Turkey sees the Kurdish militias as the mastermind of the attack in Istanbul and is attacking their positions. Iran also attacks Kurdish groups. an accident?
Turkey has been conducting airstrikes against Kurdish militias in Northern Syria and Northern Iraq for days. Dozens of people died. Russia and the United States, which control parts of Syrian airspace as important parties in the Syrian civil war, have warned of the long-announced attack. At the same time, Iran is attacking the Kurds in northern Iraq. How is everything connected and who benefits? Overview.
Why and for what purpose is Turkey attacking now?
Turkey describes its attacks on Kurdish militias in Syria and Iraq as “retaliation” for an attack that killed six people in Istanbul on 13 November. He blames the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG and the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party PKK for this. The official account is doubtful.
Some observers suspect electoral tactics behind the attacks on Kurdish positions that could get nationalist voters to vote for the government. After four previous military attacks, Turkey is currently occupying the border areas in northern Syria. Kurdish militias also control much of the north of the civil war country. Experts suspect that the aim of the Turkish government may be to drive them out and bring a wide strip of the border under full Turkish control.
What is the background of the conflict between the PKK and the Turkish state?
Thousands of people have been killed in the decades-long conflict between the PKK and the Turkish state. Ankara regularly conducts military operations against the PKK in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq. This, in particular, carries out repeated attacks against Turkish security forces. But civilians are also killed. Turkey accuses the PKK of endangering national security and unity with terrorism. The PKK argues that it is fighting, among other things, for the “rights of the Kurds” and against oppression. In 2015, the peace process between Turkey and the PKK failed.
Why is Iran attacking the Kurds too?
It is unclear whether there is a connection between the two countries’ simultaneous attacks on Kurdish positions in northern Iraq in recent days. As Turkey begins its offensive on Sunday, Iran’s loyal Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) have been attacking Kurdish targets in the neighboring country with rockets and drones for weeks. Experts see this primarily as a domestic policy calculation. After Iranian Kurd Jina Mahsa Amini died in police custody in mid-September, demonstrations spread like wildfire in Kurdish areas. These are the worst protests in the country in decades. Fear of separatist movements is also growing in Tehran. Security forces are particularly ruthless towards demonstrators in the Kurdish areas of the country.
How is Russia responding to Turkish and Iranian attacks?
The reaction to Turkey’s attacks in Russia was remarkably restrained, although Ankara did not inform Moscow in advance. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there were “sometimes differences of opinion” between Russia and Turkey. While Moscow supports President Bashar Assad in the war in Syria, Turkey supports rebel groups. The Russian President’s representative in Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, warned Turkey to “avoid the use of excessive force on Syrian territory”.
There has been speculation in the Russian media as to whether Erdogan’s efforts alone would pose a threat to Moscow’s interests in the region. Aslı Aksoy from the Center for Turkish Studies (CATS) in Berlin comments on Russia’s reluctance:
However, Russia needs not only Turkey but also Iran as a partner. Moscow has been using Iranian warplanes more intensely for weeks in the war against Ukraine, which has been going on for nine months and has been marked by many military defeats for the Kremlin.
What does the USA say?
The US government is worried about the attacks. White House National Security Council communications director John Kirby warned that it could limit the Kurds’ ability to continue fighting the Islamic State. The US supported the Kurds in their fight against IS, whose cells are still active in the country. Referring to the PKK, Kirby acknowledged that Turkey also faces a “terrorist threat”. “Of course he has the right to defend himself and his citizens.”
Middle East expert Aksoy explains the measured response of the US to the attacks against its partners in Syria: Washington respects Turkey’s mediator role in the Ukraine war. The United States also hoped that Turkey would approve Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDG) told dpa that the Kurds are asking US President Joe Biden to take a clear stance on Turkey’s “aggression”.
What are the possible future scenarios?
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan does not expect any decline at the moment. In his own words, he hopes to “wipe out” the Kurdish militia. Experts assume that Turkey is now strengthening its international position and will now look after its own interests. The YPG had previously announced that it would suspend the fight against Islamic State terrorist militias if Turkey attacked them.
At present, it seems unlikely that the majority of Iranians will dissipate their anger at the repressive policies in their home country with attacks on Kurdish positions in the neighboring country. The political leadership will carefully consider whether a major conflict in the region is in their own interests. At the same time, Tehran threatens the central government in Baghdad, which demands a tough stance against Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq.
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