces are currently funding/supplying Kurdish forces with weapons because between Bashar al-Assad, the Islamic State, the advancement of Russian forces and the influx of Iranian mercenaries, the United States essentially views the Kurds as ‘the lesser of all the evils’ and therefore the most “moderate” group to be arming/supporting at this time.
However, despite the US’s decision to heavily arm the Kurds, Turkey considers the Kurds a threat to their country and regard many factions fighting on behalf of Kurdish forces as “terrorists.” Not only is this evident in Erdogan’s statements about the bombings this week, but earlier this year Turkeys Foreign Minister also stated that “If the United States wants to invite Kurds to the forthcoming Syrian peace talks, it might as well invite the Islamic State.” Implying that Kurdish forces are no different or any less extreme/violent than the terrorists NATO is currently fighting to eradicate.
Considering that there is a sizeable population of Kurds currently living inside the borders of their country, Turkey fears that the more the US arms the Kurdish people and the more powerful they become as a result, the more it compromises Turkeys southern border and National sovereignty. It also does not help that there have been a growing number of confrontations between Kurdish and Turkish over the last several years.
U.S. urges Turkish and Kurdish forces to halt clashes in northern Syria https://t.co/hRCUSSFJk2
— TIME (@TIME) August 30, 2016
Adding to the situation are all the complications arising from Turkey’s failed military coup this summer, which Erdogan blamed on the United States. Combing a plethora of events over the time since, including the bombings this week, and it appears as though the interests of Turkey and the US are drifting further apart by the day.
The more the US continues to fund the Kurds the more it will anger President Erdogan and the military of Turkey. No one is suggesting that the US would ultimately choose the Kurds over a NATO ally if it came down to that, but the US’s continued relationship with the Kurds is certainly starting to complicate NATO’s overall mission in the region.
Why The Mutual Admiration of The Kurdish Peshmerga?
The peshmerga have received accolades and respect from all sides of this dispute because of their bravery in battle. For example, in the fight to retake Raqqa and Mosul from Islamic State control, the Kurdish peshmerga have been on the literal front-lines of the battle. US forces largely provide air support and artillery backup to these forces, whom essentially serve as the coalitions infantry.
For example, months before US combat troops moved in and began to heavily engage in Raqqa, the peshmerga were already taking back small areas around the outskirts of the city by themselves.
— Peshmerga #Afrin (@KURDISTAN_ARMY) November 12, 2016
Considering that the Islamic State has lost tremendous amounts of territory over the course of the last two years and it has largely been the peshmerga leading the ground assault to take it, the pershmerga garner a lot of respect/praise from competing military’s around the world.
Having said that, there have also been complications. Sometimes to conquer barbarism requires barbaric acts. After-all, both sides fighting in a War are killing people all the same. It just so happens that, on more than one occasion, Turkey has accused Kurdish forces of acting too savage or barbaric to support – even though they were fighting against the Islamic State at the time.
— Peshmerga #Afrin (@KURDISTAN_ARMY) November 12, 2016
Outside of Turkey, many countries and journalists have also refuted the US’s claim that the Kurds are “moderate.” Multiple videos have surfaced of Kurdish forces beheading people in the streets and carrying out extrajudicial killings on a regular basis. Compared to the Islamic State and Gas attacks, the Kurdish people might seem like the lesser of all evils, but this does not mean they aren’t extremist in their own right. That is certainly the way Turkey looks at the situation, anyways.