Turkey's Shelling of the Kurds Could Force a US-Russian Showdown in the Skies Above Aleppo

Turkey shelled Kurdish positions for a third day today to try to stop its fighters from seizing Azaz, just 8 km (5 miles) from the border. Ankara fears the Kurdish militia, backed by Russia, is trying to secure the last stretch of around 100 km (60 miles) along the Syrian border not already under its control.

As Turkey continues its bombardment of the Kurdish positions around Azaz and Aleppo it's important to look into why they are doing it despite protests from Washington, Paris, NATO, Russia, Syria and, of course, the Kurds themselves. Basically Turkey sees their last easily accessed southern border crossing into Syria, the last roads capable of handling the oil tanker trucks that roll between the captured Syrian oil fields and the Turkish refineries, the last road crossings through which they can resupply and re-enforce with jihadi and mercenary warriors of Jabhat Al-Nusra, Islamic State and other terrorist groups’ units who suffered casualties in the battles throughout Syria.

As Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, says "So we already have considerable evidence that Turkey is assisting Islamic State and other terrorist organizations to put pressure on the government of President Bashar al-Assad. At the same time, with previous allegations that Saudi Arabia is one of the main financiers and logistical supporters to IS and other terrorist organizations, this clearly shows that they feel very threatened by recent developments in Syria, as far as the Syrian Army is concerned, as well as the air campaign from the Russian Federation."

As the west twiddles its thumbs and issues empty admonishments from Washington to Brussels to Berlin, sound minds are terrified that the EU and NATO are now actually hostage to Erdogan’s Kurd “priority”, while Ankara is doing next to nothing to fight massive migrant smuggling. When Davutoglu went to Berlin recently not only did he make no promises, he re-stressed Erdogan’s vow to "annihilate" the Syrian Kurds.

Considering the mayhem all around them it's important to look into just who are the Kurds and why is Turkey so obsessed with them? As the map above from 1920, just after WW! and before the treaty eliminated their homeland of Kurdistan disappeared, shows Kurdistan was a huge and independent nation that was erased in the aftermath of WW1 when the League of Nations (a forerunner to the United Nations) was established. One of its jobs was to divide up the conquered Ottoman lands. It drew up “mandates” for the Arab world. Each mandate was supposed to be ruled by the British or French “until such time as they are able to stand alone.” The League was the one to draw up the borders we see on modern political maps of the Middle East. The borders were drawn without regard for the wishes of the people living there, or along ethnic, geographic, or religious boundaries – they were truly arbitrary. It is important to note that even today, political borders in the Middle East do not indicate different groups of people. The differences between Iraqis, Syrians, Jordanians, etc. were entirely created by the European colonizers as a method of dividing the Arabs against each other. - Lost Islamic History

The treacherous agreement that is one of the leading contenders for 1st place in the 'how the hell did we get here' award is called the Sykes-Picot Agreement. At first during its secret negotiations between the UK, France, Ireland and Russia, Kurdistan continued exist, but because of the leverage of various players - including the surrender of the Ottoman Empire - Kurdisatn disappeared from the maps... but not from the hearts and minds of the Kurds.

Many Kurds never recognized the Sykes-Picot Agreement's elimination of their homeland and fought both politically and through various insurgencies both within Turkey and throughout the re-drawn region. The 1970s saw an evolution in Kurdish nationalism as Marxist political thought influenced a new generation of Kurdish nationalists opposed to the local feudal authorities who had been a traditional source of opposition to authority, in Turkey and beyond, eventually they would form the militant separatist PKK within Turkey. Turkey's military allies the US, the EU, and NATO see the PKK as a terrorist organization while the UN, Switzerland, Russia, China and India have refused to add the PKK to their terrorist list. Some of them have even supported the PKK.

From 1984 to 1999, the PKK and the Turkish military engaged in open war, and much of the countryside in the southeast of Turkey was depopulated.  An estimated 3,000 Kurdish villages in Turkey were virtually wiped off the map, representing the displacement of more than 378,000 people. Nelson Mandela refused to accept the Atatürk Peace Award in 1992 because of the oppression of the Kurds.

The Kurds living within Syria, Iraq and Iran formed their own political and military groups. The YPG who Turkey is now shelling are the Syrian Kurds who are broadly acknowledged to be the most effective group in the fight against ISIS and Al-Nusra. The Turkish leaders lust for their lost empire but know that dream will never happen if the Kurds take total control of the Syrian side of the Turkey/Syria border. So as each day passes Turkey's pronouncements sound a bit more shrill. Today it's : "Turkey ‘won’t let’ Azaz, Syria, fall to Kurdish militia", tomorrow who knows, but if they and the Saudis do invade Syria as they threaten, it'll be not just another episode in the Long War in the Middle East, this time it's also part of the potential nose to nose confrontation between the world's most heavily armed nations - Russia and the US.