UN Leadership Needed In Turkish-Kurdish Conflict: How Ban Ki-Moon Can Help the Syrian Civil War from Getting Worse
Syrian Kurds took another step forward in their efforts to ensure Kurdish independence by expanding their administrative oversight into the Sunni town of Tal Abyad, which it liberated from the Islamic State this past summer. For the likes of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a Kurdish state, which might someday challenge the mistreatment of Kurdish populations across the region, is a nightmare on the verge of becoming reality.
Having already neglected the Islamic State threat to hobble the Kurdish Peshmerga, tried to prevent reinforcements from reaching Kobani when it was on the verge of collapse, and reawakened Turkey’s conflict with the PKK, Turkey may be on verge of starting a far broader conflict with the Kurds. Analogous to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Turkish-Kurdish conflict needs the same kind of attention and commitment from the UN, especially given its proximity to Syria.
Throughout the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, the International Community begged both sides to stop the violence. Where Palestinian extremists attacked Israel, Israel overreacted by showing little restraint as it leveled most of the Gaza Strip with airstrikes.
Despite the tremendous amount of time and energy wasted on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, nothing has been accomplished. Even though the mutual threat of the Islamic State should have helped unify the Israelis and Palestinians, the self-destructive dynamic between the two groups continues with the UN trying to pacify the deeply entrenched conflict once again.
Syria is the epicenter of instability in the Middle East thanks to the threat of the Islamic State and the involvement of so many other conflicting nations in the failing state.
With the Syrian Kurds on the path to statehood and the Erdogan government’s belief that a Kurdish state is a greater security risk to Turkey than the Islamic State, the relationship between the Kurds and Turks may soon mirror the relationship between the Jews and Palestinians.
Quite frankly, this would further destabilize the Syrian Civil War by offering the Islamic State and other extremists opportunities to reestablish their control over lost territory. The violence would also likely spread to Turkey and intensify in Iraq while the anti-Kurd atmosphere would assuredly agitate Iran’s Kurds.
Sadly, it is a tendency of the international players involved in the conflict to use the wrongs of each other to justify their own wrongs and to discount the harm done those wrongs. In the wake of Russian intervention in the Syrian Civil War, which targets Western-backed groups, an accelerating Turkish-Kurdish conflict may be dismissed as just another complication.
The reality is that the Syrian Civil War is defined by groups that are at war with each other, yet also share a common enemy in the Islamic State. Where Russia’s targeting of anti-Assad groups also fighting the Islamic State strengthens the Islamic State, Turkey would further strengthen the Islamic State and strengthen Turkey’s enemy, i.e. the Assad Regime, by undermining the Kurds.
Ultimately, Russia, Turkey, and the US-led Coalition might disrupt all insurgent activity, but those terrorist elements will only metastasize unless there is a strong ground force to police the territory, which is why the Kurds are needed.
Like Hamas, the United States considers the KPP a terrorist group, yet the US has also been willing to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Although the US should be more than willing to tackle the Turkish-Kurdish peace process, it has failed to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because the US is not an impartial mediator, and it will fail to broker peace between the Turks and the Kurds for the same reason.
Due to Turkey’s NATO membership, other NATO members face the same conflict.
Russia, of course, cannot broker a deal, because its allies are just as oppression to their own Kurdish populations while it has declared all anti-Assad forces terrorists.
Given UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s commitment to stopping violence and his non-Western, non-Middle Eastern origins, he should seize upon the opportunity to prevent war between Turkey and an emerging Kurdish state before the approaching end of his tenure at the UN.
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