The U.S. continues to harm its ties with Turkey by constantly pursuing policies that legitimize various terrorist groups, even at the cost of losing its NATO ally.
The U.S. has continued to adopt the paradoxical approach of fighting terrorists with terrorists, thereby giving them legitimacy, as can be seen in its cooperation with the PKK-dominated People's Protection Units (YPG) under the pretext of fighting the terrorist organization Daesh.
The process of giving the YPG-linked Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) a mission in order to legitimize the group in the international community has continued with financial and arms support, regular meetings between terrorist heads and U.S. officials, the refusal to return terrorists requested for extradition and even the insistence of bringing Turkey and the PKK to the same table for negotiations to further legitimize the group.
Speaking to Daily Sabah, Middle East Strategic Research Center (ORSAM) Chair Ahmet Uysal commented on the relations between the PKK and the U.S.: "Amid the competition for power in the (Middle East) region, it is important who controls it. The U.S. wants the region not to harm its interest and to make it dependent on itself, while protecting Israel and the petrol in the region," continuing that the PKK is a tool to reach this aim.
The PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union and has waged a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years, resulting in the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. Nevertheless, the U.S. has repeatedly ignored its NATO ally's security concerns as the terrorists with which the U.S. was in cooperation tried to form a terror corridor on the south of Turkey's border. Even though the two allies reached a compromise by clearing the terrorists from 30 kilometers south of Turkey's border, the U.S. continues to protect them, as can be seen in the case of YPG terrorist leader Ferhad Abdi Şahin, codenamed Mazloum Kobani.
"As their excuse of Daesh diminished, even if the U.S. would take a step back from supporting the PKK terrorist organization, it would help it continue its presence in indirect ways. Another possibility is that the U.S. could seek other cooperation to replace the PKK, which could be either nations or organizations," Uysal added, indicating that the tactics of the U.S. to gain control of the important trade and petrol routes could change.
While Turkey's Foreign Ministry issued an extradition request for the terrorist, who is sought with a red notice, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Chris Van Hollen asked the U.S. State Department earlier this week to issue Şahin a visa so he could visit Washington. Şahin is charged with "founding and masterminding an armed terrorist organization" and "disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state."
Interpol currently has a Red Notice warrant out in Şahin's name for playing a crucial leadership role in the PKK-linked YPG. YPG/PKK ringleader Şahin is as much of a terrorist as Daesh's Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said Monday. He is also the adopted son of the PKK's imprisoned founder Abdullah Öcalan, who is now serving a life sentence in a Turkish prison.
"The U.S. made a huge error regarding the PKK in its inconsistent policies, especially in Syria. It has tried to launch the SDF as an organization 'to fight for peace' and tried to sell this to Turkey," Can Acun, an expert in Middle Eastern politics, said, adding that since Turkey knew the dynamics and developments in the field, this attempt was not accepted.
The activities of the YPG terrorist group have been a major security concern for Ankara, while the U.S. viewed the group as a "reliable partner" in the fight against Daesh. Besides the group's use of child soldiers, an issue which was addressed by the U.N., the SDF/YPG were documented committed human rights violations, including torture and deliberate disruption of education and health services, according to human rights organizations.
Recalling that U.S. President Donald Trump himself mentioned that the PKK was worse than Daesh, Acun continued: "Actors in the U.S. want the PKK to establish a nation, and international public opinion on this is being created. Their aim in this is to form a nation that could be an ally to Israel, yet their efforts are in vain since Turkey's military operations have eliminated such a possibility."
Accordingly, terrorist leaders who are known to have important roles in the organization and have carried out several civilian massacres, such as Mazloum Kobani, are displayed as significant figures in the fight against Daesh.
The course of legitimization, however, is not always conducted through direct actions but rather by instilling language and shaping what people consider to be legitimate, as could recently be seen in foreign media targeting Turkey's Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria to fight terrorists and establish peace in the region. Besides using language that deviates from the original aim of the operation, such as claiming that "Turks are fighting Kurds" instead of terrorists or using the term "invasion" instead of operation, ABC News aired a video two weeks ago that purported to show a Turkish attack in northern Syria against civilians amid Turkey's operation when in fact it was from a 2017 military gun show in Kentucky. There have been similar defamation and manipulation efforts on social media, with supporters of the PKK and YPG posting countless manipulated and doctored photos from the Syrian conflict and other disasters to mislead the international community and hurt the Turkish military's image.
Similarly, Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) head Fethullah Gülen is protected by the U.S. and is not being returned although he orchestrated a coup attempt on the Turkish government on July 15, 2016. Gülen has lived in self-imposed exile in a secluded compound in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania since 1999. Turkey has sent seven extradition requests for Gülen to Washington but has seen little progress in his extradition. A total of 251 people were killed and thousands of others were injured when officers aligned with FETÖ tried to seize power at the cost of the lives of civilians, who took to the streets to confront them.