What is happening backstage in Kirkuk and Raqqa?
Two recent developments in Syria and Iraq should concern Turkey.
First is the control of Kirkuk by the Iraqi army and Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) troops. Second is the capture of Raqqa in Syria by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
After the Peshmerga withdrew and Iraqi army entered Kirkuk, we saw photos of former Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the office rooms of Iraqi officers.
We then saw members of the YPG and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), which are tied to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), posing in front of giant posters of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in the squares of Raqqa. These images reflect what is happening in the scenes behind the recent developments.
We believe Ankara also noted the two images.
The daily Hürriyet was among the first newspapers to point out the political meaning of the two images.
The growing influence of the PKK via the United States and of Baghdad via Iran signal two important developments to which Turkey must pay attention.
The images of the YPG-YPJ in Raqqa, despite U.S. denial, are yet another proof of the connection between the PYD-YPG-YPJ and the PKK.
Hürriyet set the political agenda by drawing attention to the image of the PKK founder in Raqqa with the headline “U.S. deal.”
Of course the U.S. knows this but they will not admit it.
Nonetheless, on account of the obvious connection between the PYD, the YPG and the PKK, the U.S. was pressured to make a statement, saying “We condemn the display of PKK leader during the liberation of Raqqa.” That the YPG-YPJ forces operate under the guise of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is actually a U.S. suggestion.
The U.S. military spokespeople did not neglect to mention that they would continue to work alongside the PYD-YPG. Ankara, of course, is unhappy with the situation. When vocal protests from Ankara persisted, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara added a further statement, saying “Öcalan is not a personality that deserves respect, our collaboration with Turkey in the struggle against terror will continue.”
But these statements will not change the reality on the ground.
From now on, Turkey must focus on three important issues: Whether the PKK will consolidate their presence in Raqqa, where the U.S.-supported armed groups will aim next and how the status and demographic structure of Raqqa will change.
The answers to these questions cannot be seen on the main stage of these two cities. They are hidden backstage.
We wish Deniz Baykal a speedy recovery
The sudden illness of former leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Deniz Baykal, is a cause of great sadness in Turkey.
A respected politician and statesman, Baykal joined the party as a young and successful academic to serve under former CHP leader Bülent Ecevit. He subsequently took on important roles, including as deputy minister and deputy prime minister. He later became party leader.
In his long political life, Baykal has always stood up for democracy. He even went to prison for his beliefs and was banned for many years from politics. But he never quit his struggle for democracy. He has always been deeply attached to the foundation philosophy and the characteristics of the Turkish Republic, valuing Turkey’s national interests above everything.
From daily Hürriyet and the Doğan Media family, we repeat our get well soon wishes to Deniz Baykal and his family. We hope he enjoys a speedy recovery.