The tensions between the United States and Turkey are getting worse with each passing day due to conflicting views on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who are led by the People’s Protection Units (YPG). We find that the YPG, another cell of the PKK terrorist organization operating in northern Syria, being portrayed in the Western world as only a Syrian-Kurdish group absolutely unacceptable. They are not giving the full details about this organization. Yet the fact remains that there are other Syrian-Kurdish groups, who are not aligned with the YPG, being neglected and hidden from the public. Turkey's current Operation Peace Spring is not against Kurds in northern Syria but against the YPG, which is aligned with PKK insurgents and guerrillas whose mission is to destabilize Turkey and establish their own country by employing terrorism; they have been attempting this for almost 40 years.
The main objective of Turkey’s military operation is to ensure its security needs on the Turkish-Syrian border, neutralize the terrorists who are aligned with the YPG and the PKK in the region and free the Syrian people from this terror cell's oppressive hegemony. Also, the Western world should be reminded that this operation is being carried out according to international law, which specifies Turkey’s right to self-defense as outlined in Article 51 of the U.N. Charter while respecting Syria’s territorial integrity and unity.
Turkey has tried to explain this security concern patiently and in a respectful manner, while making clear that it has no more patience when it comes to solving this concern. This has resulted in Turkey taking the necessary precautions on its own. As NATO allies, if the U.S. and Turkey are indeed partners against international terrorism as well as defending democracy, then the U.S. should demonstrate that it understands Turkey’s security concerns by showing support for the people of Turkey.
Ignoring the facts
Even though the PKK, which embraces a Marxist-Leninist ideology, refuses to accept the fact that the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the YPG are oppressing the Syrian people and committing atrocities such as ethnic cleansing against the Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens in Syria, their actions have been well-documented by human rights organizations as well as the millions of Kurds who are living in Turkey and are horrified by these organizations.
Additionally, it is known that the YPG is training children, some even younger than 10 years old, to be fighters, which is a crime according to international law. Bear in mind that Turkey currently shelters approximately 320,000 Syrian Kurds who fled from both Daesh and the YPG. However, the Western world chooses to ignore the fact that Turkey has embraced 3.6 million refugees regardless of their ethnicity, language, religion or race.
Moreover, Turkey’s struggle against the PKK group has taken 40,000 lives so far in three decades of conflict. In that sense, it is erroneous to view the YPG and PKK as separate entities; this only means that Turkey’s struggle against PKK terrorism is being forgotten because the magnitude of the threat these two groups pose in Turkey is not being recognized.
In addition, Turkey has been actively engaged in fighting against the Daesh threat on multiple fronts. We need to remember that Daesh committed 14 attacks in the country, which resulted with the loss of 300 innocent lives. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) neutralized over 3,000 Daesh terrorists and with Operation Euphrates Shield, which was launched in August 2016, enabled 320,000 Syrians to return their homes in northern Syria. So far, Turkey has been an active member of the Global Coalition Against Daesh as the co–chair of the Foreign Terrorist Fighters Working Group, which was formed to contribute to the war effort against the notorious group.
It is clear that at this point a solution in Syria without considering Turkey’s security concerns is impossible to achieve for all parties in the region. Apart from Turkey’s effort to combat terrorism, it has a significant role on the contribution to post-war infrastructure and projects for the refugees and Syria in general.
Therefore, it is safe to conclude that Turkey’s responsibility toward Syria should not be underestimated by backlash in the West due to the current course of events for Turkey, which is working to maintain its security from groups like the PKK, the SDF, the YPG and the PYD - all of whom have been a constant threat to Turkey for nearly three decades.
* President of the Turkish Heritage Organization based in Washington, D.C. and recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2019. He was selected one of the top 50 Most Influential Turkish-Americans in 2015