The PYD or Turkey?

If you pay attention to the Syrian Civil War then you are probably aware the PYD (Democratic Union Party) and its militia the YPG are the most effective force in Syria against ISIS and al-Nusra front. Since the Siege of Kobani we have worked with the YPG to attack ISIS in Syria. They have reclaimed a great deal of territory from ISIS and have started to do so from al-Nusra, but the sheer amount of territory held by the YPG has alarmed Turkey. This has alarmed Turkey because the PYD is a Syrian Kurd political party that is closely affiliated with the PKK. The PKK is a militant group that fights to give greater independence to Turkish Kurdistan that started out as a separatist insurgency in the 1980s. The PKK is regarded as a terrorist organization by NATO countries in general. Among the NATO countries, I think only Turkey views the PYD as a terrorist organization. The Turkish government does not want a repeat in Syria of what has happened with the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq because they fear this independent government within Syria will be run by the PYD who will inflame problems with the PKK in Turkey.

In recent months, the Turkish government has made increasingly strident accusations against the PYD, from ethnic cleansing in Syria to claiming they are responsible for yesterday’s terrorist attack in Ankara. Militarily, they have gone from periodically shelling YPG positions in Syria, to the sustained artillery shelling in the town of Azaz since the weekend. Another part of Turkey’s problem is that the US government does not view the PYD as a terrorist organization and does not support Turkish claims made against the PYD. In fact, both Russia and the US are extremely supportive of the YPG in Syria.

Which leads to the choice. Along with Turkey’s diplomatic and military campaign that is steadily intensifying against the PYD they are making harsher calls for the US government to make a choice between the desires of the PYD and the desires of the Turkish government. Today, Prime Minister Davutoglu even claimed that perhaps we won’t be such good friends anymore if we continue to support the YPG:

I don’t believe a word of the Turkish government. I don’t believe the PKK and PYD have any relationship that allows the two to be regarded as branches of the same organization. I believe ISIS or the PKK probably committed yesterday’s attack (with bias toward PKK). Regardless, should we still choose? If we continue to fully support the YPG then we will lose Turkey as an ally while the current government exists. If we choose Turkey we will lose the YPG to Russia. If we don’t choose we will be left in the position of reacting to what happens. So in this facet of the Syrian Civil War, what is the smartest position to take?

Don’t forget that Turkey is bargaining in the traditional eastern way… where they will talk big, and set an enormous starting price… in order to get the best final price, for them… while you are left with the impression that you got it in a really low price…

Branches of the same organization? Probably not. Closely allied and having a very similar ideology ( including the same ideological wellspring )? They admit as much.

So the problem if you’re Turkey is does it really make much difference if they’re the same vs. just best buddies and occasional operational partners? From a Turkish POV it’s a thorny question.

Whether the U.S. should be concerned about the Turkish POV is of course an entirely different question, but they are formal allies and the PYD is not. It’s a pretty thin tightrope and an excellent example of why I wouldn’t want to be in a position of power - anyway you choose is wrong.

While good relations with Turkey certainly has strategic and economical benefits, I don’t think they should be able to hold us for ransom for that.
They have acted beyond the pale, supporting Daesh and Al Nusra directly, shot down a Russian plane for no reason and have now all but declared war on Syria.

I say we should kick them from NATO.

I wouldn’t argue if it wasn’t for the pattern of shown by this government of hostile tactics toward any party that ignores or objects to their “leadership”. Whether it is Gezi park protestors, Turkish Kurds, Assad or Israel. It’s like they want to throw around their diplomatic weight, but weigh 2 lbs, and then when they’re ignored they diplomatically sulk. Or when it’s their own populace, attack.

I wouldn’t argue they have the same ideological basis and view the same person as their founder, but until they have the same people running the both groups and they act cooperatively instead of independently, they’re different.

I think the Turkish POV is an exaggeration of a general political belief sort of like Saddam’s chemical weapons and cooperation with al Qaeda was an exaggeration of an American political belief. So it’s probably healthy for us to actively work against it.

The Russian plane flew over their airspace and was about to attack ethnic Turkmen who the government of Turkey supports. It is not advisable, especially in hindsight, but it wasn’t for nothing.

I do believe they have turned a blind eye to ISIS and all Nusra but I am not sure we should kick them from NATO. I mean our allies have been forgiving to us for supporting rebel groups and engaging in regime change that morphed into problems with international terrorist organizations.

Wait, you mean the Turks might leave NATO freely and of their own will? OK! Then I don’t have to feel bad for these plans carving their territory into Greek, Armenian, Kurdish, and Assyrian revanches.

No, I don’t even care if it makes grand strategic sense. Do the Turks not realize that many of us would love not to have to be nice to them?

We’re not nice to Turkey because they’re in NATO. They’re in NATO, and we’re nice to them, because they let us use their land to attack Iraq and maybe other places.