March 10, 2018 / 05:01 PM
Turkey, PKK war will intensity, Ankara unable in full control of Afrin, professor tells Kurdpress

A Professor of political science at University of Saint Joseph, Dr Jana Jabbour, told Kurdpress in an exclusive interview that the war between the forces of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkey will intensify as the election in the country is approaching but did not deny the possibility of another ceasefire after the polls. She also stressed that Turkey cannot take the full control of the Syrian northern Kurdish canton of Afrin as the social base of the Kurdish forces in the city is strong.

What follows is her answers to Kurdpress questions;

How the war will be between PKK and Turkey ahead of elections in Turkey?

The war between PKK and Turkey is likely to intensify ahead of elections in Turkey in 2019. In fact, the AKP government and President Erdogan are likely to political instrumentalize the war against the PKK to gather popular support ahead of the elections, and to create a national consensus around the idea that a strong single-party government is needed to guarantee national security and protect the country against the threat of Kurdish separatism.

Both PKK and Turkey have claimed they have weakened the other side, how do you assess their claims?

They are both partly right. In fact, the Turkish army has clearly weakened the PYD forces in Afrine, slowed down their advances on the ground, and prevented them from linking Afrine to Kobane, which would have allowed them to form an autonomous region at the border with Turkey. 

The PKK/PYD forces, however, are also right when they claim they have weakened Turkey. In fact, Turkey has lost 30 soldiers in this battle, which is a very important human cost. Turkey also has problems making quick advances on the ground because of the strength of PYD/PKK forces and their readiness to combat ferociously.

Do you believe there is a systematic relation between PKK and Kurdish forces in Syria, like YPG?

There are definitely links between PKK and PYD, and between PKK and the Kurdish population in Syria in general and in Afrin in particular. These links date back to the 1990s, when the Abdullah Ocalan was hosted by Hafez al-Assad in Syria. Many Kurds of Syria have, at the time, been indoctrinated and have “absorbed” the ideology of Abdullah Ocalan – they have become “ocalanists”. Also, Ocalan established in Afrin, in the 1990s, many cooperatives that allowed the Kurds of Afrin to produce and sell goods to the surrounding villages. So Abdullah Ocalan has quite influenced the people of Afrin.

Do you predict there will be another ceasefire between PKK and Turkey soon? 

After the elections are over, there might be a new ceasefire between Turkey and the PKK as both of them are exhausted in this war. As soon as a political solution to Syria is found (at Sotchi for example), the ceasefire between PKK and Turkey will become more likely. In fact, as long as the Syrian crisis continues, the PKK feels empowered as it is enjoying a new “hinterland” in Syria, and is using the Syrian territory as a new power base from which to launch a war against Turkey. Once the PKK is deprived of its Syrian hinterland, it will become more likely to negotiate with Turkey.

Can Turkey take control of Afrin at the end of the day?

Turkey cannot fully control Afrin. PYD forces there are not only extremely combative, but they are also “socially entrenched”, in the sense that they are highly supported by the local population. This is a disadvantage for Turkey.

Why Russia abandoned Kurds in Syria?

Russia abandoned Syrian Kurds because it wants to “coopt” Turkey ahead of Sotchi negotiations. It seems that an agreement between Russia and Turkey was found, that if Russia abandons Syrian Kurds, Turkey will use its leverage on Syrian rebel groups (in particular ahrar al sham, and Syrian Turkmens), to bring them to the negotiation table. Turkey is a very powerful actor in Syria, and its contribution to Sotchi is needed to ensure the success of the process.

Reporter’s code: 50101