US receives Turkey’s PYD message ‘loud and clear,’ Ankara says
My two previous columns were focused on an ongoing tension between the United States and Turkey over the former’s Oct. 10 airdropping ammunition to the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is considered a terrorist organization by the Turkish government.
Turkey summoned U.S. Ambassador to Ankara John Bass to the Foreign Ministry, which was followed by two key conversations: one at the foreign ministerial level and the other at the presidential level.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was very vocal in expressing Turkish disturbance with Washington’s move of providing military logistics to the PYD, describing the move as an act against Turkey.
I have also reflected on Washington’s annoyance with Turkey’s overreaction in this column and have asked how this alliance between the two NATO countries would have an effect on their joint fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
When asked about the results of this intense diplomatic traffic between Turkish and American officials and whether the arms or ammunition supply will continue to the PYD, a Turkish source told me, “The U.S. has received our message, and it received [the news] in a loud and clear way.”
“We have raised this question to them: Are you opting for 2000-strong PYD force to the 700,000 or 800,000-strong, second most powerful army in NATO?” the source said, hinting that Washington will no longer grant military support to the PYD, an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Syria.
The source also said that the U.S.’s strategy to fight ISIL was short-sighted and their intention to use the PYD turned into a scene in which the PYD is using Washington. It can be also said Turkey fully rules out any involvement of the PYD in the anti-ISIL coalition, although the group has won much credit in the West.
‘Shall we arm al-Nusra as well?’
The same source recalled that the Americans understood the threat the PYD has been posing to Turkey as this group’s military wing, the YPG, was receiving all its orders from the PKK’s headquarters at Kandil Mountain in northern Iraq. “They admitted that they were not aware of all the YPG activities. But we have intelligence about their radio communication with Kandil,” the source stated.
Reiterating that the PYD is no different than the PKK, the source said Turkey and the U.S. should better concentrate to strengthen the Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces in the fight against both ISIL and the Assad regime.
“There is this misperception that the PYD is fighting effectively against ISIL. In fact, it is al-Nusra that has been harming ISIL the most. Are we also going to arm them? This is what we are asking the Americans,” the source said.
Turkey also has intelligence that the PYD is in cooperation with Iran, the Assad regime and Russians at the same time and has been fighting the FSA in northern Aleppo to open a corridor between Aleppo and Afrin to link some Kurdish villages. This is also seen a part of strategy that was crafted on May 28 between ISIL, the PYD-PKK and regime intelligence.
In the light of these developments, according to the Turkish source, here are some aspects about Turkey’s priorities:
-The PYD’s attempt to cross to the west part of the Euphrates River is Turkey’s red line. In the case the PYD targets Turkey, it will be considered a legitimate target. Turkey made this point very clear to the U.S.
-In the case ammunition or weapons delivered to the PYD are transferred to northern Iraq and used against Turkey, the PYD will become an open target for Turkey. Turkey will then do whatever necessary to destroy these weapons.
- ISIL will be cleared from Turkish border. This will be an operation conducted with the FSA. In the meantime, efforts to reinforce the FSA will continue.
Russia avoids confrontation
Russian military involvement and Iranian visible mobilization in Syria is a product of the FSA’s recent success in the field that led to shrinking the area Assad controls to only 14 percent, according to Ankara. Russia and the Iran-Hezbollah duo have been panicked over the sudden collapse of the Assad regime and have introduced their own military plan to keep Damascus, Ankara says, underlining that four to six Russian vessels have been shipping arms to Syria every week since this summer.
Not only this, Ankara believes Russia deployed weapons and ammunition to Qamişli province of Syria, just across Turkey’s Nusaybin province of Şanlıurfa. This military center also has intelligence capacity it says.
Although there is serious development just off Turkey’s borders, Ankara says that Russia will never try to put itself into confrontation with Turkey, due to their strong and important bilateral relationship.
It’s getting more interesting to see how the PYD is increasing its regional role by capitalizing the growing unrest in Syria and is negatively affecting Turkey’s traditional ties with two world powers, the U.S. and Russia.