Bibi Netanyahu made waves last year when he came out in support of an independent Kurdistan. It really should not have been a surprise to observers as Israel has been a covert supporter of the Kurdish independence movement since its early days. Not only does Israel’s military supply the Peshmerga with weapons and training, the government has been buying Kurdish oil through back channels.
All of this has worked well for both sides as the Kurds have needed the training and money and Israel has needed a reliable partner on the ground to push back on ISIS, block Iran, and cause problems for Erdogan. Now that Erdogan has used the coup, staged or real to complete his takeover of Turkish democratic institutions, the question for observers is which domestic constituent is his first target?
#FLASH Turkish Islamists on the March towards Kurdish Districts of #Istanbul – Civil War pending?
— Avro (@Avro_Arrow) July 16, 2016
None of this should be a surprise. Erdogan has scapegoated the Kurds for years. True there are militant factions who would like to gain independence (rightfully so) but remember there are 10 million Kurds in Turkey alone and they are the majority in some Southern regions. Erdogan will attempt to settle the score and cement his rule by wiping the Kurdish people off the map. Turkey has done this before, over 100 years ago by killing millions of Armenians.
There are really only two leaders that can throw a monkey wrench in Erdogan’s plans: Bibi Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin. Both of these leaders have not only warmed to each other, but have negative experiences with Erdogan. Both of them were willing to bury the hatchet before the weekend for the sake of economics and stability, but dealing with a newly minted “Sultan” should change their minds. With the Kurds being a moderating force and the only group proven successfully rule their region within the former Iraq and Syria, it is in both Putin and Netanyahu’s interests to stop Erdogan in his tracks.
How Can they Do This?
The first thing they can do is freeze rapprochement with Turkey. This may not work by itself, but it will send a message. Next they need to arm the Kurds in Northern Iraq and Syria with modern weapons and provide air cover in case Turkey decides to attack them in those areas. Lastly, they need to begin to provide covert assistance to Kurdish groups to defend themselves from Turkey’s now authoritarian ruler.
If Putin and Netanyahu do this, they will be credited in preventing a massive genocide and redrawing the map of the Middle East for the foreseeable future.