Turkey wants Kurdish militia to retreat from all areas it controls west of the Euphrates River. Turkey entered Syria allegedly to clear the Islamic State (IS) from Jarabulus, a town near the border.
However it has also attacked units of the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) as well. The US voiced concern about the development, as it has been supporting the YPG as part of a coalition that has been successfully gaining ground from the IS. Turkish president Recep Erdogan worries that the Kurds may establish an independent enclave on their border and also that the Kurds east of the Euphrates would link up with another Kurd-controlled area further to the southwest. In spite of the US saying that the Turkish operation was unacceptable, Turkey said it would continue operations against the Kurds unless they withdraw from areas they have taken west of the Euphrates River.
The Turkish strikes against the YPG complicate the situation in Syria since the US supports the YPG as a key ally against the IS. The US has called the clashes unacceptable.US Vice President Joe Biden claimed last week that the US had ordered the YPG to retreat or risk losing US support but Turkey claimed it had seen no evidence of any withdrawal. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said: "The YPG... needs to cross east of the Euphrates as soon as possible. So long as they don't, they will be a target." He also accused the YPG of "ethnic cleansing" around the city of Manbji, west of the Euphrates, which the YPG captured from the IS earlier this month.
Unlike the US, Turkey considers that the YPG is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that Turkey considers a terrorist organization.The YPG forces withdrew south of Jarabulus in order to protect lives of civilians but there are Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that include the YPG in and around the city of Manbji.
A recent report claims Turkish and Kurdish forces have now a "loose agreement" to stop fighting each other according to John Thomas a spokesperson for the US Central Command. The two parties agreed to concentrate on fighting the IS. Thomas said:"It's a loose agreement for at least the next couple of days and we are hoping that will solidify." US relations with Turkey are already strained but at the same time the US has found the YPG to be a valuable ally in fighting the IS.
After Turkish President Recep Erdogan reportedly called the failed coup "a gift from Allah" some have suggested that the whole coup was faked so that Erdogan could suspend civil liberties and order mass arrests of his opponents.Some have even compared it with the 1933 arson attack on the German parliament building.
The theory seems very improbable as Erdogan had difficulty even getting to communicate with the Turkish people and seemed genuinely frightened.
At first the coup seemed to be going well.
One twitter user suggested that it was probably a real coup that could have been vaguely known beforehand but was allowed to go ahead since it was known that it was weak and would not be successful. This at least is possible but more likely Erdogan simply did not know of the coup.
Erdogan blames the coup on the Turkish preacher living in exile in the US, Fethullah Gulen, whose Gulen movement Erdogan describes as "an armed terrorist organization".
At one time, before 2013 Gulen and Erdogan were allies but Gulen supported and even encouraged investigation of Erdogan and one of his sons for corruption. Erdogan accused Gulen of being behind the charges. Now he is on Turkey's most wanted terrorist list.
Turkey is demanding that Gulen be extradited from the US to Turkey.
For his part Gulen has been one of those who have claimed that the coup might have been a fake organized by Erdogan himself. While Gulen may have encouraged the coup, there was obvious dissatisfaction within the army although top officers did not seem to participate and police in Istanbul sided with Erdogan. Gulen denies he had anything to do with the failed coup.
There is no doubt that Erdogan will use the coup as an excuse to purge the armed forces of any potential opponents. He has already cleared out many from the military and from the judiciary who were possible opponents. Turkish TV claims that 2,745 judges had been removed from their offices after the coup attempt. It is hard to believe that so many judges were supporting the coup.
All opposition parties opposed the coup even the Kurdish party badly treated by Erdogan. However, Erdogan is likely to use the coup attempt as a reason to crack down further on any opposition.
Erdogan already is criticized for repression of the media. It is reported that since 2014 a total of 1,845 journalists, writers, and critics have been charged with insulting the president which carries a potential jail sentence. Erdogan in this respect is following in the footsteps of Egyptian president El-Sisi and the Gulf monarchies. El-Sisi supported the coup since Erdogan is supported by the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt blocked the UN Security Council from passing a motion condemning the coup.
While Erdogan's position may be strengthened in the short term a large minority are much opposed to his increasing authoritarian actions combined with his reliance on support from Islamists. His suppression of the Kurdish minority is infamous.
While Erdogan has begun to improve relations with Russia and Israel, his relations with the United States are under considerable strain. Turkey appears to be developing into an unstable country with too much power in the hands of a president who wants to stifle any opposition.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.
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