The Turkish army’s attack on PKK-held areas and the civilian population in the Kurdish provinces in northern Iraq, which has been ongoing since 17 April, is in contravention of international law. The Turkish army’s previous annual spring offensives were also in contravention of international law. Contrary to what the Turkish government claims, there is no “self-defence situation” in the attacks on areas in northern Iraq. This had already been stated by the Scientific Service of the German Bundestag in an expert report in 2020 – and it still holds true today. According to the report, there was no threat of a “current or imminent armed attack by the PKK” on Turkey. The “intensity of PKK attacks on Turkey” has “significantly decreased” since 2015.
The current attacks are the third abuse of international law in the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq/Southern Kurdistan since the beginning of 2021. On 10 February 2021, the Turkish army launched an attack on the Gare region. After three days of heavy losses, the military withdrew. From 23 April 2021, the Turkish army began a massive military operation. The areas of Metîna, Avaşîn and Zap were attacked. In the course of this attack, the Turkish army used chemical weapons against the guerrilla in tunnels. In the normal way of things, the many reports and documentations on the use of chemical weapons, which are banned under international law, should have led to investigations by the UN-affiliated OPCW (Organisation for the Prevention of the Use of Chemical Weapons). However, since the OPCW only takes action at the instigation of a state government, this has not happened. That cynical regulation must be changed. Affected populations must also be able to call on the OPCW, otherwise this institution will remain largely an instrument of powerful states and a toothless tiger.
In the 2021 attack, the Turkish army did take some strategic hills. However, to this day, Turkish soldiers can hardly leave their bases there. The current offensive is large-scale and is also partly supported by the party of the Kurdish Barzani clan, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which leads the regional government of the autonomous region. The majority of the Kurdish population in the autonomous region is against the intervention and against war among Kurds. So there are protests in the cities of the region and by Kurds and their supporters worldwide, in which all parties except the KDP, but also some of its members, participate.
The current Turkish attack is large-scale and aims at destroying the guerrillas and displacing the population living in the mountains. This illegal action under international law must be stopped and rejected.
One question that many people are asking is: Why, in view of Turkey’s actions in violation of international law and in view of its war crimes, such as the shelling of the civilian population and the use of chemical weapons in northern Iraq, as well as the cooperation of the Turkish government with Islamists in Rojava, is there no outrage, political pressure from the EU, why no sanctions against Erdogan and his government members, why no daily reporting in the mainstream media and why no call for and participation in demonstrations by members of the federal German government, as in connection with the war in Ukraine? Are Kurds or people in the Middle East worth less to these politicians? Or is it because they don’t have blue eyes and blond hair like the people in Ukraine?
The answer is multicausal but basically quite simple. In each case, it is about different geostrategic and economic interests. The war in Ukraine is a consequence of NATO’s eastward enlargement and its aggressive orientation, including intensive armament of Ukraine, a country in which fascists play a serious role. Russia’s attack on Ukraine is a reaction to this policy and the escalation of the aggression of the Ukrainian army against the Donbass. War always means suffering, destruction and death, and must be ended. But this can only be done by diplomatic means. Since non-one wants this, huge amounts of weapons are being supplied with the aim of using the Ukrainian army to “wear down” Russia by proxy.
The USA and parts of the bourgeoisie in the central states of the EU have been playing with the option of a large-scale war against Russia and China for some time, in order to preserve their own hegemony and in particular to overcome the global economic crisis, which has been creeping since 2008 and has been fully present since 2019. There are three ways to clean up capital in major economic crises:
1. Redistribution of wealth to the people, i.e. through wage increases and other measures.
2. Structural change, such as after the 3rd Great Economic Crisis in 1972/73 the change to impose the neoliberal economic system worldwide.
3. World Wars with great destruction in parts of the central economic centres – as in the 1st and 2nd World War.
The US government has dragged Russia and the EU into a war to try to re-establish its own hegemony and overcome the world economic crisis. That a large part of the governments of the EU are going along with this is stupid and, moreover, cynical towards the interests of their own populations, because it is in Europe where the war, if it spreads, will be fought.
With regard to the attacks of the Turkish army in Rojava and northern Iraq, there are other geostrategic interests. Germany’s brotherhood in arms with Turkey has a tradition since the genocide against the Armenians. Turkey serves NATO as a hub for resources and as a front yard in the Middle East. In this context, the ruling powers prefer a reactionary and dictatorial regime, like the Erdogan government, to a democratic movement that could lead the Middle East into a self-determined future, like the Kurdish movement. This also explains why the German government has supported every war against the Kurds for decades, not only through economic and military means, but also by criminalising Kurdish activists in Germany.
German arms companies also profit from Turkey’s current wars of aggression. For example, the Leopard 2 tank is used by the Turkish army and Islamist mercenaries in Afrin, and the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 combat drones, with which people are repeatedly murdered in Rojava and Southern Kurdistan, are equipped with target acquisition systems from the German arms company Hensoldt, in which the German government holds shares. The arming of the drone with laser-guided missiles was also carried out with German assistance. Small parliamentary questions in the German Bundestag, show that since 2010, the German government has issued several export licences for warheads of an anti-tank missile made by the company TDW Wirksysteme GmbH from Schrobenhausen, an offshoot of the European missile manufacturer MBDA. The sales were made to the Turkish state-owned company Roketsan. Equipment or parts for manufacturing the missiles were also exported to Turkey, so that “MAM” missiles for drones, which are part of the standard equipment of the TB2, are now produced there. These micro-precision munitions are light warheads that can destroy armoured targets.
On the basis of this geostrategically and economically oriented policy in the interest of the arms corporations, the neo-Ottoman ambitions and the corresponding practice of the Erdogan regime have been overlooked by the federal governments since 2002. At the beginning and absurdly to some extent until today, Erdogan’s aggressive policy is underestimated. Erdogan consistently pursues his neo-Ottoman goals and needs the war against the Kurds in Rojava and Northern Iraq to distract from the economic crisis in Turkey and the consequences of his disastrous domestic policy before the next elections.
The arrogant and cynical foreign policy of the USA and the central EU states is currently reminiscent of the Roman Empire before its fall. Those who do not perceive the global dynamics of developments and completely ignore the interests of their own populations as well as colonially oppressed actors, instead of including them, will become too static and therefore collapse at some point. The USA and the EU are not only in a crisis in terms of foreign policy; people’s faith in the functioning of democratic co-determination is also increasingly dwindling.
In such a crisis, it is up to the left, emancipatory and humanist forces to develop a solidary perspective of respectful coexistence and to fight for its implementation.