Turkey Ratchets Up Rhetoric on Syria’s Kurds, Sets ‘Red Lines’

Warns Kurds Mustn't Take ISIS-Held City of Jarabulus

Turkish officials and pro-government media continue to ratchet up the anti-Kurdish rhetoric along the Syrian border, with analysts believing the comments are meant primarily to discourage the US from increasing its aid to the Kurdish YPG, rather than a serious threat to invade Syrian Kurdistan.

At the same time, Turkish media are laying out a series of “red lines” that they believe would justify the military operation against the Kurds, centering on allegations of “ethnic cleansing” against Arabs and Turkomen in Kurdish-occupied territory.

The biggest problem, as Turkish officials see it, is the possibility of YPG forces seizing Jarablus, a border town near the key Kurdish city of Kobani. Jarabulus has been under ISIS control since early 2014, and Turkish officials seem to prefer it stays that way, fearing that a Kurdish takeover would cut off an important line of trade into the rest of the Middle East.

The US has eagerly backed the Kurds, both defensively and in attacks against ISIS, seeing them as the only faction within Syria that is effective in fighting against ISIS, and which is palatable as an ally to the US and most of its alliance. That’s not true of Turkey, however.

Turkey has centered its policy on the Syrian civil war entirely around the hope of weakening Kurdish secessionist efforts in Syria, but has instead ended up empowering Islamist factions separating the Kurds from the Assad government’s territory, and has set them up with a close alliance with the US that is only adding to the probably that Kurdish autonomy will grow.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.