Is Turkey's ISIS Attack a Smokescreen to Hit Kurdish Forces?

For the first time, the Turkish military has sent troops into Syria ostensibly to fight the Islamic State (ISIS), but according to some reports this is merely a pretext to fight Kurdish efforts in the region. According to Germany's Deutsche Welle, Syrian-Kurdish military forces were advancing to the border town of Jarablus following a victory against ISIS in Manbij. The New York Times has also reported that Turkey's operation "also appears aimed at preventing Syrian Kurdish forces ... from expanding further across northern Syria."

The Kurds "are definitely marginalized in Turkey ... I call it cultural genocide," Kani Xulam, a Kurdish activist in America and director of the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN), told PJ Media in an interview at the Republican National Convention last month. Xulam alleged that Turkey was actually working with ISIS, allowing its border to become "a Jihadi highway," in order to frustrate the Kurds.

Xulam's remarks highlight what may be Turkey's real objective in finally invading Syria. ISIS forces have held parts of northern Syria for months, and they only now are invading to take Jarablus as Kurdish forces close in. On Monday, Turkey launched artillery strikes on ISIS and on Kurdish sites in northern Syria, and it sent tanks into the country Wednesday ostensibly to fight ISIS in Jarablus.

Here's the problem, Jarablus is empty. According to the "Syrian Rebellion Ops" Twitter account, ISIS forces left the city "since a long time now, maybe weeks."

The account posted pictures of the town, completely empty.

A Turkish official announced that Kurdish YPG (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel, the military arm of the Democratic Union Pary or PYD) targets were hit 20 times. Indeed, following the joint attacks on ISIS and the Kurds, the president of the PYD threatened Turkey, warning that after the Turks entered the "Syrian Quagmire," they "will be defeated as Daish" (the Kurdish form of DAESH, the official Arabic acronym for ISIS).

In Syria, the YPG is allied with Yazidis, Armenian and Assyrian Christians, Alawites, and secular Arabs fighting radical Islamist groups like ISIS. This broad coalition helps strengthen the Syrian Kurds, making their group the most likely victor of the war in Syria.

In Turkey, the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) advocates for a separate Kurdistan, and has launched a string of attacks and car bombings against security forces in southeast Turkey. The Washington Post's Ishaan Tharoor described the conflict there as "a low-running civil war between state forces and Kurdish separatist militias."

In the wake of the failed coup attempt ostensibly led by Fethullah Gulen, pro-government media and officials in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) have attempted to pin some of the blame the PKK for the coup attempt. Tharoor described this claim as "highly dubious, in part because the Gulenists [the coup leaders] are also accused of attempting to sabotage Turkey's fledgling peace process with the Kurds."

After a suicide bomb at a Kurdish wedding killed 51 people (about half of whom were children) in the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep last weekend, AKP officials blamed the attack on ISIS, but the Kurdish victims blamed Erdogan and his party. At the funerals of victims the following day, angry relatives and onlookers threw water bottles at police and called President Erdogan a "murderer."

In announcing the movement of troops into Syria, Erdogan said the operation is aimed "against terrorist groups that constantly threaten out country," referring to both ISIS and YPG forces whom the AKP views as in league with the PKK.

The American Kurdish activist Xulam spoke from the other side. He explained that the Kurds are "definitely marginalized in Turkey." He emphasized the state-enforced ban on education in the Kurdish language as one of the key factors driving unrest.

We cannot speak our language. There are 20 million Kurds in an 80 million country called Turkey. 60 million Turks enjoy their preschools, high schools, universities. There isn't even one preschool in Kurdish — it's against the law. For a long time, we were actually punished for speaking Kurdish in public. So it was a suppressed language, a suppressed culture. For 80 years, we have been blocked from exercising our birthright to speak our mother tongue. I call it cultural genocide — Turkey is guilty of it.

Turkey, of course, is guilty of Armenian genocide, too. They crippled a nation of Christians, they decimated 82 percent of that nation in the name of living space, if you will. Turkey shouldn't really be an ally of the United States.

Xulam said he "has issues" with "fundamentalist Sunni states who want to dominate," specifically Saudi Arabia and Turkey. He alleged that "they have an expansionistic point of view, and that should be curbed."

Next Page: Does Turkey get this expansionism from Islam?