The forces of ISIS are closing in on the besieged town of Kobane on the Turkish-Syrian border. Thousands of terrified Kurds have fled to Turkey in a desperate attempt to bring supplies and reinforcements, but find themselves blocked by the Turkish army, which is preventing reinforcements, arms and supplies from crossing the frontier. While the rest of the world looks on, the people of Kobane are threatened with an unspeakable bloodbath.
Kurdish protesters are staging demonstrations, occupations and actions across Europe. In Turkey itself angry protests have led to bloody clashes with the police. In Diyarbakir, two men were killed when Islamist groups opened fire on protesters, while in Istanbul a demonstrator was killed by a tear gas canister fired by the police. So far at least twenty people have been killed. The Kurds are demanding that the US-led coalition step up airstrikes against ISIS positions and for the Turkish military to open up the border to allow reinforcements, supplies and ammunition to flow through to Kobane to their comrades in Syria. But this is a vain hope.
Turkish troops have responded by brutally sealing the border, firing teargas and rubber bullets both at Turkish Kurds trying to break into Syria and at Syrian refugees fleeing towards Turkey. This is no surprise to anybody who understands the motivation of the Turkish government. Turkish collusion with ISIS is an established fact. Erdoğan is very happy to see the YPG (People’s Protection Units) crushed by ISIS, and if the people of Kobane are massacred in the process, that is just too bad. It will be a lesson to all Kurds who refuse to accept Turkey as their Lord and Master.
The Turkish government, those past masters of Ottoman hypocrisy, protests that it would be only too happy to open the border if the Syrian Kurds were reasonable and accepted Ankara’s conditions: give up your self-governing cantons, join the Free Syrian Army, and allow Turkey to establish a “buffer zone” in Northern Syria (Western Kurdistan). The brazen cynicism of these demands exposes Turkey’s real intentions. Erdoğan wishes to crush Kurdish autonomy in Western Kurdistan that was made possible by the withdrawal of Assad’s army from the North in July 2012.
To appeal to Turkey to intervene to save the Syrian Kurds is like appealing to a fox to enter a hen-house to save the chickens. Erdoğan will not help the YPG militia in Kobane because they are left-wing and are connected with the PKK in Turkey. He has made it clear that he would prefer to see an expanded Islamic State over a consolidated Kurdistan. The Turkish President has stated that he regards ISIS and the PKK as basically the same. Thus, the ambiguous decision of the Turkish parliament to give permission for the Turkish army to attack “terrorists” in Syria is aimed, not so much at ISIS as against the Syrian Kurds!
Instead of appealing to Turkey and its imperialist backers to help the Kurds, we should be demanding that the Kurds must be given the necessary means to help themselves. For in the last analysis the only people who are interested in fighting for the Kurdish cause are the Kurds themselves.
The counterrevolutionary ISIS gangs are not just the enemies of the Kurds. They are the enemies of the working class and of all progressive elements. Under the black flag of reaction, they are hell-bent on eradicating all traces of democracy, education and culture. The international working class has a duty to come to the aid of those forces that are fighting these counterrevolutionary monsters.
But this does not mean that we must support the actions of the imperialists and NATO. The attitude of the imperialists reeks of hypocrisy. They themselves are responsible for arming, encouraging and financing the reactionary Jihadi gangs in their attempt to overthrow the Assad regime. This disgusting manoeuvre has backfired – an entirely predictable development. Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the imperialists have conjured up terrifying forces they cannot control. Now they are confronted with a dilemma.
A mad dog can bite the hand that feeds it and it would not be the first time. Let us remind ourselves that al-Qaeda and Bin laden were armed, backed and financed by the CIA in their fight against “communism” in Afghanistan. As long as they were killing Russians, they were depicted as “freedom fighters”, but when they began killing Americans they became terrorists. Now the men in Washington have to find a way of defeating ISIS, but they do not know how. The people in the USA and Britain are wary of foreign military adventures and politicians must constantly look over their shoulders to study the state of public opinion.
They have all insisted that “there will be no boots on the ground” (by which they mean American or British boots). It will all be done by “surgical air strikes” which, they say, will kill no innocent civilians. But everybody knows that air strikes alone cannot win this or any other war. It is precisely boots on the ground that are necessary. The only question is: whose boots? The YPG and PKK fighters have shown themselves to be disciplined and courageous fighters against ISIS. But there is a snag. They are left-wing and have strong links to the PKK in Turkey, which Ankara (and Washington and the EU) sees as a “terrorist” organization.
While the Americans and Europeans would not be averse to using the YPG/PKK as pawns in their struggle with ISIS, they are unwilling to offend Turkey, a member of NATO, for the sake of a few thousand Kurds in Kobane. Meanwhile, Erdoğan maintains friendly relations with ISIS, which continues to receive generous supplies of arms and money from Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Gulf States, although in theory they are part of the US-led coalition to fight ISIS.
It is clear to even the blindest of the blind that the Turkish government is sabotaging any attempt to help the people of Kobane, while the so-called “international community” looks the other way, ignoring the role of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other “allies” in supporting ISIS. The real meaning of the alleged Turkish agreement to fight terrorism in Syria is to prepare the ground for a Turkish seizure of Syrian territory and the crushing of the YPG.
The PKK leaders allowed themselves to be deceived by the so-called Turkish-Kurdish peace process, which was nothing more than a farce from the very beginning. In exchange for empty promises in 2013, the PKK leaders declared a unilateral ceasefire and withdrew most of their fighters from Turkey. But PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan remains in a Turkish prison and nothing has been achieved except a few cosmetic reforms that do not change anything fundamental.
It was naïve in the extreme on the part of Öcalan and the PKK leaders to imagine that Erdoğan could be relied upon to act in good faith. This cynical bourgeois politician has been developing excellent relations with the Kurdish leaders inside Iraq in order to get his hands on the oil and effectively turn the Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq into a puppet state of Turkey. But his attitude towards the Kurds in Turkey and Syria remains implacable.
Now the smiling mask of Erdoğan has slipped to reveal the cruel face of Turkish despotism. The shipwreck of the peace talks will inevitably signify a resumption of hostilities by the PKK. Öcalan has warned that the peace process will depend on the outcome in Kobane. He has asked Turkey to show its commitment to preventing the fall of the city. But it is foolish to imagine that Erdoğan will oblige him.
On the contrary, the Turkish leader fervently desires the fall of Kobane and the victory of his de facto allies in ISIS. The massacre of civilians, and the resulting chorus of hypocritical outrage from Western capitals will then provide him with the perfect excuse for doing what he intended to do all along: to send the Turkish army to seize Kobane and the surrounding area and set up a so-called buffer zone under Turkish control. This would amount to a Turkish invasion of Syrian territory.
The hardened hypocrites in Washington, London, Paris and Berlin will not complain too much about this. They are already saying that the idea of a “buffer zone” is something “worth considering”. Of course, it will be a clear violation of Syria’s national sovereignty. But such minor issues never prevented them from invading Iraq or Afghanistan, so it will not bother them now. By throwing Turkey a bone, they will have got what they want: “Turkish boots on the ground” inside Syria. But these boots are not meant to liberate Syrians or Kurds but to stamp out all traces of Kurdish autonomy. They will be placed on the neck of the people of Syria who will find themselves at the tender mercies of a new tyranny.
The aggressive policy of Erdoğan and his clique in Syria will be the cause of new disasters not only for Syria but also for the Turkish people. The violent demonstrations in Turkey are a warning of what the future holds. As a direct result of the imperialist ambitions of Erdoğan and his meddling in Syria, the bloody civil war in that country can easily spill over into Turkey. The collapse of the “peace process” and the explosion of Kurdish outrage over the massacre of their fellow Kurds in Syria will be expressed in new and bloody explosions.
As we write these lines, the fate of Kobane lies in the balance. At the eleventh hour, when the ISIS forces had already entered the city, and under the pressure of world public opinion that could not understand why nothing was being done to help the Kurds, NATO has carried out a few ineffective air strikes. These have not stopped the advance of ISIS and in fact have a purely cosmetic character. The British Foreign Secretary announced what was already clear to all, that “air strikes alone cannot prevent the fall of Kobane”. Only the intervention of ground troops, they say, can defeat ISIS.
The question is: where are these ground troops supposed to come from? Turkish tanks are drawn up next to the border but make no move to advance against the ISIS forces that they have promised to fight. But the Turkish government has long been helping ISIS to do its dirty work in Syria. Not only are they helping ISIS through their deliberate inactivity. They are actively preventing the sending of arms and supplies to the beleaguered defenders of Kobane, while allowing pro-ISIS Jihadis to cross freely into Syria.
Like voracious vultures waiting for their prey to die, the Turkish leaders are waiting for the city to fall before making their move. With the cynical connivance of the Turkish government and the deliberate inactivity of NATO, the black flag of reaction has already been hoisted in the city. If the ISIS forces succeed in crushing the heroic resistance of the Kurdish fighters, they will extract a bloody revenge on the population and responsibility for this must be placed firmly on the shoulders of the gangsters in Ankara and their backers in the so-called “international community”.
The YPG fighters have fought bravely but they are running out of ammunition, while ISIS has far superior US-made weapons, including tanks and artillery, captured from the Iraqi army. Meanwhile, the Turkish government and the US-led coalition are content to stand by and allow the ISIS butchers to unleash a bloodbath in the city.
In fact, US Secretary of State John Kerry has clearly stated that preventing the fall of Kobani to ISIS is not a strategic US objective. Kerry told reporters at a news conference with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond:
“As horrific as it is to watch in real time what is happening in Kobani... you have to step back and understand the strategic objective.
“Notwithstanding the crisis in Kobani, the original targets of our efforts have been the command and control centers, the infrastructure… We are trying to deprive the (Islamic State) of the overall ability to wage this, not just in Kobani but throughout Syria and into Iraq.”
Faced with an impending catastrophe, the Kurdish people must draw the necessary conclusions. It is futile to hope that the Kurdish national cause will receive any help from the imperialists who have always used the Kurds for their own cynical purposes, and having used them, throw them away like a dirty rag. No trust whatsoever should be placed on this quarter.
Still less can any trust be placed on so-called negotiations with the criminal Turkish ruling clique that specialises in murder, torture and the oppression of the working class and the Kurds. Only the Kurdish people themselves can be trusted to fight and win their just demands. And the only true friends they have in this fight are the exploited masses of Turkish workers and the international working class.
The prior condition for the satisfaction of the just national and democratic demands of the Kurds is the formation of a united front of struggle with the Turkish working class against the common enemy. It is not only the Kurds who are exploited and oppressed by Erdoğan and his gang. The mass demonstrations that shook the regime last summer, and which have been repeated periodically ever since, show that the working class is striving to overthrow the corrupt and rapacious ruling clique. In the final analysis, the solution of the national question in Turkey is directly linked to the perspective of the overthrow of capitalism itself.
The international labour movement must rally to the defence of the Syrian Kurds who are faced with a genocidal massacre. Demonstrations and rallies should be called in support of the Kurds. At the same time, no support must be given, either directly or indirectly to the US-led coalition. The imperialists are responsible for the creation of ISIS and other Jihadi monsters. They cannot be trusted to conduct a serious struggle against them and they will never act to defend the interests of the Kurds, the people of Syria, the Palestinians or any of the peoples of the Middle East.
We must systematically expose the criminal and aggressive policies of the Turkish ruling clique, which is conducting a duplicitous policy of backing the NATO imperialists and at the same time conspiring with ISIS to gain its own selfish ends in Syria. The utmost pressure must be put on the Turkish government to open the border to allow arms and supplies to reach the beleaguered city. But we must oppose by all means any suggestion of the setting up of a “buffer zone”, which is merely a fig-leaf to disguise a Turkish invasion of Syria.
- Workers of the world, raise your voices against the massacre of the Kurds!
- Fight against the criminal actions of Turkey and its NATO backers!
- Labour movement to raise money to support the Kurdish resistance in Syria!
- Arm the Kurdish fighters in Rojava [the Kurdish areas of Syria] to fight Jihadi counterrevolution, Turkish aggression and imperialism!
- Remove the PKK from the list of terrorist organisations in the EU and USA!
- For a just and democratic solution of the Kurdish national problem!
- Hands off Syria and Iraq!
- Down with imperialism!
- For a Socialist federation of the Middle East!
- Workers of the world, unite!
London, October 9, 2014