On Turkey’s March to War

On the Surface

A car bomb a stone’s throw from the Turkish parliament in Ankara on February 17 has had enormous significance. It has invigorated Turkey’s war effort against Kurdish insurgents, and might even pull Turkey deeper into Syria and into conflict with both the United States and Russia.

The Bomb Heard ‘Round the World

On Thursday, a car bomb exploded in the Turkish capital of Ankara, killing 27 soldiers and 1 civilian. Turkish officials were quick to blame the People’s Protection Units (referred to henceforth as the YPG–the acronym is taken from the Kurdish translation), the Kurdish militia mentioned above.

The suspicion was to be expected: the YPG has been locked in conflict with Turkish troops since the summer of 2015, leaving hundreds dead and around 100,000 displaced. However, the YPG, which has never been responsible for an attack within Turkey, denied involvement in the bombing.

Premonitions of War

The Ankara bombing has widened the rift between Turkey and its allies. Turkey wants the United States to cease its cooperation with the YPG in Syria; America considers the YPG vital in its fight against ISIS.

But Turkey refuses to back down. Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu said Thursday that, “We cannot excuse any NATO ally, including the US, of having links with a terrorist organization that strikes us in the heart of Turkey.”

The US and Turkey will likely resolve their conflict. It’s Russia that proves the bigger issue.

Turkey has had a contentious relationship with Russia since last November, when it shot down a Russian jet that had entered Turkish airspace. Now, both countries are in what essentially amounts to a proxy war, with Russia providing support to the YPG in their fight against Turkish-backed Syrian rebels.

Russia has threatened a full-scale war if Turkish forces enter Syria. But the bombing in Ankara might prove the catalyst for that entrance.

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