Kurds and the Turkish geopolitical challenge


By contribution for Syrializm


For decades, the Kurdish issue has been one of the most influential issues in Türkiye, and has remained the most important factor in determining Ankara’s policies, as it’s considered the biggest threat to its national security.

Today, it has become one of the factors that deepen the contradictions of Turkish relations with the United States, NATO countries, and the European Union alike.

The Kurdish issue, perhaps alongside the issue of the eternal Turkish-Greek conflict and the issue of Cyprus, is the most sensitive.

With the challenge of the upcoming Turkish elections on the 14th of May, it’s no secret that, with regard to the future of Türkiye, the Kurdish issue also plays a factor that will determine whether there is new leadership or if AKP and Erdogan remain in power.

The Kurds were distributed among 4 regional countries, which are Türkiye, Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and therefore, Kurds who seek help for the sake of creating a Kurdish state are delusional and seek an impossible task for which no one is ready to do so.

The Kurds aren’t tempted by the West and the United States currently cooperating with them in Syria, and even using the Kurds as a card only for a later deal, nothing more or less—once the need for this card is over, neither the West nor the United States care about the fate of the Kurds.

Currently, Washington is seeking help through the Kurds in northeastern Syria, where there are Kurdish forces that have been supported by the US army presence under the slogan “international coalition forces that are fighting the Islamic State”.

However, as ISIS is no longer considered a threat as it was defeated on the ground, the intention of the United States has become more destructive in terms of giving no chance to any final resolve to the Syrian crisis, especially obstructing any normalization of relations between Ankara and Damascus, and even increasing military and financial support for the Kurds in Syria, to what seems to be maintaining this entity that generally maintains the separation of Syria, which sometimes contradicts what Washington claims to be keen on the territorial integrity of Syria and to prevent its division.

Certainly, and without any attempt to deceive anyone, there is a crystal clear fact: Washington and the West don’t care about the fate of the Kurds, and at the same time and at the decisive stage, they will fight the existence of a Kurdish state, for apparent geopolitical reasons and historical reasons for which there is no room to discuss them now.

Thus, the Kurds are nothing but a negotiating card, and they are a means and a tool to impose certain policies desired by Washington.

Now, there’s a certain fact in regard to Kurdish formation, if we can call it that, which is that Kurds aren’t unified.

The Kurds don’t have a single political reference, and therefore they don’t have a unified position, as some of them see the future of the Kurds within the countries they are in, provided that they have a role as full-fledged citizens to live with dignity within these countries and serve them.

Islamists, nationalists, leftists, rightists, etc.—all political orientations are present.

There is an extremist, opportunistic group of Kurds—those who cooperate with any force in order to achieve the illusion of the Kurdish state.

In return, they are tools in the hands of these forces in order to fragment and destroy the sovereignty of the countries in which they are present.

In the Turkish case, the Kurds, who make up approximately 15 million out of the total population of Türkiye’s 84 million, are an important part of Türkiye and it’s impossible to take them out of the Turkish picture as they play an important role in Turkish life in all aspects.

In northeastern Syria, the United States continues its efforts to prevent any rapprochement that would end the state of Syrian chaos.

The American military presence in northern and eastern Syria continues to disrupt any effort for rapprochement between the Kurds and the Syrian government, and at the same time, the Americans continue to support and perpetuate the presence of extremist Kurdish groups within the region, which is a sensitive issue affecting Turkish national security.

At the same time, the United States took advantage of the war in Ukraine, in which the Kurdish activists residing in Europe were used as tools of pressure on the Turkish government, which, despite providing great support to Ukraine, was keen to play an objective role in terms of closer cooperation with Moscow, despite facing intense American pressure to keep it away from Russia.

The issue of Finland and Sweden joining NATO was one of the issues that Western powers exploited to put pressure on Russia, and with that being mentioned, the presence of a group of Kurdish terrorist-classified figures according to Ankara was a very sensitive issue, as Türkiye couldn’t make concessions in terms of approving both Finland and Sweden joining NATO.

Especially for Sweden, which houses a group of those wanted by Türkiye, at a time when the Turkish government provided Stockholm with a list of their names with a demand to expel them from Sweden and hand them over.

There’s no secret that Europe in general hosts a large number of Kurdish activists, with many of them playing hostile roles against Türkiye for years—and this is of course not limited to Sweden.

Sweden finds itself in the dilemma of compromising on its “humanitarian” principles in terms of meeting Ankara’s demands to hand over the wanted people it harbors in exchange for Ankara’s agreement to join NATO.

However, some in Sweden took the measure of response to the extreme by attacking Islam to the point that they allowed a few extremist right-wingers to commit violence against Turkish diplomatic delegations and even burn copies of Islam’s holy book, “the Quran”, which was heinous act.

On Syrian territory, the so-called Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) control northern and eastern Syria, and among them are many Kurdish hostile groups led by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

We can’t discuss the Kurdish-Turkish issue without also mentioning and discussing the Syrian issue.

The complex problem we have here lies in the fact that the US snakehead is protecting the Kurds, who are classified as terrorists by Türkiye, on lands over which the Syrian government in Damascus is supposed to have sovereignty and authority.

Here we have to go back a bit, specifically to 1998, when the Adana Agreement was signed between Damascus and Ankara.

The Adana Agreement was signed between the two countries after a very tense period that reached the brink of war and a Turkish invasion of Syrian lands as a result of Syria’s protection, shelter, and support of Kurdish groups affiliated with the PKK and its leadership represented by Abdullah Ocalan in Syria for years.

After a series of pressures and serious threats from Türkiye to Syria, a series of diplomatic efforts intervened to ease the tension by Egypt and Iran.

The Egyptian-Iranian mediation at that time succeeded in calming down the crisis, and this agreement was reached as the Syrian government committed itself to stopping its support and sheltering of the elements and leaders of the PKK and expelling them from the Syrian territories during the era of the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad.

We must mention here that the Adana Agreement included a set of items, including two very dangerous and sensitive items that have great implications, namely:

The clause states that Türkiye has the right to enter Syria militarily up to a certain distance in the event that Turkish national security is exposed to any danger or threat from within Syrian territory, and this clause cancels the hypothesis of the absolute sovereignty of the Damascus government over its lands, specifically its lands bordering Türkiye, meaning that at any time Türkiye sees any danger or threat from the Syrian lands, they have the right to enter unilaterally and without referring to anyone, until ensuring that the threat is gone, and therefore where is the Syrian sovereignty?

This clause, which Syria agreed to and signed during the reign of Hafez al-Assad, has all the status and prestige that this man represents, so how will the situation be during the reign of Bashar al-Assad after all what happened in Syria?

There is another clause in the agreement that stipulates that upon signing this agreement (the Adana Agreement of 1998), any dispute or border dispute between the two parties becomes de facto ended, and this means that Syria no longer has the right to claim what Damascus calls the Iskenderun province (Hatay).

And after what has occurred in Syria since 2011, it has been proven to everyone that the Syrian government doesn’t have the ability to extend its sovereignty over all Syrian lands, and therefore it is unable to fulfill its security obligations towards any country, neighbor or non-neighbor.

The ruling regime in Damascus would have fallen had it not been for the Iranian and later Russian interventions.

Türkiye, on the other hand, found itself at a certain stage where it was compelled to intervene militarily to protect its borders and achieve its interests, like any country in the world that takes concern in serving its interests, and in the event that the picture was reversed, Damascus would do the same thing.

For example, Syria intervened militarily in Lebanon after the civil war there, and it remained militarily present inside Lebanon with full political influence from 1976 until 2005.

In analyzing the Turkish-Syrian reconciliation, we must understand the situation according to the facts on the ground, which were imposed by all the courses of events from 2011 until today.

Damascus sets a number of conditions that Ankara must implement if it wants reconciliation, and two of these are the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syrian lands in northern Syria and Türkiye’s support for the groups that control the regions of northern Syria and Idlib.

Here we ask, how will Türkiye withdraw from Syrian lands, which it sees as a threat coming from them, in light of Damascus’ inability to secure them?

This is, in logical terms, neither Russia’s nor Iran’s duty.

And say that was done; as for Damascus, what will they provide in return?

Türkiye requests that Damascus ensure that the Kurdish organizations hostile to Ankara don’t exist on the Syrian lands that are supposed to be subject to Syrian sovereignty.

The problem here is that Damascus doesn’t have control over the lands in which the Kurds are present, as the Kurds control these lands by force, with US presence and protection.

On Türkiye’s side, when the time comes, it can withdraw from the entire Syrian territory on which its forces are present now, and it can also liquidate all the groups present in those areas that Damascus considers terrorist groups.

On the other hand, Damascus cannot control these areas because the majority of the population of these areas opposes the government.

In addition, Damascus doesn’t have the ability to control the Kurds, for a number of reasons, the most important of which is the US presence on these lands, meaning that the Kurds are there under US protection.

With regard to Türkiye, as a NATO member, that could, in one way or another, at some point secure some reassurances from the United States side, but we must say here that the Turkish government doesn’t trust the United States, and therefore it needs coordination and support from Russia and even from Iran, and Damascus assistance is also crucial.

Therefore, reaching for a solution that satisfies Damascus and Ankara, in which one of the most important achievements will be the expulsion of US forces from Syria and the liquidation of terrorism in all its forms in Syria,

The Syrian government remains committed to protecting its sovereignty over all of its internationally recognized lands, by land, sea, and air.

Logically, no country, whatever its status, has any obligation to carry out the work and duties that the Damascus government is supposed to carry out.

As for the Kurds, as long as the American presence embraces them in the region and Washington is clear in its obstruction of any efforts that would bring calm to the region, the Syrian and Turkish sides, along with Russia and Iran, remain the only parties that must cooperate and coordinate, and even if necessary, take serious action, until this issue is closed for good.

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