Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu on Monday served notice to the Syrian Kurdish militants that they will either vacate the northern Syrian areas west of the Euphrates River or they will be terminated.
Turkey has entered northern Syria to help the Free Syrian Army (FSA) battle DAESH. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), with its tanks and F-16 fighters, have helped the FSA drive DAESH out of a dozen villages and capture Jarablus. For months, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its militia force the People's Protection Units (YPG) have been "battling" DAESH and have not been able to come anywhere near Jarablus. For Turkey, it took less than 12 hours to enter Syrian territory and capture Jarablus.Turkey showed its friends and foes its military might and that it is the only real force than can deal with DAESH.
The PYD and YPG have been receiving arms, training and know-how from the American military, yet it has been extremely sluggish in battling DAESH. Instead, the PYD has been sending its forces to the west of the Euphrates to carve out a chunk of the area and turn it into a Kurdish enclave by driving out Arabs and Turkmens from the area. Turkey has told the Americans this is an unacceptable situation. Turkey said the PYD should vacate the town of Manbij just south of Jarablus and pull its forces to the east of the Euphrates. The Americans agreed to this and said they have told the Kurds to "move." U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the PYD forces were on the move, pulling back to the east. Yet we can clearly see that this is not happening.
Instead PYD leader Salih Muslim, in a defiant mood, is repeatedly challenging Turkey and insisting that they will not withdraw to the east of the Euphrates. PYD militants have fired on Turkish tanks with anti-tank missiles acquired from Germany killing one soldier and wounding three others. They are clearly playing with fire.
So here there are two possibilities. Either the U.S. is insincere and is just buying time for the PYD while behind the scenes it is telling the Syrians Kurds to stay put, or the Kurds are defying Washington and Turkey and are involved in a suicide mission. We will see in the next few days whether Salih Muslim is acting like a maniac or if he is being encouraged by people in Washington.
Yet, it is clear that Turkey is in no mood to listen to Muslim's threats. Turkey can and will push the PYD out of the west of the Euphrates. However, it is up to Muslim whether this will be peaceful or bloody.
If Muslim has any spark of intelligence he would pull his people out of Manbij and from the region and create a safe haven for himself in the east of the Euphrates River. Yet, if he decides to take on Turkey then he will face the wrath of a massive force that he cannot cope with. Then neither the west nor the east of the Euphrates will be safe for him or his PYD and YPG. Turks know well that the PYD is an extension of the PKK and yet we cannot deal with the PKK effectively in the Northern Iraqi mountains of Qandil because of the impossible terrain. But Northern Syria is a flat area where we can hunt down the PKK and the PYD effectively. Yet we hear reports that the PYD is massing arms and ammunition as well as forces in Manbij from eastern Syria. This is an invitation for Turkey to hit regions east of the Euphrates.
Muslim should act responsibly for the sake of his own people. Failing to do so may be a disaster for his PYD and PKK crowd in northern Syria and he may end up as a prison mate of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan on the prison island of İmralı.