Tag Archives: Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Crisis and Opportunity for Turkey and America: The Minbij Dispute

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 4 March 2018

A version of this article was published in The Arab Weekly

The YPG/PKK Minbij Military Council (image source)

The city of Minbij in northern Syria has become a source of severe political tension between the United States and Turkey. It might also be the key to reducing tensions and normalising relations. Continue reading

Turkey’s Afrin Offensive and Russia’s Policy in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 21 January 2018

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, threatened on Jan. 13 to begin a military operation “in about a week ” to evict Kurdish militants from Afrin in northwestern Syria. Erdoğan has repeatedly threatened to “cleanse ” Afrin of the fighters over the last two years. It turned out he really meant it this time: on Jan. 20 Turkey commenced Operation Olive Branch against Afrin.

Kurdish forces, affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), have constituted an important element of the Coalition’s ground force in Syria against the Islamic State (ISIS) since late 2014, expanding their “Rojava” statelet by capturing vast swathes of territory from ISIS in northern and eastern Syria that is connected to Afrin under a deal with the pro-regime coalition—Bashar al-Assad, Iran, and Russia.

Any Turkish government would see this situation as a threat, and be angry at the United States for supporting the Kurds. The PKK regards Rojava and the ruling Democratic Union Party (PYD) as strategic elements in its long war against the Turkish state. Indeed, Kurds in Rojava have already provided at least logistical support for PKK attacks inside Turkey. Continue reading

Russia’s Plans in Syria Falter, Opening Chance for the West

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 29 December 2017

The Astana track of Syrian “peace” negotiations began on 23 January 2017, under Russian guidance in the Kazakh capital, with Iran and Turkey also invited as “guarantor countries” of the various sides in Syria. The process, initiated in the shadow of the savage conquest of Aleppo city in December 2016 that signalled the total strategic defeat of the insurrection against the Bashar al-Asad regime, was an attempt by Moscow to convert the military gains it had enabled by Asad and Iran on the ground into political facts that could then be imported into the internationally-recognized Geneva process. This “Astana-isation of Geneva” was Russia’s bid to take control of the political process and redefine it: rather than having Asad’s removal as its end-goal, it would set the terms of reintegration into the Asad state. Abetted by a purblind Western campaign against the Islamic State (IS) and a strategic reorientation in Turkey, the pro-Asad coalition has more or less had its way for the last year. But there are now signs that this approach is beginning to unravel. Continue reading

Is Britain Cracking Down on PKK Terrorist Activity?

Originally published at The Henry Jackson Society

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 December 2017

Pro-PKK demonstrators in Frankfurt, Germany, 18 March 2017, REUTERS / Ralph Orlowski

The BBC reported yesterday that on 7 December the Metropolitan Police Service arrested four people—two 17-year-old boys, a 38-year-old woman, and a 50-year-old woman—were arrested in the Haringey area of north London as part of a probe into terrorist fundraising, through money laundering and fraud. The terrorist group at issue is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and those arrested are believed to have contributed to the PKK’s finances through sale and distribution of one of the PKK’s most important propaganda instruments, the Yeni Ozgur Politika (New Free Politics) newspaper. Time will tell if this is a one-off or the beginning of a serious and long-overdue attempt to curtail the PKK’s propaganda-recruitment activity and fundraising in the West. Continue reading

Iraqi Kurdistan’s Independence Referendum and the West’s Middle East Strategy

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 27 September 2017

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held a referendum on 25 September, and voted overwhelmingly—with nearly 93% in favour—for independence. The comparison with Brexit might have been overworked by all sides, but there was a familiarity: while the result itself was not a shock, the fact of the referendum itself came as a surprise to many in what one might call the global elite, which lectured in that endearing way that had such success in deterring Brits a year ago. Then as now, the effect was, if anything, to stoke the bloody-mindedness of a population that had considerable qualms but had enough pride to repudiate being harangued in those accents. Still, as with Brexit, it wasn’t as if the naysayers didn’t have a case, and now comes the really difficult work. Continue reading

The Role of Turkey in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 16 August 2017

Recep Tayyip Erdogan (image source)

The Turkish government has gotten more and more deeply involved in Syria since the uprising began in 2011. But Turkey now finds its original aim, namely the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, unattainable, creating tensions with the Syrian armed opposition, its primary lever inside Syria, and there are considerable problems stabilizing the zone of Syria that came under Turkish occupation after Ankara’s direct intervention in 2016. The defeat of Turkey’s primary objective has been accompanied by the rise of further problems, notably the exacerbation of its longest-standing internal security threat, that posed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan – PKK), and the generation of new internal threats, from the Islamic State (IS) and potentially from al-Qaeda-linked groups. The options for solving these problems are constrained and unpalatable. Continue reading

The Problems With the West’s Partners Against the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 10 May 2017

U.S. troops patrolling with the YPG/PKK in the village of Darbasiyah, northern Syria, on the border with Turkey, 28 April 2017

The United States has tried to engage in Syria almost solely in a counter-terrorism capacity, against Daesh (IS) and—in a recently-escalating campaign—against al Qaeda. The narrowness of the focus on jihadist terrorists led to the US disregarding wider political dynamics in the war in Syria—and to a degree in Iraq, too—and partnering with forces that over the long term will undo even this narrow mission.

The announcement yesterday that President Donald Trump will now arm the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to expel Daesh from its Syrian capital, Raqqa, is the end-point of this policy, setting up a very dangerous medium- and long-term situation that will redound to the benefit of terrorists. Continue reading