2016-02-22

Diagnosing Sèvres Syndrome in Turkish Stance on Syrian Kurds

Turkish capital city Ankara is again staggered by a suicide attack. According to the official reports from Turkish General Staff a terrorist targeted a service bus transporting off duty military personnel. Attack resulted in 28 dead and 61 wounded. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu blamed the Democratic Union Party representing Syrian Kurds for the violence.

The recent attack is just an episode in the ongoing spiral of violence rocking the country. With geopolitical instability in the region, Syria and Iraq being on the verge of collapse and unending clashes with PKK and Turkish government similar attacks on the Turkish soil are likely to happen again. Experts share pessimism over deteriorating security in Turkey.

17 February attack took place in the safest quarters of Ankara
Turkish government underlined on multiple occasions that country is facing a double threat coming from Kurdish separatists from PKK and Islamists from ISIS. Notwithstanding the fact that biggest share of victims fall on the suicide attacks carried out by ISIS sympathizers Ankara avoids direct engagement with the terrorist organization. Its reaction so far was limited to the rather symbolic bombardments of insignificant positions of ISIS in Syria. Moreover, police periodically reports on arrests of like-minded persons in Turkey while clearly doing nothing to prevent activity of ISIS operatives who feel unhindered to carry out political assassinations.

Turkey presents a completely different picture in its fight against Kurdish separatists. With the outbreak of war in Syria and rapid advancements of the Syrian Kurds both on the ground and on the diplomatic arena Turkey became anxious that the international dimension of its fight against PKK will prevail thus inviting foreign players to decide on the Turkish national security issues.

From now on stability inside Turkey is defined by the developments in Syria. Ankara’s reaction exposes deep concern over its ability to keep the PKK further at bay. Turkish government went on to renew clashes with PKK’s urban military wing in the eastern provinces. Assessing the threats of the unchecked Syrian Kurdish political entity along the border Turkey now is threating to invade war torn neighbor to prevent any further advancement by the Kurds under PYD.

While looking for the ways how to forestall PYD’s territorial consolidation Turkey tries to make its American partners to cut all existing ties with the Syrian Kurds.

Turkish President calls on its American partners
to cut ties to PYD
Turkish President Recep Erdogan, while expressing its discontent over close cooperation between Washington and PYD, suggests that US can lose one of its partners in the Middle East. Dispute is not only about statements alone. In its response to the recent meeting of the high-ranking US diplomats with PYD’s representatives Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador John Bass to a meeting. Observers agree that Turkish-American relations are strained over Syrian issue despite U.S. efforts to mitigate disagreements.

The reason behind souring relations lies in Turkish fears of another de-jure autonomous and de-facto independent Kurdish polity on its borders. Emergence of Iraqi Kurdistan during the Gulf war in 1991 showed that Kurdish factor can potentially force Turkey to reconsider its relations with the West.

Erdogan recently claimed that decision of the Turkish Parliament from 2003 on nonparticipation of the Turkish troops in the occupation of Iraq was a mistake. Head of state hinted that by taking a part in the military campaign Turkey could prevent Washington from further supporting Iraqi Kurdistan, which is now formally a part of the federal Iraq.

PKK's main headquarters are in the Qandil Mountains 
Emergence of the Kurdish state could lead to the substantial changes inside Turkey itself. PKK fighters, taking advantage of mountainous landscape of the border with Iraq, could attack Turkish security forces and retreat into the safe heavens of the Qandil Mountains. Turkey witnessed its biggest nightmare come true. Now Turkish government is forced to nourish friendly ties with existing political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan so as to prevent advancement of PKK further in the region.

Ankara’s gradual recognition of Kurdistan’s right to exist was possible thanks to American guarantees that Erbil (current capital of Iraqi Kurdistan) will not demand full independence from Baghdad. Clearly, Turkey has so far believed in American ability to control political forces in Iraq and Kurdistan in particular and to limit Kurds’ ambitions.

With all negative developments in relations between America and Turkey and uncertainty about the region’s future, Turkey still thinks and hopes that U.S. is able to control Syrian Kurds in the same manner like it does in Iraq. Turkey is realizing that political situation on the ground in Syria will be affecting more and more its own domestic security. Without any guarantees in regard to the Syrian Kurdistan Ankara is limited in its actions against the PKK. That is why Turkey is so persistent in demanding from U.S. assurances that there will not be independent Kurdish state in Syria.

What Turkey fails to understand is that in reality cooperation between Washington and Kurds is based on their coinciding interests not on the long term considerations. Reliance of Kurds on U.S. assistance is not accompanied with diplomatic support. Kurds therefore will be able and interested in diversifying its relations with major stake holders in the region, like Russia, thus getting away from the U.S. control.

U.S. sees in PYD an effective ground force against ISIS
Ankara’s trust in U.S. seems to be rooted in the almost mythological notion that all political actors can’t act without the generalized collective West’s notion. Arap uprisings, Mursi’s deposal, Gezi protests in Istanbul in 2013, emergence of ISIS and PYD – these all dramatic events happened with a direct participation of the West, according to the wide segments of the Turkish society.

Ignorance of the existing cobweb of interdependence of political players in the Middle East and desire to see hidden western designs in everything that is happening in the region is to a great extent rooted in a legacy of Turkish historical past.

Predecessor of the Turkish Republic, Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War found itself occupied by the Entente states. Imperial government was forced to sign ill-fated Sevres peace accord in 1920. Treaty envisaged all Ottoman colonies to be put under direct control of France and England while core territories of Anatolia to be occupied by the European expeditionary forces. Government of the Turkish Republic through victories on the battlefields managed to review the provisions of the treaty which eventually was transformed into more acceptable Lausanne peace treaty of 1923.

Even though a new republic under the leadership of a strongman Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was rapidly transforming in order to become a part of civilized (read European) world, mistrust toward the West and paranoid obsession with western conspiracies to divide the country seemed to be firmly entrenched in the public mind.

History of relations between Turkish Republic and the West gave reasons to regard existing mistrust as well founded. Mosul question was the first time when Turkish government realized that western countries are not interested in compromising over Turkish vital interests. In 1924 Turkey upon decision of the Council of the League of Nations was forced to acknowledge oil-rich territory around city of Mosul as a part of the Iraqi state. In reality decision was pushed through by Britain who back then administered Iraq.

Emergence of the Syrian Kurdistan can
drastically affect security situation inside Turkey 
Next blow to Turkey’s trust into western sincerity was inflicted by the Cyprus crisis in 1960-70s when U.S. rejected Turkish demands to stabilize situation on the island. Ankara’s decision to invade the Cyprus in 1974 was dictated by the strong urgency to prevent further intercommunal clashes and specifically attacks on the Turkish residents of the island.

Sevres syndrome today can be described as an established opinion among broad segments of the Turkish society about the collective West being the only political power that exerts control in the Middle East. Moreover, Western states are conceived as a single actor who aims to further divide Turkey, in particular, by establishing an independent Kurdistan(s).

Reaction of the political elite on the current state of affairs in the northern Syria suggests that Turkey is still in the grip of the Sevres syndrome. War in Syria and rapid expansion of the Syrian Kurds is represented as a direct result of the Western efforts to secure own interests. Turkey is getting ever more frustrated about fruitlessness of its efforts to defend its own interests and worries that Kurdish expansion in Syria may eventually result in the loss of the Turkish territory.

A feeling of isolation that is reinforced every time U.S. disregards Turkish legitimate worries coupled with the existing Sevres syndrome in the long run can push Turkey into conducting of more hazardous policy in northern Syria. This in turn may lead to the direct clash with Russian interests there and prompt a wider conflict between major stake-holders in the Syrian civil war.

2016-02-17

Prospects of major escalation between Russia and Turkey

With the outbreak of a full-fledged crisis between Turkey and Russia and emergence of news about Turkish army units preparing to cross the border with Syria people started assessing the prospects of further escalation of the current disagreement into a conventional war between Ankara and Moscow.

Leaders of both countries are equally ambitious
in their foreign policy
While attempting to come out with a reasonable scenario some refer to historical legacy of relations between two great states of the past – Ottoman and Russian empires. May sound surprising but both Russia and Turkey are already waging a war on the Syrian soil, though in its rather unconventional form.

We should start with saying that both states are conducting information warfare with all available means to control the flow of information on what really is going on and who is to blame for the humanitarian disaster in Syria. It is worth looking at the Russian state TV channels and compare the way how they portray Turkey before and after the Russian Su24 warplane accident that was downed by the Turkish Air Forces in November 2015.

Downing of the Russian Su-24 jet by Turkey
was a shock for Moscow
By the same token, Turkish media describes Russian military campaign in Syria as an attempt to occupy the land and to further endanger Turkish national security. Before the crisis reached its peak mainstream media in every way tried to avoid direct criticism towards Russia.

More importantly, both countries, like many other countries with vast interests in Syria, keep away from being directly engaged on the battlefields. The rationale behind is that any direct involvement in fight against other states may lead to unpredictable disastrous consequences especially in times of major geopolitical instability.

Nevertheless, states, which invest so many resources and pursuing interests in Syria, nevertheless find ways to demonstrate their determination to hold the ground. In this case we should talk about proxy-war where states fight with each other via friendly non-state actors many of which are not always legal and recognized by the world community. This very feature sheds light on why states tend to wage a proxy war.

It is highly important for Turkey
to keep its physical presence in the neighboring Iraq
Among the reasons why states step into the grey zone of proxy wars are restrictions imposed on state actors by international law. For example, after Turkey deployed troops in Iraq its ForeignMinister Ibrahim al-Jaafari urged the UN Security Council to pass a resolution for withdrawal of unauthorized Turkish troops on the Iraqi soil. In the same vein Turkey would be breaching Syrian sovereignty once it decides to send troops to northern Syria.

Tighter restrictions of the international humanitarian law limit states’ actions during wartime. Deployment of unofficial non-state actors allows states to circumvent such restrictions and evade the responsibility in case of war crimes. For example, killing of Russian jet pilot by a Turkey-sponsored opposition group was a direct violation of the Geneva Convention. Since formally abovementioned group doesn’t enjoy official support of Ankara, Turkey is not responsible for the crime.

It is also interesting to examine how and why Turkey and Russia, who until recently have been enjoying solid economic cooperation, in a trice became adversaries in the region?

Firstly, Turkey and Russia have never been strategic partners. Turkey is a member of NATO alliance and has its own interesting in the region, where Russia seeks to secure and expand its influence. Progress in the bilateral relations of the past years was based on economic cooperation rather than on mutual agreement on political and security issues.

Secondly, both countries experience bad time in their relations with the West. Ankara has grievances against its western partners in broad range of issues like refugees, Kurdish separatism, ISIS and democracy in Turkey. Russia in its turn is trying to normalize its relations with the West by restoring political dialogue existing before Ukrainian revolution and lifting sanctions imposed after Crimean crisis.

Turkey is anxious about new wave of clashes
with PKK
Isolated states tend to act more erratically especially when we talk about political regimes underpinned by charismatic leaders who face almost no political opposition at home. Considering that interests of both states get into conflict with each other in Syria it becomes clear that sooner or later Ankara and Moscow had to clash.

Speaking about perspectives of further escalation of the current crisis we can see that neither Turkey nor Russia is interested in thereof. Loud statements uttered by high-ranking officials after the jet accident and personality of both leaders suggest that reconciliation seems unlikely. Both states continue testing each other in different realms.

It seems improbable that Russia with play a Kurdish card. Any military support for the separatists from the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (designated terrorist organization in Turkey, EU and USA) may push Ankara further into a corner. In despair Turkish government witnessing the rising anti-Russian sentiments will be forced to act preemptively to retain political power.

Russia may oust Turkey from Syria and end its influence there by eliminating friendly opposition groups. This is what Russia is doing right now in northern Syria. Observes point out that Russian air force targets positions of armed opposition who are connected with Turkish and Saudi interests in Syria.

According to estimations made by experts affiliated with the Russian government, Moscow is intends to further pressure Turkey through international organizations by defamation and allegations of providing support to Islamist organizations in Syria. Efforts will be channeled also through organization where Russia traditionally enjoys remarkable influence.

Turkish President Erdogan enjoys good ties
with Saudi King Salman
On the other hand Turkey is expected to provide support to the third countries which are eager to challenge Russia directly. Further support to the anti-Assad forces will be primary way to counter act to Russian efforts in Syria.

Main argument at Turkey’s disposal is solidarity of other Arab states and, in a broader perspective, countries with Sunni majorities. Ankara successfully conveys a message that Russia is allegedly helping Iran to create the Shiite Crescent, a sphere of influence stretching from Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. With increasing Russian involvement into the Syrian civil war it will be easier for Turkey to discredit Russia in the framework of the ongoing sectarian conflict in the Middle East.

Article was first published in Tatar edition of Radio Svoboda

2016-02-05

Russia forces Turkey into zugzwang over Syria

The downing of the Russian jet Su-24 in November 2015 by the Turkish Air Force brought to light growing disagreement between Moscow and Ankara over a number of regional issues. With no durable solution in Syria on the horizon means that both countries will distance further form each other. Due to a whole complex of unsuccessful high-level decisions Turkey, who is desperately trying to influence the events on the ground in Syria, with its every lunge against Russian interests finds itself in a more unfavorable position.

Last Saturday, January 30, Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement that says Russian jet Su-34 allegedly violated Turkish airspace on 29 January. The violation took place despite numerous warnings made in English and Russian, reads the statement. During a briefing for the press officials from the Russian Defence Ministry denied the accusation stating that systems of monitoring hadn’t detected any violation of the airspace. A representative of the ministry Igor Konashenkov specified that modern radar systems can’t detect either nationality of a warplane or its model.

Upon exchanging of accusations Ankara was trying to send a twofold signal to the Kremlin. On the other hand, Turkey leaves an open door for contacts and hopes to stabilize rather shaky situation in Syria. Turkish President Recep Erdogan requested from the Russian diplomats a meeting with Putin, news agency Reuters reports. Meanwhile, Prime-Minister Ahmet Davutoglu made a statement that all necessary measures are undertaken along the Turkish-Syrian border, allegedly, to prevent further violations. Indeed, Turkish media report that Turkish pilots were given an order to act at will without coordination with central command.

Right after a diplomatic row over the airspace accident Russian media with reference to the Russian Ministry officials informed that General Staff made a decision to deploy four modern generation 4++ jets Su-35S. According to the Kommersant newspaper, army intends to test new warplanes in battlefield conditions and to reinforces efforts to lock the Syrian airspace in the northern Syria. Independent Turkish experts familiar with the situation warn that new machines in the Syrian sky may present a serious danger for the Turkish jets patrolling the border.

As in the case of the Russian Su-24 downed by the Turks in November 2015 in Latakia region Moscow uses the recent accident to further secure its military presence in Syria, thus reducing chances of foreign intervention on behalf of Anti-Assad players. Last year reacting on Ankara’s deliberate decision to down a warplane Moscow deployed sophisticated S-400 anti-aircraft defence system thus successfully covering a bulk of the Turkish-Syrian border for Turkish planes. Likewise, Su-35S are to further limit Turkish Air Forces during ongoing military operation in Aleppo region.

Meanwhile Syrian army on the ground pushes opposition further to the north. By 3 February Syrian army managed to encircle city of Aleppo and thereby cut off the large administrative center from the Turkish border, a chief route for aid coming from Turkey. Monitors point out that fall of Aleppo would seriously alter the power balance in the civil war, especially against the background of UN-mediated sluggish peace talks.

Supposedly recent success of the government troops and militia may further contribute to divisions inside opposition into two main camps, supporters of further political dialogue with Assad and his staunch opponents. Among the latter one can find many groups openly supported by the Turkish government. A changing environment around Aleppo has already led to mobilization calls directed at foreign fighters.

Engaging near the Turkish border Syrian army has to deal with another stake holder into the conflict – Syrian Kurds united under the political party PYD, who according to Turkish claims enjoys close ties with the terrorist PKK. Worth noting that that abovementioned encircling is happening in close coordination with PYD’s military wing YPG in the Kurdish canton Afrin. This nuance bothers Turkey the most.

Ankara for several months has been trying to quiet unrest in its eastern provinces targeting PKK positions in several urban centers. The conflict between central government and the Kurdish nationalist organization has been waged since 1980s and took lives of more than 40 thousand people. With outbreak of civil war in Syria the violent conflict obtained a regional dimension. Efforts of the Syrian Kurds to curve out an autonomy in northern Syria are supported by the PKK leadership. Presumably a considerable number of YPG fighter come from Turkey, according to a research by the Atlantic Council.

Having said this it becomes clear why Turkish political leadership is so anxious about what is happening on the ground in Syria. All efforts of Ankara to permanently resolve a conflict, the Washington Post suggests, are doomed to failure without active Turkish control over Syrian Kurds, who control sizable part of the Syrian-Turkish border under one political authority of Rojava.

It is Syrian North where Turkey is getting increasingly limited in its actions. A deliberate decision of the Turkish government to risk an escalation of relations with Russia, following tragedy with Su-24 and finally deployment of modern S-400 anti-aircraft systems derailed all Ankara’s plans on Syria. But for verbal threats and a number of symbolic steps directed against PYD’s further expansion Turkey can’t do anything and is therefore forced to rely on the US. For Ankara Washington has become a guarantor of Turkish national interests along the border, concludes Turkey expert at the Washington Institute Soner Cagaptay.

At the same time Turkey, who has so far been reluctant to contribute to war against the ISIS, openly expresses its discontent if relations between PYD and Washington get to cooperative. For the USA Kurds represent the most effective force on the ground against the ISIS. Apparently, as a result of its sturdiness Ankara may put such cooperation under a risk and with it efforts of the international coalition to defeat the ISIS.

Having no clear strategic vision based on real facts rather than on ideological presumptions whatsoever Turkey puts all its pressure to minimize losses of its disastrous Syrian policy. At the same time Ankara manages to make further poor decisions.  Recently Turkish Prime Minister Devutoglu came out with an ultimatum to exclude the Kurds under PYD from participating at Geneva peace talks in early February 2016. Yielding to the demands of its NATO partner Washington decided to sideline PYD, thus inflicting a further blow to mutual trust.

Miscalculation of Turkey lies in the simple fact. By persistently demanding to have no PYD representatives among the opposition Ankara undermines the whole mechanism of cooperation between Americans and the Syrian Kurds. This not only may eventually kill any opportunity for Ankara to influence the Kurds in Syria through nonmilitary way via Washington mediation. The Turkish nightmare of Kurds having close relations with Moscow can become a reality. Seeing that the US gives in to Turkish demands may force the Kurds from PYD to seek assistance from Moscow.

Taking this into account one should not be surprised about why the PYD is trying to build working relations with Moscow. It seems that the first feasible step is made. According to the Russian mainstream media, a representative office of the Syrian Kurdistan is about to open its doors in Moscow. Meanwhile in the statements uttered by the high-level Turkish politicians Ankara has begun sending a message it is ready to deescalate confrontation with the PKK and renew peace negotiations. It happens despite numerous declarations by the Turkish government about its intent to continue special operations till PKK’s  full surrender.

It is understandable why Turkey is so much eager to meddle into the Syrian conflict. Ankara is anxious about the Kurds, Turks seek to influence the PYD for the sake of own national security. However, Turkey seems to overestimate its power and miscounted geopolitical limitations resulting from Russian and Iranian involvement into the conflict. At the same time Turkish government decided to play on its own having no full support of its western partners. Witnessing that Russia and Syria are tilting the playfield to their advantage Turkey declines to review its position and therefore is forced into the zugzwang when every step leads to further deterioration of its own positions. 

2016-02-02

Is Turkey about to “go it alone” in Syria?


Turkish domestic security is to a great extent defined by the political situation in Syria and Iraq. Ankara has been trying to prevent further destabilization in its eastern provinces. Meanwhile, support and security guarantees of its western allies are needed as never before. Lack of unity in positions with the USA over threat perceptions may force Turkey to act on its own. A limited military operation on the Syrian border can’t be ruled out.

The ongoing military operations against the terrorist organization Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK) in the East of Turkey doesn’t show any signs of abating.  A central government sends a clear sign: Ankara is determined to a fight. A curfew has been enforced in a number of cities, while Turkish Special Forces were deployed in a larger city of Cizre, near the Syrian border, to conduct a clearance operation against PKK’s urban guerilla. Since the beginning of the large scale military anti-terror operation on 15 December 544 terrorists were killed, according to the Turkish General Staff report.

Some observers warn that current wave of violence is so far the bloodiest in the decade long conflict between the Turkish state and PKK. At the same time Turkish government acknowledges that the struggle against Kurdish terrorists has long acquired a regional dimension making it necessary not only to follow the events in Iraq and Syria but also to act preventively for the sake of own security.

With the outbreak of the civil war in Syria actions of the Syrian Kurds (comprising 6-15% of population in Syria) under political leadership of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) became another element of standoff between Ankara and PKK. According to their own statements, PYD is ideologically close to PKK, nevertheless operationally acts independently within Rojava region (Kurdish for Western Kurdistan, i.e. Northern Syria). On the other hand, PYD is regarded by Ankara as a Syrian affiliate of PKK, thereby it constitutes no less greater threat to Turkey as PKK itself.

The very development on the ground in the last 2 years in Syria among other factors compelled Turkey to review her plans to push through peace initiative with the PKK. Remaining neutral in violent confrontation between the Syrian government and various opposition groups Syrian Kurds managed to obtain enough military power to gain influence along the Turkish border and to protect territory of Rojava. Kurds made it possible to build autonomy within Syrian state and therefore changed the balance in Turkey itself by improving negotiation positions of the PKK.

By December 2015 PYD forces managed to shut down a major part of 822 km. border with Turkey rendering it hard for Ankara to support logistically pro-Turkish forces inside Syria. Single available border strip between Azaz and Jarablus is so far controlled by ISIS and smaller conflicting factions. This very sector is used by Turkish intermediaries to provide vital support for friendly groups around Aleppo. No wonder why Ankara declared it would resolutely fight any attempts by PYD to close existing gap between Azaz and Jarablus and unite Kurdish cantons into one continuous territory. With all its territories united Rojava government under PYD would effectively derail all Syrian policy of Ankara.

Syrian Kurds find ways to infiltrate into the disputed area, all Turkish threats notwithstanding. For example, in October 2015 PYD announced the creation of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of the local Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen and Assyrian groups. PYD military forces, commonly known under the abbreviation of YPG, constitute the bulk of the SDF with 30,000 fighters in total of 40,000. With international support behind, SDF forces in December 2015 successfully crossed the Euphrates and took Abu Qilqil from ISIS. In that way PYD in fact crossed Ankara’s “red line”, i.e. its demand not to enter Aziz-Jarablus area under the threat of retaliation.

Recent military progress of the Syrian army in Latakia created another cause for concern in Turkey. According to government sources, regime forces successfully restored control of the whole Latakia province, demonstrating increased operational potential of the Syrian army coupled with continuing Russian air support. Experts predict that Damascus intends to capture Aleppo, a largest city in the northern Syria that turned into the center of the armed opposition.

Russian participation in the civil war on the side of Assad and its direct confrontation with Ankara’s allies on the ground is another increasingly alarming factor for the current Turkish government. Russian involvement affects Turkish threat perception also through possible cooperation between PYD and Moscow. Ankara understandably seemed to be displeased by the news of Russian plans to open another military airbase in PYD-controlled city of Qamishli near Turkish border.

While losing its positions in Syria Ankara desperately seeks support of its western partners. Recent visit of the US Vice President Joe Biden on 23 January had to demonstrate not only unity of positions between two major regional players, but also to show solidarity with Turkey over its fight against IS and PKK. In his statement released after the meeting with US VP Biden Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu underlined that both countries are determined to continue fighting IS in Syria. Meanwhile, Vice President confirmed that PKK is seen by the US government as a terrorist organization. Despite seeming unanimity Ankara was discontented with Washington’s stance on principal issues.

First of all, upon his arrival Biden met with representatives of media and civil organizations critical of the current Turkish government. Moreover during his conversation with the Prime Minister Biden underlined importance of freedom of speech. The remark implicitly referred to the recent crackdown of Ankara against intellectuals who spoke out in an open petition against terrorism and security forces’ harsh conduct against thereof. Several people who signed the document were either arrested or fired from universities. Government officials publicly denounced them as traitors.

Secondly, Turkey wasn’t satisfied with how Biden condemned PKK’s violence. While acknowledging that PKK is indeed a terrorist organization US official didn’t utter a word about PYD’s role in ongoing violence. Ankara has been trying for months to persuade its American partners to treat PYD as PKK’s affiliate in Syria. According to Turkish intelligence sources, there is a close cooperation between the two groups mainly through mobilization efforts, training and transfer of fighters and material support. Ankara is particularly anxious by the expanding cooperation between the USA and Syrian Kurds in the framework of fight against the ISIS. Arms provided to the SDF by Washington may end up in PKK’s hands.

There is also a diplomatic coordination between the USA and PYD. On 31 January, i.e. in the midst of the crucial Geneva negotiations between Damascus and armed opposition, US President Barack Obama's special envoy to an international coalition fighting ISIL in Syria and Iraq Brett McGurk met with the FDS’ (read PYD’) representatives for further coordination on anti-IS efforts. Experts point out, however, that true intention behind the visit was an attempt to reassure the Kurds of US support after they were excluded from the Geneva initiatives following Turkish protests.

Lack of any tangible commitment in Vice President’s statements caused for distress in the Turkish administration. In several speeches of both President Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu made after Biden’s departure one can find clear signs that Ankara is resolved to go it alone in Syria. For example, Davutoglu, who recently in his interview to the Guardian claimed that situation in Syria has turned into a domestic issue of Turkey, stated Turkish Armed Forces are ready to conduct military strikes against PYD’s positions in Syria just as they do in Northern Iraq.

Turkish President Erdogan made statements in the same spirit as well. In one of his public speeches he complained that “states Turks call allies persistently refuse to see a true face of terrorism”. Right after his meeting with VP Biden Erdogan opaquely criticized inconsistent position of US on PYD-PKK relations, implying that “countries, that once abandoned Turkey in its fight against terrorism, will eventually find themselves in similar situation”.

Absence of any feasible opportunity to influence its partners over PYD forces Turkey to make hasty decisions. Prior to the beginning of the Geneva meeting, the Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned on 25 January that Turkey would boycott the negotiations if PYD are invited.

Ankara’s discontent with Washington’s position on several crucial questions is reinforced by Turkish pessimism regarding the United States’ ability to further conduct active policy in observable future. Such resentment was expressed well by a journalist of pro-government propaganda newspaper Daily Sabah: “What is sad is that the U.S. is still not displaying proper leadership in world affairs, led by the Syrian issue, and thus is allowing Russia and Iran a free hand in the region. It seems this unfortunate situation will continue until the U.S. presidential election produces a new and strong president who will face international challenges in an appropriate manner”.

Ankara’s position is quite intelligible. As such this discontent is based on its unpreparedness to assume growing responsibility for security on its own borders while having USA gradually reduce activity within the framework of a new concept of “strategic patience”. The cornerstone idea of this concept is to decrease the extent of the US involvement in the Middle East meanwhile stimulate regional partners into conducting more responsible policies.

The new concept, on the other hand, can be interpreted by the US tradition allies in the region as another sign of the US decline and its reluctance to bear existing security guarantees. As Saudi Arabian case shows us, countries, that have been relying on US in questions of own security, are compelled to undertake unilateral steps without waiting for Washington to come out with a clear position on the ever growing number of regional issues.

By the same token Turkey also has reasons to ponder over more involvement into the Syrian conflict. PYD’s activity on the Turkish border, their attempts to create autonomy challenge Ankara’s domestic security. Turkish officials so far haven’t received positive signals from Washington regarding American commitment to decrease threat to the Turkish interests. In such circumstances a possibility that Turkey will eventually decide to act on its own, including small scale cross-border military operation, is as high as never before.