The major air offensive against Kurdish positions in Syria and Iraq was actually announced by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in early summer. On the night of Sunday, a week after the bomb attack in Istanbul, the Turkish air force flew attacks on Kurdish positions of the PKK and the YPG in northern Syria and Iraq.

According to the Turkish army, around 90 positions, including bunkers, tunnels and ammunition depots, were destroyed. In addition, “184 terrorists were neutralized”. According to Syrian activists, at least 35 people died in Turkey’s offensive, including a dozen soldiers from the Syrian government army.

There were no fatalities in northern Iraq, it said. An independent verification of this information cannot be carried out.

Ankara sees the YPG as the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is also banned in Germany and is on the terror list in Europe and the USA. Ankara blames both of them for the recent attack in Istanbul, which left six dead and more than 80 injured.

The YPG and PKK, for their part, deny any involvement in the attack. The YPG is backed by the US and played an important role in expelling the Islamic State (IS) jihadist militia from Syria.

Since the US withdrawal, Turkey has repeatedly attacked northern Syria. Ankara managed to take control of part of the Syrian border area. Erdogan is now going one step further and is also threatening a ground offensive.

The Kurdish militia also announced retaliatory attacks, which were not long in coming. A rocket hit the Turkish-Syrian border in Gaziantep province on Monday. Two people were killed and 19 others are said to have been injured.

The unusually mild reactions from Moscow and Washington indicate that Ankara has coordinated its offensive with both countries in advance. “We communicated with everyone involved through diplomatic channels,” said President Erdogan, “and took our various steps accordingly.”

Sinem Adar, Turkey expert at the Berlin Science and Politics Foundation, does not believe in Turkey going it alone. In an interview with DW, she points out that two days before the Turkish offensive, the US consulate in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, called on its citizens to leave the affected areas.

The Kurdish community in Germany accuses Turkey of primarily attacking hospitals, residential areas and transport infrastructure. This is based on Turkey’s military strategy of wanting to wear down or even expel the civilian population.

She demands the same attitude from the federal government that she shows towards Russia. If international law is violated, there can be no double standards, she told DW. War creates suffering, brings death and uproots people from their homes.

Several politicians from the FDP, the Greens and the Left Party condemned the attacks as “violating international law”. The federal government recently called on Turkey to exercise restraint. Christofer Burger, spokesman for the Federal Foreign Office, also called on Ankara to react proportionately and to respect international law. This includes in particular that civilians must be protected at all times.

According to many experts, Ankara’s major offensive was not unexpected. It is possible that the Turkish government had planned it for a long time and was only waiting for an occasion. At the moment, the international political situation seems to be quite favorable for Ankara.

Turkey expert Sinem Adar points to the ongoing negotiations on the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO. Ankara has so far blocked the admission of both countries, accusing them of supporting “Kurdish terrorists” and demanding that they classify the YPG as a terrorist organization. In addition, Russia is weakened by the Ukraine war in Syria.

For the Duisburg political scientist Ismail Küpeli, operations like the current military offensive are part of Ankara’s fundamental policy to nip the Kurds’ striving for autonomy or independence in the bud. But Turkey’s poor economic situation also played a role in the renewed major offensive. Elections will be held in the country in early summer 2023 and the AKP is concerned with staying in power, according to Adar.

According to official figures, the inflation rate in Turkey was 85.5 percent. Many people cannot even meet their basic needs. Critics therefore accuse Erdogan of wanting to distract from the crisis with the military offensive, for example by addressing nationalistic feelings in the population in times of crisis in order to score points domestically.

This calculation seems to be working: in fact, almost the entire opposition is rallying behind the military offensive. Faik Öztrak, spokesman for the main opposition party CHP, said on Monday that his party supports the Turkish army’s fight against terror and terrorist organizations. “The soldiers are our soldiers, the army is our army. Our fight against terror is legitimate and those who try to get votes on the backs of soldiers are not making politics,” said Öztrak.

Autor: Diamond Gunner

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The original of this post “Attacks on Syria and Iraq: What does Turkey want?” comes from Deutsche Welle.