Turkey risks war with Assad, peace with Kurds

 

Erdogan deploys troops on the border, 72% Turks against attack

10 September, 12:24

 

(by Francesco Cerri) (ANSAmed) – ANKARA, SEPTEMBER 10 – Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just been through the negative outcome of Istanbul’s competition to host the 2020 Olympics. Now two fronts are opening up and they are both risky. Ankara is deploying troops and tanks on the border with Syria and is getting ready for a possible war against the Assad regime just as the peace process in Kurdistan is at risk. The withdrawal of PKK militants towards northern Iraq has paused.

Erdogan has sided, since the beginning of the crisis, with Syria’s Sunni rebels and against his ex ally, President Bashar al-Assad. He is one of the main supporters of US President Barack Obama’s plan for military intervention against Damascus.

The Turkish Islamic premier has said he is ready to participate in ‘any coalition’ against Assad and has been long campaigning for international intervention, not only a ‘punitive’ one of limited duration, but a major strike ‘like in Kosovo’, to topple Assad. For a week now Ankara has concentrated its efforts along the Syrian border moving men, tanks and surface-to-air Stinger missiles. The army is building a new base on Mount Kal, which dominates the Syrian Mediterranean coast of Lattakia and the ‘Alawite’ country, until the Russian base of Tartus. This part of the Mediterranean is extremely crowded with Russian, US, British, French and Iranian warships.

But the activism of the Islamic government on the Syrian front – the opposition has accused Erdogan of going as far as helping the al Qaeda-linked al Nusra Front -is not backed by the public opinion. According to a recent survey, 72% of Turkish nationals oppose military intervention against Damascus. And growing doubts concerning allegations that the regime used chemical weapons against civilians on August 21 risk to further strengthen the anti-war front. Statements by Belgian professor Pier Piccinin, who was held hostage for five months by Syrian rebels along with Italian veteran war correspondent Domenico Quirico, is boosting suggestions that rebels might have ‘provoked’ with an attack aimed at leading the international community to intervene against Damascus.

Erdogan, whose image has already been marred abroad by the brutal crackdown on anti-government protests in June – which contributed to the doomed candidature of Istanbul to host the 2020 Olympics – risks paying a very high political price with a conflict in Syria whose outcome is uncertain. The ‘sultan’ is gearing up for three high-risk local, presidential and political elections in the next 18 months. And the situation has become even more complex in the past few hours with the PKK’s decision to stop withdrawing its 3,000 militants from the Turkish territory towards northern Iraq as part of peace talks conducted with the Erdogan government by historic Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. Kurdish rebels accuse the Islamic premier od not respecting agreements. In exchange for the truce agreed in March and the withdrawal of rebels, Ankara should have implemented political and cultural reforms to guarantee more democracy and autonomy in Turkish Kurdistan and start freeing thousands of Turkish politicians, journalists, unionists and activists who are still in jail. These measures have yet to be implemented.

The PKK has now issued a warning. The truce however is still in place. At least for now. (ANSAmed)

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