New threat on the southern border

Published 24.06.2015 22:36

By seizing Tel Abyad from ISIS, PYD units united Kobani and Jazira cantons and forced Turkmens and Arabs to migrate to Turkey. This is an acute demographic engineering put in action aiming to render the Kurdish population dominant in the region

The violence caused by the terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq has been disturbing Ankara for a long time. Ankara is confronted with the fact that ISIS has become a neighbor of Turkey as it has seized territory along Turkey's border. Turkey was actually one of the first countries targeted by ISIS. The 49 personnel at the Turkish Consulate in Mosul who were taken as hostage by ISIS were not freed for months. Meanwhile, Ankara had to confidentially provide military aid to Irbil while ISIS was targeting the territories of northern Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which is a close ally of Turkey. Fortunately, all the personnel were able to be saved safe and sound from captivity. After that, Ankara started to explicitly support the international coalition to fight against ISIS, and ISIS was declared an open threat. Within this scope, the terrorist organization was included in the National Security Policy Document as a threat against Turkey by the National Security Council. Referring to ISIS, "the terrorist organizations that directly undermine regional stability" were defined as a direct threat against Turkey's national security interests.

However, Ankara added an annotation to the operations planned against ISIS during its negotiations with the allies. According to Ankara, the air operations would not be enough by themselves to prevent the rapid spread of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Ankara argued that a land operation was also required to fight ISIS. As air operations have proved insufficient in stopping ISIS, the train-and-equip program was initiated for Syrian opposition groups, which was originally developed by the U.S. and Turkey and other regional countries participated afterward. The terrorist activities of ISIS were not the only thing irritating Ankara. After a while, it was discovered that there was a strategic alliance between ISIS and Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime. ISIS was being used as a tool in Assad's plans. Assad was leaving the places his forces withdrew from not to the moderate opposition, but to ISIS. When the opposition began to progress against Assad's units, ISIS took action and targeted the opposition. ISIS inflicted heavy losses on the opposition fighting against Assad. It played a major role in aggravating the losses in the Syrian civil war. This had led to anger toward ISIS in Ankara.

The latest incident that has intensified Ankara's discomfort with ISIS is that traces of ISIS were found behind the bomb attack organized at the Peoples' Democratic Party's (HDP) Diyarbakır rally before the June 7 general elections. It turned out that terrorists affiliated with ISIS conducted a bombing in Turkey, and they seemingly organized this attack on the eve of the elections with the aim of influencing the outcome of the elections. This was the last straw for Ankara. In this scope, Ankara might take action for the introduction of more effective measures against ISIS. The only development that has led Ankara to start considering new measures is not related to ISIS. There is a wide zone that comprises Kurds, Turkmens and Arabs just to the south of Turkey's Syrian border. A part of this zone is under the control of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the Syrian wing of the outlawed PKK, which has been involved in terrorist activities in Turkey. The PYD founded three cantons in this zone, namely Afrin in the west, Jazira in the east and Kobani in the middle. Some regions between these cantons are controlled by ISIS, while some parts are controlled by the Syrian opposition. Lately, the PYD has adopted the strategy of uniting the cantons on the grounds of fighting ISIS. Within this scope, it seized Tel Abyad, which is located between the Kobani and Jazira cantons, from ISIS. In this way, it united these two cantons. It also forced Turkmens and Arabs residing in Tel Abyad to migrate to Turkey. It is alleged that it will transfer some 9,000 people from Kobani and northern Iraq to Tel Abyad instead of those forced to leave. This is overt demographic engineering. The lands seized by the PYD are being "Kurdified" by cleansing Turkmens and Arabs.

The next target of the PYD is to unite the Afrin canton with Kobani and Jazira. This would mean founding the grounds of a buffer Kurdish state that will struggle to reach the Mediterranean on Syria's northern border with Turkey and the disconnection of the ties between Turkey and Syria. Here, the problem is not enabling Kurds to live in their cantons autonomously and safely. What really poses a problem is the demographic engineering by forcing Turkmens and Arabs in that area to migrate. Ankara does not find these engineering attempts well-intentioned and believes that it is the harbinger of new conflicts and instabilities in the region.

Can Ankara, which is confronted with an open threat posed by ISIS to its south, resort to new measures to protect itself from ISIS, disappoint the efforts of the demographic engineers that target Turkmens and Arabs and help more Syrians fleeing from civil war to take shelter in safe zones in their own countries? It is beyond dispute that Ankara has to do something from now on.

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