News / Middle East

    Turkey Threatens Military Action Against Syrian Kurds

    FILE - In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Akcakale, southeastern Turkey, a flag of the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, flies over the town of Tal Abyad, Syria, June 16, 2015.
    FILE - In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Akcakale, southeastern Turkey, a flag of the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, flies over the town of Tal Abyad, Syria, June 16, 2015.
    Dorian JonesJamie Dettmer

    Turkey's Security Council announced Thursday that the PYD Syrian Kurdish group and its YPG militia have no future in Syria. Ankara has warned it could intervene militarily.

    Observers say Turkey has become alarmed about increasing Russian and U.S. support for the group and militia in their fight against Islamic State.

    Ankara accuses the PYD/YPG of being offshoots of the Kurdish rebel group PKK, which Turkish forces are currently battling both domestically and by air in Iraq. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this month promised to eradicate the PKK from the region.

    The threats should be taken seriously, said political columnist Semih Idiz of Turkey's Cumhuriyet newspaper.

    "Prime Minister [Ahmet] Davutoglu himself has said that if Turkey sees it necessary, it will take the same precautions against the YPG in Syria that it's taking against the PKK in Iraq," Idiz said. "So, in a way, Turkey has left the door open to conducting operations against the YPG."

    Observers say Turkey’s political leadership is probably feeling emboldened by its success in excluding the PYD from Syrian peace talks scheduled for Friday in Geneva. 

    Syrian Kurdish gains

    But Sinan Ulgen, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Institute in Brussels, said Ankara’s hardening stance is also a reaction to recent military gains by the Syrian Kurdish forces, complicated by Turkey's downing of a Russian plane it said had crossed into its airspace.

     "There is certainly a degree of unease in Ankara over these attempts by PYD to cross westwards," Ulgen said. "But after the downing of the Russian plane, Turkey has limited ability to project power in Syria for fear of provoking a military confrontation with Russia."

    This frame grab from video by Haberturk TV, shows a Russian warplane on fire before crashing on a hill as seen from Hatay province, Turkey, Nov. 24, 2015.
    This frame grab from video by Haberturk TV, shows a Russian warplane on fire before crashing on a hill as seen from Hatay province, Turkey, Nov. 24, 2015.

    After the downing in November, Russia deployed a sophisticated anti-aircraft missile system in Syria. Moscow is also reportedly seeking to court Syrian Kurdish forces, which are already being supported by U.S. air power in their battle against the Islamic State.

    Despite Ankara’s threats and its exclusion from the Geneva talks, the PYD remains in a strong position, columnist Idiz said.  

    "The military situation on the ground is going to determine the final outcome," he said. "And the YPG and the PYD are allied with America, and the war on the ground continues. And if the West reduces its backing to the Syrian Kurds, then Russia is going to step in."

    YPG moving west?

    There were signs Thursday that YPG leaders were on the brink of defying Ankara and crossing one of Turkey's “red lines” when it comes to the Syrian Kurds — a westward move from Kurdish positions in northeastern Syria. 

    YPG commanders confirmed to VOA a local Kurdish news report that they had drawn up battle plans to launch a ground offensive west of the Euphrates River to attack the Islamic State-held towns of Jarablus and Manbij, as well as Azaz, which is held by insurgent factions opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    Turkish officials have warned frequently that an en masse trespass west of the Euphrates by Kurdish fighters would invite Turkish retaliation. In December, the YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) seized the October Dam on the Euphrates River, giving them access to the Aleppo countryside.

    Some SDF fighters crossed west of the river. For face-saving purposes, the Turks accepted that the SDF fighters who actually crossed were Arabs and Turkmen and not Kurds, prompting some observers to speculate that the Turkish authorities were now prepared to tolerate an inevitable westward advance by YPG fighters to push IS militants out of Jarablus and Manbij, a feat Western and Gulf-backed anti-Assad rebel groups have been unable to do.

    YPG commanders say that the goal of the offensive would be to cut IS fighters off from the border with Turkey, severing a logistical route Islamic militants use to ferry in foreign recruits and supplies. IS controls around 100 kilometers of the border between Jarablus and Azaz.

    Not just Turkey

    Syrian Kurdish forces accuse Turkey of having already made sporadic attacks against them along the border. If YPG forces continue to make military gains, while Turkish forces step up their battle against the PKK across Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, observers warn that the dangers of the internal conflict spreading farther into Syria are likely to grow.

    Militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, stand in a bunker in Sirnak, Turkey, Dec. 23, 2015.
    Militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, stand in a bunker in Sirnak, Turkey, Dec. 23, 2015.

    And a YPG ground attack would risk more than Turkish retaliation.

    Anti-Assad rebel groups also would most likely react violently in defense of territory they consider inherently Arab, not Kurdish.

    In mid-January, Islamic factions favored by Gulf countries clashed with SDF forces around the village of Malkiya in Aleppo’s northern countryside, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in London that relies on information from a network of political activists.

    On Monday, YPG forces started a bombardment of Jarablus with artillery shelling and mortar fire. “We bombed several military vehicles for IS, a Sharia court and a security center for the terror group. At least 21 terrorists were killed,” said YPG spokesman Nuraddin Gaban. He added: “Jarablus is one of our main targets.”

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    Comment Sorting
    by: Ali Naqvi
    January 30, 2016 9:04 AM
    War with Russia will not be limited to Kurdish Area. Like any Super Power Russia will attack Ankara and Istanbul . They have already fitted Nuclear Missiles to give warning to NATO if they hypothetically try try to interfere. YPD is internal affair of Syria

    by: TruthBTold from: Kentucky
    January 29, 2016 12:20 PM
    The Turks really and truly have no say in whether the Kurds cross the river or not. Truth be told, this area is still in Syria, and the last time I checked Turkey does not have authority in a different country. They may be bold enough to enter into Turkey to fight with the Kurds as they have been allowed to do so in Iraq with little more than words being thrown at them to remove their troops from Iraq.

    If Turkey is stupid enough to intervene with the Kurdish forces who are pushing through Syria to stop ISIS, then they will end up fighting a mutli front war with Russia along with Russian allies. Truth be told, this will escalate further before it ever gets any better. In the end, there will be a full out war between Turkey and Russia- Nato forces along with support from the US will join with Turkey. Iran, Greece, China and others will join with Russia and eventually we will have WW3.

    It is not a matter of if there will be another great war, it is a matter of when and where it will start. I believe that Turkey and their empowered arrogance will be the start of this war and that in fact, their attack on a Russian Air-Craft will go down in history as the first shots fired during WW3.

    by: Anonymous2 from: USA
    January 29, 2016 9:06 AM
    There is no bigger Terrorist then Erdogan and whoever voted for him . Currently in Turkey, the real terrorists have taken over governments and the real people of those lands are being called "terrorists". On the other hand when you think about it, Just because Turkey is a NATO ally its ok for them to kill as many civilians as they want. Thats the reality.

    by: ErdoganTheCaliphofISIS
    January 29, 2016 8:59 AM

    So the Kurds have been living on those lands for 5000+ years, population of 40 million world wide, 20 million in turkey alone. I would like to see your nation serve the interests of other nations and then see your nation get slaughtered by those same people who you serve, then i doubt the same sh!t would be coming out of your mouth.

    Erdogan has already trained 5k+ arabs in secret camps of turkey and gun themem up and send them over to syria/iraq, slaughter Kurds, killing their men in mass graves, taking their women to Turkey and selling them in slave markets, girls young as 9. And then turn around and call the Kurds "terrorists".
    There is no bigger terrorist than Erdogan and the 50% of the fascist Turks who voted for him.

    So If the way to stability in Turkey/Iraq/Syria/Afghanistan was to kill minorities in 4 different countries, i think the best option would be to wipe out Erdogan and the 50% of his fascist people and stability would restore within a matter of weeks. You are disgusting and I hope that you and your family go through what the Kurds have gone through, Id like to see you talk about lessons then..

    by: Anonymous
    January 29, 2016 6:48 AM
    Like some other minorities in other countries, the Kurds have been a serious problem for Turkey. And they do not like the Arabs either. The minorities in Afghanistan, supported by the USA, have also been the most troubling problem for peace since they and their American partners (especially the Military and contractors) do not want peace. They have made millions in US military contracts. So, Turkey has to be strong and teach the belligerent Kurds a lesson.

    by: Anonymous
    January 29, 2016 1:34 AM
    Turkey = ISIS and AQ

    Also there's no "moderate rebel" or opposition. All of them are Islamist extremists.

    Free Syrian Army, the Nusra Front, Army of Conquest, the Turkmen Brigades and many other b.s. names are AQ supported by Turkey and Saudi Arabia

    The only people who are truly fighting ISIS and AQ are the Syrian Government Army, Russia, Hezbollah, Iran and the Kurds.

    Turks will commit any crime to protect ISIS.

    by: Faizal bin Ibrahim from: Malaysia
    January 28, 2016 10:26 PM
    If YPG crossed the west of Euraphates river , the Turkish Army will retaliate in full force . Russia will react by supplying PYD-YPG with weapons , and Ankara will get angrier and launch an invasion to eliminate the PYD-YPG . There will be an all out war between Turkey and Russia's proxy , the Kurds . The GCC countries will stepped up their military support for the Syrian opposition groups , and hell broke loose again in Syria . May Islam wins .

    by: Alice from: Canada
    January 28, 2016 9:45 PM
    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could make peace with the Kurds, give them some limited autonomy and thereby save the lives of many Turks and Kurds. Of course he will not do that. Erdogan needs external enemies to keep him in power as a 'strong' president. Hammering the Kurds is what just won him the last parliamentary election. So many dead just so one egomaniac can feel macho!

    by: meanbill from: USA
    January 28, 2016 5:52 PM
    Turkey can threaten anybody now, because NATO will protect them with military might and weapons? .. [but?] .. Turkey better think twice about crossing that redline they drew when they shot that Russian warplane down, or those Turk warplanes might find a Russian missile up their warplane exhaust pipe? .. What goes around, sometimes comes back around, and maybe finds it's way up their tailpipe?
    In Response

    by: Alice from: Canada
    January 28, 2016 9:51 PM
    NATO should dump the traitor Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in favour of the Kurds.

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