The Cost of Western Silence in the Face of Turkish False Flag Terrorism: On November 13, 2022, a small bomb shook a pedestrian mall in central Istanbul. Within a day, Turkish officials suggested they had their suspect. Ahlam Albashir, a Syrian woman who, according to the Turkish authorities, took her orders from the Syrian Kurds in Kobané. They paraded him past President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s court media in a New York sweatshirt. For fear that the Turks will not understand the message, Interior Minister Sleyman Soylu suggested the United States was complicit.
There is in fact no evidence beyond the Turkish insistence that Albashir has any connection to the Syrian Kurds; indeed, the evidence linking it to the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army is stronger. Rather, it appears that Erdogan is using the bombing as a pretext to carry out a pre-planned operation aimed at undermining the Kurdish democratic experiment in northeast Syria. Following the Istanbul attack, Turkish warplanes repeatedly struck targets in the Kurdish area of Syria, killing not only politicians but many other civilians as well.
The mantra that the Syrian Democratic Forces are, by the nature of their evolution from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a terrorist group, does not justify Turkey’s actions for two reasons. First the The PKK has evolved over the years, just like Turkey itself. Today President Recep Tayyip Erdogans Turkey is unrecognizable from what Turkey was like two decades ago. The same goes for the PKK, a group that briefly held me at gunpoint while I was a Pentagon official in Iraqi Kurdistan. Politically, intellectually and culturally, it is not the same organization. Second, while the State Department operates on automatic driving and some think tank analysts seek to be more Turkish than many Turks in their ostracism of the PKK, it is worth recalling that Turgut zal, who dominated the Turkey from 1983 to 1993, was ready to make peace with the group. Prior to his death in 1993, he had sent antennae to PKK leader Abdullah Calan and appeared ready to negotiate an end to the Kurdish insurgency.
The White House and many European diplomats may believe they can turn a blind eye to Turkey’s continued assault on northern Syria. After all, the Kurds are not a state and therefore have no seat at the diplomatic table. Out of sight, out of mind. The problem with such logic is not only its moral perversity. Rather than accuse environmentalists of being part of a vast terrorist plot after the Gezi Park EventsWhere overdo it Glenist complicity in the 2016 aborted coup or seeking a pretext to attack Iraq or Syria, false accusations against enemies as a pretext for police or military action have become commonplace for Turkey. The reason is simple: Erdogan concluded that these tactics work.
This brings us to Greece. Over the decades, Turkey has repeatedly accused Greece of terrorism. As Erdogan battles his NATO neighbor as he seeks to redraw the map of the Aegean and expand Turkey’s Exclusive Economic Zone, he will need a pretext for military action. If Europe allows Erdogan to get away with a false accusation against the Syrian Kurds to justify a land grab by Turkey south of its border, it is not far-fetched to consider another scenario leading to a land grabbing west of the border: a bomb explodes in Izmir, Bodrum or Marmaris. A day later, Soylu will parade a suspect in an Athens sweatshirt, claiming he or she confessed to acting on the orders of Greek nationalists. Europe could then issue its denials, but Erdogan does not care: he is too used to the West accepting Turkish standards of proof or countries like Sweden humiliating themselves to please him.
It will be a miscalculation on his part. European courage is stronger than Sweden’s Stockholm Syndrome 2022 might suggest. However, wars often start because of such miscalculations. This is why clarity is so important. Stopping Turkish aggression against the Kurds today can prevent a deadly conflict with Greece ahead of Turkey’s elections.
It’s time to stand up to Erdogan, stop funding and equip the turkish army and, in effect, increase the cost if Turkey seeks to operate outside its borders.
Now contributing editor in 1945, Dr. Michael Rubin is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Dr. Rubin is the author, co-author and co-editor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies and Shia politics, including Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East? (AEI Press, 2019); Kurdistan Rising (AEI Press, 2016); Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes (Encounter Books, 2014); and Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos (Palgrave, 2005).
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