I will explain below why Turkey won the war on terror. First, I want to talk about a curious incident that took place last week: The United States announced that it was going to pay millions of dollars for information leading to the identification or location of three senior leaders of the designated terrorist organization PKK. Admittedly, many Turks found Washington's move confusing at first. Yet later statements betrayed the Trump administration's real motives. James Jeffrey, U.S. President Donald Trump's Special Representative for Syria, reiterated that the PKK was indeed a terrorist organization and said that Washington did not consider the People's Protection Units (YPG) a terrorist group. In other words, Jeffrey promised to support Turkish efforts against the PKK, while adding that he saw the YPG – which he has described as the PKK's Syrian branch in the past – as a legitimate player. Hence Washington's decision to put a bounty on three senior PKK leaders, as U.S. troops conduct joint patrol missions in northern Syria with YPG terrorists.
Confused? Let's simplify.
Washington's long-standing strategy in northern Syria is about to enter a new stage. The United States wants to maintain its military presence in the area and keep northern Syria under its control by facilitating the creation of a federal (as opposed to unitary) government in Syria. On the ground, the Americans have been working with the PKK's Syrian branch, the YPG, as their ground force. Yet Ankara has been targeting both the PKK and YPG, because the Turks are aware of the organic relationship between the two entities.
Hence Washington's sudden decision to distinguish PKK from YPG. The U.S. wants to potentially eliminate the PKK and transform the YPG into a Syrian organization beyond the control of the PKK's military commanders in Qandil, in northern Iraq. In doing so, it seeks to reduce Turkey's pressure on the YPG and northern Syria. Ankara responded by rightfully pointing out that it is virtually impossible to separate the PKK and YPG – two entities managed by the same leadership.
There's more: The YPG response to Washington's decision revealed that the United States was implementing a comprehensive plan. On Nov. 8, the General Council of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) – the YPG's political wing – stated that Washington's decision was "unacceptable." But they didn't actually mean it. Their real messages were buried in the rest of the statement. First, the PKK leadership wants the U.S. to sell Turkey on a new peace process geared toward disarmament. Secondly, it urges all its supporters to protect PKK interests in northern Syria.
Those messages suggest that the United States and the YPG have agreed on Washington's plan to "eliminate" the PKK and protect the YPG. By putting a bounty on three senior PKK leaders, the U.S. pretends to support Turkey's fight against the PKK. Behind closed doors, however, U.S. officials will presumably tell the Turks that a joint effort to end the PKK would be contingent upon a new peace process. Although the YPG protested Washington's bounty on paper, it calls for a new peace process to make things easier for the Americans. Either way, both sides want the same thing: They offer to abolish the PKK and curb the group's activities on Turkish soil in return for Turkey's willingness to ignore the threat in northern Syria.
Why? Because Turkey has defeated the terrorists by conducting a series of operations at home. The PKK/YPG militants have been pinned down within Turkey's borders. The Turkish security forces have foiled countless terror attacks and dealt severe body blows to the organization. In light of those developments, the PKK's supply of new recruits has effectively dried up. As such, the group's call for a new peace process is actually an admission of defeat. Yet Turkey is committed to fighting terrorism at home and abroad – which is a source of concern for PKK/YPG militants. Turkey's recent statements about a potential military incursion into the east of the Euphrates River appear to have sent shock waves through the organization and the U.S. government. Having been crippled inside Turkey, the terrorists want to lay down their weapons through dialogue in order to protect their interests in northern Syria.
The question is why on earth would the Turkish government agree to Washington's demands now? As a popular proverb in the Islamic world states: "A Muslim must not be stung from the same hole twice." Or as former U.S. President George W. Bush would say: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…"
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