News & Politics

Turkey Says It Will 'Cleanse' Border Region of Kurds if Russia Can't

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, welcomes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Konstantin palace outside St.Petersburg, Russia, on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

It’s getting so that you don’t even have to hide your intent to commit genocide.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that the Turkish military will clear the border with Syria of Kurdish YPG militia if Russia fails to do so.

Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin negotiated an agreement that Russian military police and Syrian border guards would clear an area along the border of approximately 30 kilometers by next Tuesday. Erdogan claimed that if Russia fails, the Turks will do it for them.

Ankara views the YPG as a terrorist organization linked to Kurdish insurgents in southeast Turkey. Its Syrian offensive, launched after President Donald Trump pulled out 1,000 U.S. troops from the area, drew criticism from Turkey’s NATO allies.

“If this area is not cleared from terrorists at the end of the 150 hours, then we will handle the situation by ourselves and will do all the cleansing work,” Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul.

Those “terrorists” live with their wives and kids, so “cleansing” them would endanger civilians. Does anyone think the Kurds are going to go quietly if Turkish troops show up in their towns and order them to leave?

Russia has already warned the YPG that it will face the full force of Turkey’s army, the second biggest in NATO, if it fails to withdraw its fighters and weapons from the designated area in northeast Syria within the agreed deadline.

The Kurds are fierce, proud fighters and I doubt even Putin can intimidate them. So there’s going to be some kind of confrontation next week and there is likely to be tragedy.

And war crimes.

In a move sure to further infuriate Ankara, former prosecutor and U.N. investigator Carla del Ponte said in an interview published on Saturday that Erdogan should be investigated and indicted for war crimes over the incursion.

“For Erdogan to be able to invade Syrian territory to destroy the Kurds is unbelievable,” said del Ponte, a former Swiss attorney general who prosecuted war crimes in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia.

“An investigation should be opened into him and he should be charged with war crimes,” she told the Swiss newspaper Schweiz am Wochenende in an interview.

At least Erdogan is on notice that the world is watching very closely.

Erdogan will likely be punished by NATO in some way and perhaps even sanctioned by international bodies. But Erdogan’s gamble has paid off. He will rid himself of what he sees as a security threat on his border.

Does anyone care what’s to become of the Kurds?