Ironically, opposition parties that have long criticized the government for lending support to the Syrian opposition now demand military action to liberate Kobani
Over the past weeks, a spectacular media campaign has turned Kobani, a little-known town near the Turkish-Syrian border that was declared an autonomous canton by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) amidst the civil war, into the easternmost point of Western civilization. Unlike in previous encounters between the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the international community has shown great interest in what now resembles "The 300 Spartans" - a David-and-Goliath story of a small group of people defending "our way of life" (whatever that means) against perceived savages. Suggesting that the fall of Kobani would allow ISIS to brag about defeating the United States and demonstrate the inadequacy of U.S.-led airstrikes in the absence of boots on the ground, a recent Reuters story perfectly described how successful the media campaign has been: "It's not a particularly strategic location, the United States and its allies never pledged to defend it, and few people outside the region had even heard of it before this month." Meanwhile, we have read countless accounts of the Turkish government's alleged inaction with regard to Kobani.
Actions, of course, speak louder than words. According to Al Jazeera Türk, the Turkish government has provided over $325 million worth of humanitarian assistance to the people of Kobani since August 2, 2014 - more than the sum of all international assistance for Syrian refugees since the civil war began. Over the past three weeks, Turkey has effectively welcomed the entire civilian population of Kobani, some 185,000 people - more than the total number of Syrian refugees that European countries have admitted since April 2011. In cooperation with national NGOs and international organizations, the Turkish relief agency provides three hot meals to over 50,000 displaced Syrian Kurds in Suruç, a border town across from Kobani, on a daily basis. As such, the Turkish government has done more than its fair share to alleviate the suffering of the people of Kobani, but the authorities seem reluctant to engage in unilateral military action.
Against the backdrop of Turkey's humanitarian aid campaign, Kurdish radicals demand that the government build an arsenal for the PKK and threaten to derail the peace process that brought the organization's violent campaign to a halt. To show the government that they mean business, the movement has unleashed hell on competing Kurdish movements including Masoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Free Cause Party (Hüda-Par) whose social base largely corresponds to former supporters of Hizbullah, a violent movement sympathetic to the Iranian revolution that has parted ways with armed struggle to seek representation through political channels. Meanwhile, the Left, including the Republican People's Party (CHP), which joined the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in opposing the mandate for military engagement in Syria and Iraq earlier this month, began to sing the praises of the PKK's struggle against ISIS militants seeking to capture Kobani.
Ironically enough, opposition parties that have long criticized the government for lending support to the Syrian opposition now demand military action to liberate a small border town controlled by Kurdish radicals. Obviously, this is the clear upside of running an opposition party in Turkey: Hardly anyone expects one to develop a coherent argument or present an alternative roadmap to tackle the nation's pressing problems. If anything, the opposition's eagerness to fight somebody else's war today shows that the prolonged foreign policy debate in Turkey has been resolved with a victory for the government.