“Kurd is the ideal scapegoat that Ankara and Tehran need right now”

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In recent days, the Kurds, who were under the fire of Turkey and Iran, have been targeted again in Syria and Iraq. Why are they in the sights of these two Middle Eastern powers? Decryption with Adel Bakavan, director of the French Center for Iraqi Research (Cfri) and specialist in Kurdish affairs.

On Sunday, November 20, Turkey launched the “Sword Claw” operation. Syria hit several targets in areas controlled by Kurdish forces on Tuesday, following new threats from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to launch a ground operation “soon” in the north of the country. Ankara, which linked the bloody attack in Istanbul on November 13 to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) and YPG (People’s Defense Units) Kurdish fighters, has been coveting the symbolic city of Kobane for several months. , taken from jihadists of the Islamic State organization.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is also bombing Iraqi Kurdistan. He accuses Kurdish movements of being behind the national protest that began with the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish youth, after he was arrested by the morality police on September 16 for wearing an inappropriate veil.

To understand what is happening in the region and the reasons behind this crossfire in Syria and Iraq, France 24 interviewed Adel Bakavan, director of the French Center for Research on Iraq (Cfri) and an expert on Kurdish issues.

France 24 : The Kurds are in the crossfire of Turkey and Iran in Syria and Iraq, respectively. Did the two countries coordinate to achieve their goals? ?

Adele Bakavan: There is no evidence of coordination between Ankara and Tehran. On the other hand, it is not completely excluded. It can even be considered logical and rational for each of them to manage the Kurdish issue in their own way. We can only note that these two regional powers are going through critical periods. In Turkey, which is facing a serious economic crisis, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in a bad situation as the presidential elections to be held in June 2023 are approaching. The Islamic Republic is in the grip of a long-running protest movement, which it accuses Washington of inciting. But knowing that these two countries see their own Kurdish population as a threat to territorial unity, the Kurd is the ideal scapegoat they need right now.

Why does the president of Turkey pay attention to the Syrian Kurds? ?

The closer we get to the presidential elections, the more it will be necessary for Recep Tayyip Erdogan to unite his camp to identify an enemy that threatens the security, national unity and stability of the country. This allows him to present himself to his voters as the savior and protector of the people and to make people forget about their poor economic situation. So he named the culprit: the Syrian Kurds, whose territories are controlled by the local branch of the PKK, a movement classified as a terrorist organization by Ankara, but also by Washington and the European Union.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also abusing the rejection of three million Syrian refugees in Turkey, which is increasingly expressed in the light of day in Turkish society. This question is an election issue he intends to capitalize on. In particular, he is using it to create a buffer zone between his country and various areas controlled by Kurdish groups in northern Syria to justify his actions in Syria, fulfilling a promise he made long before the Istanbul attack. By starting a symbolic ground operation in the city of Kobane, it will be able to ensure territorial continuity between the areas already occupied by the Turkish army and its allies and place Syrian refugees in the buffer zone instead of the Kurds. his land.

What about Iran? ? What is the Islamic Republic’s goal in targeting Kurdish targets in Iraq? ?

Despite the severity of the repressions in Iran, the authorities are unable to suppress the protest movement that has been ongoing since September 16. However, Tehran tried to ethnicize the protest by presenting it as a localized separatist agitation in areas inhabited by the Kurdish minority. Pasdaran even tried to sectarianize these events by describing them as a Sunni movement supported by Saudi Arabia with the support of Westerners and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), aiming to destabilize Shiite Iran. All these diversionary efforts failed as the protest was national in nature. This is not only seen in Kurdish and Baloch cities. And the Iranians who participated in it raise the young Kurdish victim Mahsa Amin as a national symbol of their struggle and a storehouse of the country’s youth.

Domestically, this strategy of provocation has not worked, and the Islamic Republic looks to its enemies beyond its borders: Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the KRG. It is no surprise to strike Iraqi Kurdistan, where the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPKI) and Komala, the League of Kurdish Revolutionaries, camps of Iran’s radical Kurdish leftist groups, have been accused by Tehran of fomenting the protests. in Iran. In recent days, Tehran has been campaigning with the new government in Baghdad, dominated by pro-Iranian movements, to pressure the KRG to expel the PDKI and Komola from Iraq. The Iranians know very well that they can target them without causing major waves of protest either in Baghdad or on the Western side.

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