Turkey is conducting a contradictory policy, and not for the first time.
This week it launched its first airstrikes against ISIS targets–and in parallel, it’s stepping up its attacks
on Kurdish rebels known as PKK. This article in Turkey’s main newspaper says the latest airstrikes killed 190 rebels and wounded 300. The problem here is–the Kurdish fighters are the most effective force fighting ISIS.
PKK is dedicated to fighting for independence from Turkey. The two sides have been at war for decades in a conflict that has killed 40,000 people, mostly Kurds. A cease-fire in effect since 2013 collapsed this month. Yet PKK has devoted most of its recent efforts to fighting ISIS, its common enemy with Turkey.
So Turkey finds itself fighting a two-front war–with contradictory goals.
When the EU snubbed Turkey a decade ago, it turned to the Mideast as its new sphere of influence, pinning its hopes on garnering support among Arab nations by noisily ending its fruitful and profitable special relationship with Israel. Results have been mixed at best. Turkey backed the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and when its incompetent rule was ended, Egypt’s military rulers showed Turkey the door. Turkey ineffectively chose sides in the Syrian civil war and has emerged with little influence there while being flooded with refugees. Then the ISIS threat emerged on its borders, and Turkey finally woke up to that.
It’s too easy to sit in Tel Aviv and tell Turkey what to do, just as it’s too easy to sit in New York and tell Israel what to do. But it’s clear that the Kurdish revolt is part of an old order, and the ISIS campaign is part of a new one. Instead of calling off peace talks with PKK because of attacks against Turkish forces, it would be logical for Turkey to restore its truce and coexist with PKK, while both concentrate their attention on ISIS.
As Israel is showing the world with its extreme, misguided and hopeless campaign to scuttle the Iran agreement–it’s hard for nations to switch gears, abandoning decades-long policies, even if that’s the right thing to do.
The danger is that events will pass such nations by, leaving them weakened and damaged.