Turkey faces the ISIL front with losses in Syria
The dead bodies of 16 Turkish soldiers were buried in 14 different provinces across Turkey, all att about the same time on Dec. 23.
Those soldiers were killed a day before in the Turkish army campaign to wrest control of the Syrian town of al-Bab from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) militia, the Syria extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been in a fight with Turkey for more than three decades.
Turkey has been the target of many terrorist attacks in the last two years, both by ISIL and the PKK. In the last two weeks, there were major suicide bomb attacks in Istanbul and Kayseri by the PKK. There have been thousands of funerals of soldiers and police officers so far in the fight with the PKK. For example, the commando brigade in Kayseri alone has lost 23 soldiers in the PKK fight in the Turkish mountains in the last five days.
In ISIL bombings, hundreds of people and civilians were killed in places like Ankara, Istanbul, Gaziantep and Suruç.
But those 16 soldiers killed in one day, 14 of them in a suicide bombing attack in the residential outskirts of al-Bab, shocked the Turkish people into another reality. Yes, there have been losses in Turkey’s campaign in Syria since Aug. 24 together with the Free Syria Army (FSA) militia to push ISIL away from the border while obstructing the PYD/PKK from completing a corridor along it. And the fight against ISIL occurred largely either in police operations in urban areas with the arrest of suspects, or strikes by the Air Force and artillery from distance. Now the Mehmetçiks, the Turkish GI Joes, have been killed in Syria for land that will not be kept but will be handed over later to its owner. In all, it has made the fight against ISIL suddenly and graphically real.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) supports the government campaign against terrorism on one hand and criticizes it on the other, accusing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) of dragging Turkey into the Syrian mire. “Are we going to save the world?” CHP leader Kemel Kılıçdaroğlu asked on Dec. 23. “Now it’s your responsibility to pull us out.” The CHP also asked the government to clarify the situation following the release of a video by ISIL, allegedly showing two prisoners in Turkish military uniforms being immolated, so as to avoid falling into the trap of fake black propaganda used by the terrorist organization.
Kılıçdaroğlu got an immediately response from President Tayyip Erdoğan, who said Turkey would of course fight with the terrorists who attacked Turkish cities and that had nothing to do with saving the world.
Al-Bab is a mid-sized town some 30 kilometers northeast of the Syrian city of Aleppo. The Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria said on Dec. 23 that they had taken back the latter from rebel forces. If the town falls into the hands of the PYD/PKK, they could easily reach Manbij in the hands of the U.S.-backed militia, mostly the PYD/PKK, and complete the corridor.
This is a major confrontation between Turkey and its NATO ally, the U.S., which also acknowledges the PKK as a terrorist organization, but collaborates with it due to the no-boots-on-the-ground police of outgoing U.S.
President Barack Obama. That is the main reason why Turkey has started its diplomacy with Russia and Iran, who both support the territorial integration of Syria, and that means no room for a Kurdish state. Despite the assassination of Russian Ambassador to Ankara Andrey Karlov a day before, Russian President Vladimir Putin did not cancel a meeting of the foreign ministers of the three countries in Moscow on Dec. 20.
On the same day – Dec. 23 – that Putin said the assassination would not affect Turkish-Russian relations, the U.S. ambassador to Ankara, John Bass, told NTV that his country did not support the formation of a PYD/PKK-controlled “so-called corridor” along the Turkish border, but it’s a statement that has been deemed “too little, too late” by an official Turkish source.