News / Europe

    Bomb Attacks in Turkey Fuel Erdogan’s Offensive Against Kurds

    Bomb Attack Hardens Erdogan’s Offensive on Kurdsi
    Luis Ramirez
    February 19, 2016 3:02 PM
    A bomb attack in Turkey this week is escalating the conflict between the Turkish government and Kurdish separatists, and further exposing tensions between Ankara and the United States. Analysts say the deepening divisions could not come at a worse time in the Syrian conflict as Syrian forces continue their assault on the city of Aleppo. VOA Europe Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
    Luis Ramirez

    Bombings in Turkey this week are escalating the conflict between Ankara and Kurdish separatists, as well as raising new questions of whom the United States is supporting in the Syrian conflict and the scope of U.S. objectives.

    Analysts warn the attacks could also lead to a wider involvement by Turkish forces in Syria and further strain its relations with the U.S.

    The larger attack, a suicide car bomb in the heart of Turkey’s capital, Ankara, that killed 28 people Wednesday, drew a quick and angry promise of retaliation from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who blamed Kurdish separatists and their outside supporters – a reference to Syria.

    “Even though those who head the PYD and PKK say this has no connection with them, based on the information obtained by our interior minister and our intelligence agencies, it is identified that this is done by them,” Erdogan said in a televised speech.

    Firefighters work at a scene of fire from an explosion in Ankara that killed 28 people, Feb. 17, 2016.
    Firefighters work at a scene of fire from an explosion in Ankara that killed 28 people, Feb. 17, 2016.

    Turkish forces have been at war with the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers’ Party, for decades.

    Crackdown on PKK

    Since last year, southeastern Turkey has become a battleground as Erdogan stepped up a crackdown on Kurdish separatists following the collapse of a fragile cease-fire.

    Erdogan has also expanded the fight into Syria, with Turkish tanks at the border firing into Syrian territory where Kurdish forces operate.

    Analysts said the latest bomb attacks give the Turkish leader a reason to escalate his offensive.

    “It strikes me that Mr. Erdogan is not somebody who needs an excuse to pursue these kinds of policies, but I would expect that he will certainly use it to his advantage,” said Davis Lewin, head of policy at the Henry Jackson Society, a research organization in London.

    “He will readily use this and any other political event that he can to harness what his own strategic needs are and do that,” Lewin told VOA.

    Erdogan’s response threatens to further damage the already troubled relationship between Turkey and the U.S.

    "A Turkish military intervention would increase the tensions more. I do not think Turkey would dare an armed intervention," Gonul Tol, an analyst at the Middle East Institute in Washington, told VOA.

    The two NATO allies both want to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and destroy the Islamic State militant group; but their interests are opposed when it comes to the Kurds.

    Kurdish fighters

    While Turkey is targeting Kurdish fighters in Syria, the U.S. has armed them and continues to support them.

    The main U.S. objective in the Syrian conflict is to degrade and ultimately destroy the Islamic State group, and to that end, the U.S. has relied on Kurdish fighters to repel Assad’s offensive in northern Syria.

    Turkey’s goal is to stop Kurdish fighters on both sides of its border with Syria.

    The Kurds’ growing influence in the conflict is deeply troubling to Erdogan, who fears their access to weapons and military training could strengthen their push for an independent state, largely on what is now Turkish territory.

    “The first opponent for Ankara in Syria is the Assad regime and the second opponent is the PYD, the de facto Kurdish political entity right now running northern Syria," Metin Gurcan, an independent security analyst in Istanbul and a former major in the Turkish military’s special forces, told VOA.

    "So Turkey and the United States, both of these actors, they have different political end stakes in Syria,” Gurcan added.

    Members of Turkish forces gather around a bus that was destroyed in an explosion on the road linking the cities of Diyarbakir and Bingol, in southeastern Turkey, Feb. 18, 2016. Six soldiers were killed after PKK rebels detonated a bomb on the road.
    Members of Turkish forces gather around a bus that was destroyed in an explosion on the road linking the cities of Diyarbakir and Bingol, in southeastern Turkey, Feb. 18, 2016. Six soldiers were killed after PKK rebels detonated a bomb on the road.

    Erdogan has made known his frustration with the United States.

    Washington chastised

    In a fiery speech on February 10, the Turkish leader chastised Washington for supporting Kurdish rebels, who he said had turned the region into a “sea of blood.”

    “I call on America, how many times have I explained this to you? Are you on our side or the side of the terrorist PYD and PKK organization?” Erdogan asked.

    The speech came a day after his government summoned the U.S. ambassador in Ankara.

    Turkey wants the United States to stop supporting Kurdish rebels in Syria, and much of its anger recently has been over Washington’s refusal to designate the PYD as a terrorist group.

    On Friday, Erdogan expressed concern that the Obama administration has still not done this and suggested the U.S. is making a mistake that could have wide-reaching consequences.

    “Months ago in my meeting with him (President Barack Obama), I told him the U.S. was supplying weapons. Three plane loads arrived, half of them ended up in the hands of Daesh, and half of them in the hands of the PYD,” Erdogan said. Daesh is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

    U.S. officials are focusing on the positive elements of a relationship they consider extremely valuable.

    'Understand the concerns'

    “We understand the concerns that Turkey has long expressed about some of these groups, some of these Kurdish groups. And we’re going to continue to have that discussion with them, because we appreciate their contributions,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said recently when a reporter asked about Turkey’s complaints.

    “We also appreciate that they have these concerns, and we’re going to continue to work our way through that,” Kirby said.

    After the deadly bombing in Ankara that targeted military personnel, Washington quickly offered condolences to the Turkish government and the State Department reiterated the “steadfast commitment” of the U.S. to its partnership with Turkey “in the shared fight against terrorism.”

    Tensions between Washington and Erdogan are deepening at a crucial time in the Syrian conflict, as Syrian forces keep up their assault of the key city of Aleppo.

    Wednesday’s attack in Ankara was, for Turkey’s leader, reaffirmation that the Kurdish threat outweighs any other interest for now.

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    Comment Sorting
    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    February 22, 2016 11:30 AM
    Erdogan labels them terrorists, the world says “No, they’re tools fighting terrorism, fighting against ISIS”. He bombs them but sympathizers send suicide mission into Ankara with more devastating and humiliating damage to lives and infrastructure. He suppresses them, denies them right to self-rule, at the same time sends flotillas to other countries to protest genuine efforts in foreign countries destroying terrorism and extremism. He’s religious fanatic, yet wants cordial relations with the secular west, wants to be identified as one of them.

    He’s a sunni muslim, hates Shiites, Judaists and Christians, but though he aligns with the Ayatollah Khamenei’s injunction on wiping out the Jewish nation from the world map, he finds it difficult to align with the Iran which he sees as unworthy because it’s Shiite. What was the best way to express confusion? I think the meaning of confusion is either Turkey or R.T. Erdogan. The man doesn’t know what he wants or where he belongs. Turkey’s confused because the people elected a confused man. State terrorism can only escalate agitation and Erdogan sees agitators for freedom as enemies of his god. That’s his idea of terrorism while sponsoring ISIS is his duty to islam.

    by: AHMED from: INDIA
    February 21, 2016 8:55 PM
    Turkey was the recruitment center to spread terrorism in Syria. Turkey invested billions of dollars to change regime with puppet Govt like Saudi Arabia.
    Do not kill innocent peoples as to get aid. God is watching our dirty activities and will punish in this world and next world. Still Turkey PM have little time to change his policy towards Syria, other wise nor USA OR Saudi Arab will help him after death. He will get fair treatment in God Court and will get punishment accordingly.

    by: Alice from: Canada
    February 20, 2016 5:27 PM
    President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may well have arranged this bombing in order to implicate Kurds. Erdogan hopes this attack will force NATO ground forces to be drawn into the battle in Syria. Erdogan retains his grandiose plans to be the Middle East's Pasha but wants it done on the back of NATO. The Turks recently had a chance to vote this dangerous and bellicose politician out of office but fail to do so. With this unhinged president allowed to run an important country like Turkey everyone loses especially the Turks.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    February 20, 2016 8:35 AM
    Truth be told... Erdogan doesn't need any excuse to bomb and kill the Kurds no matter what excuse he now uses? .. And Erdogan and anybody else would go crazy trying to figure out what the Obama administration military strategy is when fighting terrorists, when in 2011 thru 2013 the US armed and trained tens of thousands of foreign Sunni Muslim extremists, fanatics and insane in Turkey and Jordan to wage Jihad war on the Shia Muslim led government of Assad and Syria, [but then in March of 2013], al-Baghdadi came to Syria from al-Qaeda in Iraq (with only the clothes on his back) and found an army of US armed and trained men and gave them a better cause to fight and die for in his newly created ISIL army, [and then], in August of 2014 al-Baghdadi led his ISIL army in an invasion of Iraq and became a world power, [and now], the rest is history?

    Think about it? .. The ISIL terrorist army wouldn't even exist today (to become a world power) if only the US hadn't recruited, armed and trained those tens of thousands of foreign Sunni Muslim crazies in Turkey and Jordan to wage war on Assad and Syria, [but instead], ended up joining with al-Baghdadi (for a better cause to fight and die for) in his ISIL Caliphate army in 2013 thru 2014 to wage war on everybody now, would there have been? .. [And now] .. The US is supposedly waging war on those same tens of thousands of foreign Sunni Muslim crazies they armed and trained to wage Jihad war on Assad and Syria, [that ended up joining the ISIL terrorist army? .. Crazy? .. it's insane? .. The ISIL is now the US enemy today, but also Turkey's friend and ally today? .. but
    Assad continues to be the enemy of all three?

    by: Med
    February 20, 2016 1:33 AM
    Us sayes Kurds usful for fighting isis!so whats thats means! They have to stop expand more(dont go more after isis)!!because Turkey wants that ,they onley want libraries Kurdish area from isis ..any killing and socidial is evel act ..Kurds didnt have socide bomber but they lost the hopes and genocidal act by Turkish government creates that.

    by: Med
    February 20, 2016 1:04 AM
    All the world have clear acknowledge that Turkey not fight isis but Kurds he link's internal problems to syrian Kurds and he is supported to bomb Kurds inside Turkey ,and now syrian Kurds .syrian Kurds defending them selfs from isis and claiming some rights .

    by: Med
    February 20, 2016 12:52 AM
    Turkey have guarantee to kill Turkeys Kurds and now want more to kill and destroy syrian Kurds .

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