TURKEY’S ROLE IN SYRIA

Turkey would also like to see Assad gone and a Syria in chaos. On April 25, Ankara attacked Kurdish targets in both Syria and Iraq, including members of the YPG militia, who are U.S.-trained and -supplied allies against ISIS. Twenty YPG militiamen were reported killed. The Turks claim that virtually all armed Kurdish groups are terrorists, allied with Turkey’s domestic terrorism problem, the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). Turkey particularly fears that Syria will permit the creation of a Kurdish-dominated entity along their mutual long and difficult-to-defend border. It wants Assad out because it has accused him, perhaps rightly, of supporting the incursions of Kurdish terrorists, but it chooses to ignore the fact that the current problems with the Kurds were in part initiated by the government of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish leader needed a credible enemy for internal political reasons, to discredit a largely Kurdish party that opposed him.

Turkey has supported ISIS in the past, including treating their wounded in Turkish hospitals and allowing them to regroup in safe havens inside Turkey, mostly because the terrorist group is a foe of the Kurds. It has also been plausibly claimed that Ankara supplied the sarin that was used in several attacks on Syrian civilians that have been conveniently blamed on the government in Damascus. The shoot-down of a Russian fighter bomber in December 2015 may have also been a crude attempt to draw the U.S. and NATO into a war against Assad and Moscow. Ironically, playing both sides in an all-too-visible attempt to bring down Assad has destroyed any credibility that Erdogan has. And weakening Syrian central-government control and de facto handing power over to a ragtag of rebels and local tribesmen will virtually guarantee the emergence of a Kurdish statelet, but Ankara is apparently not thinking that far ahead.

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