Erdogan made clear his government intends to step up its attacks against Kurds fighting for their national rights. “Our fight against Daesh,” he said, using a derogatory term for Islamic State, “and other terrorist organizations — PYD [Kurdish Democratic Union Party], YPG [Kurdish People’s Protection Units] … will continue as committed as they have ever been.”
From the beginning of what Ankara calls “Operation Euphrates Shield,” Erdogan has made it clear the goal is to push back Kurdish forces in Syria and prevent them from making any advances in uniting the two Kurdish regions in Syria that border Turkey.
Turkish troops and tanks, backed by U.S. airstrikes and accompanied by Turkish-organized Free Syrian Army militias, entered Syria Aug. 24, rapidly taking towns and villages with little or no resistance from Islamic State. They immediately moved toward Manbij, recently liberated by YPG forces. Vice President Joe Biden backed Ankara’s offensive against the Kurds, telling the YPG to pull back to the east side of the Euphrates River.
By the end of the day Sept. 4, Turkish officials were reporting that they now control the entire 65-mile border between the towns of Jarablus and Azaz. This separates Kurdish areas around Afrin in the northwest from the rest of the Kurdish-controlled region in northeastern Syria.
Turkish troops also bombed the YPG near Afrin, the Kurdish ARA News service reported.
For decades the Kurds have fought national oppression and being divided within the borders of Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced Sept. 4 that Ankara will intensify its offensive against the Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and anyone accused of links to it. The PKK first began an armed struggle in 1984 against the Turkish government, which responded with brutal repression against the Kurdish population. The Erdogan government ended a two-year cease-fire with the PKK in July 2015, right after reaching an agreement with Washington to formally join the “coalition” against Islamic State and allow U.S. airstrikes in Syria from Turkey’s Incirlik base.
Erdogan views the emergence of an autonomous Kurdish region along its border with Syria as the biggest threat to the interests of Turkey’s capitalist rulers, because of the impetus it gives to Kurdish national aspirations within Turkey.
A battle looms for control of al-Bab, Syria, 20 miles south of the Turkish border, Rudaw reported Sept. 6. The city is currently controlled by Islamic State. The YPG-backed al-Bab Military Council has captured three villages nearby and is poised to attack. Turkish-backed forces are just to the north. “We try day and night to reach al-Bab quickly,” Yasir Ibrahim Yusuf, a commander of the Ankara-backed Turkmen Nuradin Zangi Brigades told the online paper.
These clashes pose challenges for Washington’s planned offensive against Islamic State’s remaining strongholds in Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq. The U.S. rulers have counted on the YPG, whose forces have been the most effective combating IS, to carry out a lot of the fighting in Raqqa.
In Mosul, Washington expects the peshmerga forces of the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq to play a big role in the coming offensive. The Turkish government has relations with the Iraqi Kurdish government, including on oil exports, and KRG President Masoud Barzani was in Ankara on a state visit when Turkish troops entered Syria.
Speaking in Brussels Sept. 1, Salih Muslim, co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish PYD, accused the Iraqi Kurdish government of joining Ankara in imposing an embargo against the Kurdish region in Syria, known as Rojava.
The Turkish government has started building a wall on the border dividing Kurdish regions in Turkey from Rojava. Protests against the wall by thousands of Kurds near Kobani, Syria, were met by tear gas and live ammunition by Turkish police. At least two demonstrators were killed and 97 injured, ARA News reported Sept. 5.
In Germany, home to many Kurdish immigrants, some 25,000 people rallied in Cologne Sept. 3 protesting Ankara’s attacks on Kurds in both Turkey and Syria.
Meanwhile, fighting has intensified across Syria. Troops from the government of Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russian airstrikes and Iranian forces, reimposed a siege Sept. 4 on the eastern section of the city of Aleppo, held by opponents of Assad. Aleppo, which had been Syria’s industrial center, with over 2 million residents, was a center of the mass protests in 2011 against the dictatorial Assad regime that were brutally crushed, leading to the civil war.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have been meeting for months in an effort to reach a deal for a “meaningful, serious, verifiable cessation of hostilities in Syria,” with little success so far.
Obama sees a bloc with Moscow as essential to any hopes of reimposing stability and defending U.S. imperialist interests in the region.
Kurds’ long struggle for independence, sovereignty
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